This was originally published at essays & effluvia, an early non finance blog I was experimenting with back in December 2003.


Here’s an odd little conversation starter from the office this week: Who is/was the greatest American Rock ‘n Roll band?

Before you answer, understand the masturbatory parameters of this debate:

Rule 1: Only U.S. groups
Thus, we eliminate the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and the rest of the Brits who followed: Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes and Dire Straits, amongst others. You can argue about the order of this list, but it don’t matter — none can apply for the job.

Rule 2: Only bands, not solo artists
That eliminated Bruce Springsteen and a host of other rock stars. (I argued that the E Street Band counts as a band, but I eventually had to acknowledge that they are essentially a backing group).

The three qualifications for our list were:  1) Body of Work; 2) Influence; and 3) Live performance.

My colleague had narrowed his list down to 3 bands: The Eagles, Van Halen and the Beach Boys. I mostly disagreed. My choices were: Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Doors, Steely Dan, Talking Heads and R.E.M. (And though they are not a choice of mine, I can also see how some people would put the Grateful Dead into the mix; The same thought applies to Nirvana, but even less so).

Here are my choices, and then my colleagues (which I mostly challenged):

My nominations for the Greatest American Rock and Roll Band are:

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Consistently one of the most underated bands in U.S. musical history. Hugely influential, tremendous body of work. Where as most Beach Boy songs sound somewhat dated, CCR still sounds fresh and relevant today. Listen to the songs Fortunate Son, Green River or Run through the Jungle. Any of these could be credibly performed by many popular bands today (at least the ones that have chops).


The biggest issue with choosing CCR is that John Fogarty, their singer/songwriter/guitarist has such a substantial body of solo work, its sometimes hard to separate the two. Its also true that CCR was essentially Fogarty, so perhaps they only quasi-qualify as a Band. Upon reflection, I will admit that CCR is specific to a certain era, and while some may find they are somewhat dated  — I think they still rock the house.


The Doors:   You have to include The Doors in this list. They were a quintessential late 60′s/early 70′s band. Their first album makes all kinds of lists: Best albums of the ’60s, best debut album.


Their body of work was abbreviated due to Jim Morrison’s untimely death. Had they gone the distance, or even just another 5 years, they would have been a lock for the top slot. Despite their relatively short run, they still made the short list. But as matter of choice, I base my list on actual performance, not unrealized potential. So put The Doors into the top 5, and move on.


Steely Dan: Precise musicianship and song writing, effortlessly crossing boundaries into pop and jazz. An enormous body of work, known for its depth as well as breadth. One of the great things about Dan is that you can grab any CD of theirs, and play it straight thru. There ain’t much in the way of filler here.


Criticisms: Not the most raucous live bands you’ve ever seen. Too cerebral for some, while others find their work cold or distant. I think they’re great, but then again I like Dread Zeppelin, which some find unlistenable . . .


Talking Heads: Here’s where we start to get religious. You either ‘got’ and loved the T. Heads in the ’80s, or you didn’t, in which case you were probably a disco loving jerk — but lets not start with the name calling so soon, ok?


The Heads were enormously influential on so many bands that followed them. Their layered soundscapes of rythm and percussion still resonate today. Although their earlier work sounds very much tied to the early era of punk (when listened to today), and their latter stylizings are, well, very stylized. “Little Creatures,” which was a fun album when released, comes across a bit corny today. But their middle work reveals a powerful and innovative band: “Fear of Music” and “Remain in Light” are masterpieces; “Speaking In Tongues” still sounds great. The marvelously stripped down “Stop Making Sense” foreshadowed MTV unplugged by nearly a decade.

I understand that the Heads were somewhat inaccessible; its rock and roll, but not what some people think of as pure rock (like CCR); if you think Steely Dan is cerebral, Eno and Byrne drove the Heads intellectually light years ahead of their time. Still, if you’re looking for collaborative American genius, this is it.


R.E.M.: I guess we saved the best for last. An incredibly rich and varied body of work. Groundbreaking; Revitalizing. Just as rock n roll was becoming irrelevant, R.E.M. snatched it back with avengeance. Beautifully constructed melodies and lyrics, driving guitars, a thoughtful presence throughout.



Murmur, Life’s Rich Pageant, Document and Reckoning are a murder’s row of releases.

I can’t find much to dislike about this choice, except some of their lesser, later work; Also, not everyone appreciates the occasional mandolin. Some of the much later albums lack some of the original creative spark.


My colleague’s choices:

The Eagles: A fairly inspired choice which I might have overlooked. Over the course of more than 20 years, they have produced a widely appreciated catalogue of music covering a broad swath of styles, from country to rock. They have also adapted well to a few key line up changes.

Two strikes against them: First, I think of them as more influenced by other bands, rather than influencing others. One would hope that the greatest American Rock n Roll band was ‘inspirational.’


The other strike? I saw the Eagles live, and it was a yawner. Very boring to watch 5 motionless guys spread out across a stage. Hell, Tenacious D puts on a better show. If you can’t light it up live, than you simply cannot be named the “Greatest American Rock and Roll Band.” Period.


Van Halen:  Now, here’s a band that certainly knows how to kick it live (“kick it with a tasty groove” as JB would say).  They have an extensive catalogue, with many great songs.


Very little in the way of criticism of this choice, but here goes: Perhaps they are too well known for their covers, rather than their own work. Non hard core Van Halen fans know their versions of the Kinks “You Really Got Me” and Roy Orbison’s “(Oh) Pretty Woman.” That cuts both ways, and while it kinda takes some of the blush off the rose for some, I don’t have a problem with it; but I do understand the argument that we would prefer the greatest band in the land to be best known for their own body of work. I would certainly choose VH over, say Aerosmith, because of the body of work. But they don’t strike me as THE seminal USA rock n roll band.

Random VH note: I saw them open for Black Sabbath in 1979, and they simply blew Ozzie and friends off the stage. Kick ass performance.


Beach Boys:  There’s no doubt that the Beach Boys were very influential. “Pet Sounds” is widely credited with influencing the Beatles to do a concept album of their own: Sgt. Peppers.


However, they are so narrowly genre specific — “Surf Music” — that its hard to call them fully representative of American Rock ‘n Roll.  You can try making the same argument about Van Halen, but “Hard Rock” is so much broader of a genre than the narrow field the Beach Boys tilled. An interesting choice, but does not make the final cut. Let’s just call them top five, and leave it at that.


Got an opinion on music? Agree or disagreee with these choices? Let me know by submitting a comment below — I’ll waive my usual requirement and even allow anonymous postings . . .

Final thoughts:  There are plenty of other bands one could include on this list, but most fail to make the final cut for a variety of reasons. CSNY were too narrow, Red Hot Chili Peppers, who have a large of body of work are also in the running.


While we are talking about Music, be sure to check out the industry commentary: Music Sales Rise on Aggressive Discounting, Price Competition and an Improving Economy


UPDATE:  March 14, 2004  9:07am
Just came across this September 2003 UK Guardian Unlimited article, “The 40 greatest US bands today” (part I and part II)

The Guardian’s approach doesn’t use our framework –they allow solo acts, which of course changes the entire dynamic. Regardless, its a good read.


UPDATE II: December 24, 2005 11:07am

John Fogerty is back at Fantasy records, his old label. The new owners and Fogerty buried the hatchet, and he released “The Long Road Home: The Ultimate John Fogerty-Creedence Collection.”

Now, you can see the full catalogue of both CCR and  Fogerty. Only problem is, it makes CCR look like a Fogerty backing band!

UPDATE III: January 6, 2013 11:07 am

The original post had 100s of comments — I have no idea how long I am going to keep the essays & effluvia blog, so if I can find a way to port those comments to this discussion I will. (It can be done manually but would take forever)


Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

396 Responses to “Greatest American Rock and Roll Band?”

  1. cdub says:

    What is the opposite of the recency effect? Because a lot of these picks are from the distant past, yet there continues to be great music made every year.

    I think the great thing about the current music scene is the ease of music discovery, whether through algos like Pandora or (better yet) social streaming platforms like Spotify, Rdio or LastFM. Today’s music choices are incredible varied and vibrant, and it is easier to find and sample new bands and artists as never before. No more dictatorship of the FM programming oligarchs!

    I think a more interesting question is which are the strongest US rock n’ roll bands still recording and touring today?
    1. Foo Fighters
    2. Green Day
    3. Anberlin
    4. Relient K

    As to the original question, The Dead were awesome live, Chicago, Hall & Oates plus Steely Dan were great in the studio, and I have never grown tired of listening to Waiting For Columbus by Little Feat. Tower of Power horns!

