Top 10 Southern Rock Bands From Florida

Top 10 Southern Rock Bands From Florida

Feature Photo: Randy Miramontez / Shutterstock.com

This Top 10 Southern Rock Bands from Florida article looks at an amazing group of rock bands that changed the landscape of rock and roll history. If you went to high school in the 1970s like I did, you know how popular Southern Rock music was, even if you were from the North. Southern Rock put away any lingering Civil War hostilities at least from the northern perspective. Heck, it had been almost a hundred years. Yet, of course, that still didn’t stop some Southern Rock bands from displaying that Confederate flag at concerts and more.

It’s funny how when Lynyrd Skynrd dropped the Confederate Flag down on stage in New York City back in 1977, the place went crazy cheering. That’s the power of rock and roll for you. It didn’t matter where in the world you were from, you didn’t have to be a Southern Man or an American Woman to love bands like The Allman Brothers Band. Southern Rock made an incredible impact on the music scene then and now. Here are ten of the best from the State of Florida that showed us all how the South was going to do it again.

Top 10 Southern Rock Bands from Florida

# 10 – Blackfoot

Out of Jacksonville, Florida, is Blackfoot, an American Southern rock band that began not long after Rickey Medlocke and Greg T. Walker met with a New Yorker named Charlie Hagrett while he was in the Sunshine State in 1969. At the time, the band’s name was Fresh Garbage and it had vocalist Medlocke on drums, Walker on bass, and Hargett as its guitarist. In the lineup was also Ron Sciabarasi as keyboardist. After Sciabarasi left when he was drafted to Vietnam, Fresh Garbage renamed itself Hammer. Medlocke switched instruments from drums to guitar.

The new lineup now featured Jakson Spires replacing Medlocke as drummer and DeWitt Gibbs on keyboards. Also joining in was Jerry Zambiso as another guitarist. This new band moved to Gainesville, Florida, before relocating to Manhattan in 1970.

The band underwent its final name change to Blackfoot as the men used it to pay homage to the American Indian heritage belonging to Medlocke and Spires. Medlocke’s father came from Blackfoot and Lakota Sioux ancestry. His mother, as well as Spires’ mother, were both Cherokee. Addin to Spires’ cultural background also included a father who was the Metis mix of Cheyenne and French. As for Walker, he came from a Muskogee background, a native tribe recognized by the state of Florida but not by the United States of America. The only genuine white man in the group at the time was Charlie Hargrett.

At first, Blackfoot struggled as a rock group and underwent a series of lineup changes. In some cases, even the founders of the band left, only to return to give Blackfoot another go. After recording music with Lynyrd Skynyrd, No Reservations was released by Island Records in 1975. In 1976, Blackfoot released its second album, Flying High. The core lineup that experienced the height of the group’s stardom was Charlie Hargrett, Rickey Medlocke, Jackson Spires, and Greg T. Walker.

The three most successful albums Blackfoot produced were 1979’s Strikes, 1980’s Tomcattin’, and 1981’s Marauder. Going into the 1980s, the trends of the music industry suggested the subgenre of Southern rock was “passe.” This resulted in Blackfoot’s decision to venture into hard rock. The mainstay influence that has fueled the career run of this Southern-style hard rock band from Florida going into 2021 has been Rickey Medlocke. From 1970 until 1997, Blackfoot’s first run as a band met with it realizing the height of its career in 1979 with Strikes. This was the group’s third and most successful studio album as it sold enough copies to become certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

There were two hit singles that came from it, “Highway Song” and “Train Train.” The second of these two songs was originally recorded in 1971 by Medlocke’s grandfather and his daughter as Shorty Medlock & Mickey with the Fla. Plow Hands. “Train Train” inspired Warrant to cover this in 1990 for its album, Cherry Pie, as a heavy metal number.

Dolly Parton performed a country version of this song in 1999 with her album, The Grass is Blue. In 2011, “Train Train” was featured as a song in the movie, Straw Dogs. For Blackfoot, “Train Train” was a number thirty-eight hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 when it was released as a single in 1979. While the song itself may not have been a top-ten hit for the boys from Florida, it became a big part of the group’s legacy.

# 9 – Cowboy

Usually, when Florida is referenced as a state these days, popular beaches and tourist attractions usually come to mind first. As far as its influence in music goes, it’s as versatile as it gets. Founded in Jacksonville in 1969, Cowboy was a group that specialized in country rock and Southern rock that primarily had Scott Boyer and Tommy Talton lead a lineup of everchanging musicians to record four studio albums while signed with Capricorn Records.

The first was 1970’s Reach for the Sky and the second was 1971’s 5’ll Getcha Ten. In 1974, it was Boyer and Talton, and then in 1977, it was Cowboy. From this collection of musical material, “Please Be with Me” featured Duane Allman performing dobro guitar in a song that became Cowboy’s most popular. It was recorded for 5’ll Getcha Ten and was later covered by Eric Clapton in 1974 for his album, 461 Ocean Boulevard.

