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The 25 Best Album Covers of Southern Rock

by Michael Buffalo Smith

I am really excited about the recent comeback of vinyl records. I mean, not only is the old analog sound richer and warmer, but the big LP jackets were always a treat in and of themselves, from the liner notes and photos to the inserts. (Our number one album cover came packed with a 45 rpm size record of live material from the Volunteer Jam.) But most of all, the cover art is what drew us in. I cannot begin to fathom how many "impulse buys" I made because the album jacket called out to me from the record bin.

Today we celebrate the finest Southern Rock album covers. Let us know what you think.


1. Fire On The Mountain   Charlie Daniels Band
    Simply one of the most beautiful cover designs of all time, the record that gave us “Long Haired Country Boy” and “The South’s Gonna Do it Again” was a visual tribute to Charlie’s home state of Tennessee, complete with flowers, raccoons. True folk art.


2. Eat a Peach   The Allman Brothers Band
    Originally it was going to be called “Eat a Peach for Peace,” Duane Allman’s last album features a drawing of a giant peach on the bed of a truck, while the back cover shows a train car holding a giant watermelon. Eat a Peach is one of the most recognizable cover designs in rock history.


3. Street Survivors   Lynyrd Skynyrd
   The brilliant, and also quite spooky, photo of the band engulfed in flames was pulled weeks after it was issued because of the airplane crash and replaced with the same photo against a stark black background. The flame cover has become a central piece in the never ending Skynyrd mythology.


4. Where We All Belong   The Marshall Tucker Band
   The beautiful sepia tone of an old man sitting on a bench downtown is only the beginning. The artist created a beautiful portrait of the young MTB for the back cover, as well as several sketches for the gatefold interior.


5. Molly Hatchet (self-titled)

Sporting the iconic Frank Frazetta painting titled “Death Dealer,” and the colorful banner logo at the top, this album leapt from the racks. The band continued to use Frazetta style artists for their subsequent releases, although the first one is still the best.


6. Wet Willie   The Wetter The Better
    Maybe one of the sexiest covers in Southern Rock, a naked female midsection, with the album title written on her torso in what appears to be the cherry popsicle she is holding. Sweet.


7. Wild Eyed Southern Boys  38 Special
    Speaking of sexy, this painting of a hottie, from the back, stepping onto the curb headed toward a club while the band stands outside watching her entrance is pretty interesting. Nice legs.


8. High On The Hog   Black Oak Arkansas
   The album that spawned the hit “Jim Dandy” featured a hilarious cartoon of Black Oak, all sitting on top of a porker. The front and back covers wrapped the image around, gatefold style, so you had to open it up to get the full picture, including the baby pigs nursing. Fun stuff.


9. This is The Way   Rossington Collins Band
   For their second album, the Skynyrd survivors used a painting reminiscent of something from Night Gallery. An imposing doorway and a checkered walkway leading to who knows where. Just like in real life.


10. Life Before Insanity  Gov’t Mule 

The unforgettable robot head wearing shades and mounted on some sort of roller cart. What? Stranger than fiction


11. Searching for a Rainbow   Marshall Tucker Band
    Ken Featherston’s masterpiece shows a cowboy on a bucking horse, floating among dark clouds with his eyes fixed on a beautiful sunrise in the distance.


12. 5’ll Getcha Ten   Cowboy
     A great drawing by artist Barry Branthorst of a cowboy in the center of a ring of green vegetation which has been documented by band members as being marijuana. Hey, it was the seventies, right?


13. Various   Hotels, Motels and Road Shows
      A Capricorn Records compilation featuring two LPs of live tracks from their artists. The cover is a stylistic photograph that shows a tour bus, a roadie’s hand and a motel. Brilliant.


14. Tres Hombres   ZZ Top
      The simple design of three photos of Billy, Dusty and Frank set against a green background is pretty cool, but the gatefold opens up to reveal a fiesta spread that makes you scramble for the Rolaids.



15. Charlie Daniels (Self-Titled)
     From 1970, just a grinning Charlie photo laid over a map of Tennessee says it all. Years before he became a superstar, Charlie looked locked and loaded.


16. Duane Allman Anthology
     The first of two double album sets to collect samplings of Duane’s brilliant guitar work, Anthology featured my personal favorite photo of brother Duane. It’s as Southern as hot apple pie and sweet iced tea. Just Allman down by the fishing hole, tossing the line in.


17. Atlanta Rhythm Section   Red Tape
    Just an amazing piece of art depicting a mutated guitar player and reel to reel tape recorder. ‘Nuf said.


18. Second Helping  Lynyrd Skynyrd
     The album that gave us “Sweet Home Alabama” features a cartoonish cover with a portrait of each band member against an abstract piece of art. I bought this the day it came out and still recall the Al Kooper Sounds of the South logo.


19. Black Oak Arkansas (self-titled)
Just a photo of the boys on top of an old truck set against a map of Arkansas. (Do I have a thing for maps or what?) Thought by many of us to be their finest album over all.


20. The Outlaws  (Self-titled)
     A boy and a girl on the steps of what appears to be an old Southern church. I just always loved the image.


21. At The Fillmore East   The Allman Brothers Band
     A great picture of the band and their road cases, actually shot in Macon, Georgia, not at the Fillmore. And taken just after Duane scored some dope (still in his hand) and ran back into the photograph just before it was taken, which is why everyone is laughing. Good times.

22. Here, There and Back   Allen Collins Band 

Artist Ray Turknett designed a rail; drag racer made of an electric guitar, which, in 1983 was one of the coolest album covers I had ever seen.


23. Rides Again    Doc Holliday
Great motorcycle, great logo, great band.


24. Brothers and Sisters   The Allman Brothers Band
    A timeless photo of young Vaylor Trucks adorns the front with an adorable picture of Barry Oakley’s daughter Britney on the back. Open up the gatefold to find a panoramic photo of the band, family and friends in Macon.


25. Vertical Smiles   Blackfoot
      Musically this was the beginning of the end for Blackfoot, but we’re not here today to discuss the music, just the artwork. The myriad of Polaroids of young women’s legs and stuff is as rock and roll as Gene Simmons’ little black book.




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