  2. pjschgo says:

    To call Van Halen “just another hair band” is like calling the Beatles “just another Brit pop band” or NWA “just another gangsta rap group.” Like it or not, they INVENTED the LA scene of the ’80s. Sure, OU812 makes me vomit in my mouth a little just typing it, but their body of work prior to Hagar is the very personification of rock and roll. And talk about influence, guitarists from Slash to John Mayer list Eddie among their greatest influences, and every rock band in that era was trying to be Van Halen.

    Not in any particular order: Van Halen, Talking Heads, Velvet Underground, Ramones, Pixies, Bruce and the E Street Band (yes, it’s a band!), Allman Brothers.

  3. Martini says:

    10. Television
    9. Cheap Trick
    8. The Band
    7. Van Halen
    6. CCR
    5. Dead (edited out Chili Peppers)
    4. Talking Heads
    3. Replacements
    2. Doors
    1. REM

  4. Henry says:


    I went to see lou reed in concert in london the other day and am a big fan – he was suitably legendary. However, i must take issue to the guy who said the Velevet Underground fit the selection criteria. I am sorry to have to report that co-founder and bass player, John Cale, hailed from the green valleys of Wales.

    sorry….couldn’t let that British influence go unreported!!

  5. Brad says:

    1. Eagles (Number one Selling Album of all time)
    2. CCR
    3. Areosmith (over thiry years and still getting it on.)
    4. Doors
    5. Supertramp
    6. Talking Heads
    7. Van Halen
    8. Lynard Skynrd
    9. Metalica
    10. Guns and Roses

  6. Mike McCurdy says:

    Thanks for the list Barry and for your contributions on realmoney. I’m 52 and so have had a chance to hear/grow up with most of these bands but of course, my musical taste might be different than others. Rather than list the “best”, I’ll call them my favorites (so many English artists that I like excluded – Pink Floyd, Elvis Costello, Zeppelin, The Who, earlier Tull, earlier Fleetwood Mac (blues), Beatles):

    Could never come up with an ‘order’ but:

    - R.E.M (before they ‘toned down’)
    - Talking Heads
    - Camper Van Beethoven
    - Byrds
    - Allman Brothers
    - Neil Young (best songwriter, no one close in coming up with melodies)
    - Pearl Jam
    - Jefferson Airplane
    - The Band
    - They Might Be Giants

  7. Henry says:


    I went to see lou reed in concert in london the other day and am a big fan – he was suitably legendary. However, i must take issue to the guy who said the Velevet Underground fit the selection criteria. I am sorry to have to report that co-founder and bass player hailed from the green valleys of Wales.

    sorry….couldn’t let that British influence go unreported!!

  8. Brad says:

    1. Eagles (Number one Selling Album of all time)
    2. CCR
    3. Areosmith (over thiry years and still getting it on.)
    4. Doors
    5. Supertramp
    6. Talking Heads
    7. Van Halen
    8. Lynard Skynrd
    9. Metalica
    10. Guns and Roses

  9. Mike says:

    Wasn’t Blood, Sweat, & Tears the first rock band with a leading horn section? Didn’t Chicago come out of their success with their first four albums (most specifically the second one)? BS&T is another overlooked band here, very underated IMHO, but I don’t think they should be top ten, they’re not that good (top 25ish?)…

    Still, great live performances, very influental in style (ie Chicago / The Ides Of March / Twelve Wheel Drive, the horn band “revolution” was their “fault”), work that isn’t dated one iota (“Spinning Wheel” and “And When I Die” sounds just as damned good now as it did almost 35 years ago), bridged styles (jazz+rock, which actually makes some of their work debatable as rock, but they could rock -> “Go Down Gamblin’”).

    Excellent technique musicians as well (their horns put Chicago to shame on skill) and decent writers (D.C. Thomas wrote most of their new stuff, but they definatly weren’t just a backing group). Sure they covered a lot, but they covered so well they basically own those songs now (“Hidiho”+”Got To Get You Into My Life” [they actually eclipse Macca's version with ease]). Steve Katz could belt out some decent tunes; and never forget that first album WAS Al Kooper’s.

  10. Vince says:

    This thread seems dead, but it’s also worth noting that while the best (classic rock) bands are clearly British — even the second-tier ones are arguably better than first-tier US ones — there haven’t been many relevant British rock bands in 30 years (i’ll explain)– since the Clash broke up.

    Sure, you have the Cure, Smiths, etc., but when it comes to dynamic, explosive, iconic rock (in the vein of the Stones, Who, Zep), the US clearly dominates:

    Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, Chili Peppers, Pixies, Pearl Jam, GnR, Metallica, Fugazi, Janes Addiction. This are explosive, exciting, huge, and (occasionally) dangerous rock bands.

    Second tier: Soundgarden, Rage, STP, White Stripes, Pavement even.

    I can think of Radiohead, Blur, and Oasis, that’s about it. Maybe My Bloody Valentine, JAMC. Def Leppard? Judas Priest?

  11. Edoc says:

    BR: “I’ve seen the Ramones too many times too drunk to play — so their live performances take them off my list”

    Uh, Barry, you’ve got The Doors on your list. And as you know, Morrison was a freak-show of drunkenness, marring many concert performances.

  12. Fitch says:

    CHICAGO. It has GOT to be Chicago. Just look at their stats: over 120 million CD’s sold, they made it to the Billboard Charts, Top Ten American Charts, was the first rock band to have a leading horn section, over 15 of their CD’s went platinum, and even though Terry Kath was a bad loss for the band, they managed to stand tall after his death, has fallen and RISEN over the years, are still going strong after 37 years and 8 months, with a broadway musical ‘Colour My World’ (don’t ask about the British spelling) due next year. Need me say more? Chicago is THE Greatest American Rock Band.

  13. LLouis says:

    The first Elvis band was a really good ROCK N’ ROLL BAND: guitarist Winfield “Scotty” Moore and upright bass player Bill Black : ” Black, a natural showman, whooped and rode his bass, hitting double licks that Presley would later remember as “really a wild sound, like a jungle drum or something. ” ,
    later on a drummer was added: ” … drummer D.J. Fontana brought a new element, complementing Presley’s movements with accented beats that he had mastered playing in strip clubs. ”

    After that there was the TCB band: ” … a group of professional musicians who formed the core rhythm section of Elvis Presley’s band from August 1969 until his death in 1977. TCB stands for Taking Care of Business, a personal motto Presley adopted in the early 1970s. Although personnel changed over the years, the original members were James Burton (lead guitar), Jerry Scheff (bass), John Wilkinson (rhythm guitar), Larry Muhoberac (keyboards) and Ronnie Tutt (drums). ”

  14. Mike McCurdy says:

    Thanks for the list Barry and for your contributions on realmoney. I’m 52 and so have had a chance to hear/grow up with most of these bands but of course, my musical taste might be different than others. Rather than list the “best”, I’ll call them my favorites (so many English artists that I like excluded – Pink Floyd, Elvis Costello, Zeppelin, The Who, earlier Tull, earlier Fleetwood Mac (blues), Beatles):

    Could never come up with an ‘order’ but:

    - R.E.M (before they ‘toned down’)
    - Talking Heads
    - Camper Van Beethoven
    - Byrds
    - Allman Brothers
    - Neil Young (best songwriter, no one close in coming up with melodies)
    - Pearl Jam
    - Jefferson Airplane
    - The Band
    - They Might Be Giants

  15. John says:

    Interesting discussion. It’s hard for me to opine authoritatively; all my favorite bands are British. But I’ll try. First, if we remove the country restrictions, Zeppelin wins over pretty much everyone. It’s too bad that they created a recorded sound they could not hope to pull off live, but their studio recordings are a collective masterpiece; even the weakest link, “Presence” has some good stuff on it. Decades later, we’re all still trying to figure out exactly what made them tick–and click–so perfectly. A trio with a singer, and yet, so very much more…

    Skynard always gets overlooked. “Southern Rock.” Nope. American Rock Music. They were every bit as talented as Steely Dan (a personal fave), just in a different way. I suppose that overall, I’d have to say that Skynard was the best American Rock Band. Just like Zep, they had a lot of range and pulled a lot of different styles and genres together into a sound that is uniquely and identifiably their own.

    But unlike Zep, they could do it all live. And how. Just ask Pete Townsend. They were the YES to the Allman’s ELP; by now most people know that ELP lifted a lot of their motifs from classical music, and the Allmans relied a bit too heavily on tradtional blues. Skynard wrote their own tunes, and made their own rules.


  16. rick says:

    BON JOVI……………. BON JOVI…………………… BON JOVI…………………….THE BEST ………………………………………………… AEROSMITH ……………..COMES……….. IN…………. NEXT…………..