Cowboy was founded in 1969 when Boyer and Talton teamed up with four musicians who were from or near the area. All six men rented a house together that became Cowboy’s living quarters and rehearsal studio. During this time, Boyer’s previous association with Duane and Gregg Allman as a bandmate played a role in the introduction of Cowboy to Capricorn Records and its owner, Phil Waldon. From the beginning, Cowboy endured a series of lineup changes before Boyer and Talton decided to call it quits in 1977.

It wouldn’t be until thirty years later Cowboy would resurrect as a band with Boyer and Talton once again leading the charge. There was intent to release a new album as there was enough musical material to pull it off, it was a project that fell through. Cowboy did, however, hold a concert in 2010 that would result in the 2011 release of Boyer & Talton: Cowboy Reunion 2010. It wouldn’t be until 2018, after the death of Boyer, that fans would get to hear the new songs when 10’ll Getcha Twenty was released as an album. It also featured newer recordings Boyer and Talton made together.

Cowboy often toured with the Allman Brothers as a support band. In 1974, the lineup served as Gregg Allman’s backing band when he toured as a solo artist. While Cowboy may not have become as well known as the Allman Brothers, it was often considered one of Florida’s golden gems as a Southern rock band.

It was also among the pioneers of a genre that would inspire recording artists such as Jason Isbell. Fans of Isbell are likely to recognize him for his solo work, as well as the guitarist for Drive-By Truckers from 2001 until 2007. Isbell cited Boyer as the first real songwriter who took him seriously as the young man from Georgia was living on Boyer’s couch when he met Patterson Hood. Hood was one of the co-founders of Drive-By Truckers and took Isbell in as one of the band’s guitarists.

Whenever Boyer’s name came up in conversation among some of the best talents to grace the music industry, they regarded him as one of the best balladeers in the business. His songwriting ability was matched beautifully with a singing voice that won over a loyal fan base who knew the sound of excellence as soon as they heard it. The brand of Southern rock music Cowboy presented was a hint of country and folk mixed together as a softer approach to a genre that became so popular going into the 1970s.

# 8 – Van Zant

Van Zant was a Southern-style rock band that featured two brothers, Donnie and Johnny Van Zant. They were the younger brothers of Ronnie Van Zant. Fans may recognize Ronnie as the original lead singer for another Southern rock band from Florida, Lynyrd Skynyrd. Fans may also recognize Donnie as the man who became the lead singer for 38 Special. In 1987, Johnny replaced Ronnie as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s new lead vocalist when the band reunited ten years after Ronnie’s tragic death on October 20, 1977.

All three Van Zant brothers came from Jacksonville and each enjoyed incredible recording careers that would win over fans from all over the world. When Donnie and Johnny first teamed up, it was under the banner of The Johnny Van Zant Band. With this name, the brothers released 1980’s No More Dirty Deals, plus two other albums in 1981 and 1982. In 1985, it was the eponymous album while signed with Geffen Records. This one proved to be the most successful as it had two singles that appeared on the music charts.

The first was “You’ve Got to Believe in Love,” which peaked at number twenty-seven on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart. The second was “I’m a Fighter” and that became a number sixteen hit on the same music chart. However, although Van Zant was credited for the singles, Donnie was not part of the lineup. After 1985, Van Zant as a band was done and Johnny would join Lynyrd Skynyrd as its new lead singer in 1987 as it embarked on a reunion tour.

In 1990, Johnny Van Zant released another album while singing with Ronnie’s old group. After this, he teamed up with Donnie again and the Van Zant name as a band was reborn. Together, they released Brother to Brother in 1998. It was intended to be a one-time project but it saw chart success with its single, “Rage.” It became a number twenty-two hit on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart.

It was enough to encourage the brothers from Florida to team up again, this time for 2001’s Van Zant II. This one brought forth the hit, “Get What You Got Comin’.” While with Geffen, the Van Zant brothers focused on performing as a Southern rock band before switching labels and their musical style.

Once Van Zant was signed to Columbia Records as a duo act, it released Get Right with the Man in 2005, then My Kind of Country in 2007. “Help Somebody” was Van Zant’s most successful single, which came from the first of these two albums. It became a crossover hit by charting as high as number eight on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart and as high as number sixty-six on the US Billboard Hot 100. This was followed by “Nobody Gonna Tell Me What to Do,” which became a number sixteen hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart. Although this was technically a country rock hit, Van Zant’s fans still regarded them as Southern-style rockers from Florida.

