While some amazing rock bands originated from England and other parts of the world, there’s nothing like good old American rock-n-roll when you’re in the mood for some headbanging, fist-bumping and raising those devil horns. No matter which state in America you’re from, there’s a good chance you’ll find out that one of the bands on this list was formed there. We’ve collected the best of the best from the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from the 1950s up to this day. Strap yourself down for a ride of nostalgia, as we review some of the best American rock bands of all time!
The Beach Boys
Whenever you’re in the mood for a great day at the beach, look no further than The Beach Boys. Formed in Hawthorne, California in 1961, the group’s original lineup consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and their friend, Al Jardine.
With a rich harmony that made everyone’s day better, the group went on to grab a spot in the ears of every music lover with a radio in the ‘60s.
Recommended Listening: The songs “Good Vibrations” and the classic “I Get Around” while driving alongside the beach with the windows open and the speakers on full volume. Don’t forget to drink non-alcoholic punch while you’re at it!
Considered by many to be one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the ’80s, the Talking Heads were an American band from New York City. They helped pioneer new wave music by combining funk, punk, and rock with the clean style of some of rock’s more soft contemporaries.
The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, and had four of their albums appear in Rolling Stone’s ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time’ list.
Recommended Listening: The Talking Head’s hit song, “Burning Down The House”, is arguably their best song from the band’s breakthrough album, delivering a post-punk song that masquerades as anything but. Give it a listen and decide for yourself.
While some amazing rock bands originated from England and other parts of the world, there’s nothing like good old American rock-n-roll when you're in the mood for some headbanging, fist-bumping and raising those devil horns. No matter which state in America you're from, there's a good chance you'll find out that one of the bands on this list was formed there. We've collected the best of the best from the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from the 1950s up to this day. Strap yourself down for a ride of nostalgia, as we review some of the best American rock bands of all time!
The Beach Boys
Whenever you're in the mood for a great day at the beach, look no further than The Beach Boys. Formed in Hawthorne, California in 1961, the group's original lineup consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and their friend, Al Jardine.
With a rich harmony that made everyone's day better, the group went on to grab a spot in the ears of every music lover with a radio in the ‘60s.
Recommended Listening: The songs “Good Vibrations” and the classic “I Get Around” while driving alongside the beach with the windows open and the speakers on full volume. Don't forget to drink non-alcoholic punch while you're at it!
Considered by many to be one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the '80s, the Talking Heads were an American band from New York City. They helped pioneer new wave music by combining funk, punk, and rock with the clean style of some of rock's more soft contemporaries.
The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, and had four of their albums appear in Rolling Stone's '500 Greatest Albums of All Time' list.
Recommended Listening: The Talking Head's hit song, "Burning Down The House", is arguably their best song from the band's breakthrough album, delivering a post-punk song that masquerades as anything but. Give it a listen and decide for yourself.
With a career spanning over 50 years, Alice Cooper (who was born in Phoenix, Arizona), is widely regarded as "The Godfather of Shock Rock". The singer, songwriter, and actor claims to have found his inspiration in a combination of horror films, vaudeville and garage rock. The heavy metal entertainer is known for experimenting with various musical styles, including art rock, hard rock, heavy metal, new wave, glam metal, and industrial rock.
Cooper’s performances often include fake blood, snakes, baby dolls, guillotines, electric chairs, and dueling swords, and he is credited with helping shape the look and sound of heavy metal, even being described as the musician who "first introduced horror imagery to rock and roll, and whose stagecraft and showmanship have permanently transformed the genre". Cooper was awarded the Living Legend in 2006 by the Classic Rock and Roll Honour annual awards program.
Recommended Listening: Alice Coopers' album "School's Out" quickly became a major success, and our favorite track by the band is the single title track from this album. 'School's Out' is a rebellious teenage celebration of the last day of school, many people immediately smile when they remember the classic lyrics, "We got no class / And we got no principles / And we got no innocence / We can't even think of a word that rhymes.".
Elvis Presley, also known as The King of Rock & Roll, is widely considered one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, the musician quickly became a pioneer of rockabilly, an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country music and rhythm and blues. At the height of Elvis’s career, his combination of high-energy, sexualized and provocative tones, and inclusion of many musical influences across racial lines made him one of the most popular people in the world. Not to forget his signature hip thrusts.
The king of rock is the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music and succeeded to gain massive followings across many genres, including pop, country, blues, and gospel. Presley went on to accumulate an unbelievable amount of awards and was even recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Donald Trump in 2018, years after his passing.
Recommended Listening: Elvis’s most popular song, “Jailhouse Rock”, was written for his 1957 film by the same name. We recommend this song to anyone who wants a taste of what The King of Rock had to offer in the prime of his successful career.
The band that managed to combine Led Zeppelin’s hard rock and The Rolling Stones’ smooth blues-tones, Aerosmith, which was formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1970, is best known for their charismatic and outspoken singer Steven Tyler. One of the best selling American hard-rock bands of all time, with over 150 million records sold worldwide, Aerosmith is one of those bands that every man, woman, and child has at least one favorite song from.
The band was originally influenced by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and others. What's interesting is that Aerosmith ended up becoming a major influence on many of the world's most famous bands. According to Perry, Eddie Van Halen once told him that his band Van Halen "started out on the suburban L.A. club circuit, playing Aerosmith songs". Aerosmith is credited for being a huge inspiration to iconic bands such as Guns N' Roses, Metallica and Mötley Crüe.
Recommended Listening: Released in 1973 in their debut album, the song 'Dream On' took a few years to catch on, but once it was discovered by the general public, it quickly turned into one of the '70s most emotional and motivating ballads and a personal favorite among many fans and non-fans alike.
The Allman Brothers Band
The Allman Brothers Band was an American band that incorporated elements of blues, jazz, and country music. Formed in Jacksonville, Florida in the late ‘60s by brothers Duane and Gregg Alman, as well as Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks, and Jai Johanson. The band was known for their mix of jazz, blues and country music, and their live shows were often described as sounding like improvised jam-sessions.
