Top 10 American Bands
What better way to celebrate the 4th of July than by taking a look at 10 American bands that have rocked our collective socks off? The featured groups hail from different areas, while likewise representing different styles of rock and roll that have stood the test of time. In keeping with the country’s melting-pot demographics, however, those differences are what makes the whole so much stronger. Here are Ultimate Classic Rock’s Top 10 American Bands.
(One note: in order to keep this list focused on a specific type of creative dynamic, we eliminated all “and the” bands from contention: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, etc.)
Our list of the Top 10 American Bands begins with a mythical journey west. Forever associated with Los Angeles after forming there as film students at UCLA, the Doors originally hailed from places like Chicago and Florida. That led to a unique brand of Americanism that wasn’t about flag-waving so much as upholding a rugged sense of individualism. Intent on bucking trends, as heard on the jazz-rock hit “Light My Fire” and on protest songs like “Five to One,” they emerged as musical revolutionaries.
Guns N’ Roses
Maybe Guns N’ Roses weren’t the most overtly patriotic bunch, but the band remains an embodiment of the American Dream. They too found success after traveling to California in search of a dream. Both Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin originally called Indiana home, while Duff McKagan and Steven Adler came from Seattle and Cleveland, respectively. (Slash found his way to America from the U.K.) Together, they’d lead a successful battle of independence.
From the time they were formed in Florida in 1965, few bands wore their pride for the South on their sleeves the way that Lynyrd Skynyrd did. Offering a gritty, deeply American mix of blues, country and rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd racked up a number of hits while embodying a rebel spirit that resonated not just in the bayous and cotton fields of their birth, but all across this country.
Allman Brothers Band
The Allman Brothers Band have become, since their 1969 founding in Georgia, similarly synonymous with Southern rock. And also, alas, for tragedy. Their remarkable talent remains, of course, a stick that stirs this tasty pot of musical gumbo featuring R&B, country, rock, blues and jazz. But the Allman Brothers Band join Skynyrd in personifying, more than anything else, the nation’s spirit of perserverance.
The Eagles make our list of the Top 10 American Bands, despite lineup changes and breakups, as a model of American craftsmanship and rootsy authenticity. Comprised of former members of Poco, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Linda Ronstadt‘s band, the Eagles helped redirect rock back to its country roots — and then surprised everyone by mounting a series of unlikely reunions with Don Felder and then Bernie Leadon.
Kiss is perhaps the most patriotic of any of the bands featured here. And not just because of tributes to their country like “Rockin’ In The U.S.A.” and “All American Man,” among others. They’ve also shown a determination to take care of those who have served. In 2012, the group hired military man Paul Jordan onto their road crew, and in 2013 they donated a house to a wounded veteran. As big as their shows are, their hearts are that much bigger.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Creedence Clearwater Revival arrived like a shooting star across the U.S. skies, but left a stirring legacy of tales for the common man over four short years through 1972. Their songs — from the happy-go-lucky “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” to the thoughtful “Who’ll Stop the Rain” to the ferocious “Fortunate Son” — frame the complex story of an American generation in the Vietnam era.
ZZ Top‘s no-frills guitars-bass-drums approach mirrors a straight-forward sense of pride in the forces that shaped them: Texas, and the blues. The ’70s-era Worldwide Texas tour found ZZ Top performing on a stage shaped like their home state, which they tilted, so the crowd could see. ZZ Top also earned induction into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame for efforts in preserving blues music, one of America’s great treasures.
Few frontmen possess the bravado of vocalist David Lee Roth, a modern-day version of Uncle Sam. There is virtually no other country in the world where his personality would have developed in the same way. Meanwhile, Van Halen guitarist Eddie Van Halen has been the portrait of American ingenuity, helping to pioneer the finger-tap method of guitar-playing, a patented tuning system, and his own line of amplifiers and guitars.
We finish our list of Top 10 American Bands in Boston, Mass., a key site in the Revolutionary War — and home to all-American bad boys Aerosmith. Steven Tyler and Joe Perry certainly had their ’70s-era struggles, both personal and professional, but they simply refused to stay down. And, in this land of second chances, no one has played the role of bootstrap underdog better than Aerosmith as they ultimately scored one of rock history’s most dramatic comebacks late in the next decade.