Get Right with the Man became certified gold by the RIAA but it also met with controversy due to the Sony BMG copy protection scandal that erupted as big news in 2005. At the time, the software Sony used in the CD recordings issued by them caused glitches that made it impossible to import music from them to iTunes. After the problem was fixed, the musical material from Get Right with the Man was finally able to be exported to iTunes so fans could download it for their listening pleasure.

#7 – 38 Special

When Donnie Van Zant from Jacksonville, Florida, wasn’t teaming up with his older brother, Ronnie Van Zant as a duo act, he was performing as guitarist and vocalist for his Southern rock group, 38 Special. This was a band he founded in 1974 with lead vocalist Don Barnes and bass player Ken Lyons. The trio formed this band while still working their day jobs and performing with other musical acts. In the process, they were putting together their own songs before deciding to gun after a career as a Southern rock band. 38 Specialgot its name after an incident with the local authorities using a 38 Special to shoot off a lock that had the band members padlocked inside a warehouse they were practicing in. The police were actually called to the scene by neighbors in the area who complained about the noise.

At first, 38 Special performed in 1975 and 1976 at a variety of one-night gigs in the Midwest and the South. By the time 1977 hit, older brother Ronnie Van Zant felt Donnie and his bandmates were ready to meet with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s manager at the time, Peter Rudge. This led .38 Special to perform as the opening act for Peter Frampton, Foghat, and KISS. He also assigned Dan Hartman of Edgar Winter Group fame as an A&M Records representative to produce 38 Special, the group’s first studio album. Just before the recording was released, Lyons opted out of the band and was replaced by Larry Junstrom.

He was a friend of the Van Zants, as well as one of the original members of Lynyrd Skynyrd. While 1977 should have served as a beautiful start to .38 Special’s career as a recording artist, it was overshadowed by the October 20, 1977 airplane crash that claimed the lives of some of the Lynyrd Skynyrd band members that were on it. This included the death of Donnie and Johnny Van Zant’s older brother, Ronnie. In response to this tragedy, Donnie Van Zant wrote “Take Me Back” as a tribute to his older brother. This song appeared on the 1978 album, Special Delivery.

The first two albums produced by 38 Special had the group perform strictly as Southern rockers. As soon as 1980 hit, the band members began to diversify their music by adopting arena-style rock without letting go of their original roots. This served to be the formula for breakthrough success as 1979’s “Rockin’ into the Night” was the first single that would earn 38 Special as its first hit. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number forty-three in 1980.

Don Barnes was the lead vocalist for the song and it was determined it would be a role he would keep until he left in 1987. After Rockin’ into the Night became a success as the group’s third studio album, this led to 1981’s Wild-Eyed Southern Boys. It gave .38 Special its next hit, “Hold On Loosely,” which peaked as high as number twenty-seven on the same music chart.

The album also became certified platinum by the RIAA after selling over one million copies. In 1982, it was Special Forces, another album that would earn Donnie Van Zant and his band another platinum-certified seller. This one had its first top ten hit, “Caught Up in You,” which topped the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart and was a number ten hit on the US Billboard Hot 100.

In 1983, Tour de Force was another album that would produce two more big hits for 38 Special. “If I’d Been the One” also peaked as high as number one on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number nineteen. “Right Back Where You Belong” was the other, which became a number four hit on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart and a number twenty hit on the US Billboard Hot 100.

This was followed by the 1984 blockbuster, Teachers as it featured 38 Special’s “Teacher, Teacher” as its theme song. Written by the dynamic songwriting team of Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, this became a number four hit on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart and a number twenty-five hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. After this it was 1986’s Strength in Numbers, then 1987’s Flashback: The Best of 38 Special. By the time 1987 was over, Don Barnes had moved on to record Ride the Storm as a solo artist. Although it was supposed to be released in 1989, A&M Records was sold and the album would find itself collecting dust on the shelf until 2017 before it was finally made available for the public.

After the departure of Barnes, 38 Special underwent a few more lineup changes before the 1988 release of Rock & Roll Strategy. This was an album that leaned heavier on pop-style keyboards than the heavy guitar sound that made Special so popular at first. Max Carl was the new lead singer who replaced Barnes and it was his performance of “Second Chance” that gave it a hint of R&B flair.

It was enough to make it a number-one hit on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart in 1989. Overall, it was 38 Special’s biggest hit as it peaked as high as number six on the US Billboard Hot 100 and at number two on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart. Carl remained with 38 Special until 1992. Before doing so, 38 Special recorded and released Bone Against Steel in 1991, an album that produced two more hit singles, “Rebel to Rebel” and “The Sound of Your Voice.”

After this, Don Barnes returned to the lineup. By this time, the group focused more on touring but it still came up with a few new recordings along the way. In 1997, Resolution produced another hit single for the group with “Fade to Blue.” It peaked as high as number thirty-eight on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart. This would be the group’s final hit, despite the fact it released two more studio albums since then. There was 2001’s A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night and 2004’s Drivetrain.

