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The 15 Best Southern Rock Bands of All Time: The Classics to the Moderns

The 15 Best Southern Rock Bands of All Time: The Classics to the Moderns

Coming from someone who grew up in the South, I grew up with Southern rock. My family would blast bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top in the car. Now that I’m an adult, those bands are super nostalgic.

Why is Southern rock a staple in the genre? To me, Southern rock always stood out because the style combines blues and country with rock n’ roll, resulting in a very unique sound.

Are you new to Southern rock? While there are many classic bands in the genre, only a few are considered the best of the best. There are always the classics, but I also discovered some newer Southern rock bands that will become timeless. Here are the best Southern rock bands of all time.

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Selection Criteria

While Southern rock has a specific personality, the genre is still largely subjective. That’s why I used different criteria when recommending these bands.

  • Notoriety: I first want to mention I didn’t rely solely on big-time Southern rock bands, since I wanted to mention the underrated ones. At the same time, I did consider legendary status when creating this list and prioritized the bigger names toward the top. That’s why you’ll find artists like ZZ Top in the top 5. I did this not necessarily because those bands are better, but because they’re the most recognizable.
  • Quality: That said, I focused more on quality when choosing these bands — for the big players and the underrated artists. These are the bands I grew up blaring in the car with the windows down, zooming down the highway so everyone could hear. The bands that, no matter how many times I listen to them, they never get old. These artists contain the magic of Southern rock, with enough unique elements to create their individualistic sound.
  • Era: Many Southern rock fans may argue the genre died in the 1980s, but I think Southern rock is alive and well today- probably more so than ever. When mentioning bands from a certain era, I focused on qualities that made the band popular at the time. And if the band is modern, I honed in on aspects that make their music more innovative.
  • Sound: Last but not least, I focused on the band’s sound. All these artists have the classic twangy sound of Southern rock, with enough blues and country influences to keep things fresh.

The 15 Best Southern Rock Bands

Are you ready to listen to your favorite Southern rock artists? Or maybe discover some new ones? Here are my 15 favorite Southern rock bands!

15. Marshall Tucker Band

  • Best album: The Marshall Tucker Band
  • Best song: “Can’t You See”
  • Years active: 1972 – present

Marshall Tucker Band formed in the 1960s but didn’t release their debut self-titled album until 1973. Their most famous song, “Can’t You See,” is from that album. Today, it’s regarded as one of the most iconic Southern rock songs. Marshall Tucker Band recorded numerous albums, even up until 2007.

The band achieved commercial success, with vocalist and guitar player Toy Caldwell writing all their music. Even though they haven’t recorded an album in over 15 years, the Marshall Tucker Band is still active today and regularly tours — though they have suffered lineup changes since their formation.

14. Grinderswitch

  • Best album: Redwing
  • Best song: “Redwing”
  • Years active: 1972 – 1982, 2004 – 2005

Grinderswitch is a band that I wish achieved more success. Formed in the 70s by Allman Brothers roadie Joe Dan Petty, they recorded numerous albums and were active until the 80s, though they reformed briefly in the mid-2000s.

What I love about this band is they have a bluesy style of Southern rock. Many Southern rock bands focus more on the country portion, and I’m honestly not a country fan. Grinderswitch has a powerful blues-rock sound that blows many bands out of the water. Plus, there are amazing musicians in this band.

While Grinderswitch has released numerous albums, Redwing is their most notable and my favorite. Even with this influential album, the band didn’t achieve serious commercial success. However, they still attracted a loyal fan base.

13. Dixie Dregs

  • Best album: What If
  • Best song: “Take It Off the Top”
  • Years active: 1970 – 1983, 1988 – present

Another band that I wish gained more success is Dixie Dregs. This is an instrumental band that combines Southern rock with a surfer vibe and features some seriously virtuosos musicians. To this day, I never discovered a band like them.

Dixie Dregs formed in 1970 but released their first album, Free Fall, in 1977. However, my favorite album from them is What If, which was released one year later. While the band stopped recording music in 1994, they reunite occasionally to play shows.

12. The Moondoggies

  • Best album: Adios I’m a Ghost
  • Best song: “Roll Away”
  • Years active: 2005 – present

The Moondoggies are one of the most unique Southern rock bands I discovered. They have a Southern twang to their music but also combine soul and psychedelic. I like this band because anyone can get into them — even those who aren’t big Southern rock fans. Every song is both catchy and moody, suiting various tastes.

