For many years, any band from the south with long hair and screaming guitars fell into the genre of 'southern rock' and would have never thought of taking the stage in the hallowed halls of the Grand Ole Opry. Bands like Molly Hatchet, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers and .38 Special were pigeon holed into a genre which really didn't have a definition other than they were rock bands from south of the Mason-Dixon.

Rickey Medlocke And Johnny Van Zant - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Photo by Scott Harrison/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

But then, in the eighties and early nineties, country music began to change. Artists like Travis Tritt, Trace Adkins and Garth Brooks would openly discuss how they were influenced by classic country artists like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Conway Twitty, but also acts like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Band and Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Not only were the influences of Southern Rock acknowledges, references to these artists  began to appear in country songs.

Travis Tritt and Marty Stewart went as far as to appear with Lynyrd Skynyrd at numerous stops in the bands 1987 tribute/reunion tour. Garth Brooks covered the song "Hard Luck Woman" with members of the group Kiss on the bands 1994 tribute album. There was also an Eagles tribute album, Common Thread, released in 1993 featuring Tritt, Brooks and Dunn, Vince Gill, Clint Black and others.


There has always been a very thin line between 'Southern Rock' and Country music. A common experience and common heritage between the genres that make a cross over quite easy. After the death of Skynyrd lead singer Ronnie Van Zant in an airplane crash that also took the life of band members Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines, the band disbanded until the 1987 tour, adding Johnny Van Zant, Ronnie's brother, as lead singer. Johnny has toured with Skynyrd since the reformation, but has also recorded and toured with his older brother Donnie (.38 Special) as Van Zant, landing two albums and several single on the country charts.

Through out the nineties and on into the 21st century, acts like Adkins, Gretchen Wilson, Cross Canadian Ragweed and Little Texas continued to blur the line between Southern Rock and Country. Skynyrd, ZZ Top, and the Allman Brothers Band continued to tour, selling out arenas all across the country and continuing to influence a new generation of musicians.

A Thousand Horses At The Sayers Club In Hollywood
photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images Entertainment

One of those acts definitely influenced by these bands was Nashville's A Thousand Horses. The band, made up of Michael Hobby (lead vocals), Bill Satcher (lead guitar), Zach Brown (guitar and vocals), and Graham Deloach (bass and vocals), brings the look and sound of classic southern rock full boar to country music. Their debut single, "Smoke", set the record for the highest entry onto the country charts when it landed at #28 on the Billboard Country chart on March 28th. When the single climbed to #1 this week, it became the first debut single by a country band to reach the top spot since the Zac Brown Band with "Chicken Fried" in 2008.

A Thousand Horses have cited Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, Dwight Yoakam and Alan Jackson among their influences, release their major label debut album Southernality on Tuesday. Are they southern rock or are they country? Maybe the album release or the release of their second single "(This Ain't No) Drunk Dial" will tell.

Or maybe we should just listen to the music made by four very talented musician and quit putting so many labels on it. Only time will tell.

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