I grew up in the "classic rock" era, but I love music of every genre. I love sharing my old favorites while still discovering new artists.
Musical Tastes Changed in the 1970s
I am a baby boomer who grew up in the San Francisco Bay area listening to hard rock and psychedelic music like Moody Blues and Led Zeppelin. In 1975, I moved to the high desert in Southern California. There was a little cluster of houses there, and I would often get together with friends and neighbors to listen to music.
Sometimes, we had a campfire, other times we just sat on the porch looking out at the beautiful sunset over the Mojave. During those years, I expanded my musical palate to include genres such as folk-rock, southern rock, country, R&B, and bluegrass.
The rest of the country may have been doing the Hustle down at the disco, but that whole musical era just passed me by. Not a single Bee Gees album ever found its way into my considerable record collection. Other people were discovering Disco in the '70s, but I was leaning toward outlaw country, southern rock, and folk-rock. This list explores those genres.
Great Non-Disco Bands From the 1970s
- Grateful Dead
- Marshall Tucker
- Loggins and Messina
- Jimmy Buffett
- Willie Nelson
- David Bromberg
- Jerry Jeff Walker
- Van Morrison
- Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
I have listed the artist, album title, and year at the top of each section. A featured song from each album appears below it.
Favorite Song: "Horse With No Name"
Year Released: 1972
I guess I was late to the party with the band America. The first time I heard them, it was “Sister Golden Hair,” on the radio, I didn't love it. However, when I heard their self-titled album and the song “Horse With No Name,” I was smitten.
The album was first released in Europe in 1971 without “Horse With No Name.” The song was released as a single in Europe in late 1971 and in the US in 1972. When the song became a huge hit, the album was re-released to include it.
“Horse With No Name” was banned on some radio stations because they thought it was about drugs. I don't see why. When you listen to it in the desert, it makes perfect sense.
2. Grateful Dead
Favorite Song: "Big River"
Album: Steal Your Face
Year Released: 1976
When I was growing up in the Bay Area, the Dead were always around. Jerry Garcia was known for showing up at random concerts and playing with the bands. I had seen him a few times, but I had to move away to learn to truly appreciate the band.
The Dead had such a wide range of musical influences, including folk, country and bluegrass. Jerry Garcia would go off on his own and play with many other musicians like David Grisman and Merle Saunders. Listening to them really expanded my musical horizons.
Steal Your Face is one of my favorite Grateful Dead albums. The live double album was recorded at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco as part of a "farewell run" before the band took an indefinite break. It was the fourth, and the last, album released on the Grateful Dead Records label.
This cover of Johnny Cash's "Big River" is one of my favorite cuts off of the album
3. Marshall Tucker Band
Favorite Song: "Fire on the Mountain"
Album: Searchin' For a Rainbow
Year Released: 1975
We used to listen to a lot of Marshall Tucker. Searchin' for a Rainbow, the band's fourth studio album, was one of my favorites. Charlie Daniels played his fiddle on it. That sound just seemed to go right along with the yucca, piñon pine, and Joshua trees.
4. Loggins and Messina
Favorite Song: "It's a Lover's Question"
Album: So Fine
Year Released: 1975
I was in love with So Fine, by Loggins and Messina. Released in 1975, the songs are all covers of 1950s and 1960s songs. I love the whole album. I love "Splish Splash," "Wake Up Little Susie," "You Never Can Tell," and all the rest, but I think this is my favorite song on the album.
Favorite Song: "Peaceful Easy Feeling"
Album: Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975)
Year Released: 1976
The Eagles were really hot in the '70s. This album has the distinction of being the bestselling album of the 20th century in the United States.
I don't know if you've ever looked up at the stars when you're up in the mountains or out in the desert, far from any city, but you can see more stars than you ever imagined in a place like that. It makes you feel small, yet part of something bigger. It really did give me a peaceful easy feeling. Maybe that's why this is my favorite Eagles song.
6. Jimmy Buffett
Favorite Song: "God's Own Drunk"
Album: Livin' and Dying in ¾ Time
Year Released: 1974
One of my neighbors had this record that I just love. It was an album by Jimmy Buffet before he got so famous with "Margaritaville." There were two albums, A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean, and Livin' and Dying in ¾ Time.
It's the second one I loved the best. Here is my favorite cut off of that album.
7. Willie Nelson
Favorite Song: "Shotgun Willie"
Album: Shotgun Willie
Year Released: 1973
Shotgun Willie by Willie Nelson was released in June 1973. It didn't sell too well, but it was Willie's first attempt at breaking away from Nashville. It did draw younger audiences and Willie says it “cleared his throat” for what came after.
It is considered one of the first outlaw country albums. This is the title track, but I highly recommend the whole album, which includes “Whisky River,” and "Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)."
8. David Bromberg
Favorite Song: "I Like to Sleep Late in the Morning"
Album: Midnight on the Water
Year Released: 1975
At that time there was a record store called “The Long Ear” in the town of Big Bear Lake. Terry, who owned the store had eclectic taste in music, and that's where we found a lot of our records. That's how we discovered David Bromberg.