The band was considered to be one of the pioneers of southern rock, although they chose to identify themselves as "a progressive rock band from the south". At that time, having two lead guitarists play in a band was still quite unheard of, and the brothers managed to compliment each other to create an influential sound that is still considered iconic today. The band, unfortunately, suffered a tragic history, with multiple members passing away for various reasons. The band was since recognized and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, as well as receiving a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
Recommended Listening: One of the band's most beloved and legendary songs, "Whipping Post", was released in 1969 back when Gregg Allman was just in his 20s. The song is a brilliant piece of southern rock, and you can find both a 5-minute studio version as well as a 23-minute live centerpiece from their live album "At Fillmore East".
The Doobie Brothers
Coming from San Jose, California, The Doobie Brothers have been active for almost 50 years. The band originally featured mainstream rock and roll sounds with a combination of folk, R&B, and country. The group's musical direction changed in 1975, when lead singer and guitarist Tom Johnson left the band and was replaced by Michael McDonald, who steered the band towards the soul genre.
The band was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004 and continues to tour regularly, performing 70 to 80 shows every year, on average. The Doobie Brothers remain popular worldwide and are currently touring with Santana as part of their 2019 summer tour.
Recommended Listening: A few years before the Doobie Brothers' famous pop hit, "What a Fool Believes", that snatched a few Grammys, their song “Long Train Runnin” was one of the band’s best songs and is instantly recognized by rock lovers everywhere. If we had one recommendation, it would be to listen to both!
Best known for their iconic and undying 'Hotel California', this band is one of the only musical teams on our list that is still actively touring today! The Eagles were formed in Los Angeles in 1971 and went on to become one of the world's best-selling bands, with over 200 million records sold. Their music is often self-described as "California Rock". The band's musical sound was also described as soft rock, folk-rock, country-rock, or in short - rock, rock, rock!
You can go see the band perform, as they're currently touring the United States and playing their iconic greatest hits. If you're an Eagles fan or want to be one, this is perhaps the last chance to see the legendary band play live.
Recommended Listening: Despite the obvious answer being "just listen to Hotel California!", we chose to be a bit more original and recommend their debut song from the second album, "Desperado", which is the Eagles' big artistic statement regarding the evils of fame and success. The song has been played at almost every live concert they’ve performed in the past 40 years, and often is the last song of the show.
The Velvet Underground
Formed in New York City in 1964, by singer and guitarist Luo Reed, multi-instrumentalist John Cale, guitarist Sterling Morrison, and drummer Angus MacLise, The Velvet Underground's integration of rock and the avant-garde led to poor sales in their debut album, but eventually led the band to recognition and success as well as critical acclaim. In 2003, the Rolling Stones called it the "most prophetic rock album ever made." The Velvet Underground's music contains provocative matters, musical experiences, and nihilistic themes.
The band has also been accredited for influencing the development of new wave music and punk rock. To this day, the band remains one of the most influential rock groups in history. AllMusic wrote that "Few rock groups can claim to have broken so much new territory, and maintained such consistent brilliance on record, as the Velvet Underground has during their brief lifespan".
Recommended Listening: Our favorite song from this legendary band is "Venus in Furs", the melody and lyrics are a brilliant combination of pain and seduction, and perfectly summarizes the band's bleak themes and anarchistic style, which made them so revolutionary. It’s mind-boggling when you realize this one was recorded and released in the late ‘60s, back when many of our parents were just barely born.
Founded in 1972 by the duo Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, Steely Dan is a unique rock band that blends everything from jazz to reggae, pop, and even Latin and blues. The two members have recorded their albums with a large cast of musicians. Early on in their careers, the band members chose to retire from live performances and become a mostly studio-album band in 1974. They were described by Rolling Stones as "the perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies".
The duo’s musical style puts great emphasis and attention on the individual sound of each instrument, leading to a diverse sound that's often considered "jazzy" and relaxing. The band disbanded in 1981 and has since gained a cult following. Since their reunion in 1993, the band has changed its performance policy and has toured steadily and released two new albums, one of which earned a Grammy Award for Album of the Year. The band was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and sold over 40 million albums worldwide. Walter Becker, one of the band's two key members passed away in 2017, leaving Fagen as the only official member of the band.
Recommended Listening: If you ask anyone, Steely Dan's "Deacon Blues" is one of the band's best songs. At 7 and a half minutes, it takes you on a jazzy adventure that's sad, cynical and emotionally uplifting - all at the same time. If you like Deacon Blues, you'd love the rest of the band's material.
Widely credited for restoring hard rock to the front and center of the music scene, Van Halen was known for its energetic shows, incredible lead guitarist, Eddie Van Halen, and by the early '80s, the California band became one of the most successful rock acts of all time.
The band has sold around 80 million albums worldwide and had the most number-one hits of any band on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart. Unfortunately, the band is also known for much soap-opera drama surrounding its members. Both lead singers David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar were the focus of many controversies and contrasting statements between band members.
Recommended Listening: Our personal favorite from Van Halen is their instrumental track, "Eruption". An incredible feat of guitar virtuoso, the song introduced many of the band's musical inventions, including two-handed tapping, rapid flutter picking, whammy bar tricks and more. 'Eruption' made guitar tapping a popular skill, that decades of rock and metal enthusiasts practice to this day.
The Grateful Dead
Grateful Dead’s psychedelic rock, which contained elements of country, folk, gospel, and blues, was the type of music that "touches on ground that most other groups don't even know exists". The band’s fans, often called “Deadheads”, would travel to see the band in as many shows and festivals as they possibly could. The band was founded in San-Fransisco during the mid-60s, by lead guitarist, Jerry Garcia, singer Bob Weir (also on rhythm guitar and vocals), and others.
