Hal Leonard and Backbeat books have 3 exciting book giveaways! Enter to win copies of 108 Rock Star Guitars, Brian May’s Red Special, and Southbound: An Illustrated History of Southern Rock. Hurry before the contests close!
Scott B. Bomar spoke with Chapter 16 about Southbound: An Illustrated History of Southern Rock. Read the rest of the interview here!
Long-Haired Country Boys
Rumbling out of the South at the beginning of the 1970s, Southern rock was a mix of back-to-basics rock and roll, blues, country, and soul—wrapped in a new vision of the American South. In his new book, Southbound: An Illustrated History of Southern Rock, Nashville native Scott B. Bomar chronicles the history of this uniquely American music and the musicians who created it.
Despite the chart successes of the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band, and others, the artistry and innovations these musicians brought to rock music are often overlooked, casualties of persistent and pernicious prejudices about the South. Bomar tackles those oversights directly, building a case for the importance and inclusiveness of a style that sought to embrace the most admirable aspects of Southern life and culture while rejecting old bigotries. Drawn from interviews with dozens of musicians and illustrated with scores of band photos, album covers, label shots, and concert posters, Southbound gives the stories of individual bands as well as the history of a truly American music.
Bomar recently answered questions from Chapter 16 via email:
There’s a great quote from Gregg Allman near the start of the book: “‘Southern rock’ is like saying ‘rock rock.’ Rock and roll was born in the South.” How did you arrive at a definition of Southern rock that was workable for the book, and what is that definition?
Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee—all those guys came from the South, and understanding that is part of the Southern-rock story. When people use the term “Southern rock,” however, they’re generally talking about the Allman Brothers Band, the Marshall Tucker Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and so on. What happened was that you had these kids growing up on blues, soul, country, and rock in places like Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, or North Carolina. They had shared cultural experiences as Southerners, but they also had the shared experience of becoming long-haired music freaks in an environment that was fairly conservative. Even though Southern rock is often regarded as “redneck” music today, a “redneck” in the 1960s was a guy with a crew cut who just might be inclined to kick the ass of a freaky long-haired rocker.
So these guys were pretty countercultural and tended to stick together. As they formed bands and became successful in the early 1970s, the fact that they were Southerners made them unique in the wider world of freaky long-haired rockers. So they were fish out of water at home because they were rockers, and they were fish out of water in the rock world because they had funny accents. Needless to say, they tended to bond because they understood one another. Charlie Daniels told me that Southern rock is a genre of people more than it is a genre of music, and I think that’s a pretty good definition of something that’s a little slippery to fully define.
But I did write a book about it, so I had to come up with something more precise. In the introduction I listed four criteria that guided my decisions about who would—and would not—be included in the book. Sometimes people skip introductions, but this is one of those cases where it actually frames the entire book. And maybe it will even start a little debate.
You’re young enough to have missed the original heyday of Southern rock. How did you first discover the music?
My dad is in the music business, so I was surrounded by music as early as I can remember. Maybe I had some records for kids when I was little, but if I did, I don’t recall them. I was into Elvis and the Beatles at a very young age, so I was always looking to the past when it came to my musical choices. I started playing guitar around age twelve or thirteen. It was the 1980s, so what was on the radio wasn’t very guitar-heavy. That’s when I really got into classic rock, and it was around that time that 104.5 The Fox was just getting going in Nashville. Southern rock was a big chunk of their classic rock programming, so I was always hearing the Allmans, Skynyrd, Wet Willie, Marshall Tucker, ZZ Top, 38 Special, and those kinds of Southern groups on the radio. This was also around the time that everyone was embracing CDs, so I was building my music collection with the CD issues of classic albums.
Scott B. Bomar met up with with Chris and Meredith of the Freewheelin’ show on Sirius XM to discuss Southbound!
Many of the architects of rock and roll in the 1950s, including Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard, were Southerners who were rooted in the distinctive regional traditions of country, blues, and R&B. As the impact of the British Invasion and the psychedelic era faded at the end of the following decade, such performers as Bob Dylan and the Band returned to the simplicity of American roots music, paving the way for Southern groups to reclaim their region’s rock-and-roll heritage. Embracing both Southern musical traditions and a long-haired countercultural aesthetic, such artists as the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd forged a new musical community that Charlie Daniels called “a genre of people more than a genre of music.”
Focusing primarily on the music’s golden age of the 1970s, Southbound profiles the musicians, producers, record labels, and movers and shakers that defined Southern rock, including the Allmans, Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band, Wet Willie, the Charlie Daniels Band, Elvin Bishop, the Outlaws, the Atlanta Rhythm Section, .38 Special, ZZ Top, and many others.
From the rise and fall of the mighty Capricorn Records to the music’s role in helping Jimmy Carter win the White House and to its continuing legacy and influence, this is the story of Southern rock.
Scott B. Bomar had a great interview featured in the online magazine, KUDZOO. Check out some of the questions Scott answered and read the rest of the article here.