Truly, I had the hardest time choosing a favorite song from David Bromberg. The songs he sings are so varied in style, mood, and genre.
My Favorite David Bromberg Albums Were:
- Midnight on the Water (1975)
- How Late'll Ya Play 'Til? (1976)
- Reckless Abandon (1977)
- Out of the Blues: The Best of David Bromberg (1977)
Bromberg did the most excellent version of “Mr. Bo Jangles” that I have ever heard. I also love “Suffer to Sing the Blues,” "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair," "The Joke's on Me," “Sloppy Drunk,” “Mr. Blue,” "I'll Take You Back," and "Will Not Be Your Fool."
If you are not familiar with this music, I encourage you to look those up on YouTube. I finally settled on "I Like to Sleep Late in the Morning.” It's the first David Bromberg song I ever heard, and I still love it.
9. Jerry Jeff Walker
Favorite Song: "London Homesick Blues"
Album: ¡Viva Terlingua!
Year Released: 1973
¡Viva Terlingua! was recorded live by Jerry Jeff Walker and the Lost Gonzo Band at the Luckenbach Dancehall in Luckenbach, Texas in 1973. It's been described as “progressive country.” Jerry Jeff called it “gonzo country.” It's also associated with the outlaw country movement.
This song was written by Gonzo band member Gary. P. Nunn.
10. Van Morrison
Favorite Song: "Tupelo Honey"
Album: "Tupelo Honey"
Year Released: 1971
"Tupelo Honey" is the title track of the fifth studio album by Van Morrison. It was released in 1971. The songs on it are all Morrison originals. "Tupelo Honey" peaked at number 27 on the Billboard charts.
11. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Favorite Song: "Tennessee Stud"
Album: Will the Circle Be Unbroken
Year Released: 1972
Will the Circle be Unbroken is a collaboration album by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. The country-rock band was attempting to introduce their young audience to a previous generation of musicians.
Many of the musicians featured on the three album set were famous from the '40s, '50s and '60s. They were country and bluegrass artists like Vassar Clements, "Mother" Maybelle Carter, Earl Scruggs, Randy Scruggs, Merle Travis, and Doc Watson. Great musicians who's popularity had waned as musical tastes evolved.
The record also includes some dialog between the players. Many of the tracks begin with the musicians discussing how to perform the song.
Below is one of my favorite cuts from the original Will the Circle Be Unbroken album, "Tennessee Stud" written by Jimmie Driftwood. Doc Watson was on lead guitar with Vassar Clements playing the fiddle.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band later recorded two other albums, Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Volume Two and Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Volume III, repeating the concept with other historically significant musicians.
This is just a little taste of the music I loved and listened to constantly while living in the Mojave Desert in the 1970s. Did I include any of your favorites from the '70s?
© 2019 Sherry Hewins
Catherine Berry from Belgrade on September 21, 2019:
I've always thought that I belonged to a different musical generation. Having been born in the 90s, I grew up when Brittany Spears, Christina, and The Backstreet Boys were big. My parents always played the Eagles and Willie Nelson amongst others in the house and in the car. I tried to get into the pop culture as a kid, but I could never shake off Johnny Cash, Tennessee Ernie or the Highway Men.
This list was nostalgic for me as well. I absolutely loved this article!
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 10, 2019:
Sherry, I thoroughly enjoyed this. Opening with "Horse With No Name" set the mood. Love that song! Another favorite of mine from the '70s (the best decade for music in my opinion) is Dave Mason.
My son, who is now 27, grew up with my music. I can't tell you the number of concerts I've taken him to from the time he was about three on up. One year we went to see Charlie Daniels, Marshall Tucker Band and the Outlaws. What a concert! And it was outdoors, as a concert of that caliber should be.
Cool story: My brother, who lives in South Florida, was in a local beach side bar a few years back. It was a Saturday and he was alone. So was another fellow. The other fellow invited my brother to his table where they spent the next few hours shooting the shit and throwing back a few. After a bit, the bartender yelled out, "hey Jimmy! Why don't you play something for us?" It was at that point that my brother realized he'd been passing the afternoon with Jimmy Buffet! He then said, "Hey, you're Jimmy Buffet! You're just a regular guy!". Ha ha. How cool is that!
Thanks for this awesome post, Sherry. Love it!
Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on September 04, 2019:
Thank you Kenneth.
Kenneth Avery on September 04, 2019:
If I said to you that I was impressed with this hub, would you be offended. I do pass out sincere compliments but only when the recipient deserves it--and you do deserve it
I loved just how deep your research went through each of these groups and I too, love the Eagles "Victim of Love," and Grateful Dead "Ripple," but I might get carried away.
Please keep up the work like this.
Write me when you feel like it.
Sam Montana from Colorado on September 04, 2019:
I always love looking back at the music of the 1970s. I was in Jr. High and High School, and the music certainly a number of times during the 70s.
I would like to add another band that goes along with the type of softer rock you mention, and that is Neil Young and Crazy Horse.