Great song: “The Three Great Alabama Icons” – Drive-by Truckers

Patterson Hood is a great storyteller. I really like the way he deals with “the duality of the Southern Thing” and his many stories from & about Alabama.

The lyrics to this particular song is one of my Hood favourites. Anybody with even a remote interest in american history, and/or Alabama, should read (and listen to) this one.


I grew up in North Alabama, back in the 1970’s, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth
Speaking of course of the Three Great Alabama Icons George Wallace, Bear Bryant and Ronnie Van Zant
Now Ronnie Van Zant wasn’t from Alabama, he was from Florida, He was a huge Neil Young fan
But in the tradition of Merle Haggard writin’ Okie from Muskogee to tell his dad’s point of view about the hippies in Vietnam, Ronnie felt that the other side of the story should be told.
And Neil Young always claimed that Sweet Home Alabama was one of his favorite songs.
And legend has it that he was an honorary pall bearer at Ronnie’s funeral – such is the Duality of the Southern Thing
~The Three Great Alabama Icons

From Wikipedia:

Ronald Wayne “Ronnie” Van Zant (January 15, 1948 – October 20, 1977) was an American lead vocalist, primary lyricist, and a founding member of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. He was the older brother of the founder and vocalist of 38 Special, Donnie Van Zant, and of current Lynyrd Skynyrd lead vocalist Johnny Van Zant.

And Bear Bryant wore a cool lookin’ red checkered hat and won football game and there’s few things more loved in Alabama than football and the men who know how to win at it
So when the Bear would come to town, there’d be a parade.
And me, I was one a’ them pussy boys cause I hated football, so I got a guitar but a guitar was a poor substitute for a football with the girls in my high school So my band hit the road and we didn’t play no Skynyrd either
I came of age rebellin’ against the music in my high school parkin’ lot It wasn’t till years later after leavin’ the South for a while that I came to appreciate and understand the whole Skynyrd thing and its misunderstood glory
I left the South and learned how different people’s perceptions of the Southern Thing was from what I’d seen in my life…….
~The Three Great Alabama Icons

From Wikipedia:

Paul William “Bear” Bryant (September 11, 1913 – January 26, 1983) was an American college football player and coach. He was best known as the longtime head coach of the University of Alabama football team. During his 25-year tenure as Alabama’s head coach, he amassed six national championships and thirteen conference championships. Upon his retirement in 1982, he held the record for most wins as head coach in collegiate football history with 323 wins, a record broken by John Gagliardi in 1996. ……….. He was also known for his trademark black and white houndstooth or gingham hat, deep voice, casually leaning up against the goal post during pre-game warmups, and frequently holding his rolled-up game plan while on the sidelines.


Which leads us to George Wallace

Now Wallace was for all practical purposes the Governor of Alabama from 1962 until 1986 Once, when a law prevented him from succeeding himself he ran his wife Lerline in his place and she won by a landslide
He’s most famous as the belligerent racist voice of the segregationist South
Standing in the doorways of schools and waging a political war against a Federal Government that he decried as hypocritical
And Wallace had started out as a lawyer and a judge with a very progressive and humanitarian track record for a man of his time.
But he lost his first bid for governor in 1958 by hedging on the race issue, against a man who spoke out against integration
Wallace ran again in ’62 as a staunch segregationist and won big, and for the next decade spoke out loudly
He accused Kennedy and King of being communists. He was constantly on national news, representing the “good” people of Alabama
And you know race was only an issue on TV in the house that I grew up in
Wallace was viewed as a man from another time and place
And when I first ventured out of the South, I was shocked at how strongly Wallace was associated with Alabama and its people
Ya know racism is a worldwide problem and it’s been since the beginning of recorded history and it ain’t just white and black
But thanks to George Wallace, it’s always a little more convenient to play it with a Southern accent.
~The Three Great Alabama Icons



And bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd attempted to show another side of the South
One that certainly exists, but few saw beyond the rebel flag
And this applies not only to their critics and detractors, but also from their fans and followers. So for a while, when Neil Young would come to town, he’d get death-threats down in Alabama
Ironically, in 1971, after a particularly racially charged campaign, Wallace began backpedaling, and he opened up Alabama politics to minorities at a rate faster than most Northern states or the Federal Government. And Wallace spent the rest of his life trying to explain away his racist past, and in 1982 won his last term in office with over 90% of the black vote

Such is the Duality of the Southern Thing

And George Wallace died back in ’98 and he’s in Hell now, not because he’s a racist
His track record as a judge and his late-life quest for redemption make a good argument for his being, at worst, no worse than most white men of his generation, North or South
But because of his blind ambition and his hunger for votes, he turned a blind eye to the suffering of Black America. And he became a pawn in the fight against the Civil Rights cause

Fortunately for him, the Devil is also a Southerner

So this song’s going to take place in Hell, told from the Devil’s point of view, as he does what any good Southerner would do when company’s coming. He brewed up some good sweet tea and whups up some Southern hosptality for the arrival of the new guest.
~The Three Great Alabama Icons

George Wallace standing @ doorway of the University of Alabama ……….. you know the story…….


And finally some music….

Album version:
Live @ Buster’s 10/20/2012
Video – The National – 10.27.2012 (also includes “The Southern Thing”)


6 thoughts on “Great song: “The Three Great Alabama Icons” – Drive-by Truckers”

  1. Really like and respect DBT but if I found this song on my cd I’d want my money back. Nothing new here except grouping those 3 together.

  2. There is no need to feel sadness for those who believe and know for certain that God is not a liar or a fool and neither is the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes sir, there most certainly is a hell, and a heaven. But heaven is not a place to play golf and attend rock concerts. Heaven is Heaven because God dwells there in all of His Holiness. Hell is hell because God is not there in His abiding presence It is not so much our evil deeds that send us to hell, but not believing God. If a person does not believe, they can ask God to help them to believe the Truth. there can be no argument that I am aware of that can convince a person about such things, and no argument that can convince a person with a deep personal conviction that such things are true. What matters are song lyrics in the fasce of such weightier and eternal issues? I urge you to at least seek God and His Truth in His Word. not everybody that says they are a Christian is one, and the phony ones can cause much damage. It won’t hurt to ask and seek and knock, even if you are sure now.

  3. Your comment about George Wallace being in hell was extremely offensive. I have no idea of the man’s eternal state and neither do you. that is between a man and God. God, through the Bible, made it clear that the only way to salvation was through His dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes it seems obvious to men who is or isn’t saved from their sins, but men are often wrong. The liberals in this country and elsewhere who have an obvious hatred of a just ad holy God, and hatred for His believing Christian followers, are in far more danger of damnation than a man who supported segregating the races, particularly in Wallace’s times, which were far different than they are now. Please be careful about whom you want to place in eternal torment, it may well be that you are in need of the Savior yourself.

    1. Hi John,

      I was just quoting the lyrics written by Patterson Hood. But I like the lyrics off course, hence the post.

      BTW I don’t believe there is no Hell or in eternal torment.. and I only feel sadness for people who do.
      I’m not a religious person at all.

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