Charlie Starr's top guitar solos from the south

Charlie Starr, Blackberry Smoke, live shot

“There’s something in the water down there,” says Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr, on why the USA’s southern states have produced so many smokin’ guitar solos. “I heard Bono say once that there’s something about music that’s created near a river,” he continues. “It’s in the mud maybe.”

There are so many, in fact, that we asked Charlie (who adds his fair share of southern charm on the Smoke’s new record Like An Arrow) to share his top Top 10 solos of the south.

Duane AllmanHey Jude (Wilson Pickett)

“This is a Duane Allman solo, and if I was putting this list in order then this one would probably be at number one. This was the moment that historians say southern rock’n’roll music started. In that type of music at the time, that r’n’b and soul music nothing like that had ever been heard in a song before. Out of nowhere here came this out of control moment. It was this funky, laid back music and all of a sudden here was this wild guitar player. That solo was a huge moment. He played licks in that solo that he continued to play throughout the rest of his career, it was like they belonged to him.”

Duane Allman/Dickey BettsBlue Sky (Allman Brothers Band)

“Of course this one has two solos. You’ve got Duane Allman and Dickey Betts. They intertwine so well. They were similar in their styles and that is one of the beautiful things about being a guitar nerd when it comes to southern music. Those guys all have their own little nuances that they brought to their guitar solos and their guitar work. When you’re a guitar nerd like me you can say, ‘Oh, that’s Duane for this reason’, or ‘That’s Dickey for that reason.’ We’re out on tour with Gov’t Mule at the moment and we actually played that song when we did a big jam at the end.”

Rickey MedlockeHighway Song (Blackfoot)

“That song and solo hit the same nerve for me that Free Bird did. I think I probably heard that from my sister’s boyfriend playing it. It was a similar type of song to Freebird with a big ending. It’s almost like opera, maybe it serves the same purpose as opera. I think that one might have been modelled after Free Bird. At that time Skynyrd had gone and they left a big hole so bands like Blackfoot and Molly Hatchet filled that void. Rickey Medlocke is a great guitarist and Blackfoot really scratched that heavy rock itch.”

Toy Caldwell This Ol’ Cowboy (Marshall Tucker Band)

“A lot of guitar players, myself included, as we move through the journey of playing guitar we get really interested in jazz. Jazz is a fascinating genre. This Ol’ Cowboy was one of the Marshall Tucker Band’s jazziest solos. It’s so different from all of the other solos on this list because it is this kind of country jazz, it has that feel to it. That one didn’t hit me until later as I got more interested in jazz.”

Ed King/Gary RossingtonThe Ballad of Curtis Loew (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

“There are two different solos in this song. Ed King’s slide work and Gary Rossington’s solo. That might be my favourite Skynyrd song. It has this understated beauty. The guitar solos are very emotional. They really are heartfelt. It’s not easy to get that emotion across. They were obviously incredible guitar players that were able to cut loose and they also had a lot of skill. They really could deliver some heartfelt playing. All of those guys were very underrated guitarists. Steve Gaines got a lot of attention because he was such a wizard but my favourite of the three, and no disrespect to the others, but my favourite was Ed King. Rossington is great as well, to me he was like a cross between Clapton and Keith Richards.”

Marc FordSometimes Salvation (The Black Crowes)

“I love Marc Ford’s solo in this song. Speaking of emotion and delivery, holy cow that one is through the roof on both fronts. I remember hearing that solo for the first time distinctly because I was waiting for that record to come out. There was a lot of excitement and hype surrounding that Southern Harmony… record. I saw them live a few days before that record came out and they played Sometimes Salvation, they played most of that new record, and that song and solo was unbelievable. It resonated immediately with me.”

Dickey BettsMelissa (Allman Brothers Band)

“That entire song is like a solo. It is undeniably Dickey. If someone mentions Dickey Betts as a guitar player, then those licks come straight to mind. That solo is just perfect, if he had done anything at all different then it wouldn’t have worked. I heard that one on the radio so much as a child that I just absorbed it.”

Eddy ShaverGeorgia On A Fast Train (Shaver)

“That was Eddy Shaver, Billie Joe Shaver’s son, playing this solo. I love this one, particularly the live version that is on Shaver Live At Smith’s Olde Bar, an album that was recorded in Atlanta. The guitar work on that record and in that song is fantastic. Eddy was a firebrand. That solo was him showing off quite a bit. That recording was produced by Brendan O’Brien and he said it was not difficult to capture the energy of that live performance, the energy was there and ready to be captured.”

Ed KingSweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

“The solos in Sweet Home Alabama are really hard to beat. That is Ed King again. Those solos are both very quirky. Most people play these solos incorrectly. Ed King would probably attest to that, I heard him ask once. ‘Why does everybody play these songs wrong?’ They’re so simple yet they are so complicated at the same time. People love those songs and solos so much that they will be learning them until the end of time. They’re here to stay.”

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Rich Chamberlain

Rich Chamberlain has written for Classic Rock,, Total Guitar, Nuts, FourFourTwo, Billboard, Classic Rock Presents The Blues and Classic Rock Presents Country.