Scott B. Bomar puts a face on Southern rock with the new book, Southbound
by Michael Buffalo Smith
With his new book Southbound: An Illustrated History of Southern Rock (Backbeat) writer Scott B. Bomar has delivered a fitting tribute to an often overlooked musical genre that more than deserves this type of homage. (See review this issue). KUDZOO caught up with the writer/researcher/historian/musician to find out what compelled him to undertake such a huge project
You grew up in Nashville in a “music business family.” What did your parents do?
My dad, Woody Bomar, was a songwriter in the late 1970s and early ‘80s who wrote songs for Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Lee Greenwood, Hank Williams, Jr., and other big artists of that era. He transitioned into the business side of things at Combine Music Publishing, which represented the songs of some amazing writes like Kris Kristofferson and Dolly Parton. He eventually launched his own company, Little Big Town Music, in the late ‘80s. After a little more than a decade – and about fifteen #1 hits – he and his partner sold Little Big Town to Sony, where he then went to work heading up the Creative department as a Senior Vice President. After a few years, he launched another independent company, and he’s still nurturing great songwriters, which is what he loves. My dad has a lot of integrity and isn’t into playing political games when it comes to his career. I grew up thinking that was the norm in the music business, until I went into the business mmyself. That was a wake-up call! My mom was a kindergarten teacher and doesn’t fully grasp our music geek fanaticism, so I guess the “music business family” is pretty much me and my dad. My wife also works in the music department of a national daily TV show. But my mom cheers us all on!
What are your earliest memories of Southern Rock? Tell us a little about your younger years, any memorable shows you attended, favorite albums.
I was born in 1975, so I completely missed out on the big Southern rock boom of the mid 1970s. I’m an only child, so I spent a lot of time around adults when I was growing up. Maybe that made me an old soul, but I’ve always been interested in the music of the past. When I was in high school, I was really into Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and contemporary bands like that, but I was also obsessed with classic rock radio. One of my best friends and I first met in the hallway in high school because I heard him say he liked the Guess Who. This was about 1991. Nobody our age liked the Guess Who. We went out to the parking lot during lunch and sat in his beat up Datsun hatchback listening to “These Eyes” over the single mono speaker mounted in the middle of the dash. After that, we formed a band.
But I digress. Growing up in the South, classic rock radio was heavy on Southern rock. I first heard Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allmans, the Marshall Tucker Band, 38 Special, and all these groups on the 104.5 “The Fox” in Nashville. I don’t think that station exists anymore, but it was part of my education. My concert experiences were obviously after the golden era of Southern rock, but the most memorable would have to be the time I saw Lynyrd Skynyrd in Memphis. A very drunk woman passed out, fell in my lap and proceeded to pee her pants. I instinctively shoved her off very quickly and she kind of rolled down this little grass hill for several feet before getting entangled with some other concert-goers. So, I’d like to apologize to the drunk wet-pants lady wherever she is today. Maybe she’s still passed out on that grass.
And for all of you Californians, Scott will be doing a 2:00 pm book signing August 30th at the Barnes & Noble on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Don’t miss out!
How did this project come about?
Mike Edison, who is a fantastic writer, was an editor at Backbeat Books. He was the guy who worked with Will Romano on an illustrated history of prog rock that came out in 2010. Will’s book was really cool, and Mike thought it would be great to do something similar with Southern rock. He contacted a good friend of mine named Randy Poe, who wrote a great biography of Duane Allman for Backbeat called Skydog. Randy recommended me to Mike. I was not a Southern rock expert, but Randy and I had worked together on some projects, and he thought I would bring a fresh perspective to the subject. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas, so it was just sort of “jump in and go.” This is kind of funny, but the first thing I did was listen to “The South’s Gonna Do It” by the Charlie Daniels Band and I wrote down the names of all the acts he references in the lyrics. From there I began reading everything I could get my hands on, and contacting all the great surviving Southern rockers for interviews. I grew up in the South, and I had listened to a ton of this music growing up, so I really connected with it.
Southern Rock has been something that has been often hard to define. How do you define it?
In the Introduction to the book I really grapple with this issue. There are a lot of ways that people have defined Southern rock, and most of the artists who are categorized with that label have been pretty resistant to the term. Gregg Allman pointed out that saying “Southern rock” is like saying “rock rock” because rock music originated in the South. Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and all those guys were Southerners. After the British Invasion, rock music shifted away from the South. By the time the psychedelic era ended, however, the Band, Bob Dylan, and Creedence Clearwater Revival heralded a return to the simplicity of rock’s Southern roots. That set the stage for the Allman Brothers Band, which came together in 1969. To me, Southern rock is about an era as much as it is about a sound. It was music that was created by guys (and sometimes girls, but mostly guys) from the same geographical region who shared a similar cultural background. Though you can point to specific sounds – multiple electric guitars, for instance – the music that I would categorize as Southern rock today is the music that best captures the spirit of the golden age of the genre in the 1970s.