Up until 2013, Donnie Van Zant led 38 Special with an incredible career run until he officially retired from music. This came about after 2011 and 2012 witnessed Van Zant having to miss touring with his own band due to ear-related musical issues. 2012 also marked the year Ken Lyons died at fifty-nine years old. Although Van Zant was no longer in, 38 Special still continues with its co-founder, Don Barnes. He is accompanied by Bobby Capps, Barry Dunaway, Gary Moffatt, and Jerry Riggs.

#6 – The Derek Trucks Band

Hailing from Jacksonville, Derek Trucks was a slide guitar genius who founded The Derek Trucks Band in 1994, along with Atlanta-based bass guitarist Todd Smallie. In 1995, Yonrico Scott signed up as the drummer and percussionist who came from a Motown background, thanks to his Michigan State upbringing. He was a University of Kentucky graduate with a B.A. in percussion performance.

Also joining the group in 1995 was keyboardist Bill McKay. Together, these four men recorded and released The Derek Trucks Band in 1997. It was followed by the 1999 release of Out of the Madness. The band’s specialty was performing bluesy Southern rock and had close family ties to The Allman Brothers Band as Derek’s uncle was Butch Trucks, the group’s primary drummer since 1969.

After recording Out of the Madness, McKay was replaced by Kofi Burbidge, a multi-instrumental musician who came from a background of classical music and could play the flute, keyboards, and organ. In 2000, The Derek Trucks Band welcomed Javier Colon as its fifth member and lead vocalist to the lineup for two years before he was replaced by Mike Mattison.

This came about after the recording and release of 2002’s Joyful Noise, and 2003’s Soul Serenade. Joyful Noise was an album that featured the wife of Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi as one of its guest vocalists while Soul Serenade was a collection of songs that were recorded between February 1999 and April 2000. The final product was recorded on April 12th with Gregg Allman at Reeltime Studios in Savannah, Georgia. It wouldn’t be until 2004’s Live at Georgia Theatre that fans would receive a delightful earful of Mattison’s vocal talent.

Now as a six-man band, The Derek Trucks Band realized its full potential as a group with 2008’s Already Free. Also in the lineup by this time was Count M’Butu, a wonderfully talented drummer and percussionist who began to perform with Derek Trucks in 2004. Already Free earned The Derek Trucks Band a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Also in 2008, The Derek Trucks Band released another live album, Roadsongs.

In 2011, the group was recognized as Band of the Year by the Blues Music Awards. This came about after The Derek Trucks Band officially dissolved in 2010. Derek Trucks teamed up with his wife, Susan Tedeschi to form the Tedeschi Music Band. Kofi Burbridge and Mike Mattison joined along but a 2017 heart attack briefly kept Burbridge on the sidelines for a few months.

However, in 2019, medical issues began to rear up again that led to his death in 2019. Also dying that year was Yonrico Scott. In 2021, Count M’Butu passed away at seventy-eight years old as he also had heart-related ailments of his own. As a group, The Derek Trucks Band expressed an array of diverse musical styles that worked as one. To this day, it remains a shining example of how music really can bring people together.

#5 – Tedeschi Trucks Band

The Tedeschi Trucks Band features the duo of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. As of 2010, the married couple focused on the development of a career that had Trucks and Tedeschi pick up where The Derek Trucks Band left off. Joining them in this venture were bandmates Kofi Burbridge, Mike Mattheson, and Count M’Butu. Also joining the Tedeschi Trucks Band was Kofi’s older brother, Oteil Burbridge. Should fans notice hints of The Allman Brothers Band’s influence in the mix of tunes that Tedeschi Trucks Band performed, that’s because the Burbridges, as well as Trucks, have been part of its lineup as well.

In 2011, Tedeschi Trucks Band released Revelator, a recording that would win the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Blues Album. After releasing its debut album, the Tedeschi Trucks Band produced 2012’s Everybody’s Talkin’, as well as 2013’s Made Up Mind. These three albums were released while the group was signed to the Sony Masterworks label. In 2016, Let Me Get By was produced by Fantasy Records and it became yet another successful release for The Tedeschi Trucks Band.

This was followed by the 2017 album and video release of Live from the Fox Oakland. In 2019, Signs was the band’s fourth studio album was released just before the deaths of Kofi Burbridge and Yonrico Scott. While Scott wasn’t officially part of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, both Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi performed with him in The Derek Trucks Band as far back as 1995.

The most recent musical material released from the Tedeschi Trucks Band, I Am the Moon. It was a four-part album collection of twenty-four songs that were released twenty-eight days from each other as it was worked out to follow the moon’s cycle. Three times in a row between 2012 and 2014, the Tedeschi Trucks Band won Band of the Year from the Blues Music Awards as Band of the Year. It won this award again in 2017 and 2023 as it remains one of the fan favorites, as well as one of Florida’s finest musical acts.