  17. Greg says:

    Accepting the “US only” rule is fairly easy. But the “No Solo Artist” criteria is really tough. It’s more an (un)fortunate marketing issue. As so ably pointed out already, CCR was less than nothing without John Fogerty. The Doors were definitely Morrison’s backing band although all proved to be capable musicians in their own right. But I’ll play by your rules. With one exception. Allow me to name my “unqualified” list first:

    1. Bob Dylan
    2. Jimi Hendrix
    3. Grateful Dead
    4. Neil Young
    5. Bruce Springsteen
    6. Credence Clearwater Revival
    7. Talking Heads
    8. R.E.M.
    9. Red Hot Chili Peppers
    10. Allman Bros.

    “by the rules”

    1. Grateful Dead
    2. CCR
    3. Talking Heads
    4. R.E.M.
    5. Red Hot Chili Peppers
    6. Allman Bros.
    7. Pearl Jam
    8. The Doors
    9. X
    10. The Mothers of Invention

    Honorable Mention: Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane

    I couldn’t really justify the Beach Boys or the Eagles as a rock band although I guess some would say that of the Mothers as well. I felt bad leaving Elvis off the first list but I have no concept how popular he was in his day. Other random thoughts: The argument that the Allman Bros are too Southern or bluesy to be on a list is a regional prejudice you’re entitled to. That’s why the Ramones, GNR, V.Underground don’t make my list I guess. Punk qualifies as rock, but good luck to the Punk band that doesn’t learn to create a wider appeal.

  18. barry morton says:

    great lead singer
    great guitarist
    sold mor albums than a lot of groups on your list

  19. HS says:

    Here’s a band nobody remembers —
    J. Geils Band
    For those of you who have any questions, go and buy their live albums. They were just incredible on the


  20. Andrew says:

    Listen it’s obviously either the Mettalica for (metal) or The Doors..maybe…

  21. JR says:



  22. Stu says:

    Im English and was born in 1987. ive grown up with the BritPOP era thus got into all the older music bearing in mind BritPOP is pretty poor. though Britian in my opinion has produced the best rock and roll bands, America has spawned the likes of the allmand brothers, lynrd sknyrd and REM. and how can you leave out Nirvana or G’N’R? Nirvana created a new genre of music! nothing America has created will ever measure up to led zeppelin or the beatles but overall, id say you guys have/had some pretty decent rock groups of your own! P.S dont forget Metallica!


  23. titus groan says:

    Music is so personal that I am sure everyone is right to some extent. I love the Dead but other than patchouli trafficking and bad dancing from white guys, their influence is pretty limited. However, there has been a horrible and serious slandering committed in the article. To wit, the Beach Boys never, ever, never played “surf music.” They played pop music with surf lyrics. As Dick Dale said, Surf Music ain’t got no lyrics. Check out the box set Cowabunga and you will know. [Grudgingly, I will allow Surfin' Bird by the Trashmen.]

  24. grantio says:

    barring british acts like oasis (who are going to be remembered alongside the Beatles)and the new wave of british rock such as the 22-20s and muse, i think we currently lead the way in rock. our american groups in comparison to britians best of the past is quite pathetic. but hey…lets think to the future! bands such as “the geronimo pirates” and “the faux pas” will rule the airwaves. and we still have the the chilli peppers and REM. who do Britian have now???

    from grant

  25. scott mcfadden says:

    Here’s my list.

    1. Pearl Jam
    2. Creedence Clearwater Revival
    3. The Doors
    4. The Red Hot Chili peppers
    5. Kiss
    6. Tool
    7. Ramones
    8. Alice in Chains
    9. Metallica
    10. REM

    ps. Message to Mike: THE BAND are Canadian.

    Selection of bands should not be based on how much work they released but the quality. Thats why Alice in Chains made it. They rocked and influenced a shit load of new bands. I say this because I know a lot of people will disagree but I’m Canadian and you need an outsider on this. A lot of bands suck after a few records; they didn’t.

  26. John Hugar says:

    1. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
    2. The Replacements
    3. R.E.M.
    4. Aerosmith
    5. Guns N’ Roses
    6. Ramones
    7. Pearl Jam
    8. The Doors
    9. The Eagles
    10. CCR

  27. peter says:

    1. Grateful Dead
    2. Phish (yes i truly believe that)
    3. Allman brothers
    4. red hot chili peppers
    5. ccr
    6. steely dan
    7. moe.
    8. i dont know

    by the way—–THE DOORS SUCK, no musicianship skill what so ever. without morrison their lost

  28. otter*pop says:

    nobody has mentioned BOSTON…am I missing something?

  29. otter*pop says:

    for what it’s worth…
    10. styx
    9. van halen
    8. the ramones
    7. journey
    6. metallica
    5. lynyrd skynyrd
    4. the doors
    3. aerosmith
    2. cheap trick
    1. boston
    yeah, i know the eagles have the best selling album of all time but i just can’t bring myself to call them a rock and roll band.

    and as far as chicago and steely dan, they’re only one notch above lounge lizards and one notch above elevator music. we’re talking ROCK bands here. i wouldn’t hire them to play at a cheesy wedding.
    and for all you steely dan

  30. colinrebert says:

    In no real order, it’s the bands that matter

    The beatles
    The stones
    The who
    The james gang
    The dead kennedy’s
    Black sabbath
    The ramones
    The beach boys
    Simon and Garfunkel
    Arlo guthrie


    BR: Thats a different list . . .

  31. MatteoJ says:

    No particular order:
    Velvet Underground
    Beach Boy
    Sonic Youth
    Creedence Clearwater Revival
    Modest Mouse

  32. Brandon says:

    no offense man, but i think that it is rather stupid not to consider a band like KISS, who broke ground in music and show and appearance and also have the most gold albums by an American band. Aerosmith and Tool are also good bands to consider, and Guns and Roses and Alice in Chains. I may be a kid of the 90′s but i still know my music!

  33. John says:

    I have to disagree with Van Halen because, really, you’re talking about two bands here, Van Halen and Van Hagar. I myself don’t much care for anything Van Halen did with Sammy. I do think the Eagles should be up there as they are quite possibly the biggest band to come out of the 70′s and no other decade has had a band of there stature since. I also feel Aerosmith should be included up at the top. I know some think of them as nothing but a Stones knock-off but the only real similarities between Aerosmith and the Stones are the size of Mick Jagger’s and Steven Tylers lips. The Doors I would consider if they had stuck around longer, I’m still thinking about that one. REM I think I would have to be put at the top of the list. They are certainly the most influential band of the past 20 years bringing what was once alternative, underground collage radio music to the mainstream.

    Why has no one mentioned the J.Geils Band?

  34. Axel says:

    All right, you probably expect Guns ‘N Roses?

    Give it to CCR/Fogerty. You can still play them on the
    radio without it sounding horribly dated/corny. Fogerty
    on Letterman played “Fortunate Son” and blew out all the
    lame slacker bands. (the Green Day ripoff slightly too bored
    to be angst-ridden bands). They had decent covers & originals.
    You could still take ‘em to Iraq in a Humvee and they fit,
    just like they did in Vietnam in a Huey. Had a psychedelic,
    blues and southern tint as well as straight rock-and-roll,
    along with a screaming voice at times and harmonies at others.
    Knew the power of one-note solos.

    ALmost everything else here sounds horridly 70′s or too few
    albums, or dated quickly, or appeals to a tiny segment. Hendrix
    Experience would be half British, Band did too little (and are
    Canucks) as did Nirvana, Neil Young is more convincing as a solo artist
    (he’s Canuck but might as well be American),
    Talking Heads were short-lived and too indebted to George Clinton
    and Brian Eno, while Little Feat are not that important,
    Butthole Surfers too inconsistent, REM just overrated though
    sometimes fun. Perhaps the Supremes would cut it, but it’s easier
    to say the whole Motown movement. The Rolling Stones did some of
    the best American albums (Exile, Sticky Fingers) but that’s a non-starter.
    Jefforson Airplane is frequently purely incompetent. Grateful Dead is
    perhaps a larger contender for longevity, scope and complexity of work,
    influence (doesn’t getting hundreds of thousands to follow you around in
    abeisance count for something?). I wouldn’t personally buy their albums
    again, but I’m not sure that’s required.

    But hey, we’re Americans, we’re supposed to be individuals, not
    groups. Anyway, CCR or Grateful Dead – not that I wouldn’t like something
    more modern, but toyboy bands now rule the day. Chili Peppers okay, but
    I figure they have 1 1/2 good albums. Parliament/Funkadelic, but it’s
    really George Clinton (and a bit of Bootsie) that ruled. Patti Smith Band
    is arguably more than just her and has a worldwide effect, but…

  35. Bill says:

    Okay….this has to end.

    AEROSMITH!!! Dream on, sweet emotion, walk this way, round and round, mama kin. Get your wings, toys, and rocks…back to back to back. Over 150 million sold, greatest comeback in rock history, changed the world with walk this way and run DMC, still original line-up, still puttin out good records, and still rock like almost no other. Joe perry is a guitar machine and tyler is one of the greatest singers ever. When it comes to america, they are unstopable.