Following the death of Garcia in 1995, other members of the band continued touring under different names, such as "The Other Ones" and "The Dead". The Grateful Dead was ranked 57 in the Rolling Stone's '100 Greatest Artists of All Time' list.
Recommended Listening: The band's most popular song, "Casey Jones", is iconic to even non-Deadheads. It was inspired by an actual train engineer named Casey Jones, and is the band's most universally recognized song to this day.
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
Known for his classic, raspy and powerful voice, Bob Seger is a roots rocker who wrote and recorded timeless songs that deal with love, women and blue-collar themes. The singer, songwriter and musician's career has been around for a lot longer than most people reading this, spanning almost 60 years since his debut in 1961.
After years of performing, Seger finally found commercial success with his 1976 album, "Night Moves". The album was a hit, selling over 6 million copies in the U.S. by 2006. A small piece of less-known trivia is that Lincoln Park, Michigan, declared November 17 as "Bob Seger Day" for Seger's contributions and being the voice of the city and the entire generation.
Recommended Listening: Written by Bob Seger after a tough tour in 1972, "Turn the Page" was the singer and songwriter's way of pouring his feelings of frustration for having little to show for his work after years of work as a musician. The song is moving, relatable, and tugs on you exactly where and when you need it the most.
When you think of grunge, the first band that comes to mind has to be Nirvana. Formed in 1987, in Aberdeen, Washington, by lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain, the band went on to become a massive success and established itself as the best grunge band of all time. The band found international mainstream success with their single "Smells Like Teen Spirit", which sold over 30 million copies and elevated Cobain to the unofficial "spokesman" of the generation he was representing.
The band included other highly talented members, such as the legendary drummer Dave Grohl, who went on to found the popular Foo Fighters, following Kurt Cobain's death and the band's breakup in 1994. Nirvana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 - the first year they were eligible for it. The band was also ranked as one of the greatest musical groups of all time by various music magazines.
Recommended Listening: While almost everyone recognizes Nirvana instantly when listening to “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, their musical library goes far deeper, which is why we recommend "Heart-Shaped Box" to anyone who's interested in Nirvana. In the song, we meet Cobain at his most haunting and disturbing, with a lyrical-melodic combination that makes the song hard to stomach but deeply rewarding and engaging, which is what grunge is all about.
Steve Miller Band
The American blues-rock band led by Steve Miller was formed in 1966 in San Francisco, California. The band's lead singer and guitarist, Steve Miller, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. The band had evolved over the years from being mostly blues-rock to a more pop-oriented sound which, from the mid-1970s through the early 1980s, resulted in a series of highly popular singles and albums.
Steve Miller was also a smart and savvy businessman, capitalizing on the fact that songs earn individual royalties no matter how long or short they are, he took the 57-seconds electronic intro from the popular song "Sacrifice", named it "Electro Lux Imbroglio" and went on to make thousands of extra dollars as a result.
Recommended Listening: Steve Miller Band's "The Joker" was an iconic song released in 1973, with a groove and feel that moves us today just as much as it did in the '70s, this one is a true classic that just about everyone that has a TV or radio has heard at least once and would immediately recognize.
As one of the pioneering bands of the psychedelic rock genre, Jefferson Airplane headlined the Monterey, Woodstock, Altamont, and Isle of Wight festivals, and went on to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as receiving a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. The band's lineup consisted of Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, Grace Slick and Jorma Kaukonen, who all contributed to the vocals, Jack Casady on the bass, and Spencer Dryden manning the drums.
After 1972, the band fell apart and was split into two separate bands, Hot Tuna and Jefferson Starship, with the latter achieving great commercial success and releasing ten gold and platinum-selling albums.
Recommended Listening: The band’s highest-rated and most popular song, "Somebody to Love" is, in our opinion, the absolute pinnacle of the band's musical lineup, with a more aggressive, catchy and potent melody and lyrics than any of their other songs.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
It's hard to pinpoint what the Red Hot Chili Peppers are exactly. The group's musical style has its foundation in rock, but delves into other genres as well, such as funk, punk, psychedelic and even hip-hop. They've won numerous awards, including several Grammys, and have sold over 80 million records worldwide. They have won numerous Grammys and other awards. Perhaps the best alternative rock band of all time, the group continues to make noise all around the world to this day.
The band's legendary song collection spans from the heavy "Otherside" to the popular "Californication", and all the way to many, many other great hits, such as “Dani California”, “Can't Stop”, “Snow (Hey Oh)” and even their recent 2016 single, “Dark Necessities”. Some of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' original founding members are still active today, and include Anthony Kiedis as lead vocals and guitar, and Flea with bass, backing vocals, trumpet, and piano.
Recommended Listening: Trying to recommend a Red Hot Chili Pepper song is like trying to choose just one dish at an all-you-can-eat buffet. The band has countless hits and legendary singles that cover every emotion and style you can think of. We'd recommend listening to "Under the Bridge" if you're a newcomer to the band, and want to get a feel for their unique musical style.
Inspired by Alice Cooper and the glam hard rock of the New York Dolls, Kiss was the idea of Gene Simmons (bass and vocals) and Paul Stanley (rhythm guitar and vocals). Well known for its members' face paints and stage outfits, which mimicked the personae of comic book characters, the band went on to perform insane live feats like breathing fire, spitting blood, floating drum kits in the air, and all sorts of pyrotechnics.
The band went through different periods of more serious performances without masks vs. returns to masks and calls for nostalgia from fans. Kiss is currently touring what is considered to be their last tour ever. The band was ranked 9th by MTV in it's "Greatest Metal Bands of All Time" list, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.
Recommended Listening: Our favorite Kiss song is without a doubt, "Detroit Rock City". The band's timeless ode to rock and roll is widely considered to be their best. Despite originally coming from New York, Kiss found their fame in Detroit and paid the city its due with this brilliant song.
