4 of the Best American Rock Bands from the 1970s

Rock and roll changed dramatically as the calendar flipped from 1969 to 1970.

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The new decade began with The Beatles breaking up. If the pop era ended with The Beatles, the rock era was only beginning. A new musical style had been brewing in the South, while Californians blending country and rock music would soon dominate FM radio. America found its own “Rolling Stones” in Boston, and a band in Jacksonville wrote a nine-minute anthem as ubiquitous as “Stairway to Heaven.”

While rock and roll expanded with epic arrangements and staggering guitar solos in the 1970s, a group of punks at a stinking club in New York called CBGB challenged the status quo with short bursts of angst.

However, this list covers American rock bands, and the delineation between rock and punk rock is simply to narrow the scope. Otherwise, Ramones would undoubtedly be listed. Also, the Grateful Dead could have (should have, depending on whom you ask) been included.

Here are four of the best ’70s American rock bands.


“Dream On” appeared on the Boston group’s self-titled debut in 1973. With singer Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry, America had its own Jagger and Richards. Get Your Wings followed and included “Same Old Song and Dance” and a burning cover of “Train Kept a Rollin’.”

Next came Toys in the Attic. “Walk This Way” is as iconic as anything recorded by the Brits, and “Sweet Emotion” is as timeless as ’70s classic rock gets. But Aerosmith is much more than Tyler and Perry. Listen to bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer’s psychedelic groove in “Sweet Emotion,” with Brad Whitford as co-lead guitarist.

In 1976, Aerosmith released Rocks, which inspired a young Saul Hudson—better known as Slash—to woodshed endlessly. (“Mr. Brownstone” might not have happened without Aerosmith’s fourth album.) In the throes of addiction, the band ran out of gas after Draw the Line (1977), and by 1979, Perry quit. Though he returned in 1984, the band struggled commercially until Rick Rubin and Run-DMC resuscitated their career with a rap-rock collaboration on “Walk This Way.”

Aerosmith influenced future legends like Guns N’ Roses, Stone Temple Pilots, and Pearl Jam.

The Allman Brothers Band

The Allman Brothers Band released the live album At Fillmore East in 1971. It became their commercial breakthrough and helped establish Southern rock. Though guitarist Duane Allman’s life was tragically cut short only months later, at age 24, his influence endures. Along with Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks, and Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson, The Allman Brothers Band popularized a new sound by combining blues, jazz, and country music. The Jacksonville, Florida, group borrowed from the Grateful Dead and created a unique sound centered on the harmonizing guitar work of Allman and Betts. Tragedy struck again when bassist Oakley, like Duane Allman, was killed in a motorcycle accident. The bandmates died 13 months apart.

Their commercial success continued with Eat a Peach in 1972, which featured recordings with and without Duane Allman. By 1973, Betts had fully established himself as a songwriter, composing and singing their only Top-10 single, “Ramblin’ Man.” The hit appeared on Brothers and Sisters (1973), featuring another iconic Betts tune, “Jessica.”

Meanwhile, addiction and tumult threatened to eclipse the music. Though the band’s late-’70s output lived in the shadow of their earlier work, The Allman Brothers Band had forever changed the sound of rock and roll.

Lynyrd Skynyrd

While The Allman Brothers Band helped establish Southern rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd came to define the growing scene. Like the Allmans, their career is also marked by tragedy. Between 1973 and 1977, the band released five studio albums, and songs like “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama” became Southern rock standards, along with “Simple Man,” “Saturday Night Special,” and “Gimme Three Steps.”

The group was famous for its three-guitar sound, featuring Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, and Ed King. Steve Gaines replaced King, appearing on the 1976 live album One More from the Road and their fifth studio album Street Survivors (1977).

Three days after Lynyrd Skynyrd released Street Survivors, a twin-engine plane carrying the band crashed in Mississippi and killed singer Ronnie Van Zant, Gaines, and his sister, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, among others.

Still, their legacy was set, and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s influence is heard in Metallica, Drive-By Truckers, Jason Isbell, and Eric Church.


Members of the Eagles met while working as backing musicians in Linda Ronstadt’s band. They fused country and rock, and by the end of the decade were one of the biggest bands on the planet.

After their fourth album, the soft rockers released Their Greatest Hits. It’s currently their best-selling album in the United States, and it came out before “Hotel California.”

The hits are many: “Take It Easy,” “Desperado,” “Tequila Sunrise,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “One of These Nights,” and “Life in the Fast Lane.” Like The Beatles, the Eagles comprise multiple lead singers and songwriters. Glenn Frey and Don Henley formed the Eagles with guitarist Bernie Leadon and bassist Randy Meisner. Guitarist Don Felder joined in 1974, and Joe Walsh replaced Leadon the following year. Timothy B. Schmit replaced Meisner in 1977. Following Glenn Frey’s death in 2016, Vince Gill joined.

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Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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