  36. Ric says:

    Best ever live band People should rate bands from their overall performence….not from one point of view,,,,,we are getting all this discussion because of wrong rating.In my opinium…..beatles-the best ever band in history(no doubt or question)how ever they aren`t a rockband!Best rockn rockheavy-Kiss(with som doubt,but I dare to put them there for all they have done for heavy Rock…going from the 70“s rock flying into the 80“s heavy rock)great band.Best live stage-Kiss(people says is the best).I have no problem with my rating…..there are some other ratings to do,but I leave it for later

  37. ric says:

    …let`s have a poll…..rate the best ever rock band 60`s-best ever rockband 70“s-best ever 80`s-best ever 90`s-best ever live band-most selling band ever(records)-most remembered band ever-best heavy rock ever-the band with most fans——–I think we could have a fair rating

  38. Eric says:

    Couldn’t resist, I’m a big fan of the “Big Picture” for Barry’s market insights, but I had to weigh in on this lingering (unanswerable) question:
    Top Ten Greatest and Most Influential:
    (no particular order)
    10. The Pixies
    9. The Ramones
    8. Aerosmith
    7. Metallica
    6. The Doors
    5. REM
    4. Guided By Voices
    3. CCR
    2. Grateful Dead
    1. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

    Honorable Mentions: CSN, Nirvana (too few albums) Talking Heads, Pavement, Velvet Underground, Pearl Jam.

    Guided By Voices. GBV was just a fantastic, boozy R&R band that just broke up. If you missed them live, you really missed something special.

    Why Bruce? The name of the band is misleading – the band has been together for 25 years. And the band itself really embodies what America’s all about, no?

    The songs of the Pixies (who just reunited) were just like the band: Short, jarring and unforgettable. You could probably quibble with this one, but i couldn’t resist after seeing them in concert last month (they sounded fantastic). And the Pixies trump Nirvana for influencing all those 90′s bands.

    Definitely Not: Van Halen – I was a big VH fan as a kid but VHalen’s last couple of albums were lousy and Van Hagar was just embarrassing. Sorry Barry/

  39. ricky says:


  40. Brenda says:

    Rock & Roll…. the ramones are the godfathers of punk, but they’re really rock and roll, and they’re not sloppy!, they’re goods… The Doors we’re a really really good band and what about the kinks?? did anybody knows the kinks!?

  41. Kevin Crawford says:

    You are all looking at big selling bands. If you want a great american band, that would be the Blasters! Not the biggest selling band, I know, but they were awsome live. Listen to testament and the live show on the second disc. It’s all there. Phil Alvin can out sing anyone. And his brother Dave can write. A great combination.

  42. def leppard says:


  43. sex bomb says:

    just listen to bonjovi’s bounce cd. fukin’ rockin’they r the best.i agree.BONJOVI ROCKS THE MOST

  44. JUSTIN says:

    Dont forget the Best American Singer ever THE KING OF ROCK ELVIS!!

  45. SMITH says:

    All american Rock bands
    Elivs < The Turtles The Byrds The raspberries Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young the Buffalo Springfield The Mamas And the Papas Chicago Boston Beach Boys journey Lynerd Skinerd steve miller band Heart

  46. Rob says:

    I’m going with Journey…………accused of selling out ( i.e. corporate rock) but let’s face it…..every song had a great rock “hook”…incredible vocals, guitar and Steve Smith is probably the finest drummer in the world..even today ( though you could not tell from most Journey tunes.)

  47. James says:


  48. Roger says:

    I’d be interested in knowing which American band had the most number one hits and which American band has had the most number one albums. If we were going with individuals instead of bands that would probably put Whitney Houston at the top (OUCH!). The band with the most hits in the 90s was Collective Soul but I didn’t see anyone mentioning them. Also, I don’t think Collective Soul has really had much influence on anyone else. I would have to say the two most influencial and hitmaking American Rock and Roll bands would have to be The Doors and The Beach Boys. One thing I like about the Beatles that I can’t say about either The Doors or The Beach Boys is that the Beatles had different styles. They had rock and roll (I Saw Her Standing There), psychedelic (I Am The Walrus), blues (Yer Blues), country western (Act Naturally), ballads (Hey Jude), and reggae (Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da), just to name a few. I can’t think of any American band that has been so experimental. It seems that all of the bands mentioned have been very genre specific and haven’t really broke out of their shell to experiment like The Beatles or U2.

    My list of greatest American bands would include, The Doors, CCR, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The Beach Boys, Van Halen, Kiss, Chicago, and The Byrds. I’m sure I think of another one that I wanted to include later.

  49. John says:

    I can’t believe only one mention of Velvet Underground. The seminal US band.

  50. justinEL says:

    are u guys fags or something haha , guns n roses man , they were great , they were like the only band in fifteen years to have 2 albums in the top 5 in 1989 , and i think they were the only band to have 2 cds number one and two on the charts with use ur illusion 1 and 2

  51. djmac says:

    Beach Boys-they influenced the band with the greatest number of American number ones in history, the Beatles. The Beatles were stunned when they heard “Pet Sounds” and patterned “Sargent Pepper” after it. The entire rock and roll music scene was shaken up and changed forever. The Byrds, another american group that changed music and influnced the world of rock and roll, including the Brittish Invaders. Fleetwood Mac? They’re part american, part English. Huge sales, popularity, longevity, all members can write and play. The Doors, poetry, great arrangements, no bass player and they still rocked, it goes without saying. The Young Rascals, true american style music that trumped the British Invasion. Blondie-First white band to have a rap hit, first new wave band to have a disco hit, phenomenal amount of record sales and popularity in a meteoric short career. Almann Brothers, guys, com’on, american electric blues personified, astronomical talent, a no brainer. Van Halen, of course, superior playing, however, Styx and Journey and ToTo were right up with them for chops. Eddy however is one of the all time greatest electric guitar players anywhere, EVER. Captain Beefheart/Mothers of Invention. Is it possible that you do not know how many people were influenced by this band? They may be THE most influential band ever. Yes they are a band because you didn’t say that a band that was officially called a band under a fake name had to have a certain amount of members nor should you since many of the worlds most prominent bands have been made of of core members with everyone else as non-permanent fill-ins. Grateful Dead, no band in history, anywhere in the world has ever sustained their popularity for as long or could ever have filled so many venues to overflowing as this band. Doctoral thesis have been written on the phenomenom.REM NOT, what are you saying, they are a washed down version of Talking Heads meets Neil Young. Peter is a great player but the drummer and the bass player whose playing is so boring and uninspired that their names escape me, are dead weight on a decent songwriter and an excellent string players talents. In a “greatest” band, ALL the personel should be excellent musicians as in Credence Clearwater and the Super Group Crosby Still Nash and Young. Speaking of Super Groups, Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominoes were put together bands that were mixed nationality as well, do they count? Pixies, awesome playing, songwriting, too bad about the drug problems. Talking Heads, great band, another group making firsts in their use of “global” elements, technology and inventive writing. Again, everyone can play their asses off. Eagles, yes, but if Eagles then Doobies, fair is fair and the Eagles had more personel changes. Best Female rock vocalist of all time, Ann Wilson, both sisters can play and their band rocked HARD, so therefore Heart. In terms of facts heres what you missed. The only band, remotely rock and roll, that ranks in the top ten in Joel Whitburns charts during the sixties when the Beatles and Stones came blowing through were The Four Seasons. They also influenced many bands of the rock and roll era, and jump started the Beatles tour in America. THE american group with the greatest number of hits in caparison to all others everywhere? Not rock and roll, but R&B, the Supremes. The top twenty american groups of all time in Whitburns top 25, meaning sheer number of hits, longevity on the charts, etc? The Supremes, The Beach Boys, Chicago, and the Four Seasons. America simply doesn’t excel like the British do when it comes to long playing hard rocking bands except in the case of Van Halen, who are still out there sort of and can outrock the greatest. I am partial to punk myself, so I’d pick the Ramones and Dead Kennedys just to begin with, not to mention Patty Smith and of course the Pixies. Steely Dan was two guys and their session people so are they a band? If they are then so is Captain Beefhart and the Mothers of Invention and I rank them Number One American Band of All time. Is Steely Dan rock and roll or pop or jazz-rock or what. In that case, the first rock band as all musicians such as Eddy Van Halen, (ask him) and others you’ve mentioned, the first rocker, really the first one. LOUIS JOURDAN. Yes “the last of the swingers and the first of the rockers” he pioneered the five to seven peice band and blew away big orchestras and swing outfits with his Tympany Five which was usually seven. Pioneered the driving drum sound with the super tight “boogie woogie” arrangement that would someday be the basis of songs like Zep’s BlackDog and many CCR arrangements. He influenced Louie Prima another pioneer and Van Halen showed their musical knowlege by covering “Gigolo”, they’re also classically trained. Guys, Guns and Roses? Great Band, nothing you haven’t heard before, broke up for stupid reasons and have never had the hits of bands like Chicago. Incidentally, Chicago is the cousin to Blood Sweat and Tears but the first heavy duty rock band with Brass was the great James Brown. You might not think of it as rock but the King himself used to be classifed as rythmn and blues before Bill Haley made “Rocket 88″ and killed Swing and Honky Tonk music forever as america’s number one genre. Honky Tonk had a comeback however as Country. Aerosmith gets the big points for staying together the longest, but their career was revived by politics and outside writers. The Replacements, number one underground college band. Velvet

