The Allman Brothers Band is a pioneering and innovative Southern rock and blues group from Macon, Georgia originally popular in the 1970s.
The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East, their 1971 breakthrough album
The band was formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1969, and consisted of Duane Allman (slide guitar and lead guitar), Gregg Allman (vocals,
organ), Dickey Betts (lead guitar, vocals), Berry Oakley (bass guitar), Butch Trucks (drums) and Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson (drums).
The actual Allman Brothers, Duane and Gregg, had originally been in a garage band called the Escorts, then the Allman Joys and finally the
Hour Glass. The Hour Glass had released two failed albums from Liberty Records. They were all released from the contract except Gregg, who
Liberty thought might have some commercial potential. Duane Allman, with a stint as a session guitarist in Muscle Shoals, Alabama on Johnny
Jenkins Ton-Ton Macoute album behind him (it was to be Duane's first solo album before the ABB was formed), started jamming with Dickey Betts,
Butch Trucks and Berry Oakley in Jacksonville. Duane brought in Jaimoe, a drummer he had played with before and the nucleus of the band was
formed. Gregg was in Los Angeles, fulfilling the HourGlass contract with Liberty Records. He was summoned back to Jacksonville by Duane to
"fill out the band and sing."
The Allman Brothers Band played numerous shows in the south before releasing their debut album, The Allman Brothers Band. Critics loved
it, but the blues-rock album found few listeners, attracting only a cult audience. Most of the record had a blues-rock sound, but "Dreams", a
spacey number in 12/8 time, would provide the framework for some of their best jams.
Idlewild South (1970), the followup, produced by Tom Dowd, was a massive critical success, and managed to be quite lucrative, as well.
The upbeat "Revival" and the moody-but-resolute "Midnight Rider" showed the band getting more adept at shorter, radio-friendly song forms.
(It was after the release of Idlewild South that Duane Allman recorded the classic Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs with
Eric Clapton's Derek and the Dominos group.)
1971 saw the release of a live album, At Fillmore East, recorded on Friday and Saturday, March 12 and March 13, of that year at the
legendary rock venue, the Fillmore East. The album was another huge hit, and is now remembered as one of the best live albums of all time.
It showcased the band's unique mixture of jazz, classical music, hard rock, and blues, with arrangements propelled by Duane Allman and Betts'
dual lead guitars, Oakley's long, melodic "third guitar" bass runs, the rhythm section's pervasively percussive yet dynamically flexible
foundation, and Gregg Allman's gritty vocals and excellent piano/organ play which completed the wall of sound that made up the band. The
band's rendition of Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues" was a straight-ahead opener, the powerful "Whipping Post" became the standard
for a long, epic jam that never lost interest, while the ethereal-to-furious "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" invited comparisons to John
Coltrane and Miles Davis.
The Allman Brothers received the honor of being the last act to play the Fillmore East before it closed in June. The final shows there achieved
legendary status, partly due to bands literally playing all night; in 2005 Gregg Allman would relate how the jamming musicians lost track of
time, not realizing it was dawn until the side doors of the Fillmore were opened and the morning light poured in. The band continued to tour;
decades later, a special-order recording of one of their final concerts in this lineup, SUNY at Stonybrook 9/19/71, would be released.
It reveals that Duane Allman's slide guitar playing on "Dreams" and other songs was touching the farthest reaches of that instrument and his
Tragedy and triumph
Duane Allman died not long after the Fillmore East album was certified gold, killed in a motorcycle accident on October 29, 1971 in
Macon, Georgia (at the corner of Hillcrest and Bartlett) when he collided with a truck. The loss of their leader was hard for the group to
bear, but they quickly decided to carry on. The album continued to gain FM radio airplay, with stations even playing 13-minute and 23-minute
selections, but with many new listeners and fans not even aware of the loss the band and the music world had suffered.
The album art of Allman Brothers' 1972 album, Eat a Peach
Dickey Betts filled Duane's former role in completing the last album he participated in, Eat a Peach. The album was often softer ("Blue
Sky", "Little Martha") and wistful in tone ("Melissa", "Ain't Wastin' Time No More"), capped by the 34-minute "Mountain Jam" reverie taken from
the Fillmore East concerts. Writer Greil Marcus described parts of Eat a Peach as an "after-the-rain celebration ... ageless, seamless ...
front-porch music stolen from the utopia of shared southern memory."
The group played some concerts as a five-man band, then decided to add Chuck Leavell, a pianist, to gain another lead instrument but without
directly replacing Duane. This new configuration appeared on ABC's In Concert late-night television program.
Shortly after that, on November 11, 1972, Berry Oakley died in another motorcycle accident, only three blocks away (near Napier Avenue and
Inverness Street) from the site of Duane Allman's fatal accident. (The common retelling, that it was at the exact same site as Duane Allman's
death, is incorrect, as is the legend that the Eat a Peach album is named after the kind of truck involved in Allman's accident.)
Oakley was replaced by Lamar Williams at the end of 1972, in time to finish the next album, Brothers and Sisters (1973). The album
marked a shift of direction towards country music, due partially to the loss of Tom Dowd, as well as the increasing influence of Dickey Betts,
who soon became the bandleader. Brothers and Sisters included the group's best known hits, "Ramblin' Man" and "Jessica"; the former
reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 as a single, while the latter was a seven-minute instrumental hit. The album was accessible and laid-back,
and the band was bigger than ever.
