‘Southbound’ provides insight into Southern rock history

Imagine if everything ever written about Southern rock was boiled down to its essence -- and combined into one big book.

That’s kind of what Scott B. Bomar has done with his first book, “Southbound: An Illustrated History of Southern Rock,” which just hit the shelves.

A well-researched book -- the source section alone is five-and-a-half pages -- Bomar researched hundreds of articles, books and audio/video recordings to document Southern rock’s influence on music history. He also conducted more than 50 interviews with people associated with the genre.

“A lot of things have been written about Southern rock, but there’s not really one book that’s an overview of Southern rock,” said Bomar, a Nashville, Tennessee, native who now lives in Los Angeles. “In the ‘70s, there was the ‘Illustrated History of Rock,’ which was giving a broad snapshot of that era. (My book) is similar to that and, in a way, a throwback to that time itself.”

It took nearly two years to research and write “Southbound,” and Bomar said there’s a lot more he could have written about the subject. The book is nearly 300 pages long, but the original draft that Bomar turned into Backbeat Books, his publisher, was much longer.

“The original manuscript was literally twice as long, and the publisher said, ‘We can’t even read this much; you have to cut it down,’ ” Bomar said. “I shared it with a couple of people. It was a difficult process because (the first version) felt like it was bare bones. So it was tough to cut down. I cut 10,000 words just from the first couple of chapters. ... Maybe there will be a sequel some day.”

Macon has a clear presence in the book. Not only are several chapters devoted to the Allman Brothers Band, brothers Phil and Alan Walden, Capricorn Records and more, but the Big House Museum was instrumental in providing photographs.

Bomar said he regretted not being able to visit Macon while researching the book, but he has plans to sign copies of “Southbound” at the Big House on Oct. 18.

The book is organized so that it breaks the big names in Southern rock into sections, and it has chapters in each section. For example, the section on the Allman Brothers Band has individual chapters on the Allman Joys and Hourglass -- two earlier bands that brothers Duane and Gregg Allman started, then traces the history of the Allman Brothers Band through the ’70s.

The same goes for many of the other famed Southern rock acts of that era: the Charlie Daniels Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band, ZZ Top and many others.

Besides the musical significance of Southern rock, Bomar also investigates the cultural impact the genre had across the rest of the country.

Back in the early days of Southern rock, non-Southerners often dismissed the bands as “rednecks” and “long-haired, freaky rock ’n’ roll guys.” Bomar, however, notes that many Southerners didn’t initially take to Southern rock because “long-haired, freaky rock ’n’ roll guys” wasn’t a popular image to have in the conservative South.

“There are assumptions that still exist today to a large extent (in other parts of the country),” Bomar said. “There’s a tendency to characterize people with a broad brush. That manifests in a lot of ways. ... I grew up in Nashville, and even today, people ask me questions about growing up in Tennessee with the idea I came from a regressive background.”

In the forward to “Southbound,” singer Doug Gray of the Marshall Tucker Band writes about how Southern rock bands helped change perceptions about the South.

“All of us -- the Allmans, Wet Willie, Charlie Daniels, Marshall Tucker -- were spreading that love and sense of family to the fans, one by one,” Gray wrote. “It was almost like an awakening. People started to realize that Southerners aren’t just a bunch of dummies. They were realizing that we’ve actually got some talented musicians down here who can really play and can write songs that mean things to people. It was like a stamp of approval for us.”

Bomar said he’s a lifelong “music nerd” who listened to Southern rock in the ’90s while growing up, but wasn’t an expert on it.

“I was able to research things that were new to me,” he said. “It was a neat process the way it unfolded. I didn’t come in with an agenda of what I wanted to say about Southern rock.”

Bomar said he thinks Southern rock came about at the right time, with new recording technology that allowed musicians to be more creative.

“I think in the broader sense, music of the ’70s resonates with people,” he said. “By the 1970s, the technology was where people could go and experiment and come up with interesting sounds. They had the budget and technology to do things that were amazing. That was a golden era. You could sound great, but you couldn’t fake it. You still had to bring talent to the table.

“Some of the best groups had great musicians writing great songs that people connected with. Now, pop music is increasingly disposable.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.