Special Guest: John Densmore - has kept the dream alive, refusing outside pressures, and making it clear that the Doors principles are not for sale at any price. Densmore’s conceptual ideas, influences, and style of playing brought a jazz element to the band allowing them to explore long jazz-like passages including “When the Music’s Over", “Moonlight Drive”, and “The End.” In this podcast, John Densmore and I talk about “selling out” and what that means to him, his new book The Doors: Unhinged - Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial we talk about transcendental meditation, The Whiskey a Go-Go, playing with Van Morrison and the band Them, The Doors last gig, and much much more.
What is Southern Rock?
The post a couple weeks back with Lynyrd Skynyrd got me thinking, what exactly is "southern rock?" The question might strike some as being a silly one and spark a quick reply of a guitar heavy, blues influenced rocker sound, but the truth of it is more complicated, or rather, paradoxically much simpler. "Because a certain type of blues music, and essentially, rock and roll, was invented in the South, Gregg Allman has commented that 'Southern rock' is a bit redundant; it's like saying 'rock rock.'" 1 It can easily get convoluted and pointless really when trying to place music into a sub genres and classifying what music necessarily is, and isn't to rigorous scientific standards, to the effect that Gregg Allman is absolutely right. But it's true, so many of the early rock musicians came out of the southern United States. Elvis, of course, born in Tupelo, Mississippi near the Mississippi Delta, home of the Delta blues, or, if we were to learn anything from Gregg Allman, simply home of the blues. And Elvis, unabashedly a figurehead of bringing black music to white audiences along with Jerry Lee Lewis, out of Ferriday, Louisiana and, like Elvis, recorded with Sun records in Memphis, Tennessee, whose owner, Sam Phillips, was the one who wanted to bring black music to a white audience. The proof can be stated simply with John Lennon himself stating that if it weren't for Elvis, there would have been no Beatles; and so, the lineage begins to take form and crystallize back to the rural south and the artists that spread the music from there.
"If it weren't for Elvis, there would have been no Beatles." --John Lennon
Artists such as Bo Diddley, born in McComb, Mississippi. Unfortunately, not as revered as he should be today, but he truly deserved his nickname of "The Originator" not only for his innovative rhythm, but also for shifting the focus from blues to rock, with his heavy guitar sound and style. So much of what rock is today can trace a direct line back to Bo Diddley, and sadly, history seems to have forgotten that. Probably the majority of rock bands today are completely unaware, and it's wrong to not pay due respect to the forefathers. Rock and roll really came on in a storm. Think of the fervour of the screaming girls in the audience of the Ed Sullivan Show at the Beatles performance. And the Beatles themselves didn't win America over completely; there were rallies protesting the Beatles and record burnings. Bo Diddley got swept under by the own wave that he helped start; but it simply would have been unthinkable and forbidden for good, white American girls and boys in the 60's to show any interest in a black man who didn't play his guitar correctly. Mostly because he was black, but the crazy sounds he made didn't help his cause in mainstream white America. That sort of thing could get you excommunicated from your family, church, and community.
Bo Diddley got swept under by the own wave that he helped start; but it simply would have been unthinkable and forbidden for good, white American girls and boys in the 60's to show any interest in a black man who didn't play his guitar correctly.
In fact, it was largely the influence of the British Invasion that led the focus further away from the rural south to the industrial big cities of England, and the big cities in the States quickly followed suit. It might be said that rock was taking a new form from Southern rock when becoming influenced from the British invasion and psychedelica and further away from the roots of rock and blues, but that's where the lines get blurred. The Doors themselves, more often considered psychedelic rock, arguably owe a greater deal to the roots and music from the south, notably including a recording Willie Dickson's "Back Door Man" on their first album. How appropriate Charlie Daniels' song"The South's Gonna Do It (Again); while being a nod to the South's rallying cry after the American Civil War, was more of a defiant premonition to a resurgence of southern bands.
Charlie Daniels, with his rallying cry of "The South's Gonna Do It (Again)" proved itself right, and echoed throughout the music world, and more times than once.
And by the 70's, Southern rock had made a vigorous resurgence, not only from bands from the south, but the southern rock sound spread it's influence to bands like Credence Clearwater Revival, who were from the San Francisco Bay area, and "The Band" who were Canadian except for Levon Helm, who was the only true Southerner, from Arkansas. But the 70's revival fostered the success of bands that came from the south, like the Allman Brothers. Charlie Daniels, with his rallying cry of "The South's Gonna Do It (Again)" proved itself right, and echoed throughout the music world, and more times than once. Take, for example, ZZ Top in the 80's. They were notable standouts in the days when synth pop, and post-punk was the going norm. The Black Crows, out of Atlanta, Georgia were a breakthrough in the 90's when the focus was on grunge, and everything out of the Seattle area. Most recently, the Southern rock resurgent echo can be seen in the Kings of Leon, and The Black Keys. The Black Keys are out of Akron, Ohio, but, like The Band, owe nearly everything to roots of blues and rock from the south. Whatever new trend, or influence, nothing can kill Southern rock, or better to call it the roots. Deep roots. Really, so much more can be said about the importance of the south on rock; it could fill a book, but there isn't the space to address everything that deserves mention here, but I wanted to point out the notables and direct your attention to the figureheads, and influences, and hope it sparks your interest, broadens your horizon, and sets you on a path of things to look for at the record store. Thank god Jack White, who seems to have the world's attention, pays due respect to the ones who helped forge his path to prominence today. I wish you all well on your search.
--Guthrie Alan Corwin