Soundgarden was an American Rock band formed by the late singer Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. The band was one of the original creators of the grunge genre, along with Kurt Cobain's Nirvana. Soundgarden went on to become the first-ever grunge band to sign to a major label, and achieved their commercial success along with other grunge contemporaries, such as Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Nirvana. The band's two most successful songs to date are "Spoonman" and "Black Hole Sun", which both debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and awarded the band a Grammy.
Despite their strong identification with grunge, the band’s bassist objects to that label, saying "That's just marketing. It's called rock and roll, or it's called punk rock or whatever. We never were Grunge, we were just a band from Seattle." In 2017, the band was disbanded due to the death of Chris Cornell, who took his own life. In mid-2019, Thayil said in an interview with Music Radar that the band's remaining members are trying to finish and release the album they were working on prior to Cornell's passing, but that the late singer's family is withholding his vocal recordings and denying their use in the album.
Recommended Listening: Arguably the band's signature track, "Black Hole Sun" is the band's most recognized and psychedelic song, and played a huge part in the band's commercial success. We’d recommend every would-be Soundgarden fan to start with this masterpiece and explore the band’s diverse song list from there.
From the uplifting rock ballad of "Livin' on a Prayer", to the romantic "Bed of Roses", and even the rebellious "It's My Life", Bon Jovi has been consistently dominating the billboards from the early '80s, when the band was initially formed in New Jersey, up to today, with the band still touring strong. Bon Jovi’s songs regularly appear in everything from films to video-games, making them a household name.
The band has released a total of 14 studio albums, 5 compilations and 3 live albums to this date - selling over 100 million records worldwide. Bon Jovi is one of the world's most active and long-running superbands and has performed in over 2,700 concerts for over 34 million fans. The band was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018 and announced that it plans to release a new album in late 2019 or early 2020.
Recommended Listening: It’s hard to recommend any specific song with such a long list of incredible hits and musical styles. We’d recommend “It’s My Life” for the heavy metal lovers out there, “Bed of Roses” to the more romantically-inclined, and “Livin' on a Prayer” for just about anyone who likes music.
The hard rock band from Boston was founded by multi-instrumentalist, Tom Scholz, and became a staple of classic rock over the years. Tom Scholz, who played most of the instruments in the band's debut album, helped create some of the band's most well-known songs, which include "Rock and Roll Band", "Smokin'", "Amanda", "Peace of Mind", and many more.
Boston went on to sell over 75 million albums worldwide, which makes it one of the world's best selling musical groups. A common theme in their album covers is a guitar-shaped spaceship with the band's name on it. The band still tours and performs after over 40 years of rocking, and was ranked the 63rd best rock artist by VH1.
Recommended Listening: “More Than a Feeling”, the band’s most iconic song is also considered one of their best. The song contains one rock's most popular riffs and choruses, and also discusses one of the band's favorite topics, which is the transcendental effects of music.
The White Stripes
The American duo from Detroit, Michigan, The White Stripes was formed in 1997 and consisted of Jack White as the songwriter, vocalist, guitarist, pianist, and on the mandolin, as well as Meg White as the drummer and singer. The band gained its fame in 2002, at a time when garage rock was experiencing its revival. The band's successful and critically acclaimed single "Seven Nation Army" became the band's signature song, with its iconic opening riff being recognized just about anywhere in the world.
The duo disbanded in 2011, after a lengthy hiatus, and has not been active since. What made the White Stripes so unique was their mix of garage rock and blues with very simple composition, arrangements, and performance. Visually they were quite a sight to be seen, because of their artistic fashion decision to only wear the colors of red, white and black in accordance with the band's style. These colors appear in every album cover and fashion choices for the duo while performing live. Their 3 last albums all won a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Albums.
Recommended Listening: Probably our shortest favorite song of all time, The White Stripes' "Fell In Love With A Girl" manages to capture the energy and sound of a late '60s rock song while remaining modern enough to make us feel like teenagers all over again. This is the band at its best.
The Latin-American rock band Santana was formed in San Francisco in 1966, by Mexican-American guitarist and songwriter, Carlos Santana. The group is one of the best selling bands of all time, with roughly 100 million albums sold. With 25 released albums to date, the group's success continues even today, with Carlos Santana at the lead from the very beginning.
Santana helped revolutionize the breadth and scope of Chicano rock with elements of blues, Latin, jazz, and even psychedelics for the last five decades, and shows no signs of stopping.
Recommended Listening: Santana became superstars at the 1969 Woodstock music festival, when they played the iconic "Soul Sacrifice", a combination of amazing organ beats with the lead's piercing guitar solos. Sacrifice the time, it will be worth it to enjoy this one.
American-British rock band, Fleetwood Mac, is one of the world's best selling bands of all time. The band created a massive international following and a unique musical style that combines rock, pop, and blues. Originally founded by guitarist Peter Green, drummer Mick Fleetwood, and guitarist Jeremy Spencer, the band went on to capture the hearts of both UK and US music fans.
The band continues to be active today and has won several Grammys and British awards for their sensational music. Their relaxed musical style helped bridge the gap between American and British music. After a recent concert, musical host Heather Keats said: "(listening to the show) was like one big party". Heather further described the experience saying: "The audience was singing along to most of the songs, everyone was enjoying themselves, including the band."
Recommended Listening: Our favorite Fleetwood Mac song is the angry yet uplifting "Go Your Own Way", which was released in 1977. The song is an amazing showcase of Lindsey's guitar skills, and is probably the best song to hear after a tough breakup.
The Stooges, also known as Iggy and the Stooges, were one of the more raw and primitive types of rock and roll bands of the '60s and '70s. Known for their confrontational shows and acts of on-stage self-mutilation by lead singer Iggy Pop, the band gained a reputation for their punk rock style and intense proto-punk acts.