#4 – Outlaws

From Tampa, there is a Southern rock band who referred to themselves as Outlaws. Fans may recognize its two 1975 hits, “There Goes Another Love Song” and “Green Grass and High Ties.” This was also the same group that performed the 1980 cover of “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky,” a Stan Jones classic he wrote in 1949. The start of Outlaws began in 1967 when Frank Guidry, Hobie O’Brien, Herbie Pino, and Hughie Thomasson began as a group. Joining them would be a bassist named Phil Holmberg and a drummer named David Dix.

In 1968, Holmberg and O’Brien left and Frank O’Keefe was brought in play bass. He was also a vocalist. Before the year was over, Pino was also out and was briefly replaced by Tommy Angarano. Angarano’s departure opened the door for Pino to return to the lineup. Also in 1968, the Outlaws were taken to New York City by its first manager, Paul Deutekom. Although the group recorded an album for Epic Records it never was released due to a falling out that put an end to what would have been the group’s recording debut at that time.

The Outlaws returned to Tampa before securing another record deal, this time with Criteria Studios in Miami. History repeated itself a second time as the album never was released after its producer also failed to deliver his end of the deal. It was also during this time lineup changes continued to affect the Outlaws as Guidry was the next to go as he was forced out by Gernhard to make way for a bass player named Ronny Elliott. Elliott didn’t last as he left in 1969. By 1970, Outlaws still had Hughie Tomasson, David Dix, Dave Graham, Billy Jones, and Frank O’Keefe in its lineup. It was Graham who steered the group to adopt a country rock genre. This was a lineup that didn’t last either and it seemed as if Outlaws’ days as a band were numbered.

Fortune for the Outlaws began to improve in 1971 once Henry Paul joined Frank O’Keefe and Monte Yoho to form Sienna while these three men were in Tampa. Paul was a New Yorker but spent his teens in the Tampa area. In 1972, Hughie Thomasson joined in after returning from New York. Sienna changed its name to Outlaws, giving the old group the revival it needed to move forward. Joining them was Billy Jones who switched to guitar in 1973.

This is when the Outlaws were dubbed as “the Florida Guitar Army.” In 1974, Charlie Brusco became the next manager to help the Outlaws earn a recording contract, this time with Arista Records. This came about after Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd commented to Clive Davis from Arista Records if he didn’t sign Outlaws to a contract that he’d be the dumbest music person he ever met. Davis was an associate of Brusco’s.

What Outlaws brought as a musical act extended beyond the Southern rock genre they were labeled as. This group mixed elements of country and rock that shared vocal harmony influences similar to the styles Buffalo Springfield and Poco were known for. As a band, there was no singer who stood out as a primary lead vocalist. However, as a guitarist and vocalist, Hughie Thomasson stood out and was nicknamed “The Flame” because of how fast his fingers worked the Fender Stratocaster he often used.

Sometimes, it was the Telecaster, but the feverish pace his guitar work displayed was something to behold. He became a member of the Fender Hall of Fame for good reason. Just as talented as Thomasson was Billy Jones. He was able to switch between clean and distorted sounds that can be distinctly heard in songs such as “Green Grass and High Tides.”

The height of the Outlaws‘ career ran between 1975 and 1980. It was also during this time the band opened for the biggest stars in the business at the time like Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Van Halen, and the Who. There was a contrast of styles performed by the Outlaws compared to the bands it opened for making the band from Florida that much more popular across the United States. The three most successful albums Outlaws produced were the first three. 1975’s The Outlaws, 1976’s Lady in Waiting, and 1977’s Hurry Sundown were each considered the Outlaws as a recording artist at its best.

There were additional lineup changes that included the 1977 departure of Henry Paul and the 1981 departure of Billy Jones. Although Paul returned in 1983, it was noted by music critics the best days of the Outlaws were now behind them. The drift away from the musical sounds that made Outlwas so popular was evident in 1982’s Los Hombres Malo and 1986’s Soldiers of Fortune.

Before 1990 hit, Thomasson was the last founding member left. After the 1994 release of Diablo Canyon, Thomasson decided to take a break from Outlaws and join up with Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1996. This put Outlaws on the sidelines while Henry Paul founded BlackHawk in the meantime, which became one of the most popular country music acts in the 1990s.

By the time Thomasson was ready to give Outlaws a go again in 2005, it was he, David Dix, Monte Yoho, and Henry Paul. Billy Jones and Frank O’Keefe both died in February 1995 while in their mid-forties. Jones’ death was by suicide while O’Keefe’s was the result of a drug overdose. Among the surviving classic lineup of Outlaws, Paul’s lineup from BlackHawk joined in.