The Moondoggies formed in 2005, and they have multiple albums under their belt. This band also tours consistently, making them a great modern Southern rock band to keep up with.

11. Charlie Daniels Band

  • Best album: Million Mile Reflections
  • Best song: “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”
  • Years active: 1970 – 2020

I can’t create a “Greatest Southern Rock Band” list without mentioning the Charlie Daniels Band. Charlie Daniels played in numerous bands, such as Marshall Tucker Band, before forming his own group in 1972. Though Charlie Daniels is a multi-instrumentalist, he’s most famous as a fiddle player. His greatest single is “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

10. .38 Special

  • Best album: Wild-Eyed Southern Boys
  • Best song: “Hold on Loosely”
  • Years active: 1974 – present

Remember how I said my family members love Southern rock? .38 Special is one of their favorite bands. .38 Special is actually from my state — Florida! While they have a more mainstream sound, you can still hear the Southern personality in their music. Their most famous song is arguably “Hold On Loosely,” though they have many other jams.

While .38 Special stopped making music in the mid-2000s, they’re still active today. You can find .38 Special on tour, though they replaced many of their original members.

9. Black Oak Arkansas

  • Best album: High on the Hog
  • Best song: “Jim Dandy”
  • Years active: 1963 – present

Black Oak Arkansas is the Southern rock fan for those who love Led Zeppelin. They have a folkier version of a Southern rock sound, complete with charismatic frontman “Jim Dandy” Mangrum. They released their self-titled first album, which is their most famous. After this first album, this band wasn’t as successful as others in the genre. But Black Oak Arkansas still records and tours today.

While I’m not a big fan of their music, I can watch live videos of this band all day. Even from watching the videos, their performances are so energetic. Jim Dandy also always had some of the best stage outfits, giving Southern rock more glamor.

8. Blackfoot

  • Best album: Strikes
  • Best song: “Highway Song”
  • Years active: 1970 – 1997, 2004 – present

Blackfoot is one of the original Southern rock bands, but they don’t often receive that credit. They formed in 1969, alongside Wet Willie and the same year that The Allman Brothers Band’s debut album was released. But they never received the commercial success of other Southern rock bands, which is a shame because Blackfoot is incredible.

This is one of the most underrated bands of the genre, which is a shame because they’re truly amazing. Blackfoot has the Southern style, but their hard-hitting tracks are also favored among rock fans. They also have moody ballads, such as “Highway Song,” that are more emotional than even classics like “Free Bird.”

Blackfoot also stands out in different ways. Former vocalist and guitarist Rickey Medlocke has a Native American heritage, which is why the band’s name is Blackfoot. Blackfoot was active until the early 1990s, though they released occasional albums until 2016. Medlocke is also a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd and has been ever since 1996.

7. Molly Hatchet

  • Best album: Flirtin’ With Disaster
  • Best song: “Flirtin’ With Disaster”
  • Years active: 1971 – present

Molly Hatchet is another Florida band. While they also have a mainstream sound, they retain enough of that Southern twang to be included in this list. While Molly Hatchet released albums from the late 1970s to 2010, they’re most famous for the record Flirtin’ With Disaster. Molly Hatchet no longer has original members, so they don’t record music. However, the band still tours with replacements.

6. Wet Willie

  • Best album: Keep on Smilin’
  • Best song: “Keep on Smilin'”
  • Years active: 1970 – 1980, 1990 – present

Wet Willie is another band that didn’t achieve fame, but they’re one of the oldest artists on this list. They were formed in 1970 by brothers bassist Jack and harmonica/saxophone player Jimmy Hall. Their most famous song is “Keep on Smiling,” but they have other successful singles and albums. Wet Willie is technically no longer active, but a few members sometimes reunite and play under The Wet Willie Band.

5. Futurebirds

  • Best album: Teamwork
  • Best song: “Waiting on a Call”
  • Years active: 2008 – present

I’ve been digging into modern Southern rock lately, and I figured I would show a cool band I found recently. Futurebirds is from Athens, Georgia, formed in 2008. They’re technically an indie band but are best known for their country rock sound. What I like about them is they have a sultry Southern feel to their music, but they’re also modern. They don’t try to replicate what the classic Southern rock bands achieved; rather, they use the influences to make their sound more unique.

Many of their songs, such as “Waiting on a Call,” are heartbreaking, but others are more laid-back. As a modern band, Futurebirds is not only recording albums and touring, but they have a bright future.