The band was highly influential and inspired many other rock and metal bands (such as Rage Against the Machine and Slayer) with their music.
Recommended Listening: The band's top song is, in our opinion, "Search and Destroy", a vicious song that perfectly showcases the band's aggressive style and performance. Next time you listen to it, keep in mind it was released in the early '70s. Yikes!
Southern rock was a music genre that existed before Lynyrd Skynyrd released its debut album in 1973, but once rock fans first heard of their unique and original style, it became a staple of the American rock lover. The band released 5 albums before a plane crash in 1977 cost the lives of most of the band members and crew.
The band disbanded for many years until they regrouped with the lead singer's brother taking up the lead role.
Recommended Listening: Despite sometimes being used for the wrong purposes, “Sweet Home Alabama” is our pick if you want to refresh on some Lynyrd Skynyrd. This patriotic American song is the band's most recognized song to date and widely considered to be the quintessential classic rock song of all time. With a dash of southern pride and a bit of satire, this is one song you don’t want to drive without.
They are spies in the house of love. The Doors are one of those bands that somehow managed to create a completely new sound. With smooth, jazz-like tones and a true passion for timeless songs, the band is one which many fans still swear by and listen to on a daily basis, and for good reason.
Jim Morrison’s chilling poetry, combined with Ray Manzarek’s brilliant performance on the keyboard bass, helped create some of the most unique and memorable songs in the 20th century. Unfortunately, the band broke up not long after Jim Morrison's passing in 1971.
Recommended Listening: Our two favorite Doors songs are “People Are Strange” and “The Spy”. The chilling but relatable lyrics and tones of the former are contrasted brilliantly with the more suave and mysterious feel of the latter. Give them both a listen and you'll see how the band built such a raving fanbase.
Jimi Hendrix is perhaps one of the most iconic and legendary guitarists, singers and songwriters of all time. Though the musician's mainstream career only lasted for roughly four years, he quickly became regarded as one of history's most important artists and most influential guitarists of the 20th century. He was described by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as "the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music".
Hendrix was inspired by rock and roll and electric blues, often favoring overdriven amplifiers with high-volume and gain. He was one of the first guitarists to popularize effects such as fuzz tone, wah-wah, and phasing.
Recommended Listening: It's hard to narrow Jimmy Hendrix’s musical library to just one recommendation, but we believe the safe bet for any newcomer to his music would be the classic "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)". The song was released shortly after Hendrix's death and quickly shot to #1 in the UK. The song has since been played around 10 billion times on classic rock radio.
Despite their on-stage antics and entertaining car videos, ZZ Top's amped-up blues-rock is the real reason fans are traveling in droves to this day just to watch the band play live. Hailing from Houston, Texas, ZZ Top is considered to be one of the best blues-inspired rock bands of all time. The band has since progressed to new wave, punk rock, and dance-rock, and have often been credited for hiding humorous lyrics in their songs using innuendos.
ZZ Top's music has won them several awards, from being named "Official Heroes for the State of Texas", to getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
Recommended Listening: Without a doubt, the band's most popular song of all time is "La Grange", a homage to the famous Texas brothel from Tres Hombres. This one's a classic that you don't want to miss, and probably can't, since it is still often played on the radio and TV to this day.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, also known simply as CSN (and later CSNY), were a vocal rock group from Los Angeles that used complex vocal harmonies. The band was comprised of American singer and songwriters, David Crosby and Stephen Stills, as well as English singer-songwriter Graham Nash. CSN was often in the center of various political activism topics, especially the Vietnam War, and had a lasting influence on American culture and music. The group was eventually inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The key members, Crosby, Stills, and Nash were also inducted for other side musical projects. The group has been on hiatus as of 2019. Just another one of their various breaks, which sometimes lasted over years at a time, caused by conflicts within the group. When asked about the possibility of the group returning for another album, one member said: "I think CSNY has every chance of getting together again. I'm not against it. There's been a lot of bad things happen[ing] among us, and a lot of things have to be settled. But that's what brothers and families are all about. We'll see what happens. I'm open. I don't think I'm a major obstacle."
Recommended Listening: CSNY's famous "Wooden Ships" tells the captivating tale of survival in a nuclear holocaust. Written at the height of the Vietnam War and during the nuclear arms race between the United States and Soviet Russia, the song describes the consequence of an apocalyptic nuclear war. The song was co-written with Jefferson Airplane's Paul Kanter, who said that they "imagined [them]selves as the few survivors, escaping on a boat to create a new civilization", when writing the song.
Also from Los Angeles, the Byrds were a psychedelic pop, rock and folk band that was popular for their blend of harmony singing and McGuinn's 12-string guitar. The band is known for pioneering folk-rock in the mid-’60s by combining the influences of the Beatles with other traditional folk counterparts. The band went through many frequent changes in its lineup of members, with only Roger McGuinn staying from the start until the band's disbandment in 1973.
The Byrds' final album was released in 1973, and many of the band's former members went on to have their own successful careers in other musical ventures. The band was eventually inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, leading to the band's last ever live performance together.
Recommended Listening: The Byrds' last hit song was considered both ahead of its time and extremely confusing. "Eight Miles High" is a complex psychedelic jazz journey through highs and lows.
Formed in Seattle, Washington in 1990, no rock bands list can be complete without including the legendary Pearl Jam, who are known for being aggressively against popular music, the practice of making music videos, and even giving interviews. Pearl Jam first broke into the mainstream music scene with its 1991 debut album "Ten", and helped popularize grunge music in the early '90s.
The band, which consists of founding members Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, guitar), Mike McCready (lead guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar) and Jeff Ament (bass) and Matt Cameron (drums), is widely considered to be one of the most influential of all time. Pearl Jam's music has been described as "modern rock radio's most influential stylists – the workman-like midtempo chug of songs like "Alive" and "Even Flow" are just melodic enough to get moshers singing along." The band is also known for often tackling tough topics such as the environment, foreign policy, and world hunger.
