Southern rock bands had their heyday in the 1970s, but the subgenre, which combined blues, country, and classic rock, produced endless amounts of timeless hits.
Check out this awesome list of the best southern rock songs, from The Charlie Daniels Band to Marshall Tucker Band.
Table of Contents
- Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Highway Song – Blackfoot
- Can’t You See – The Marshall Tucker Band
- Hold on Loosely – 38 Special
- Ramblin’ Man – The Allman Brothers Band
- Flirtin’ with Disaster – Molly Hatchet
- If You Wanna Get to Heaven – The Ozark Mountain Daredevils
- Green Grass and High Tides – The Outlaws
- The South’s Gonna Do It Again – Charlie Daniels
- Jim Dandy – Black Oak Arkansas
- Black Betty – Ram Jam
- Keep on Smilin’ – Wet Willie
- Dixie Chicken – Little Feat
- Keep Your Hands to Yourself – The Georgia Satellites
- Travelin’ Shoes – Elvin Bishop
- Hard to Handle – The Black Crowes
- Don’t Misunderstand Me – Rossington Collins Band
- Cheap Sunglasses – ZZ Top
- Takin’ Up Space – Van Zant
- Third Rate Romance – The Amazing Rhythm Aces
- Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Homesick – Atlanta Rhythm Section
- Bad Little Doggie – Gov’t Mule
- Tuff Enuff – The Fabulous Thunderbirds
- Caught Up in You – 38 Special
- Let Your Love Flow – The Bellamy Brothers
- There Goes Another Love Song – The Outlaws
- The Devil Went Down to Georgia – Charlie Daniels
- Whipping Post – The Allman Brothers Band
- I’m No Angel – Gregg Allman
- Take the Highway – The Marshall Tucker Band
- Georgia Rhythm – Atlanta Rhythm Section
- Brickyard Road – Johnny Van Zant
- Jackie Blue – The Ozark Mountain Daredevils
- Fire in the Kitchen – Warren Haynes
Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Floridian band Lynyrd Skynyrd, famous for their long hair and ripped-up jeans, loved to record their southern rock hits like ‘Free Bird’ and ‘That Smell’ at the iconic Muscle Shoals studios in Sheffield, Alabama. Other famous rockers like The Rolling Stones recorded there as well. With their signature hit ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ which many could argue is one of the greatest southern rock songs, Lynyrd Skynyrd pays tribute to the famed recording studio and the pride of southern music.
Related: This song features on our list of songs from despicable me.
Highway Song – Blackfoot
“Another day, another dollar, after I’ve sang and hollered.’ Bandmate Rickey Medlocke began writing lyrics for ‘Highway Song’ while traveling from one gig to the next on Route 81 between Virginia and New Jersey. The song encompasses the lonely, tough road many rockers travel while promoting records, and the third verse contains single lines like “We’ve been flyin’ high and so low” from previous songs.
Related: If you feel lonely, find some comfort with our alone songs playlist.
Can’t You See – The Marshall Tucker Band
South Carolina group, The Marshall Tucker Band, released many hits, but none other is as recognizable as their tune ‘Can’t You See.’ Lyrics feature a protagonist lamenting on his woman who treats him poorly, and while lead singer Doug Gray generally does vocals for the band, listeners hear lead guitarist Toy Caldwell’s raspy pipes for this hit.
Related: Check out more songs from Blow.
Hold on Loosely – 38 Special
Survivor bandmate Jim Peterik was paired up with members of 38 Special for a co-writing session after his band scored multiple hits thanks to his songwriting chops. During his first session with 38 Special, he was extremely nervous, but that didn’t stop him from throwing out ideas. Soon after they began brainstorming, 38 Special’s guitarist Jeff Carlisi started playing a riff, and ‘Hold on Loosely’ was born. The song is a straightforward rock story about giving your girl breathing room early in the relationship.
Ramblin’ Man – The Allman Brothers Band
Dickey Betts, the Allman Brothers’ guitarist and one of their songwriters, penned ‘Ramblin’ Man’ about his life growing up with constant traveling. The song’s title is a nod to Hank Williams, who released a song by the same name. The character in the song is a bit of a loner and takes life day by day as he travels to different towns.
Related: Listen to more songs about traveling on the road.
