4 More of the Best American Rock Bands from the 1970s (Part 2)

Our previous list of the best American rock bands from the 1970s featured Aerosmith, The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Eagles.

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Part two highlights a Bay Area band that shaped the jazz, country, blues, and dueling drummer jams of the Allmans. It also features New York groups making shrill noises at a filthy Bowery club once known for booking country, bluegrass, and blues musicians.

In 1976, a singer and songwriter from Gainesville, Florida, appeared with jangly rock anthems and what proved to be one of the most enduring bands in history. Tom Petty also made solo albums, but his band the Heartbreakers was crucial to his sound. So essential, that they frequently appeared on Petty’s solo releases.

The decade’s cultural influence continues to shape modern music and fashion. There’s no shortage of Americana songwriters scouring The Flying Burrito Brothers albums for new ideas or guitarists echoing Jerry Garcia, Duane Allman, and Dickey Betts. You can frequently hear Tom Petty’s influence in new music by Jason Isbell and The War on Drugs, too.

To continue celebrating the earth-toned 1970s, here are four more of the best American rock bands from the decade.

Grateful Dead

San Francisco’s greatest psych-rock band opened the 1970s with two Americana albums, stripped-down reinventions that became defining moments in the Grateful Dead’s sprawling catalog. American Beauty features the Dead anthems “Friend of the Devil,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Ripple,” and “Truckin’.” Meanwhile, Workingman’s Dead closes with the iconic “Casey Jones.” They blended jazz, blues, and country music and helped shape Southern rock.

Driving that train
High on cocaine
Casey Jones you better
Watch your speed
Trouble ahead
Trouble behind
And you know that notion
Just crossed my mind

Talking Heads

David Byrne and his band emerged from CBGB with Blondie and the Ramones. They blended funk and disco into an art rock sound, at once danceable and strange. Talking Heads celebrated weirdness and inspired future groundbreaking artists like Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, Vampire Weekend, and St. Vincent. As the ’70s ended, Talking Heads looked to West Africa to expand their sound. For now, brush up on your French and bathe in the glorious groove of Tina Weymouth’s bass line on “Psycho Killer.”

You start a conversation, you can’t even finish it
You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed
Say something once, why say it again?

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

If Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had only released Damn the Torpedoes during the ’70s, they’d still make the list. “Refugee” is one of the decade’s best rock songs and though Mike Campbell isn’t as flashy as other guitarists of his time, he’s the perfect distillation of George Harrison and Jimmy Page. On their 1976 self-titled debut, Petty and his band already sounded timeless with FM rock masterpieces like “American Girl” and “Breakdown.”

Well, she was an American girl
Raised on promises
She couldn’t help thinking that there
Was a little more to life somewhere else


While many ’70s rock bands smoothed the edges (Eagles), reimagined the Brits version of the blues (Aerosmith), and jammed long guitar solos into even longer songs (The Allman Brothers Band), a group in New York City dressed in torn blue jeans and leather jackets had different ideas. Ramones borrowed from ’60s girl groups and transformed American music into loud, fast, two-minute bursts in a new movement called punk rock. Proof that you don’t need to top the charts to change the world. Hey oh, let’s go!

They’re piling in the back seat
They generate steam heat
Pulsating to the backbeat
Blitzkrieg Bop

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Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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