We’re An American Band

With British bands it’s fairly easy.

The Beatles invaded.  Started it all, then had the talent and creativity to sustain it for the rest of the 60’s.

From there The Stones, Zeppelin, The Who, Kinks et al.  Probably close to or around that order as well.

But what about America?  Who are the greatest American bands?

The Eagles have sold the most,  and are an obvious choice, but would you really put them at number one of the greatest of all time?  The Eagles were (are) great, but some think they could be on the sterile side and corporate sounding.  But as far al longevity and helping start that entire California country/ rock period (with a big thank you to Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers) they cannot be denied.  The Eagles tried very hard to be the greatest American band.

The album ‘Hotel California’ is a seminal record in recorded history.  And it It connected with the American audience.

The Grateful Dead would have to get a nod just for what they did live.  An unbelievable cult following that will never be duplicated.  But greatest band?

The Beach Boys would have to be the list, they are 100% all American.  And what Brian Wilson did with ‘Pet Sounds’ and ‘Good Vibrations’ really does prove his genius.  But it’s just all the silly surfing stuff that moves them down a notch or three. And Mike love.   That and they never really “rocked”.  And did I mention Mike Love?

The Doors are fine but they didn’t have a bass player and I think there’s a rule somewhere…

Aerosmith rocks with authority, but put them next to the Stones and….well.

There’s REM, Gun’s and Roses, Van Halen, The Ramones, and several others that an argument could be made for.

Hell, an argument could be made for Grand Funk for the song “We’re an American Band” alone…

And has anybody ever truly thought about the amount of great songs from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers?  It’s mind-boggling.

The top of my personal list is basically a tie.  I hate to be a fence rider, but I truly can’t make up my mind between The Band and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

The Band  didn’t sell as many records as many mentioned above.

But they changed music.  Maybe the most influential American band that there was.

With one album, ‘Music from Big Pink’ they basically killed all the psychedelia that was going on around them.  Eric Clapton said it made him feel silly.  All of a sudden, all the paisley shirts and pink scarves gave way to jeans and old suit jackets.  The same with the music.  Studio trickery gave way to honest, straight ahead playing.

And nobody encapsulates that honest, straight ahead rock and roll like CCR.

And CCR did it with several undeniable radio friendly hits as well like ‘Proud Mary’, ‘Bad Moon Rising’, ‘Down on the Corner’ and ‘Ever Seen the Rain’.  And what voices from both bands.  Levon Helm and John Fogerty  had two of the most distinct and wonderful voices to ever be recorded.

Both bands sum up American Rock and Roll.

God bless them both.

My Top Ten American Bands:

1. (Tie)  The Band / Creedence Clearwater Revival

2. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

3. The Eagles

4. The Beach Boys

5. Steely Dan

6. Van Halen

7. Aerosmith

8. Allman Brothers

9. Fleetwood Mac (loses points for being…half British)

10. Lynyrd Skynyrd


14 responses

  1. bob greasy

    Allman Brothers circa 1971 greatest thing ever made in America.

    February 18, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    • tonymcgahee


      February 18, 2011 at 10:52 pm

  2. Shawn Ryan

    Sorry, but you can’t include the Band, four of the five members were Canadians. Only Levon Helm is from the United States.
    I’d go with Creedence, then Tom Petty, Aerosmith, R.E.M., Guns n’Roses, Allman Brothers and Van Halen off the top of my head.
    if you want to go obscure, I’d put The Rainmakers at the top of the list.

    February 18, 2011 at 4:42 pm

  3. But Canada is kind of America….
    It’s Like the USA’s little hat.

    February 18, 2011 at 4:57 pm

  4. Jamey

    The Allman Brothers ARE American music – mixed up blues, jazz, country, bluegrass, rock.

    Perhaps the most highly skilled and most influential of all American bands.

    They’d certainly get my vote.

    February 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm

  5. First, color me impressed. I wouldn’t have figured the Band would merit a mention in this blog, and here they are on top.
    Oh, when you say “American”, I’m sure you mean “North American”, right? Well, the band was FORMED in America, played and recorded in America…they’re American.
    But Aerosmith is one of the greatest rock groups of all time. A long line of hits and top-selling albums, a long break, a reunion and then another string? They deserve to be higher. Skynyrd, too.
    1. CCR/Band
    2. Aerosmith/Beach Boys
    3. Van Halen
    4. Skynyrd
    5. Tom Petty

    6. The Professor and Mary Anne…

    February 18, 2011 at 7:09 pm

  6. Jim

    What about Grand Funk Railroad. They are an American band, they’re coming to your town, to help you party down…………

    I think they were the 2nd band to ever own their own jet airplane

    February 18, 2011 at 7:39 pm

  7. Lorraine

    Aerosmith #7? Toys in the Attic? COME ON!!!

    February 18, 2011 at 8:48 pm

  8. Derek Scudder

    I am stunned that no one has mentioned ZZ Top. A few years ago, for my own amusement, I undertook this same exercise and for all the things that MAKE rock n’ roll that lil’ ol’ band from Texas came out on top. Consider: sheer American-ness…the Texas mythos steeped in the blues, the accessability and quality of the music, the record sales, the airplay. the star power (including instant recognition of band members even when NOT on stage), longevity with original members. influence on the video realm and stage production, etc. Tom Petty usually ended up 2nd on the list; but who knows anybody in the Heartbreakers? (outside of music geeks like us) The Allman Bros were up there but not enough(____). Same for Van Halen, Aerosmith and REM. Give Billy, Dusty and Frank their due..they’re still doing it.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:59 pm

  9. Don’t forget Kansas. The original band circa Leftoverture created some of the most complex, literate, interesting music in the history of American rock.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:02 pm

  10. Brian Kahn

    You can’t forget about Boston, the first album was one of the greatest in history. I would love for the Symphony to perform Boston’s first album in the near future.

    February 19, 2011 at 2:17 am

  11. not Casey Kasem

    Greg Allman is the greatest voice of American rock if not the greatest voice of rock EVER!

    No Black Crowes on the list?

    And CCR #1. LOL!!!!!!! CCR is to American Rock what Wayne Brady is to black comedy.

    February 19, 2011 at 7:55 am

  12. Vicki Welch

    Good list, although I might quibble with the order. I’d also have to pick ZZ Top over Aerosmith, but that’s just my personal taste.
    As great as the groups on your list are though, it’s interesting to compare it to the Brits. R&R may have come out of America, but it took the Brits to really put it on the map, so to speak. IMHO, when you put your list up against the Beatles, Stones, Zep, Who, etc., there’s just no contest.

    February 19, 2011 at 1:41 pm

  13. Joey

    How Can you leave out KISS?! They Should be Number one Hands down!!

    My top 3

    1. KISS
    2. Vinnie Vincent Invasion
    4. W.A.S.P

    March 2, 2011 at 4:07 pm

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