Chris Anderson, Randy Threet, and Dave Robbins all signed up but in 2006, Robbins left with Paul to resume BlackHawk. Anderson and Threet stayed behind with OOutlaws joining Dix, Thomasson, and Yoho in 2007 for the Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam tour. On September 8, 2007, the Outlaws performed its final concert at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada with Hughie Thomasson in the lineup. The group’s founder died of a heart attack the next day while he was in Brooksville, Florida.

Prior to his death, the Outlaws finished recording Once an Outlaw, but the album was never officially released. It has, however, been distributed illegally on the internet. Since Thomasson’s death, the Outlaws have carried on 2012’s It’s About Pride and 2020’s Dixie Highway. While the current lineup of the Outlaws is very different now compared to its heydey, it still continues with Henry Paul now at the helm. Monte Yoho stayed until 2021 but has since retired.

#3 – Molly Hatchet

Molly Hatchet was the name of a Southern rock band that hailed out of Jacksonville. Founded by guitarist Dave Hlubek in 1971, this hard rockin’ group achieved the height of its success from the late 1970s until the mid-1980s. Altogether, it released fourteen studio albums. Six of them were with the Epic Records label between 1978 and 1984. The most successful were 1978’s Molly Hatchet, 1979’s Flirtin’ with Disaster, and 1980’s Beatin’ the Odds.

Molly Hatchet’s signature hit was “Flirtin’ with Disaster,” a single that was released from the group’s second studio album. The main musical influence that fueled Molly Hatchet was Lynyrd Skynyrd. This was the case throughout the state of Florida as many Southern-style rockers were inspired by Ronnie Van Zant’s band and wanted to follow in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s footsteps.

As is the case with many bands that start, Molly Hatchet underwent lineup changes before achieving the right formula that would earn the band its first taste of real success. This was achieved in 1976 with Danny Joe Brown, Bruce Crump, Steve Holland, Duane Roland, and Banner Thomas joining Hlubek. 1978 marked the band’s debut with “Dreams I’ll Never See,” a cover from The Allman Brothers Band’s 1969 “Dreams.”

This was followed by 1979’s Flirtin’ with Disaster and its title track classic that became the group’s signature song. At the time, it was Brown’s gruff singing voice that gave Molly Hatchet its distinction as a rock group. In 1980, Brown left in an effort to bring his diabetes condition under control. Two years later he’d return to the music scene after forming his own band.

Brown’s replacement for Molly Hatchet as lead singer was Jimmy Farrar. The singing styles were very different from each other as Farrar’s was smoother compared to Brown’s gruff-sounding vocals. This was evident with 1980’s Beatin’ the Odds but it was a new sound that kept Molly Hatchet popular with the fans. After this, 1981 met with additional lineup changes that had Banner Thomas and Bruce Crump replaced by Riff West and B.B. Borden as soon as they left.

In 1982, Farrar left and Brown was back in. 1983 witnessed the lineup of Borden, Brown, Hlubek, Holland, Roland, and West record and release Molly Hatchet’s fifth album, No Guts…No Glory. While touring to promote the album, the band was traveling with another Florida-based group, Blackfoot. Just before it was time to perform at the Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas, Brown, Holland, and Roland collectively decided to abandon Molly Hatchet and go back home. This left Borden, Hlubek, and West to perform as Molly Hatchet on their own.

While in rehearsal backstage, Rickey Medlocke from Blackfoot stepped up and took Brown’s place as Molly Hatchet’s vocalist while Blackoot guitarist Charlie Hargrett also joined in. The day after the concert, Borden, Brown, and Holland returned. However, Holland would leave yet again in 1984 and was replaced by John Galvin as Molly Hatchet’s next keyboardist. This was the same year Bruce Crump returned as the band’s drummer as Molly Hatchet recorded and released The Deed is Done.

Double Trouble Live would be the group’s double live album that would be released the next year and as the final album while still signed with Epic Records. It would be with this album fans would hear Bobby Ingram as he sang as backup vocalist. He was also a drummer for the Danny Joe Brown Band before taking Hlubek’s place in 1987 as Molly Hatchet’s guitarist.

In 1989, the band recorded and released Lightning Strikes Twice while signed to Capitol Records. The album didn’t perform as well as hoped. Although there were seven additional albums recorded and released between 1996 and 2012, none of them earned the same level of attention as the ones produced while with Epic. As time wore on, the classic lineup that ushered Molly Hatchet to become an international fan favorite all passed away but the group’s name continued with a new lineup altogether.

Since 1984, John Galvin was the band’s keyboardist who ultimately stayed on after taking a break between 1991 and 1994. Bobby Ingram was part of the lineup since 1987 as its guitarist after replacing one of the founders, Dave Hlubek. Even after Hlubek returned in 2005, he stayed on. Still carrying the Molly Hatchet banner is the lineup of Shawn Beamer as its drummer, Tim Lindsey as bassist, and Parker Lee as vocalist.

