It has been a long-standing joke among Yankees that so many Southerners affect the title of Colonel. It's a rather outdated stereotype, though. However, it did at one time have a very plausible historical basis. Kentucky, for example, was settled in the teeth of vigorous Amerindian opposition, which was fueled and funded by the English at Detroit. (Detroit should have been American territory, but the English refused to evacuate the post, and it was one of their first targets when the War of 1812--known to the English as the American War--began.) At the time of the War of 1812, the English also instigated the Amerindians of the American southeast, and in 1813, the settlers in Tennessee fought the Creek War. The officer who commanded those forces was Andrew Jackson. Jackson became a national hero when he routed an army of English veterans of the Napoleonic Wars at New Orleans in January, 1815, when the war had actually already ended.
After the Creek War, Andy Jackson rewarded his followers by organizing a state militia in Tennessee and making these men officers. That humbug American "hero" David Crockett, who was in fact AWOL (absent without leave) for most of the war, was made a Major in the militia. Isaac Brock, and Englishman who has become a great Canadian hero, began the War of 1812 by taking Detroit back from the Americans. His principle Amerindian ally was Tecumseh, a Shawnee leader who had attempted to organize aboriginal resistance to white settlement. There was a massacre of prisoners at Detroit by Indians, whom Tecumseh could not control. Nevertheless, Tecumseh (who is also a Canadian hero) became the devil incarnate for Americans, and as he had plagued the settlers in Kentucky, Kentucky volunteers flocked to the banner of "Mad Anthony" Wayne, a Revolutionary War veteran who took Detroit back, and chased the English and Tecumseh with the Indian allies into Upper Canada (Ontario). Tecumseh was killed at the battle of the Thames River near present-day London, Ontario.
After these wars, Andrew Jackson went into politics, as did so many veterans (including the totally clueless "Davey" Crockett--Crockett hated and did not use the name "Davey," until he became a popular figure, and then he used the name to attempt to further his quixotic political career). In the 1824 election, there was only one political party, the Democratic-Republicans, then usually known as the Republicans (and no relation to the modern Republicans), and the two vote winners were Jackson and John Quincy Adams, son of the second President. The deal was the Jackson would be President and Adams Vice President. However, as they tied in the electoral college, the election was thrown into the House of Representatives, where the Speaker, Henry Clay, swung to the vote to Adams, because he despised Jackson, and commented that he didn't think that slaughtering a few thousand Englishmen at New Orleans qualified a man to be the chief magistrate.
Jackson was infuriated, for obvious reasons, so taking the great American dictum of don't get mad, get even, he created the world's first modern political party, the Democratic Party. It was an amalgam of disillusioned Democratic-Republicans and frontier settlers, and he organized it around the militia officers who had profited from his patronage after the Creek War. The party was organized from the ground up, in military fashion, with war leaders, precinct leaders, county leaders and state organizations. He absolutely buried Adams in the 1828 election. He accomplished it because of his well-organized political party machine.
After the Creek War, the territories of Alabama and Mississippi were open to settlement, and the English were forced out of Florida. Most of the new settlers in these territories came from Tennessee, just as Tennessee and Kentucky had been settled from Virginia. Local militia officers became the community and political leaders. Of course, when a man reached the pinnacle of his career in the militia, he attained the rank of Colonel. When he retired from active public life, he was replaced by another militia officer promoted to Colonel, but retained the title as a courtesy. So it was literally true that the South abounded in Colonels, who were all men of standing and influence in their respective communities. There was no parallel structure in the North. The veterans of the Shawnee Wars and the War of 1812 in Canada from Kentucky took a similar route, and that state was soon oversupplied with Colonels.
There was once an American Basketball League, as competition for the National Basketball League. It didn't last, but while it did, there was a team in Louisville, Kentucky called the Kentucky Colonels. The institution of militia Colonels being the leading men in their communities was so well entrenched in Kentucky that eventually the Governor was given the power to confer the title on any prominent man, without regard to a military function. I don't know if it were true, but it was claimed that Harlan Sanders was a holder of the honorary title of Colonel, and many Americans still refer to KFC as "Colonel Sanders," as in, "Let's go get something for dinner at Colonel Sanders."