  52. newyorkhitmaker says:

    Doesn’t this all depend on what you consider “great?” Greatest impact on rock’s development? Biggest hits? Longevity? Greatest influence outside the U.S. Most popular among most americans? Greatest players? Best songs? All of the above? All of the above could refer to the Beach Boys-they influenced the rock band with the greatest amount of American number ones in history, the Beatles for one. The Beatles were stunned when they heard “Pet Sounds” and patterned “Sergeant Pepper” after it. The entire rock and roll music scene was shaken up and changed forever. Why are they a great band instead of just Brian Jones creation? They’re one of a kind vocal sound and arrangements were a group effort once Brian introduced the material. They and the Four Seasons influenced group harmony in every band that followed. The Byrds, another american group that had a unique approach and influenced the world of rock and roll, including the British Invaders. The Doors, poetry, great arrangements, no bass player and they still rocked, it goes without saying. The Young Rascals, true american style music that trumped the British Invasion with over twenty gold singles. Nitty Gritty Dirt band, it’s true, they were a training ground for dozens of future classic musicians including rockers. Fleetwood Mac? They’re part american, part English. First band with giant mega sales after Robert Stigwoods Bee Gees. They had popularity, longevity, all members can write and play. Do they fit here somewhere? Blondie-First white band to have a rap hit, first new wave band to have a disco hit, phenomenal amount of record sales and popularity in a meteoric short career, great songs. Alman Brothers american electric blues personified, astronomical talent, this ones a no brainer. All the other southern bands take a back seat including Skynard who don’t play any better then 38. Special. Van Halen, another no brainer, superior playing. Extraordinarily tight not only in their music construction but execution. Their record is sullied not by loss of Roth, but failure to find a new lead singer that had the charisma to match the bands outrageous talent. Journey and Toto, two bands right up their in the chops department and sales. I prefer Journey. Is Toto rock? If Steely Dan is I guess.
    Steely Dan has the attitude and the edge however but what are they? What about rock crossover to other genre bands “Genre Hopping” as it’s called. Is that a plus? My personal pick, Captain Beefheart/Mothers of Invention. Is it possible to not know how many people were influenced by this band? They may be THE most influential band ever. Yes, they are a band because you didn’t say that an artist with a psuedonym creating a band with a psuedonym is any less of a band. Nor should you since many of the worlds most prominent bands have been made of of core members with everyone else as temporary fill-ins. Otherwise you have to rule out Steely Dan and Derek and the Dominoes, which counts as an american band because Jerry Garcia was one of the “members.” Essentially the whole band were guests like the Traveling Wilksberrys. CCNY is four solo artists who are only a band because they connected their names. Neil Young was born in Toronto, but he’s a classic rocker. Does American mean North America and include Canada too? Then you have to pay attention to The Guess Who, who wrote “American Woman” and rocked with the best of them. For sheer overall accomplishment, I suppose it must be The Grateful Dead. No band in history, anywhere in the world has ever sustained their popularity for so long or has ever filled so many venues to overflowing as often as they have. Their following is devoted far beyond the usual fans that accompany a band. Doctoral thesis have been written on the phenomenon. The Airplane/Starship has their share of cult status too. REM NOT, what are you saying? They are a washed down version of Talking Heads meets Neil Young. Peter is a great player but the drummer and the bassist, their playing is so boring and uninspired that their names escape me, are dead weight riding on a decent lyricist and an excellent string players talents. This band’s main draw back besides predictable playing, the same melody over and over again with slight variations and we aren’t talking the blues or C&W here. Toto and Journey may be mushy but they have melody. If you don’t have melody you have to at least have edge. I know they’re British, but put on some Zeppelin and get back to me when you know the difference between a MTVzac band and one that can produce at least one blistering classic rock guitar solo in their career. In a “greatest” band, ALL the personnel should be excellent musicians as in Credence Clearwater. CCR, the classic great american band, but, they never lived by the Bayou. It was all made up, does that count against them in some way? “Fortunate Son” a brilliant song fresh for our times. What about SuperGroups, Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominoes? They were put together bands that were mixed countries wise as well, do they count? Serious musicians learn all the parts on their albums. Pixies, edge, lots of it, playing simple but powerful, great song-writing, too bad about the drug problems. Are they back for good? I hope so. Talking Heads, great great band, another group making firsts in their use of “global” elements, technology and inventive writing. Again, everyone can play their asses off. Eagles, yes, but if Eagles then Doobies, fair is fair and the Eagles had more personnel changes. Best Female rock vocalist of all time, Ann Wilson, both sisters can play and their band rocked HARD, so therefore Heart. Kiss, most fun, best dress up next to Parliament Funkedelic who rocked as hard as Steely Dan on many of their tunes if you know their stuff. Metallica, all time metal favorite, right attitude, serious chops. Hair Bands of the eighties, they sold like crazy, rocked hard, great playing, melody yes, will we discuss their music twenty years from now, I don’t think so, what went wrong? Guns and Roses? A Hair band and nothing we haven’t heard before. Great band yes, major innovators , big record holders no. They had there year at the top, like many bands have, but they didn’t blow pop goddess Madonna out of the water even though they as much airtime on MTV. To see real chart toppers get Billboards various books on the charts. I loved ‘em but they were a pseudo Zep band lets face it, like Phish trying to take over the Dead’s mantle. How about the The Band. Great american players, excellent albums, extremely influential and they backed up Dylan. How about the group America? If Rem is a great rock band so are they. More people are singing “Horse with No Name” then “The One I love” and neither one of them sound as good as Neil Young singing “Heart of Gold.” America did create great multi guitar arrangements, a vocal sound that rivaled CCNY and they had beautiful melodies. We of the eighties and nineties missed the golden age of rock as far as I’m concerned. Almost every great american rock group of the sixties and seventies out performs, writes, and plays the majority of rock and rollers after that period. Nirvana? Without Kurt we have the Foo Fighters, need I say anything more? Joel Whitburn the Bilboard Chart guy and artist career specialist lines up all these factors to come up with a ranking that most everyone agrees with. . First American band to rank during the Fifites, after the solo monsters like Elvis are The Everly Brothers. Are we talking only classic sixties onward rock? The only band, remotely rock and roll, that ranks during the sixties when the Beatles and Stones came blowing through is The Four Seasons who were the american band with the greatest number of hits. They also influenced many other bands of the rock and roll era, and jump started the Beatles tour in America. I already mentioned the Beach Boys who played their music very well in concert and sounded like the records until Mike Love died besides always having sell out crowds. The top ranking rock bands in the top twenty five of all time are The Beach Boys, Chicago, and the Four Seasons. in that order. The rankings are based hits, length of time as a chart maker, and consistency in sales as well as chart positions. Elvis for instance has more number ones then any other artist. The first American band to rack up an impressive record that rivals the King and the Beatles, isn’t a rock and roll band but the Supremes. Chicago is another record holder and “25 or 6, 2, 4″ proves that they could rock out.Chicago a cousin to Blood Sweat and Tears genre wise but the first heavy duty rock band with Brass was the great James Brown. You might not think of it as rock but the King himself used to be classified as rhythm and blue just like the Godfather rocks as hard as Steely Dan even if it is funk. Not in Whitburns twenty fives are Aerosmith who should get big points for staying together the longest. . You may not include the E street band but then you should acknowledge the Jukes. The Replacements, number one underground college band. Velvet Underground and Iggy, my personal favorites and another big influence on rock as Proto-art band, punk ancestors. We can go on and on here. Let us just say that there’s the records versus peoples personal tastes so there’s no such thing as the “number one” band outside of overall sales, number ones, top fourty hits, album sales and longevity that isn’t a matter of taste. As far as the records go it’s the Beach Boys, The Four Seasons and Chicago, the Everly Brothers, Three Dog Night and The Platters. Everyone else is either a solo act, or British. As far as taste goes well, I am partial to punk myself, so I’d pick the Ramones and Dead Kennedys just to begin with, not to mention Patty Smith and Iggy, Velvet U, and edgy bands like the Pixies. My pick for next hard rockin” band with fresh sound, Interpol. I like all the disagreement and strong opinions myself. if we all liked the same music we’d be living in the musical fascist world that certain religious groups would like us to be in and listening to John “we can’t show him in public any more” Ashcroft singing warbly hymns like an old granny and have numbers instead of names. Paper and Scissors are Dead, Long live Rock.