Recommended Listening: With an intensely wide array of songs spanning throughout multiple genres, it would be hard to choose even 3 songs as a recommended entry to the band's musical library. From the somber and heart-wrenching "Black", to the beautiful melodies of "Even Flow", this is one band that you really want to fully invest yourself in.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Our next band originated in Florida and formed back in 1976. The band was led by Tom Petty, one of the finest and most accomplished songwriters to walk this earth. What most characterizes his writing style is a strong sense of authenticity and the relatability he brings to each song. Some of the band's greatest hits include "Mary Jane's Last Dance", "American Girl", "Learning to Fly", and many more.
You can safely regard it as Southern rock, same as Bruce Springsteen’s musical style. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers went on to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and have been in constant fights with record companies throughout most of the band's existence.
Recommended Listening: Although the song “American Born” was initially regarded as a commercial and critical failure, it went on to receive an acclaimed status in American culture. It has been consistently rated as Tom Petty’s best song and one of the best rock songs of all time, and has been called "more than a classic rock standard — it's practically part of the American literary canon." So yeah, it’s worth giving this one a listen.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Despite having their humble beginnings in California, Creedence Clearwater Revival came to the scene just in time, when rock music was beginning to slow down and lose what made it so appealing in the first place. The band's synthesis of rockabilly, swamp pop, R&B, and country was easy to listen to and made you feel like life is sweet as a breeze.
The band was fronted by lead vocalist, lead guitarist, and primary songwriter, John Fogerty. Notable achievements for the band include being added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and performing in Woodstock.
Recommended Listening: Arguably the band’s most influential song, “Proud Mary / Born on the Bayou” came together the day John Fogerty was discharged from the US army. Though not their most popular song, it is undoubtedly their most moving one. We recommend everyone give it a try.
Often cited as the first true punk rock band, the Ramones band members were known by all of them using pseudo-names all ending with the surname "Ramone". The band was formed in Queens in 1974 and disbanded in 1996 at an incredible farewell concert. The Ramones are often mentioned as one of the greatest rock bands of all time and were even ranked second on the 'Greatest Bands of All Time' list by Spin.
The group was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. The band's musical style was loud, fast and straightforward, primarily as a reaction to the heavily produced music that dominated pop charts in the '70s. "We decided to start our own group because we were bored with everything we heard," Joey once explained. "In 1974 everything was tenth-generation Elton John, or overproduced, or just junk. Everything was long jams, long guitar solos… We missed music like it used to be."
Recommended Listening: One of the best-recognized songs in the world is the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated". With a simple but unforgettable beat, this is a song that will be remembered in history as one of their best.
Charles Edward Anderson Berry, known in short as Chuck Berry, was one of the fathers of rock and roll. Born in 1926, in St. Louis, Missouri, the rock and roll pioneer had an interest in music from an early age, doing his first performance while still in high school. Due to some drama involving being convicted of armed robbery, when Chuck returned to normalcy he chose to live a normal life, getting married and working at a car factory.
In the early '50s, Berry was pulled back and re-inspired into music by blues musician "T-Bone Walker". This was a story of great success, with the singer and guitarist being one of the first to be inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in 1986, for having "laid the groundwork for not only a rock and roll sound but a rock and roll stance." Unfortunately, Berry lived a life of ups and downs, which also included jail time for multiple reasons at various times. We guess it’s not a surprise that the “father of rock and roll” had some problematic habits.
Recommended Listening: Chuck Berry's 1969 hit song, 'Tulane', was one of his later gems. The lyrics tell a funny story about two hippies who run a novelty shop, get thrown in jail, and are released by a lawyer "in the clique of politics". The whole thing is a fun rebellious poke at the American judicial system and works fantastically on a musical level, which is what rock and roll was all about in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Bruce Springsteen is a household name at this point. With iconic American songs such as "Born in the U.S.A." and "Streets of Philadelphia", the singer, songwriter, and musician has been rocking for the last 5 decades and inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What makes Springsteen's songs so unique and relatable, is the way the songs relate to working-class Americans who are proud of their country.
His songs include a vast array of social, religious and political themes, but are all approached with true respect and love for man and country.
Recommended Listening: Written in a rented cottage in New Jersey and worked upon for 6 months until perfection, the song "Born to Run" is known by many to be one of Springsteen's best work.
Although Heart originally came from the United States, the band ironically found its success when the members moved to Canada to avoid the draft. The band rose to fame for their folk-rock and light metal music themes. Heart was formed in Seattle by Steve Fossen, Roger Fisher, David Belzer, Jeff Johnson, and its female sister vocalists, Ann and Nancy Willson. The band has sold over 35 million records worldwide to date and has been ranked as one of the greatest hard rock bands of all time. Also, in 2013, Heart was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
One of the band's main features is its diverse set of musical styles, which caused the band to be labeled as everything from heavy metal to easy listening, and more. Their famous album, Dog and Butterfly, was a mix of hard rock tunes on the "Dog" side of the album, and folk ballads on the "Butterfly" side.
Recommended Listening: Our favorite Heart song is 'Barracuda'. An angry ballad with a galloping folk beat about Ann Wilson's rage over Mushroom Records’ publicity stunt that involved putting out a rumor about a romantic relationship between Ann and her sister. It's a must-listen if you're looking for some good old heavy rock.
This Canadian-American band was the shortest-lived on our list, spanning a life of only 2 years, from 1966 to 1968. Buffalo Springfield was formed in Los Angeles by Stephen Stills, Bruce Palmer, Dewey Martin, and Neil Young. The band evolved in their two albums from folk-rock to psychedelia and hard rock.