Flirtin’ with Disaster – Molly Hatchet
Appearing in countless TV shows and films like King of the Hill and Dukes of Hazzard (the Johnny Knoxville movie installment), ‘Flirtin’ with Disaster’ became Molly Hatchet’s best-known song. The hard-driving single was the only one released from the album of the same name. The tune was so well-received it stayed at the top of the charts for ten weeks.
If You Wanna Get to Heaven – The Ozark Mountain Daredevils
“If you wanna get to heaven, you’ve got to raise a little hell.” Hard-partying rock group, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, shoot it straight when singing about their life philosophy to listeners. A driving song about partying it up and raising Cain, the single became their first hit. Their more eclectic track, ‘Jackie Blue,’ was released in ’75 and became the biggest hit of their career as a band.
Green Grass and High Tides – The Outlaws
While bandmate Henry Paul generally wrote real-world lyrics rooted in accuracy, The Outlaws’ hit ‘Green Grass and High Tides’ contains a more mystical, multi-dimensional feel. The song’s name is a tribute to The Rolling Stones, who had put out a best hits album with a similar name. The song pays homage to the great rockers who came before them, like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
Related: Keep appreciating the greats with these good rock songs.
The South’s Gonna Do It Again – Charlie Daniels
Country icon Charlie Daniels announces southern rock’s rise to international fame with ‘The South’s Gonna Do It Again.’ Mentioning now-legendary bands like Marshall Tucker Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd in the song, Daniels actually worked with those acts and many more before they reached stardom. The track represents the brotherhood Daniels felt with his fellow musicians as southern rock became a movement rather than a simple subgenre.
Jim Dandy – Black Oak Arkansas
Written by Lincoln Chase and first released by vocalist Laverne Baker, Black Oak Arkansas’ later success with their recording of ‘Jim Dandy’ was a bit serendipitous. Lead singer Jim Mangrum had been going by the stage name Jim Dandy for years and thought the song was a perfect fit for the band. Their track features Jim and vocalist Ruby Starr trading off lyrics.
Related: Find this song on our list of the best songs from Dazed and Confused.
Black Betty – Ram Jam
Long before Ram Jam released a cover of ‘Black Betty’ in 1977, blues-folk artist Lead Belly released an a capella version of the traditional workers’ song in 1949. It’s been around for so long, with generations of laborers singing the song to pass the time, but its exact origins are unknown.
Related: See our playlist of songs named after women.
Keep on Smilin’ – Wet Willie
Co-founder Jimmy Hall has kept singing ‘Keep on Smiling’ for decades after its release in 1974. A classic tune with plenty of staying power, rock band Blackberry Smoke recently resurrected it when they asked Hall to sing the song with them live. The infectious track began with the group jamming out to a reggae-style guitar riff while in the studio, then adding lyrics telling listeners to keep on smiling through adversity as they grooved to the beat.
Related: Here are some more popular songs on harmonica.
Dixie Chicken – Little Feat
An unassuming femme fatale is at the heart of Little Feat’s ‘Dixie Chicken.’ The story begins at a bar with a heartbroken man telling the bartender about a woman who left him after he gave her everything. As fellow patrons listen in, they realize they’ve all been bamboozled by the same temptress, cheekily labeling her the “Dixie chicken.” The song ends on a high note as they all gather ’round the bar and sing a tune in her honor.
Related: Has someone been unfaithful? Check out these secret lover songs.
Keep Your Hands to Yourself – The Georgia Satellites
One hit wonders The Georgia Satellites only needed a single chart-topper to make their mark with ‘Keep Your Hands to Yourself.’ Covered endlessly by country singers like Toby Keith and used in films such as Reese Witherspoon’s Sweet Home Alabama, the band’s drummer wrote the tune in one bus ride while on tour and going through problems with his girlfriend.
Travelin’ Shoes – Elvin Bishop
Songwriter Elvin Bishop seamlessly combines the blues, country, and rock with his heartbreak song ‘Travelin’ Shoes.’ Written from the perspective of a mistreated man, the protagonist puts on his “travelin’ shoes” and leaves his woman after a terrible fight. The song follows a standard blues format with catchy yet simple lyrics so the listener can easily groove as the story plays out.
Related: Take a few more steps over to our playlist of songs about shoes.
