The Evolution of a Musical Genre by Clay Sikes
I was strolling to class one day in 1969 or 70, at what is now Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia. My route to class followed a sidewalk that skirted the gym and athletic fields. As I neared the gym, I heard music from within and remembered that some band was playing on campus that night, but not anyone I had ever heard of. There was nothing unusual about a band practicing in the gym, so nothing really caught my interest until I was close enough to clearly hear the music.
Having been raised in the rural south, the son of a long-time High Sheriff, I often found myself in black churches – funerals, weddings, political meetings, etc., From my earliest childhood, I was always moved by the old ‘spirituals’ I heard, the beautiful harmonies, and the power of songs sung from the heart. Secretly, this had become my favorite music, and I was ever so delighted when my dad brought home records by Ella Fitzgerald, Mahalia Jackson, and later, Little Richard and Ray Charles who sang with the same passion about life instead of the Lord. As a young teen, I never realized the influence this music had on me until I heard two powerful Georgia musicians – James Brown and Otis Redding. Something really hit me about this soulful sound, much more so than other very popular music coming out of England at the time.
What I heard in that Georgia Southern Gym stopped me dead in my tracks, as twin slide guitars were playing soulful, bluesy, harmony very similar to what I had heard in the churches. With scant minutes to spare before class, I decided to dart into the gym and listen a few minutes. What I heard from the instruments blew me away, but when the young blond boy (who looked to be about my age) began to sing, I knew I would either be tardy or absent – the song would decide! I was absent, and sat there watching and listening to a band I had never heard of play tune after tune that resonated deeply within my soul – simply the best music and musical style I had ever heard.
What I witnessed that incredible day was the genesis of a musical genre, birthed by musical genius as Gregg and Duane Allman gave rise to the Allman Brothers Band, and what many have called ‘Southern Rock.’ The influence this music had, and still continues to have, on many subsequent iterations of music is untold, as this unique style now has roots in many forms of music.
What started out to be just another day, turned into one of my most memorable as I witnessed a piece of musical history, and one that continues to affect the world today.