  53. senor crews says:

    The Eagles were tedious hokum b4 Joe Walsh joined. “Take it to the Limit” … one more time and I’ll puke. I do love “Hotel California”, but that’s one album.
    Van Halen is like a trite exhibition in the RnR Museum. They were like a display, not a song.
    Same with YES. Has Yes ever played a song?
    My theory on the Dead : any band that makes a thousand tunes is bound to have a dozen great ones.
    How could anybody call ZZTop influential? They’re the most derivative band going. They just polish the icon. Over and over.
    Fleetwood Mac was only good until the women joined. But then, they were Brits until then. I saw Steely Dan (1973/4 ?) with the best session people (MG’s , of BookerT and the Blues Bros), but too clean and polished for best RnR.
    What G.Geils does best is blues from a white guy.
    If “greatest” means most influential and/or most purely accomplished in what was intended (which would elevate the sloppy Ramones), then I would list ( in no order) :
    - Phil Spector or the Turtles/Rascals for beating back the British Invasion.
    - Buffalo Springfield : all the LA rock, the country rock, they inspired for decades.
    - CCR for psychedelizing rythmNblues while making us think it was hip country.
    - Velvet Underground, starting chaos, darkness, and beauty all at the same time.
    - Pixies, started all the loud/soft contrast in the current youngwhiteboyragebands.
    - How about Black Sabbath, the whole genre they inpired?
    - Ramones and MC5, started punk.
    - Jane’s Addiction had the goods, the potential, but it’s a short library. They were going to bring cosmic power back – a modern Zeppelin.
    - Marvin Gaye modernized Black R&B

  54. fart face says:

    Walt Mink

    PS…..with the exception of The Funk Brothers, The Band, and Buddy Holly And The Crickets….most of these mentions are pretty weak…..for best US rock band.

    Walt Mink is the best.

    If we could include Rush then we could end the thread right here. But some of you might hate Canada too much.

  55. dennis says:

    If E Street band is “eliminated” from contention because they are back up band, so should the Beach Boys not named Brian.

    Steely Dan was a duo fercrisakes…not to mention they have not a single rocker song.

    CCR. Yeah, gotta be in anyone’s top American rock band lists.

    Allans were not true rockers…southern rockers…and balladeers. Beautiful music though. Ditto Skynnard.

    Ramones? They weren’t even musicians. Not even amatuer musicians. Just punks and couldn’t write a lyric to save their lives. WAAAAAY overrated. Record sales, or lack of, corroborate. And ugly.

    Eagles? Pop and it WAS electric but not real rock. LA studio types. Excellent ones to be sure.

    Van Halen. Yeah, gotta include them.

    Aerosmith? Yeah, them too. But a bit too much of a stereotype. But they could sure rock.

    Where’s Tom Petty And Heartbreakers? They belong!

    The Dead are not rockers…acid rockers. How can anyone dance to that stuff unless one’s trippin’?

    Airplane. Adonde esta Airplane? If Deas is mentioned Airplane hasta be. But also kinda in the acid-rock mold. But they had Grace and Mary Balin…two of the greatest electric voices ever.
    Still not true rockers.

    The winner is…The Doors. 100% american band. True rockers and absolutely original stuff. And morrison was greek-god like handsome. The hair, the attitude, the vibes. That voice. And they had great musicians and a damn-the-torpedoes stage style. They had it all. What’s “body of work” have to do with it? On that basis alone the Ramones are out. Doors sold millions of records. And they sure lived the rNr life. And who cares about “influence”? The only question should be “can they bring down the house?” Even Grace Slick was blown away.


    the greatest american rock and roll band ever.

  56. bobby says:

    Sorry, I skipped alot of the B/S to scroll down and say what about fleetwood mac. Yeah, they all screwed each other but I dont think that disqualifies them.

  57. Richard says:

    Are all of you fucking serious….
    it is defintely the doors no question about it

  58. Matt says:

    and how could you not put metallica on your list

  59. asdf says:

    they are not rock and roll, considered more of metal.

  60. Vodka Soda says:

    NIRVANA, anybody? …Maybe this crowd is a little too old to understand.

    And what about Guns N Roses?

    The Doors are awesome, CCR rocks but isn’t on the same level in my opinion… Steely Dan doesn’t *rock*.

    The Talking Heads and REM are good, but they don’t kick enough ass to even be considered the greatest in my book.

    1. The Doors
    2. Nirvana
    3. The Beach Boys
    4. Guns N Roses
    5. The Velvet Underground

  61. rebel says:

    fuck the doors and all the other ones u got up lynard skynard is the bes band of all time u bitches know that

  62. Mason says:

    This isn’t Canada’s Greatest Rock Bands. I love Neil Young, but he’s Canadien. So is The Band, which is also good.

  63. Jason says:

    It might be better to determine the top three bands from each decade and then select from those bands to determine who was the greatest. I think the definition of a band is that what they created could not have come from any one single person in the band and that they had to be a cohesive whole in order to produce such greatness. This means when a member went off solo or whatever their work could not be superior to the band’s output. For instance, if I had to name the three greatest from the Eighties it would be the Pixies, Replacements, and then in a distant third R.E.M.

    I think that the greatest band that could not exist without every member and that produced the greatest music would have to be the Doors. Sure I’m biased being a UCLA alum and 3 of the 4 guys attended UCLA (by the way Jim Morrison did graduate, thanks for the revisionist history Oliver Stone). I’m still amazed at their output when they were only in their early to mid twenties. As long as 20th Century American rock music is studied hundreds of a years from now in universities, the Doors will always be a main topic of discussion.

  64. Jamal says:

    How the fuck do you not have Nirvana on your top 10 list??
    They are probably top 5

  65. Clete says:

    Based on influential-ness, album sales, and live show experiences, and drug/acohol abuse:

    1. Van Halen: redefined rock guitar, amazing stage show, and a large catalog of music spanning styles. Eddie couldn’t play unless he was drunk.

    2. Aerosmith: stage show, amazing catalog, the Toxic Twins..

    3. The Doors: incredible, ground-breaking musicianship from Robby’s guitar, Jim’s vocals and lyrics.. Morrison’s booze, LSD, and cocaine abuse are legendary.

    4. Metallica: kicks butt. Epic live shows.. Kirk studied with Joe Satriani.. Alcoholica.

    5. Lynyrd Skynrd: great music catalog, honest rock band.. famous drinkers.

    6. The Eagles: very influential, and just good music. Extensive catalog. Don Henley went to rehab.

    7. Pantera: Redefined metal, and Darrell redefined rock guitar. Decent catalog of music, brutal live show, and VERY influential.. and Darrell was famous for being able to play amazingly well while being amazingly hammered. RIP Dime.

    8: The Allman Brothers: excellent musicianship, timelessly influential.. Greg Allman was/is a herion addict.

    9. Alice in Chains: the best of the Seattle grunge wave, hands down. Very original and influential sound; Layne Staley OD’d on H.. RIP, dude.

    10. Kiss – live show: check. Influentiality: check. Booze ‘n drugs: double-check. Detroit Rock City, ya muthaf**kers..

  66. tywur says:

    right. (sarcasim)

    there is no question that my list is right

    1. the doors
    2. the dead
    3. metallica
    4. nirvana
    5. 3 way tie- ccr, neil young, eagles
    6. van halen

  67. dcbob says:

    I’d have to go with the folks who give Little Feat the top grade. They were a band’s band – during most of the 70s, surveys of musicians always revealed that the pros considered LF the best band around. In DC, which like it or not is the most American city there is — Mid-Atlantic, very black, very redneck, very military in basic character, immigrants from everywhere else in the country and the world — WHFS would announce Little Feat concerts at the Cap Center and they would sell out three shows the day they were announced. And everybody I mean everybody came to the shows – black, white, upscale, downscale. It was the most democratic (small d) audience I’ve ever seen at any show of any kind. The only reason they didn’t dominate is that mainstream radio stations wouldn’t play them, mainly because they didn’t fit into anybody’s cute little stereotypes. So Little Feat, to me, remains the quintessential American rock band, the one that every other band should strive to equal.

  68. Andre says:

    I have to but my two cents in because the best is AEROSMITH, THEY HAVE WANT THROUGH HIGH AND LOWS. They been back down and on top again. Thge group also up push hip-hop in the public eye while saving their on careers. Now even if the other groups are have good runs how many done what AEROSMITH did. They can be heavy like “Walk This Way” in the 70′s, a love ballet like I Don’t “Want to Miss a Thing” from the 90′s. So see if that can hold up in court.