#2 – Lynyrd Skynyrd

Originally, Lynyrd Skynyrd started off in Jacksonville as My Backyard in 1964. Together, Bob Burns, Allen Collins, Larry Junstrom, Garry Rossington, and Ronnie Van Zant teamed as a band that would undergo a series of name and lineup changes before settling as Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1969. In 1973, it debuted with (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd) and it became a double platinum success with the RIAA. This was the album that produced “Free Bird” as one of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s signature singles, as well as four other hits, “Tuesday’s Gone,” “Gimme Three Steps,” “Simple Man,” and “Thing’s Goin’ On.”

The album also became certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). By 1974, Lynyrd Skynyrd witnessed another lineup change that would have Burns and Junstrom bow out while Ed King, Billy Powell, Artimus Pyle, and Leon Wilkeson joined in. After King left in 1975, Steve Gaines took his place as the band’s new guitarist. However, before he left, Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded and released its second studio album, Second Helping. This was the recording that produced the group’s second signature hit, “Sweet Home Alabama.” This was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s response to Neil Young’s “Southern Man” as a means to correct the Canadian singer-songwriter’s concept of what his idea of American South living was about.

The release of “Sweet Home Alabama” officially turned Lynyrd Skynyrd into a musical hero of the South, especially in a state that officially made the song its anthem in 2007. While Second Helping was another fantastic album with a string of hits, “Sweet Home Alabama” outdid them all on a global scale. It was a number eight hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, a number six hit in Canada, and a number thirty-one hit in the UK.

In 2021, the song was a hit again, this time at number thirteen on the US Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart. In 2008, Kid Rock idolized “Sweet Home Alabama” even further by recording and releasing “All Summer Long,” by embedding Lynyrd Skynyrd’s signature tune into the chorus and the infamous “turn it up” quote before going into the guitar solo.

As a band, Lynyrd Skynyrd was on top of the world as one of the “it” acts going into 1977. By this time, it had five successful studio albums, including Street Survivors. This, however, would be the group’s last with Ronnie Van Zant as its lead singer. On October 17, 1977, the album was released three days before the fateful crash that would claim the lives of Van Zant and Steve Gaines. It also claimed the life of Steve’s sister and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s backup singer, Cassie Gaines.

Assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick also perished in the crash, as did the two pilots who were responsible for everyone’s flight safety. Among the survivors of the crash were Allen Collins, Leslie Hawkins, Billy Powell, Artimus Pyle, Gary Rossington, and Leon Wilkeson. Road manager Ron Eckerman also survived, as did the road crew who boarded Convair CV-240 on a flight that was supposed to take Lynyrd Skynyrd from Greenville, South Carolina to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Already cited as a plane with safety issues, it ran out of fuel mid-flight and was forced to make an emergency landing. It crashed into the heavily forest area northeast of Gilsburg, Mississippi. Emergency crews sent to the crash site had their work cut out for them before they could finally reach the wreckage to recover the bodies and rescue the survivors.

While still in recovery, the surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd teamed with Charlie Daniels in 1979 to perform an instrumental version of “Free Bird.” Collins, Powell, Pyle, and Rossington were there with Daniels while Leslie Hawkins and Leon Wilkeson were in attendance. In 1980, Collins, Powell, Rossington, and Wilkeson recorded and released Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere as an album with Dale Krantz as their lead vocalist. This was a deliberate move to avoid being compared to Lynyrd Skynyrd by having a female vocal artist instead of a male one.

However, after 1981’s This Is the Way, a love triangle between Collins, Krantz, and Rossington resulted in a split that had Krantz and Rossington marry while Collins decided he had enough and moved on. Unfortunately for him, he was paralyzed in a car accident in 1986, the same year The Rossington Band featured Krantz and Rossington’s release Returned to the Scene of the Crime. This was followed by 1988’s Love Your Man. It would be in 1988 The Rossington Band served as the opening band for the Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour that took place in 1987 and 1988.

Originally, the tribute tour was meant to be a one-time reunion tour but it became a Lynyrd Skynyrd revival with Johnny Van Zant taking over as its new lead singer. Although there was a string of new recordings, it was evident the peak of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s glory days had already come and gone. However, its legacy continues and Lynyrd Skynyrd still serves as an inspirational influence for so many fans and musicians worldwide. On November 28, 2005, Lynyrd Skynyrd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Since 1977, the tributes honoring Lynyrd Skynyrd keep coming as musical dedications and monuments by fans and peers who refuse to forget.

