Pop/Rock  •  Rock & Roll/Roots

Bar Band

By the 1970s, very few bands were keeping the simple, joyous spirit and sound of early rock & roll alive. Hard rock, prog-rock, and (later) punk either ignored or reformulated rock traditions, according to very different aesthetics. But outside of the prevailing trends, there was still a small audience who loved old-fashioned, good-time rock & roll. That sort of music was the primary influence for the bar band style, a genial brand of rock & roll equally suited to dancing, drinking, partying, or just hanging out. Bar bands drew mostly from early rock & roll and R&B (particularly Chuck Berry and Little Richard), but also from other artists who'd reinterpreted and updated those sounds, like the Rolling Stones, the Faces, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Seger. The longest-lived (and most eclectic) bar band was Florida's NRBQ, who recorded throughout the '70s (and far beyond); the style also had a rough British equivalent in the '70s pub rock movement. But the style really took off when Bruce Springsteen's '70s albums helped reinvigorate old-time rock & roll in the eyes of both critics and the public; Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers, and John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band were some of the bar bands who scored record deals in Springsteen's wake. Bar bands reached their greatest popularity in the '80s, when the similar Heartland rock and roots rock styles were at their peak, and when groups like Huey Lewis & the News and the Georgia Satellites scored major hit singles. The style endured into the '90s, though it wasn't quite as visible as before.