  69. Darren Shupe says:

    I just wanted to point out that, in my opinion, Steely Dan’s most listenable work is on the boots from their 1974 live tour, the L.A. Record Plant show being the best. (There was another Record Plant in Sausalito.) Until I traded for a number of those ’74 shows a few years ago, I subscribed to the common notion that they were largely a studio band (and yes, they later became one). But in 1974, they rocked like very few bands I’ve ever heard. There’s an almost ten-minute “Do It Again” on the Record Plant show that every fan should hear. I’m firmly convinced that their live work at that time is the crown of their very illustrious career.

    As for other bands… Creedence, the Jefferson Airplane, the Allman Brothers Band, Chicago (the Terry Kath years), and the Dead all come to mind. All obvious choices, but I think a group has to hit a certain popularity threshold to be considered a “great American band.” Otherwise, I’d be nominating the Music Machine and the Count Five.



  70. john says:

    Doesn’t this all depend on what you consider “great?” Greatest impact on rock’s development? Biggest hits? Longevity? Greatest influence outside the U.S. Most popular among most americans? Greatest players? Best songs? All of the above? All of the above could refer to the Beach Boys-they influenced the rock band with the greatest amount of American number ones in history, the Beatles for one. The Beatles were stunned when they heard “Pet Sounds” and patterned “Sergeant Pepper” after it.

    the above statement is simply not true. i watched an interview with brian wilson who talked about how the beach boys were really full of themselves after they finished pet sounds.

    the album had not been released yet and they were sitting around relaxing, because they had finished their work…..when someone played seargent pepper for them, because it had been released.

    wilson talked about how after hearing seargent pepper, he and the other members of the beach boys knew that their album was nothing in comparisson.

  71. john says:

    …and there has not been enough mention of the jeffeson airplane…….most likely because it is difficult to seperate a great band like the airplane from the awful band that became starship.

    buffalo springfield?


  72. Darren Shupe says:

    I agree that the Buffalo Springfield and Santana should be on any such list. And, considering this once again, I’d add Love on the strength of their masterpiece, one of my ten favorite albums of all time, “Forever Changes.”

    I’m wondering whether the concept needs to be expanded a bit to embrace some of the more seminal R&B groups as well. After all, without bands like the Flamingos, Moonglows, and Channels, and later some of the girl groups like the Crystals, Shirelles and Supremes, we wouldn’t have the soul genre and the innovations it brought to American popular music.

    And with that I almost forgot to add… Parliament/Funkadelic! :)


  73. Rob says:

    1. The Grateful Dead (Catalog, live shows, longevity)
    2. The Velvet Underground
    3. The Allman Brothers
    4. The Mothers of Invention
    5. The Doors
    6. Little Feat
    7. Jefferson Airplane
    8. Nirvana
    9. The White Stripes
    10. Blue Oyster Cult

  74. a true deadhead says:

    there is no question that the grateful dead were and still are (the dead) the greatest american rock and roll band. the sheer ability of 6 guys ( im leaving donna out of this) to meld together into one musical unit and explore true musical expression. They covered all the great classic rock n’ roll songs and made them sound even better…jonney b. goode, not fade away, good lovin’, dancing in the strteets, around & around…just to mention a few. If that doesnt make you the greatest rock n’ roll band, than maybe its the following they atracted. more than just fans, they are deadheads, true members of the grateful dead family who have had there life altered in some psychodelic way. And THERE WAS NOTHING LIKE GRATEFUL DEAD SHOW! it defined concert going. There is so much more to write, but those of you fortunate ones whos have experienced it are already believers, and those of you who have not are just empty.

    “…what a long strange trip it’s been”

  75. freddie says:

    Nothing like a Grateful Dead show? Thank God for that. I saw them in 1973 at Ally Pally. The most dreary evening of witless self-indulgence you could possibly imagine. What made it ten times worse was that they obviously thought they were marvellous. There’s a good reason the fans are called deadheads. The best live rock performance I ever saw was by an Irishman called Rory Gallagher. He was a good musician, not great, but superlative on stage. The best US rock band was MC5. The evidence is on ‘High Time’.

  76. Eric B says:

    Yay for never-ending threads! *laughs*

    1. Nirvana. Cobain and Grohl, had they grown together, could have become the American Lennon/McCartney. The Foo Fighters have become a great band in their own right, though a bit outside the top 10.

    2. Guns & Roses. They’re not *my* favorite, they weren’t entirely original, but noone encapsulates what American Rock n’ Roll is like G&R.

    3. The Greatful Dead. They never had the great album because they gave away the music in lieu of their fans paying for the experience.

    4. Aerosmith – Saying they don’t have the total body of work points to someone who listened to their singles and not their albums. They did have a few lapses, but they’ve had high points in each decade that have eclipsed other great bands.

    5. Tool. I know that my list is skewed, but I can’t count most of the American bands as bands if E Street Band is ignored. That kills Double Trouble, the Doors, The Beach Boys, and a host of others. (I put E Street and Doors above this, but not the Beach boys – Top 25 record? Undoubtedly. But they don’t have the body of work.)

    Tool deserves a mention for their sheer creativity, skill both live and in the recording studio, one of the more memorable frontmen in Rock with Maynard, solid songwriting. They’re the entire package.

    Honorable Mention: Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, ZZ Top, Blue Oyster Cult – don’t judge them by their singles.

    (Oh, and Talking Heads was New Wave – great band, but I’m not sure if it’s rock.)

  77. Boo says:


    “you get em from the peanut man”

    OK, so they used to perform in see-through plastic raincoats at “Dubs” in Gainesville, Fl back in the early 70s. So what if there wasn’t a single radio station in the USA that would dare to play their records? So what if every kid in the country knew the words to their songs? So what if they were black? So what if this band got more guys laid than any band in history? So what if they were the “Wolfman’s favorite band”? So What?

  78. Don says:

    Aerosmith,Guns and Roses,Skynyrd the Doors the Dead.. Credence, the Band, Allman bros, Jefferson Airplane the Guess Who Canned Heat …..just bring back the Winterland days and you’ll swear you’ve seen the best bands in the world… there all great!!! p.s. ever seen the stones in concert!!!! they sucked…. twice

  79. Paul says:

    Overall, for creativity, quality, originality, american rock just doesn’t and never has compared to brit rock/pop; don’t know why that has been the case.

    My own list is not just bands that could rock hard, it also takes into account other attributes; catchiness, humor, personality, intangibles, magic. Of couse my list is weighted towards my personal prefs; there are some bands that I realize were great, but were just too heavy for my taste (eg Alice in Chains). Also consider I am an amateur music fan not a professional, so certainly there could be bands I have largely missed (were the Velvets and X that good??). Certainly there have been some great bands that never made it, although in most cases part of what makes a great band is the aura of power that comes from real or coming success.

    Anyways, here is my list:

    10.Nirvana – To me, really only 1 1/2 LP’s of consistent fab material (all of Nevermind, half of In Utero) knocks them down the list. But whatever ‘it’ is Kurt had it.

    9. Van Halen – This band always made me uncomfortable, maybe cause I was always the studious, scrawny geek growing up that the DLR types in class would pick on. Yet I have to admit wow they could rock!

    8. Beach Boys – Some great pop, lush classic melodies and dreamy moodscapes from Pet Sounds, et al, but truth is on my britpop list they would be lucky to make the top 30.

    7. B-52′s – Well maybe it was little more than a schtick (sp?) but it worked magic and still does when I spin them.

    6. Replacements – Tremendous wayward fun and energy and a few genuine classic tracks in the mix as well.

    5. R.E.M. – A long string of super releases. It’s a little sad to see them run out of gas in their middle age; the last couple have been really lame.

    4. Flipper – Utterly unique and addictive hardcore band; I would guess no other band ever from anywhere fried brains, truly scared people, or turned heads inside out as they did. When they briefly came back from the dead a few years ago to record a cover of Nirvana’s ‘Scentless Apprentice’, when I heard it, it gave me huge chills.

    3. Pearl Jam – Basic rock, not really original, yet EV’s magentism, the energy and intensity in the early years was transformational. They still do it live but overall they are not what they once were despite a decent CD every few years.

    2. Cheap Trick – Their catalog (especially the first 4 or 5 releases 1976 – 1980) includes just a boatload of great great tunes, a lot of fun, surprising emotional depth and intensity at times, and always enough variety to keep you from getting bored. Still a great live band.

