Southern Rock at the Movies
Want to get in the mood for the Southern Rock Cruise before January 20, and without leaving the couch? We have some movie suggestions to stream, rent, or buy.
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Essential 1996 documentary, featuring the classic Skynyrd line-up. Some of the footage is from the Knebworth Festival in ’76 and the remainder from California and New Jersey in ‘77. Songs include “Workin’ for MCA,” “Saturday Night Special,” “That Smell,” “Call Me the Breeze,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Freebird,” and “Dixie.” Freebird…the Movie is usually packaged alongside Tribute Tour, a filmed concert that also traces the band's roots back to Jacksonville, Florida.
American Revolutions—Southern Rock
Not so easy to find, but this 2005 CMT documentary is worth searching out. Rare footage, interviews, and heaps of music from Southern Rock's greats: Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Charlie Daniels, and Skynyrd's Gary Rossington and Billy Powell. The stories behind the deaths of Duane Allman, Berry Oakley, Ronnie Van Zant and Steve and Cassie Gains are told in touching detail, but the focus is on how the music came into being.
Muscle Shoals—A Small Town with a Big Sound
From 2013. One of the best music docs e-v-e-r. The Shoals was a sleepy town in north Alabama before it became a music business mecca in the ‘60s and ’70s. The story centers on Rick Hall's FAME Studios. After his studio musicians, the Swampers (namedropped by Skynyrd in "Sweet Home Alabama"), played on hits by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and many others, they started a cross-town rivalry. See how Skynyrd came to town, trying hard to make it, and see how the local studios were an incubator for the Allman Brothers Band. See also how session musicians have shaped music history and how location can impact sound. Worth one hour and fifty-one minutes of any Southern Rock fan’s time.
This Is Southern Rock
A 2007 doc with Atlanta Rhythm Section, Artimus Pyle, Black Oak Arkansas, and Molly Hatchet. A surprisingly great bonus, Southern Rock Parking Lot, features the fans.
Not by any stretch a Southern Rock movie, but this 1999 coming-of-age comedy with Shawn Hatosy, Amy Smart, and Alec Baldwin has maybe the best cinematic use of “Freebird.” When one of the characters, Drugs Delaney, dies, “Freebird” plays at his funeral. And then one of Delaney’s pals delivers the movie’s best line: "When everybody took one, he took two. Nobody can take that away from him."
Tom O’Dell documentaries:
Song Of The South: Duane Allman And The Rise Of The Allman Brothers (2013)
Gone with the Wind: The Remarkable Rise and Tragic Fall of Lynyrd Skynyrd (2015)
Allman Brothers Band - After The Crash (2016)
Director Tom O’Dell has made a cottage industry out of Southern Rock documentaries, and three of his unauthorized features are available via iTunes, Amazon, and probably other outlets. There are usually some interesting interviewees, even if you rarely hear from the principal artists themselves except in old clips. Ed King, Bob Burns and Artimus Pyle are in Gone with the Wind. Many of Duane Allman’s associates are interviewed in Song of the South, but again you won’t hear from Gregg Allman or anyone from Duane’s family. All three docs feature stock concert footage.
There are plenty of in-concert DVDs of Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, 38 Special, Marshall Tucker Band, and ARS, but you can see all those bands and many more on the Southern Rock Cruise. Here, though, are a couple of Allman concert documentaries for those who weren’t there but wish they were, or those who were there and want to re-live it. The Allman Brothers Band will never return, so these professionally-recorded concerts will be as close as we’ll get to seeing them again.
The Allman Brothers Band: Live at Beacon Theatre (2003)
The Allman Brothers Band: 40--40th Anniversary Show Live at the Beacon (2016)
Not the Allmans, but…
Great Southern – Rockpalast: 30 Years of Southern Rock (1978-2008) is a 2009 double DVD set featuring two Dickey Betts & Great Southern concerts filmed thirty years apart for a total of two hundred minutes of music. Dickey’s retirement may or may not be permanent: “As far as I know, he’s retired until he’s unretired,” says his manager. If he doesn’t unretire, this is the way to remember Great Southern.