Days of long hair and rock-n-roll

Published 5:02 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2023

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For those of you that are regular readers of this weekly space, ya’ll know I’m a former hippie from the 70s. That means I once had long hair, wore strange-looking clothes, and was a connoisseur of rock-and-roll music.

Today, my hair remains black (with a few gray strands), but is considerably less in length and thickness. My clothes are a bit more in style and I’m still a “rocker.” Note to self: as I continue to add birthdays, the rocker in me may transform into a piece of popular furniture.

None the less, I still love the music of my hippie generation. When certain songs come on the radio, I quickly reach for the volume control and crank it up!

Recently, my Facebook feed has included posts regarding the top songs in the United States during certain years. You know you’re old when you see the title of a song released in the late 50s or anytime in the 60s or 70s and start humming the lyrics.

For this week, I’m hopping into my time machine and setting it to 1973….no, not to relive the Watergate scandal (that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation one year later) or to recall the end of the ground war in Vietnam, but to rather look back on that foot stomping, heart pounding music of 50 years ago. That year marked my graduation from Chowan College and one where I embarked on a newspaper career (minus a two-year hiatus to work in Raleigh with a commercial photographer followed by two more years with the North Carolina Forest Service).

In 1973, I became an instant fan of the two bands with “Brothers” in their names.

The Doobie Brothers, hailing from the West Coast, captured my attention with the release of their “Captain and Me” album. On it were such hits (and still classics) “Long Train Running”, “China Grove” and “South City Midnight Lady.”

That also marked the year when most of us hippies were first introduced to music recorded in stereo. Back then, most radio stations played music in mono. I remember buying a stereo convertor that was attached underneath the dashboard of my car, causing the music to surround me. I heard guitar licks and drum beats that weren’t there in mono mode.

Meanwhile, the Allman Brothers (named for Duane and Gregg Allman) were from Jacksonville, Florida. Although Duane was tragically killed in a motorcycle wreck in October of 1971, the beat went on for the band who were among the Southern Rock movement of that time.

I already owned a couple of their albums (“Live At Filmore East” – released in 1971; and “Eat a Peach” that came out in 1972) by the time “Brothers and Sisters” came out in 1973. That album featured such AB classics as “Ramblin’ Man”, “Southbound”, and “Jessica.”

One year later (Aug. 10, 1974) marked the first time I heard the Allman Brothers live in concert at the Charlotte Jam.

1973 was also the year that Pink Floyd – an English rock band from London – released their “Dark Side of the Moon” album. It featured two top-selling singles: “Money” and “Us and Them.” The album sold 44 million copies worldwide, including one still in my possession. It’s the fourth highest selling album of all time, trailing only Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (released in 1982 and sold 70 million copies); AC/DC’s “Back in Black” (1980: 50 million copies); and Whitney Houston’s “The Bodyguard” album (1992: 45 million).

Fifty years ago I fell head over heels in love with another Southern Rock group – The Marshall Tucker Band. This group hailed from Spartanburg, SC and also featured two brothers: Toy and Tommy Caldwell. Their first album – self titled – released in 1973 and the world got to hear “Can’t You See” and “Take the Highway” for the very first time. I own 10 of their albums and have most of them on CD, which I will crank up in my vehicle at least once per week.

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the release of the first album (also in my collection) by another Southern Rock band. “Pronounced Len-nerd Skin-nerd” hit the store shelves on Aug. 13, 1973. Anchored by their classic anthem “Free Bird”, this album was packed with hits, to include “Tuesday’s Gone”, “Gimme Three Steps”, and “Simple Man.” Including their debut album, my Skynard collection includes five other vinyl records by the group.

1973 was also the year of rock album releases that rank high on my list of classics: “Houses of the Holy” by Led Zeppelin, “Band on the Run” by Paul McCartney and Wings, “Dixie Chicken” by Little Feat, “Innervisions” by Stevie Wonder, and Billion Dollar Babies” by Alice Cooper.

The radio in my 1973 MG Midget filled my ears (and those close by when I had the convertible top open) with classic rock singles released that year: “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan, “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride” by The Edgar Winter Group, “We’re an American Band” by Grand Funk Railroad, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” by Jim Croce, “Let’s Get it On” by Marvin Gaye, “Drift Away” by Dobie Gray, “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealers Wheel, “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple, “Piano Man” by Billy Joel, “Reelin’ in the Years” by Steely Dan, and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” by The Temptations.”

Folks, trust me when I say that the 70s style of music was the best….at least in my humble opinion. That decade was full of talented musicians and vocalists and their works of art still stand the test of time.

Who are your favorite bands, artists, albums, or singles of 1973? Email me your answers at the address shown below.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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