    1. Doors – Even with less than virtuoso musicians, still and always the standard for rock greatness.

    Others I really like:
    Stone Temple Pilots, Pixies, Aerosmith (70′s era only), Credence, Devo, Steely Dan, Fabulous T-birds, They Might Be Giants

    Not sure:
    Talking Heads – I love some of their popular songs, and DB is cool, but they never mastered chord changes or true musical depth, and as a result pale compared to similar britpop bands like XTC and Blur.

    No thanks:

  80. Joel says:

    I just love it how everyone loves to ignore good solid facts. I will lay it out point by point…

    1. Superb album sales: 100 million and counting in albums right there puts bon jovi right in the ball game. Name more than five american bands selling more?

    2. International: played in over 45 nations, for the past 15 years, been selling out stadiums in all of these nations. 92,000 showed up for their london concert, the thing is, the Stones played there with 120,000 as their biggest concert, BUT they played for free, imagine how many would show up if they did it for free? over 200,000 i’d say. Great popularity outside the US, even more outside than the US!

    3. Creativity: Creativity wise, every decade they experiement with new sounds, in the 80′s we all know they’re loud hair metal sounds, the 90′s, which i say is the most underrated period for bon jovi, most people think of bon jovi for the 80′s, and now, listen to the album ‘keep the faith’ 1992, you’ll reconsider bon jovi., where in the 90′s they experienmented with more in depth lyrics, piano driven ballads, a brass backup, and now in the 00′s, they’re embracing the new decade with more modern sounds, may not like it very much, but you have to give them respect, in 2004 they released a greatest hits album, with a twist, they re-recorded their classics completely with a different sounds, at least they’re not ripping people off with re-releasing the same lame crap greatest hits albums.

    4. Talent: Richie Sambora, a great underrated guitar master, listen to his solo albums. David Bryan, studied classic piano before he joined the band, listen to his solo albums. Jon Bon Jovi, superb lyricist. Tico Torres, a great drummer, listen to some of their 90′s stuff, ecspessially “keep the faith”.

    5. Long Career: 22 years and counting.

    6. And Still Goin: The band is getting ready for another album, “Have A Nice Day” meant in a sarcastic way, not letting people stomp over you, a representation of the band in their middle age, after living half their life, they’re ready to do what they want, not caring what people think. Without a doubt a huge stadium world tour to follow. A great ongoing representation of America. Name another American band that still has that traidtional “rock” feeling and is still mainstream? None.

  81. marc says:

    The Doors hands down they were the most influential of all these bands.

    1 The Doors
    2 CCR
    3 Van Halen
    4 Aerosmith
    5 Steely Dan

  82. tom says:


    this is too cool! it reminds me of me and my friends sitting around doing the same thing.

    a lot of these lists are great though i’ve gotta question some picks (bon jovi? journey? eagles? oak ridge boys?….just through that in to see if you were paying attention…ha-ha), but hey, what more “American” than having the freedom to pick your favorite American bands!

    though my favorite all time artist (along with his band) neil young and crazy horse, it’s great to see the reasons for some of these picks.and tim with his opinion about what to do with whoever picked bon jovi made me laugh outloud.

    keep up the good work and i’ll be back for more.


  83. Philip says:

    A few that have not been mentioned:

    1. The Byrds (Maybe the quint-essential American band, and paved the way for The Eagles, CSN, and many others.
    2. Buffalo Springfield (Stephen Stills headed band that never gets its real due)
    3. The 13th Floor Elevators
    4. Aerosmith (OK, they’re a Geffen product now, but in their day..)
    5. Blood Sweat & Tears (too jazzy for many, not purist enough for the jazz guys, but when they were led by Al Kooper, they put out a brand of jazz/rock/blue grass/blues that was hard to match.

  84. sooner says:

    the Velvet Underground

  85. McCabe says:

    From Barry’s original list, my list includes:
    The Doors
    Talking Heads
    The Eagles

    The Jimi Hendrix Experience should be included, they were not Jimi with “friends”
    - Mitch Mitchell certainly influenced many RnR drummers.

    Although I understand your thought process with regard to Aerosmith, they still rock. I’d include them.

    The Ramones were a fun-ass band, no doubt about it. But as far as musicianship, well – that just wasn’t what they were about. Not applicable to this particular list – but I’ll still play them at 11 when no one is home and dance around like an idiot.

    The Dead would need to be included on the list – just ‘cos (using your criteria – for live performance, there’s STILL nothing like a dead show).

    I loved The Velvet Underground, but perhaps a bit too avant garde for this list. But Lou Reed and The Animals (unless you count that as a solo act with backup band) should be considered.

    Although I don’t agree with your eliminating the Allman Bros. due to their being southern rock, it’s your list – so I’ll play by your rules. Southern Rock IS blues based rock and roll with a twang – truly an American invention.

    Thanks for the fun.. I enjoy your site and love your blogs.


  86. Peter says:

    A view from down under.

    I can’t believe how some bands have rated a mention. Who ever plays a guns and roses album these days? If you are going to rubbish the likes of the eagles as 70′s rubbish well g & r falls straight into the 80′s rubbish bin.

    Without doubt when u think of american bands u think immediately of the doors and the beach boys whether u like them or not.

    Others that spring easlily to mind are talking heads and blondie (why hasn’t someone mentioned them). Others u cant leave out are CCR, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, allman Bros, doobie bros and the band.

    So from my non american view
    1) Doors
    2) Beach Boys
    3) CCR
    4) Nirvana
    5) Talking Heads
    6) The Band
    7) Doobie Bros
    8) Pearl Jam
    9) Alman Bros.
    10) Blondie

    As Australia claims every decent band out of New Zealand (Crowded House etc) as their own I cant see anything wrong with including Canadian bands here.

  87. Idaho_Spud says:

    Did anyone mention SRV and Double Trouble?


    BR: Not a group!

  88. [...] Last week, I resurrected a post that asked the question “Who Is Greatest American Rock and Roll Band?” [...]

  89. Tee Time says:

    After reading the comments I realize that most of them have never heard of these bands, except for a select few. Forget Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Journey and all of those other over played cheesy groups. If you want to hear the bands that inspired the bands like Nirvana, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc. Take some time and pick-up a few cd’s by the Pixies and X. Not your main stream by any means, but it will definitely keep you rockin’.

  90. eman says:

    Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, and the Grateful Dead. Look at the members of each and the careers they went on to have, and the other genres of music they spawned and and the other bands (Eagles, etc.) they inspired.

  91. basic bill says:

    The J. Geils Band could blow ANYONE off the stage. Best live band…EVER!! Then, of course, ZZ TOP….Awesome band. Reinventing themselves for the 80′s with ‘Eliminator’ was just icing on an already creditable career…

  92. Idaho_Spud says:

    Anybody ever heard of a minor and uninfluential band with a small body of work called ‘Metallica’?

    The Offspring? Audioslave? Rage Against the Machine? Linkin’ Park (grammy winners)

    I think folks need to listen to something written in the past 20 years! I burned out out on classic rock the *first* time they overplayed it back in the 60s and 70s. I can’t even tolerate listening to half the groups mentioned above anymore. Ugh.

  93. alanjz1 says:

    Any list of ‘The Greatest US Rock and Roll Bands of All Time’ needs to include these 3 bands:
    1. The Byrds- They had their own unique sound thanks to Roger McGuinn’s distinctive 12 string Rickenbacker guitar; they helped propel Dylan into every college dorm room across the country; influenced the Beatles (amongst along list); instrumental in helping to create both folk-rock and country-rock; and a fertile incubator of great talent, Gram Parsons and David Crosby to name just two.

    2. The Band- Besides being impeccable musicians both in the studio and in live performance, they helped create what Greil Marcus called ‘The Old, Weird America’. As a backing band for Dylan on one of his greatest albums, The Basement Tapes’, (and backing band for his infamous 1966 tour, sans Levon Helm) through their own great, unique repertoire of songs that drew upon the rich, uncharted roads of ‘Americana’, they produced some of best American music of any band, ever.

    3.- The Grateful Dead- Just for longevity they need to be included. But they also traversed nearly every phase of American music. Beginning with their psychedelic early albums that evolved into country-folk-rock (culminating in ‘American Beauty’), into bluegrass, jazz, jam and never ending touring band. They are the quintessential American band for holding it all together under one roof for an astonishing 3 decades.

    My 2 cents.

  94. ConscienceofaConservative says:

    CCR definitely on the list

  95. [...] rules (like last time) — the only requirements: 1) Funny and 2) [...]

  96. pmorrisonfl says:

    I picked up the Rhino ‘The Very Best Of Chicago: Only The Beginning’ compilation for cheap on Amazon mp3 recently, and I have to admit I’d forgotten just how hard Chicago rocked in the early 70′s. Maybe it’s been obscured by 20-30 or so years of MOR schlock, but they were a great rock band once. Go listen to ‘Chicago Transit Authority’ for more arguments for why they should be included in this discussion, but the interesting thing to me is that they aren’t.