4. Outlaws

  • Best album: Outlaws
  • Best song: “There Goes Another Love Song”
  • Years active: 1967 – 1971, 1972 – 1996, 2005 – present

The Outlaws are an example of Southern rock done perfectly. Out of all the Southern rock bands on this list, the Outlaws have some of the best musicians. Plus, they’re also from my hometown — Tampa! They were formed in 1967 but didn’t release their first album until 1975. This was their most famous album and featured the hit, “There Goes Another Love Song.”

As I said, The Outlaws have some of the best musicians — specifically, their guitar players. Billy Jones and Hughie Thomasson unleash mesmerizing guitar solos.

The Outlaws broke up in are still active today, even releasing a new album in 2020. However, many band members had to leave for various reasons, and replacements largely comprise the band.

3. Allman Brothers Band

  • Best album: Brothers and Sisters
  • Best song: “Ramblin’ Man”
  • Years active: 1969 – 1976, 1978 – 1982, 1989 – 2014

The Allman Brothers Band is one of the biggest Southern rock sensations in the country. They’re famous for combining blues with rock, coining the sound. They achieved commercial success with hits such as “Ramblin’ Man,” but what makes this band special is they don’t have a “mainstream” sound — they never strayed from their Southern rock roots in their entire discography.

Even with their success, the Allman Brothers Band experienced disasters. Two main band members died shortly into the formation, but they prevailed and always found killer players to add to their lineup.

2. ZZ Top

  • Best album: Tres Hombres
  • Best song: “La Grange”
  • Years active: 1969 – present

I can’t make a Southern rock band list without mentioning the legendary ZZ Top! While the band didn’t “make it” until their third album, they left the biggest mark on the Southern rock world. Tres Hombres features some of the band’s biggest singles, such as “La Grange.”

While ZZ Top changed their sound to fit a more 80s aesthetic, they still didn’t lose their magic. For example, listen to the 1983 hit “Gimme All Your Lovin,'” and it’s unmistakably ZZ Top. The song has bluesy guitars and hard-hitting drums, but with the catchiness to still dominate the Top Charts.

Unfortunately, ZZ Top’s legendary vocalist and bassist Dusty Hill passed away in 2021. That didn’t stop ZZ Top from playing; they found a replacement and are still touring today, though they’re no longer recording.

1. Lynyrd Skynyrd

  • Best album: Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd
  • Best song: “Free Bird”
  • Years active: 1964 – 1977, 1979, 1987 – present

Last but certainly not least, we have the kings of Southern rock. Lynyrd Skynyrd is the best example of Southern rock music; they have amazing musicians and songwriters and have released some of the best rock anthems ever. “Free Bird” is their most popular — and requested — song.

Like some other bands on this list, tragedy struck Lynyrd Skynyrd. In 1977, they got into a plane crash, killing three of their members. They went on hiatus for 10 years and continued the band until 2019 — albeit, there were still some deaths and member changes.

Unfortunately, Lynyrd Skynyrd is inactive. Guitarist Gary Rossington passed away on March 5, 2023. There are officially no more original band members in Lynyrd Skynyrd left.

Honorable Mentions

the black crowes

There are countless Southern rock bands, and not all of them could fit in this list. That’s why I decided to create an honorable mentions section. Here are some other amazing Southern rock bands:

  • Bruce Hornsby and the Range
  • Point Blank
  • The Black Crowes
  • Blackberry Smoke
  • The Cadillac Three
  • Whiskey Meyers
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Black Stone Cherry
  • Tedeschi Trucks Band
  • Gov’t Mule


Question: What was the first Southern rock band?

Answer: There’s debate about this. But many die-hard fans credit The Allman Brothers Band since this is when their debut album was released. However, The Outlaws were formed in 1967.

Question: What are the two biggest Southern rock bands?

Answer: Everyone will say something different. The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd are the two I would choose, but I know others who would also include ZZ Top or Marshall Tucker Band.

Question: What is the most influential Southern rock band?

Answer: This is open to interpretation. The names I hear the most include the Allman Brothers Band, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band, Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, .38 Special, and Black Oak Arkansas.

Bottom Line

Southern rock is a nostalgic genre of music for many — even myself, who is a youngin. And with so many Southern rock bands, it’s no wonder why this style of music is timeless.

While we can look to the classics, such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, as the best Southern rock bands, we also shouldn’t forget about the younger artists who are taking the genre to new levels.

With this list, I hope I mentioned all the classics, the underrated bands of the Southern rock heyday, and recommended some modern bands carrying the torch.

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