#1 – The Allman Brothers Band

The musical pride and joy from Jacksonville would be The Allman Brothers Band. In 1969, Duane Allman and Gregg Allman teamed up with Dickey Betts, Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson, Berry Oakley, and Butch Trucks to form a band that would subsequently base itself in Macon, Georgia.

Together, these musicians pooled their musical styles of blues, country, and jazz that would feature a series of improvs, instrumentals, and jams that would hurl The Allman Brothers Band straight to the top as Florida’s crowning achievement when it came to providing a world-class musical act. 1969 also marked the group’s self-titled debut album, which was then followed by 1970’s Idlewild South.

At first, the albums got off to a slow start but after the 1971 release of The Allman Brothers Band’s live album, At Fillmore East, that all changed. Fans got a good taste of extended versions to “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and “Whipping Post,” two songs that illustrated the jamming style that would become an Allman Brothers trademark.

As fate had it, right after The Allman Brothers Band achieved stardom, Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident on October 29, 1971. This led to the 1972 dedication album, Eat a Peach. This was an album that featured live and studio recordings that included Gregg Allman’s “Melissa” and Dickey Betts’s “Blue Sky.” Right after this, The Allman Brothers Band would again be rocked by another motorcycle death, this time in 1972 with bandmate Berry Oakley.

The recording and release of 1973’s Brothers and Sisters would feature keyboardist Chuck Leavell and bassist Lamar Williams added to the band’s lineup. This was the album that featured “Ramblin’ Man,” a classic that belonged to Dickey Betts. At first, the country-style song was something members of The Allman Brothers Band were reluctant to perform but they did it anyway and it became the group’s first and only top ten hit on the US Billboard Hot 100.

It peaked as high as number two when it was released as a single in 1973. This came about after Duane Allman’s death and the guitar performance for this song came from Les Dudek. At the time of recording, he stood where Duane Allman usually did. It was an intense moment for everyone who was in the room.

There was also the instrumental gem, “Jessica,” which was also the result of Dickey Betts’s penmanship. This, along with “Ramblin’ Man” went on to become classic rock favorites that sent The Allman Brothers Band to the forefront of rock music through the first half of the 1970s. In 1996, “Jessica” won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

This song was also used as the theme for Top Gear, a television series that ran from 1977 until 2001. The Allman Brothers Band original remained untouched until a remixed version of it began in 1999. “Jessica” was the opening theme for Top Gear while Elton John’s “Out of the Blue” instrumental was used as its closing theme.

After 1975’s Win, Lose or Draw, a series of internal issues plagued the band members enough to take a break from each other in 1976. The Allman Brothers Band would later go back to the recording studio between 1979 and 1981 to release three more albums, starting with 1979’s Enlightened Rogues. This was followed by 1980’s Reach for the Sky and 1981’s Brothers of the Road. After this, it wouldn’t be until 1989 before The Allman Brothers Band would come together again and bring forth a new collection of albums.

It would be during this time the group toured extensively which would result in a series of lineup changes in the late 1990s. It wouldn’t be until the arrival of Oteil Burbridge, Warren Haynes, and Derek Trucks that The Allman Brothers Band would stabilize again as a group before going into retirement in 2014. Three years after this, Butch Trucks died on January 24th due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. That same year, on May 27th, Gregg Allman lost his battle with liver cancer.

The legacy of The Allman Brothers Band includes seven RIAA-certified gold albums and four RIAA-certified platinum albums to its credit. In 1995, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2012, The Allman Brothers Band earned the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. What made The Allman Brothers Band stand out so much as a band was more than just the music presented by a group of talented men.

As brothers, Duane Allman and his younger brother, Gregg, grew up in Daytona Beach and put together Escorts as a duo act before becoming the Allman Joys in 1966. Together, the brothers released Early Allman as an album before joining a soul band named Hour Glass in 1967. After the recording and release of two studio albums in California that resulted in disappointment, Duane Allman headed for Muscle Shoals, Alabama to perform as a session musician while Gregg Allman stayed in Hollywood in order to fulfill contract obligations he signed with Liberty Records while with the Hour Glass lineup.

The label assumed Gregg Allman had what it took at the time to pursue a solo career. Meanwhile, Duane Allman’s knack for slide guitar won over the attention of FAME Studios and they signed him up to do a five-year recording contract. He put together his own group that included Paul Hornsby and Johnny Sandin before recruiting Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson. During this time frame, Berry Oakley was invited to jam with Allman’s group.

The musical vision of Duane Allman and his band didn’t mesh with FAME’s intentions and by March 1969, he and Jaimcoe Johanson moved to Jacksonville. This would lead to Duane Allman meeting up with his brother in Miami. As The Allman Brothers Band , Duane and Gregg extended an invite for musicians to join in on the jam sessions that would ultimately start the career of a group that would become one of Florida’s finest.

Top 10 Southern Rock Bands From Florida article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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