Today, 60 years ago, rock ‘n’ roll was born, when Elvis Presley walked into Memphis’ Sun Studios and recorded “That’s Alright, Mama.” The rest is, you know. In honor of this anniversary, we got to thinking about all the iconic rock legends the South has produced. Many could make the list, but we’ve started with these 10.
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Elvis Presley: Blending country, rhythm and blues and rockabilly, the Tupelo, Mississippi native changed it all that July day in Sun Studios. Elvis was posthumously recognized as having 110 gold, platinum, and multi-platinum singles and album. Not to mention the hip shake.
Jerry Lee Lewis: Another of the Sun Studios legends, “The Wild One” made the piano rock. In 1957, the Ferriday, LA native released “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On,” followed by hits like “Great Balls of Fire” and a cover of the Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace.” Goodness gracious.
Chuck Berry: John Lennon said, “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’” The St. Louis native was influenced by bluesmen like T-Bone Walker and country musicians like Bob Wills. His hits include “Maybellene,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” and “Johnny B. Goode.”
The Allman Brothers Band: What Southern rock playlist is complete without “Ramblin’ Man?” Brothers Duane and Gregg Allman grew up in Daytona, Florida, and along with Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks, and Jai Johanny Johnson, are regarded by many as the first great jam band.
Lynyrd Skynyrd: The Jacksonville natives are best known for “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird.” We can’t prove the latter is the most requested song ever at concerts, but we’d wager it might be.
Big Star: Memphis’ Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, and Andy Hummel (the first incarnation of the band) influenced a generation of alternative rockers, including R.E.M and The Posies. Influenced by the Beatles, the group didn’t achieve mainstream success, but their legacy lives on in indie music today.
R.E.M.: Athens, Georgia rockers became superstars during the New Wave era. From critical success starting with “Radio Free Europe” to mass pop appeal of “Losing My Religion,” R.E.M. went from college radio to Top 40 while still retaining their cool.
Tina Turner: Raised in Nutbush, Tennessee (as Anna Mae Bullock), Tina Turner changed the musical landscape with the release of “River Deep, Mountain High,” performed with her husband Ike, and recorded with Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound.” Often referred to as the “Queen of Rock and Roll.”
Stevie Ray Vaughan: The Dallas native is regarded as one of the most important guitarists of all time. Influenced by B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and others, he led an 80s blues revival. Famous for his innovations on the Fender Stratocaster, Stevie Ray’s sound is emulated by guitarists around the world.