The band's members disbanded in 1968, with Stills going on to form Crosby, Stills & Nash, and the others forming their own bands. The band has since done a 2011 reunion tour which was planned to continue until the end of 2012, but was put on pause and inevitably led to an indefinite hiatus. However, back in 1997, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Recommended Listening: With only 3 official albums spanning from 1966 to 1968, there is, unfortunately, not a great deal of choice for those who want to enjoy the band to the fullest. Regardless, we highly recommend listening to "For What It's Worth", a song that still gets played to this day as a protest song.
Like many bands on our list, Journey was formed in San Francisco during the early '70s, by former Santana and Frumious Bandersnatch members. The band was most popular and successful between the late '70s and the late '80s. During this period, the band released some of their most famous songs, which included "Don't Stop Believing", "Open Arms" and "Faithfully".
The band's style is regarded as a combination of arena rock and progressive rock and jazz. In 2017, their unique talent and sound got Journey members, Steve Perry, Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Gregg Rolie, Ross Valory, Aynsley Dunbar and Steve Smith, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Journey is often heard of or referred to in various films, TV shows, video games, and even theater. The band was featured in 'The Sopranos', 'Glee' and 'Family Guy'. USA Today ranked the band as the 5th best rock band in history.
Recommended Listening: Everyone's favorite inspirational song, "Don't Stop Believin'" is a perfect entry into the band's iconic music, with an incredible mix of hard rock roots and sweet pop vocals and melody. This song was covered and featured in numerous musical and entertainment media, and is the best-selling catalog track of the digital music era, with more than 5 million digital sales.
Kansas began in 1973, and has had plenty of different members over the years. You almost certainly know Kansas from their song “Carry On Wayward Son,” but the band has achieved plenty more, including three multi-platinum albums.
Kansas combined hard rock, southern rock, and progressive rock, and were inspired by Yes and Genesis, though Livgren also cited 60's band Touch as foundational. The classic era lasted until the mid-80s, when the band reformed as a somewhat harder pop metal band.
Recommended listening: Kansas's most popular album is Leftoverture, thanks to “Carry On Wayward Son.” Also hear “Dust in the Wind,” the band's only top ten single.
Guns N' Roses
Guns N' Roses combines numerous rock genres to create a unique, chugging, driving sound known the world over. Their first album, Appetite for Destruction, reached number one on the Billboard 200, and still is the best-selling debut album ever.
The band is also famous for their antics. Singer Axl Rose has assaulted people, people have died at concerts, and addiction ran rampant during the eighties, earning the band the moniker “the most dangerous band in the world.”
Recommended Listening: There's no going wrong with their debut album. Make sure to hear the songs “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Sweet Child o' Mine,” and “Paradise City."
Formed in 1972, Styx melds hard rock, acoustic guitar, synthesizers, and acoustic piano. They are best described as progressive rock with pop and soft rock.
The band has found themselves, in a variety of different lineups, on the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 a number of times, and have had four consecutive albums certified multi-platinum: 'The Grand Illusion', 'Pieces of Eight', 'Cornerstone', and 'Paradise Theatre'.
Recommended Listening: If you haven't already heard “Come Sail Away,” you need to fix that right now. They also have plenty of other songs that have reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Pioneers in American new wave and punk rock in the mid-to-late 70s, Blondie was started by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein. Underground until 'Parallel Lines' in 1978, over the next three years they would achieve a number of hit singles.
The Band has been on the road for decades, and joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006, having sold over forty million records worldwide. They're even still active; their eleventh studio album, 'Pollinator', came out May 5th, 2017.
Recommended Listening: 'Parallel Lines' was the breakout album for Blondie, and spawned hit single “Heart of Glass.” Also listen to their second number-one UK single, “Maria,” in 1999.
Nothing transcends musical styles like Tool. Formed in 1990, the band has produced only six albums despite being active since formation. However, the group has won four Grammy Awards for their efforts.
Combining progressive rock and psychedelic rock, Tool is an intensely private band, and didn't even allow online streaming until 2019. They released their sixth album 'Fear Inoculum' in August of 2019, thirteen years after 2006's '10,000 Days'.
Recommended Listening: Focus on 2001's 'Lateralus', what most fans consider the top selection, and '10,000 days'. Listen to the albums in one sitting, in a quiet room with good headphones. You'll thank us.
Blue Öyster Cult
Abbreviated as BOC, Blue Öyster Cult started in 1967 in New York, and has sold more than twenty-four million records worldwide. Known mostly as a hard rock band, they've also dipped into psychedelic rock, acid rock, progressive rock, and more.
BOC is known as “thinking man's metal.” They've influenced dozens of bands, including plenty on this list, and they even inspired a famous Saturday Night Live skit.
Recommended Listening: Make sure you hear “(Don't Fear) The Reaper.” It remains one of the most famous classic rock and metal songs ever. Also check out “Burnin' for You,” “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll,” and “Godzilla.”
Foo Fighters began as a one-man project by Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. The band has four Best Rock Album awards from the Grammys and has sold twelve million albums in the United States alone.
The band's most recent album came in 2017, titled 'Concrete and Gold', debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 120,000 copies in the first week. The album also debuted at number one on twelve other national charts.
Recommended Listening: 'In Your Honor', released in 2005, is their most lauded album, a certified platinum album by the RIAA which also includes the hit single “Best of You.”
The pioneers of the thrash metal genre, Metallica started with fast tempos, aggressive riffs, and intense musicianship that hasn't stopped. Jabbing forward with their first album, 'Kill 'Em All', Metallica then followed up with 'Ride the Lightning', which grew the band into a household name.
Through their ten albums, Metallica has had all ten certified platinum by the RIAA, including one that was certified Diamond: 'Metallica', released in 1991.
Recommended Listening: If you like your metal, just pick an album (except for maybe 'St. Anger'). Their most famous songs are likely “Enter Sandman” from 'Metallica', and “Master of Puppets” from the album of the same title.
Ronnie James Dio
Ronnie James Dio or simply Dio, has made his mark on music from several bands. He could be the progenitor of heavy metal, eventually working with Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath, his band Rainbow, and later a solo outfit.
