In the late '60s and early '70s, a new fusion emerged from the South, one that retained rock 'n' roll’s roots in boogie and gospel yet was also influenced by blues, country and soul in new ways. While bands such as The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Marshall Tucker Band were certainly vital expressions of this Southern rock movement, they were just pieces in a much larger puzzle.
All too fittingly, Elvis Presley proved to be a central figure when he recorded the seminal From Elvis In Memphis album in 1969. But The King wasn’t the only Memphian playing the role of innovator. Also key were eccentric genius Jim Dickinson (his 1972 full-length Dixie Fried is a must-hear), Bobby Whitlock (cofounder of Derek & the Dominoes and onetime member of Delaney & Bonnie) and a post-Box Tops Alex Chilton (see his Free Again: The 1970 Sessions). Meanwhile, two hours southeast, down in Alabama, Dan Penn and Eddie Hinton were helping create the "Muscle Shoals sound." While this style overlapped with what was going on up in Memphis, it was also stickier and more earthy. Yet another permutation was the "Tulsa sound." Its two biggest proponents were Oklahomans Leon Russell and the late JJ Cale, both of whom blended a kind of dry, rockabilly shuffle with coolly purring electric blues.
Other Southern-fried pioneers include Tony Joe White (the father of swamp rock), Joe South (composer of both "Games People Play" and "Hush"), Doug Sahm (garage rock meets Tex-Mex), Dr. John (steeped in New Orleans rhythm and blues), Steve Young (blurring the lines between folk music and Southern soul) and Bobbie Gentry (whose "Ode to Billie Joe" brought some much-needed Delta sass to Nashville).