Hard to Handle – The Black Crowes
“Pretty little thing, let me light your candle.” Songwriting icon Otis Redding originally penned ‘Hard to Handle.’ When the Black Crowes covered it in ’90, they made it all their own. They subbed out Redding’s horn section for driving guitar riffs, and Chris Robinson’s soulful vocals deliver lines with plenty of attitude to spare.
Don’t Misunderstand Me – Rossington Collins Band
In 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s airplane tragically crashed in Mississippi, and only a few of the original members survived. Two of those members were guitarists, Gary Rossington and Allen Collins. Out of respect for the deceased members, they formed a new band, Rossington Collins, instead of continuing Lynyrd Skynyrd, and hired female lead singer Dale Krantz. Their first single, ‘Don’t Misunderstand Me,’ was their biggest hit, and their debut album it appears on was certified Gold.
Cheap Sunglasses – ZZ Top
Blues-rock band ZZ Top had a little fun with their tune ‘Cheap Sunglasses,’ written after years spent on tour. While many of their hits dealt with wild women and partying, this track simply deals with constantly buying cheap sunglasses at gas stations. It’s a nod to their early days spent touring in cars before they could afford fancy buses with proper window tenting. After that, they began throwing the numerous pairs of sunglasses they had accumulated into concert crowds as “thank you” offerings.
Related: Complete your musical wardrobe with these songs with clothing in the title.
Takin’ Up Space – Van Zant
“Life’s too short to live in caution. Life’s too long not to live it all.” Southern rock roots power Van Zant, a country duo led by Johnny and Donnie Van Zant, brothers of former lead singer Ronnie of Lynyrd Skynyrd, who was killed in the ’77 plane crash. With their emotive tune ‘Takin’ Up Space,’ the brothers sing about Jimmy and Shelly, two people who aren’t afraid to stand on their own and chase their dreams despite the tough road ahead.
Third Rate Romance – The Amazing Rhythm Aces
A playful, short-lived romance takes place with country classic, ‘Third Rate Romance.’ The memorable hook, “Third-rate romance, low rent rendezvous,’ sums up the essence of the story, which involves an amicable one-night stand. The Amazing Rhythm Aces were the first to release it in ’74, and country star Sammy Kershaw released his smooth yet twangy version in ’94.
Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Though the album version clocks in at 9 minutes, the radio-friendly version was cut down to just over 4:30 minutes. The tune centers around a guy trying to tell his girl why he can’t settle down and features some of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s most mournful-turned-powerful guitar solos in their repertoire. The signature hit would sometimes go longer than 10 minutes when played live.
Related: Feel free as a bird with our bird songs list.
Homesick – Atlanta Rhythm Section
It isn’t one of their biggest hits, but fans adore Atlanta Rhythm Section’s ‘Homesick’ so much the band always makes sure it’s their encore song while on tour. With references to rock symbolism like guitar great Jimi Hendrix and the fabled Woodstock festival, the lyrics talk about being “homesick” in terms of musical eras of days gone by.
Bad Little Doggie – Gov’t Mule
“Come in with the sunrise, gone with the wind. Devil in your eyes, pocket full of sin.” A naughty young pup is a euphemism for a wild young girl with Gov’t Mule’s ‘Bad Little Doggie.’ With a taboo vibe and poetic lines like “Fire can’t melt you when your mind’s made up,” the lyrics call attention to how the party life is catching up to the girl.
Related: Sing more songs about pups with our list of song lyrics about dogs.
Tuff Enuff – The Fabulous Thunderbirds
This catchy rocker is one you’ll sing in your head long after the song’s over. The bluesy melody and catchy lyrics highlight a man confessing just how far he’ll go to please the woman he loves. The hit has been covered many times by both blues and rock artists due to its meshing of the two genres. Former Fabulous Thunderbirds bandmate Jimmie Vaughan (brother of the late Texas guitar great Stevie Ray Vaughan) covered it with Dave Grohl and Gary Clark Jr.
Caught Up in You – 38 Special
After their co-writing success with Jim Peterik for their popular song ‘Hold on Loosely,’ 38 Special wanted to continue writing with him. However, Peterik’s own band, Survivor, which he also wrote for, took major issue with this, feeling like he was saving his best work for another band. Despite the drama, Peterik still wrote with 38 Special. During their session for ‘Caught Up in You,’ they had to write in Peterik’s mom’s basement to avoid Survivor members finding out about their continued collaboration.