Dio is famous for popularizing the “metal horns” gesture. Dio said it's an Italian gesture to ward off the evil eye. When Dio joined Black Sabbath, Ozzy flashed the peace sign, and Dio wanted his own gesture.
Recommended Listening: A best of Dio could be its own entire article, but check out “Holy Diver,” “Don't Talk to Strangers,” “Stargazer,” and “Rainbow in the Dark.”
R.E.M. stands for rapid eye movement, and it's the perfect way to describe this band's music, one of the first alternative rock bands. Nirvana and Pavement viewed R.E.M. as a pioneer of the alternative rock genre.
Their 1991 album 'Out of Time' received seven nominations at the 34th Grammys, and the album's lead single “Losing My Religion” was the band's hit, reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100. The band retired in 2011.
Recommended Listening: Start with 'Out of Time' and go from there. Other great songs include “Nightswimming,” and “It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).”
The Cars emerged from the new wave scene in 1976, and were at the forefront of merging guitar-oriented rock with the synthesizer-driven pop. The Cars have a unique style recognizable after even the briefest moments.
The Cars snagged “Best New Artist” award from the Rolling Stone reader's poll in 1978, and won “Video of the Year” at the first MTV Video Music Awards in 1984. They got into the R&R Hall of Fame in 2018.
Recommended Listening: 'The Cars' is a six-time platinum album. Songs to seek out include “Just What I needed,” “Drive,” “Moving in Stereo,” “All Mixed Up,” and “Good Times Roll.”
Coming out of Illinois in 1973, Cheap Trick found mainstream success with their second album, 'Cheap Trick at Budokan'. A hard rock outfit, Cheap Trick has had nineteen albums since forming: two certified gold, and four more certified platinum.
How many times has Cheap Trick performed live? Over five thousand times. They've sold over twenty million albums, and made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.
Recommended Listening: 'Cheap Trick at Budokan' ranked number 426 in Rolling Stone magazine's “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time,” and is in the book '1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die'.
Queens of the Stone Age
Formed in 1996 in California and centered around vocalist and guitarist Josh Homme, who is the band's constant member through numerous personnel shifts, QotSA have a riff-oriented, heavy rock style, and have produced one certified platinum album, 'Songs for the Deaf', and four others certified gold.
One of the best-known facts about this band is the number of musicians who have played with the band. At present, there have been twelve current and former band members, and four touring members.
Recommended Listening: Their most famous album is 'Songs for the Deaf', and many consider their best song “A Song for the Deaf.”
Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains is often lumped in with grunge acts, but the band incorporated many heavy metal elements. It was one of the most successful music acts of the 1990s, selling over thirty million records worldwide, with eighteen top 10 songs and eleven Grammy nominations.
Plagued with inactivity since 1996 due to vocalist Layne Staley's substance abuse, the band has reunited several times, and released a new album, 'Black Gives Way to Blue', in 2009. They've released two more albums since.
Recommended Listening: We recommend the first three albums, 'Facelift', 'Dirt', and 'Alice in Chains'. At least listen to “Man in the Box” from 'Facelift'.
Rage Against the Machine
Rage Against the Machine released an eponymous album in 1992 to commercial and critical success. The album is listed at number 368 on Rolling Stone's 500 greatest albums of all time. Rage's music expresses revolutionary political views, and uses rap metal and rock to create an antagonistic, in-your-face sound.
Despite only four studio albums, every one has been certified platinum by the RIAA. The band split in 2000 after creative differences, but regrouped in 2007. The band has been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice.
Recommended Listening: Make sure their first album, 'Rage Against the Machine', gets a spin.
Formed in 1967, Chicago originally went by Chicago Transit Authority. They're a self-described “rock and roll band with horns.” In 2008, Billboard ranked Chicago at number thirteen and fifteen in a list of the top 100 artists of all time (from 2008 and 2015, respectively).
Chicago has sold over 40 million albums in the U.S. alone, and have produced twenty-three gold albums, eighteen platinum albums, and eight multi-platinum albums. In 1974, the group had seven albums on the Billboard 200 simultaneously.
Recommended Listening: Any of the “best of” albums are a good place to start. For studio albums, 'Chicago 17' is they're best selling album.
REO Speedwagon achieved significant commercial success throughout the eighties. As a traditional rock group, they did the classic five-man band with guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards. They've sold more than forty million records and have charted thirteen Top 40 hits.
Their first live show turned into a food fight. They got their name from a station wagon. They have had, to date, twenty-two band members. While the band's popularity has waned since the eighties, they remain a popular live act.
Recommended Listening: Their album 'Hi Infidelity', released in 1980, is their most popular album, containing four US Top 40 hits, and has sold ten million copies.
An alternative rock band formed in 1986 in Boston, the Pixies drew on punk rock and surf rock, and created a sound known for its “loud-quiet” shifts and unique song structures. While they broke up in 1993, they reunited in 2004 for a sold-out world tour.
They've produced seven albums, one certified gold and one certified platinum. Song lyrics often include things like space, religion, sex, mutilation, and pop culture, and lyricist Black Francis has a noted obsession with characters from the Old Testament of the Bible.
Recommended Listening: The Pixies have plenty of catchy songs, but the best include “Hey,” “Where Is My Mind,” and “Debaser.”
Dream Theater broke out came with their sophomore album 'Images and Words' in 1992, featuring the hit single “Pull Me Under.” The band pioneered the progressive metal genre, including sick riffs and intricate, memorable melodies.
Taking inspiration from anything and everything, they've done everything from soft ballads to twenty-four minute epics. Dream Theater is still producing new music and touring world-wide, but only two founding members remain in the band.
Recommended Listening: While 'Images and Words' is their most popular album, fans consider 1999's 'Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory' to be their best album. Really, it's hard to go wrong with any album.