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In Honor of Tom Petty - Who is the Best Band From an SEC Town?

I mean, you know the answer.

59th GRAMMY Awards - MusiCares Person of the Year Honoring Tom Petty  -  Show
May Gainesville’s greatest son rest in peace!
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

All is not right with the world. We’ve lost Tom Petty.

It’s hard to believe he was 66, because Petty’s music had a way of connecting with all generations. I’m 36 - right in the heart of the grunge generation and Tom Petty is as relevant to my youth as anyone else’s.

Petty has been honored with a mural in his hometown of Gainesville, Florida, which is of course, also the home of the University of Florida.

The Tom Petty mural went up on 35th St overnight in Gainesville.

So Petty’s death got me thinking - how do we rank the bands that came out of SEC Country?

Here are the rules to these rankings.

  1. One band/artist per school - picked mostly based on if Demetri can remember your name.
  2. Band/artist must either have gone to the school or either been born or got their start within 30 minutes of said college town.
  3. All genres are up for consideration

So with that in mind, here are the top 14 bands/artists from SEC Country. Let’s count ‘em down starting with...

14. VANDERBILT - Amy Grant

To quote Bart Simpson, all of the best bands are associated with the devil. That means that Christian...what is the female version of a crooner? Croonette? Crooness? Anyway, Amy Grant loves her some Jesus. Then she crossed over to top 40 radio and made a video where she molded hats.

It’s funny because the hat matches the dog!
“Every Heartbeat Belongs to You” video

13. ALABAMA - Pain

Would you believe me if I told you this ska band from Tuscaloosa had a pretty decent following in the mid to late 90s? They did and they capitalized on their fame by recording a song about the cartoon Jabber Jaw for Cartoon Network.

Also worth mentioning, Pain trumpeter Stuart McNair was briefly my roommate in college and stole several of my CDs.


The bumble bee girl wasn’t an actual member of this band, and that makes it hard to lift them up any higher. I mean Blind Melon was a one hit wonder with “No Rain,” and anyone who grew up in the 90s is sick of that song by now.

This is a little girl in a bumble bee costume, not an actual member of Blind Melon.
“No Rain” video

11. OLE MISS - North Mississippi Allstars

Have you heard a North Mississippi Allstars song? Have you heard any song by any jam band ever? Okay, then you get the idea of what the North Mississippi Allstars sound like.

These guys look like the all stars of a LARPing convention.

10. MISSOURI - Sheryl Crow

There was a time in the 90s when Sheryl Crow was actually really cool. Seriously, go listen to The Globe Sessions. That album has some real attitude to it. Then in the early 21st century Sheryl or someone around her decided she should only sing about the sun. Since that time, her music has taken a significant plunge in quality.

Sheryl Crow In Concert - New York, New York
I assume this is a picture of Sheryl playing her new song “The Beach is Great Because There’s Sun There.”
Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

9. LSU - Better Than Ezra

One of the more underrated bands of the post grunge era. Better Than Ezra used to write blistering songs about what it was like to be young and aimless in the South. Then they got older, had families and decided they wanted to make money for a change, so they wrote a terrible song that was used in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

Has there ever been a rock n’ roll band that looked less rock n’ roll than Better Than Ezra?
Mix 94.1 Las Vegas

8. KENTUCKY - Chris Stapelton

Boy, are pickings slim for Kentucky! Stapelton wasn’t a Wildcat, but he was born in Lexington. Good enough for this list! I don’t like modern country music at all, but I am told Chris Stapelton is good. The likelihood is I will never find out, because I can’t risk listening and finding out he isn’t.

His music might be good, but Christ Stapelton looks like he smells terrible.
Nashville Country Daily

7. TEXAS A&M - Robert Earl Keen

This one could have honestly gone either way between Lyle Lovett or Robert Earl Keen. They’re both great. Keen though is everything that you think of when you think of Texas country. Also, I could be wrong about this, but I think he actually graduated from A&M and Lovett did not. Again, I could be wrong about that.

George Strait's Hand In Hand Benefit Concert Rehearsal To Rebuild Texas
Admit it. You didn’t know that Robert Earl Keen looked like a fat Jeff Bridges.
Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for George Strait

6. ARKANSAS - Al Green

Okay, this is a stretch. Al Green didn’t go to Arkansas. He isn’t from Fayetteville. He was born kinda close to Fayetteville. But if you think Kentucky has slim pickings, wait till you look at the roster of musicians from Arkansas, but hey if you don’t have many great artists from your state it helps to have one of the very best.

37th Annual Kennedy Center Honors
Honest to God, I can’t remember if Al Green is still alive or not.
Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images

5. SOUTH CAROLINA - Hootie and the Blowfish

Okay Gamecocks fans, here we are. We all like these guys. We all like their music. I would argue that for all of the criticism of them being a one-album-wonder, both Musical Chairs and Fairweather Johnson hold up better than Cracked Rearview. The thing is though, when you see the top 4, I think you’ll see why they aren’t higher.

How often do you think the guys in the back think about how much richer Darius is than them?

4. AUBURN - Lionel Ritchie

If you like Darius Rucker, you should say a little thank you to Lionel Ritchie, because that’s who Hootie has always wanted to be. The man danced on the ceiling! His love taught a blind girl to sculpt! You can’t tell me he is just another musician. Again though, we kinda have to stretch. Lionel was born in Tuskegee, which is a 30 minute drive from Auburn.

Jeremy Scott - Front Row - September 2017 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows
It’s like he’s peering deep into your soul.
Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

3. TENNESSEE - Dolly Parton

Make all the jokes you want. Dolly has some great songs. More than that, she was in both 9 to 5 and Steel Magnolias. Also, do you see anyone else on this list with their own theme park? No, you don’t! Do you see anyone else on this list that has inspired a national drag queen competition? No, you don’t. Dolly Parton belongs on this list! I rest my case.

Variety And Women In Film's 2017 Pre-Emmy Celebration - Arrivals
Dolly still looks amazing. I will not hear you say otherwise!
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images


If there are slim pickings in Kentucky and Arkansas, the polar opposite of that exists in Georgia. I could have gone with Widespread Panic or the B52s here, but REM is the reason alternative rock exists. There is no Arcade Fire or Death Cab for Cutie if REM didn’t kick the door down for indie rock way back in the 80s.

R.E.M. Performs On NBC's 'Today' Show
You will never convince me they aren’t one of the most important bands to walk the Earth.
Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images


Okay, you knew how this list was going to end. But the thing is, even if Tom Petty hadn’t died earlier this week you should have known how this list was going to end. Forget SEC Country. There is a case to be made that this is the greatest rock band in American history. No one made apathy look cooler than Tom Petty. No one could make a meaningful connection to so many different generations of rock fans like Tom Petty. Steve Spurrier, Tim Tebow and Danny Wuerffel can all go take a hike. The only person that deserves a statue outside of The Swamp is Tom Petty.

Songwriters Hall Of Fame 47th Annual Induction And Awards - Show
Not a handsome man, but one hell of a songwriter.
Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall Of Fame