Let Your Love Flow – The Bellamy Brothers
When the Bellamy Brothers moved from Florida to LA in 1974, they befriended Neil Diamond’s road crew as they tried to navigate the fast-moving California music industry. One of the roadies, Larry Williams, wrote a tune called ‘Let Your Love Flow,’ but when he pitched it to Diamond the singer turned it down because it didn’t fit his style. On a whim, Williams pitched it to the Bellamy Brothers, and their subsequent recording went to number one in the states.
There Goes Another Love Song – The Outlaws
Drawing on the feelings of isolation and paralysis that come with months of touring in confining buses and living out of a suitcase, The Outlaws’ ‘There Goes Another Love Song’ tackles homesickness and regret in regards to mistakes made while on the road states away from one’s family.
The Devil Went Down to Georgia – Charlie Daniels
One of country music’s most iconic tunes follows the eerie story of Johnny and his quest to beat the devil at his own game. In the backwoods of Georgia, Johnny has a run-in with the devil himself, who is “looking for a soul to steal.” To keep it, Johnny challenges him to a fiddling duel. With a charging, high-powered beat and Daniels’ fiddle wailing, listeners are taken on a crazy ride before they find out if Johnny comes out on top.
Related: Let us tell you a tale about the best songs that tell stories.
Whipping Post – The Allman Brothers Band
Written in the middle of a hot Jacksonville, Florida night on an ironing board using burning matches because no pen could be found, Greg Allman worked through one of the Allman Brother’s heavier tunes, ‘Whipping Post.’ The song is a blistering takedown of a woman who abused her man to the point that he feels like he’s tied to a whipping post, endlessly receiving punishment.
Related: Head over to our playlist of songs about betrayal.
I’m No Angel – Gregg Allman
One of the few songs Greg Allman didn’t have a hand in writing, ‘I’m No Angel’ resonated with him so much that he still included it on his solo album by the same name. ‘I’m No Angel’ is told from a man’s perspective telling the woman he loves that he has a dark side that can be hard to deal with. Allman spent much of his career battling drug addictions, which cost him five marriages, including one to Cher.
Take the Highway – The Marshall Tucker Band
Toy Caldwell’s signature guitar playing style holds down Marshall Tucker Band’s classic southern rock song ‘Take the Highway’ about a rebel man who refuses to settle down. As he confesses to his lover he’s got to “pack his bags and walk away,” he reasons with her and says, “Darlin’, please don’t wait for me too long.”
Related: Craving a road trip? Here are the best songs about streets.
Georgia Rhythm – Atlanta Rhythm Section
’70s rock bands toured relentlessly at the command of their labels. Many of the most popular groups traveled far away from their families many weeks out of the year. Though they played show after show, they were still expected to write tunes for upcoming albums. Naturally, a life spent on the road works its way into songwriting material. ‘Georgia Rhythm’ chronicles hard days and nights spent living out of suitcases in hotel rooms.
Brickyard Road – Johnny Van Zant
In 1990, Johnny Van Zant beat out rock stars like Bon Jovi on the charts with his emotional hit ‘Brickyard Road’ featuring him reminiscing about his late brother Ronnie Van Zant. The song’s title is a reference to the Van Zant residence where they were all living when they got the news Ronnie had been killed in the plane crash of ’77.
Jackie Blue – The Ozark Mountain Daredevils
Heavy on folk while interlacing definitive southern rock elements into their sound, ’70s band The Ozark Moutain Daredevils scored their biggest hit with ‘Jackie Blue.’ Bandmate Larry Lee wrote the tune loosely about a drug dealer he once knew. The tune appears on their ’73 album, It’ll Shine When It Shines.
Fire in the Kitchen – Warren Haynes
A poignant blues-rock song with raw lyrics full of honesty, Warren Haynes’ ’93 tune ‘Fire in the Kitchen’ drives home the stark reality many young people face living on the streets. The “fire in the kitchen” is a metaphor for the violence people face every day and the need for the “Lord” to send them “some cool cool water” to calm the bloodshed.