By this time, the Allman Brothers Band had also become one of the top concert draws in the country. Probably their most celebrated performance
of the era took place on July 27, 1973 at the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen outside Watkins Glen, New York, in a joint appearance with The Grateful
Dead and The Band. Approximately 600,000 people were estimated to have made it to the racetrack where this massive outdoor festival took place.
In the wake of the Allman Brothers Band's success during this time, many other Southern rock groups rose to prominence, including the Marshall
Tucker Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Another peak of the Allmans' success came on New Year's Eve, 1973, when promoter Bill Graham arranged for a nationwide radio broadcast of
their concert from San Francisco's Cow Palace. New arrangements of familiar tunes such as "You Don't Love Me" went out over the airwaves,
as the show stretched out over three sets, with Grateful Dead members Jerry Garcia and Bill Kreutzmann as well as Boz Scaggs sitting in.
Turmoil and dissolution
Personality conflicts started to tear the band apart, however. Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts both began solo careers, while Allman married
Cher, separated quickly, reconciled, and eventually separated again, all in a storm of publicity; drug abuse took its toll on the entire band.
Musically, Betts and Leavell were pulling in opposite directions, with Allman trying to mediate. The tension resulted in the uneven Win,
Lose or Draw> (1975), with some members not participating or doing so only from afar. The few stand-out tracks included a stop-start take
on Muddy Waters' "Can't Lose What You Never Had", Betts' instrumental "High Falls", and Allman's Jackson Browne-influenced title song. The band
still managed to limp along until 1976, when Gregg Allman was arrested on federal drug charges and agreed to testify against a friend and
employee of the band. Leavell, Johanson, and Williams formed Sea Level, while Betts worked on his solo career. All four swore that they would
never work with Allman again.
Capricorn Records released several albums of previously unreleased material and live albums, such as Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar
Gas in 1976; some of these sold reasonably well.
The group reformed in 1978 and released Enlightened Rogues (1979). It featured new members Dan Toler (guitar) and David "Rook" Goldflies
(bass), who replaced Leavell and Williams, both of whom refused to rejoin the band in order to concentrate on Sea Level. "Crazy Love" was a
minor hit single, and the instrumental "Pegasus" got some airplay, but overall The Allman Brothers Band was no longer as popular as before,
and financial woes plagued both the group and Capricorn Records, which collapsed in 1979. PolyGram took over the catalogue, and the Allman
Brothers Band signed to Arista Records. The group released a pair of critically-slammed albums, firing Jaimoe in the process, and then
disbanded once again in early 1982.
In 1989 The Allman Brothers reunited and returned to popular consciousness of the American public, spurred by the release of archival material
by PolyGram and the start of regular appearances on the American summer outdoor amphitheatre circuit. Warren Haynes (guitar, vocals), Johnny
Neel (keyboards and harmonica) and Allen Woody (bass guitar) joined, while Leavell and Williams remained apart; the former on tour with the
Rolling Stones, and Lamar Williams dead from cancer in 1983. After signing to Epic Records, the band released Seven Turns (1990), which
got excellent reviews. This was followed by Neel's departure and a series of moderately-selling, but critically well-received albums including
Shades Of Two Worlds (1991) and Where It All Begins (1994, certified Gold 1998), both featuring new percussionist Marc Quinones.
Warren Haynes and Allen Woody formed their own side project Gov't Mule in 1994. In 1995, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame and in 1996 they won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for "Jessica". When Haynes and Woody decided to concentrate
full-time on Gov't Mule in 1997, Haynes was replaced on guitar by Jack Pearson, while Woody was replaced on bass by Oteil Burbridge. Derek
Trucks, nephew of original Brother Butch Trucks, replaced Pearson in 1999.
In 2000, the band forced Dickey Betts to sit out the summer tour due to personal and professional reasons. For this tour, he was replaced by
Jimmy Herring. Betts then filed a lawsuit against the other three original members and the summer separation turned into a permanent divorce.
The band did release the live CD Peakin' At The Beacon which chronicled the now-annual March tradition of a many-night stand at the
Beacon Theater in New York City. Also that same year, former bassist Allen Woody was found dead on August 26th.
Warren Haynes was asked to rejoin the band and after a successful Beacon Run, decided to work in both the Allman Brothers and Gov't Mule at
the same time (he was later to tour with Phil Lesh and Friends as well as The Dead in the summer of 2004 which earned him the reputation as
the hardest working man in rock and roll). The Haynes- produced Hittin' the Note was released in 2003 to popular and critical acclaim,
as was the Live At the Beacon Theatre DVD film (2003, certified Gold 2003). The live CD One Way Out 2004 also chronicled the
The Allman Brothers garnered back to back Grammy Award nominations in 2003 and 2004 in the category of Best Rock Instrumental for performances
of "Instrumental Illness" from Hittin' The Note and One Way Out. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named Duane Allman, Warren
Haynes, Dickey Betts, and Derek Trucks to their list of 100 greatest guitarists of all time, with Allman coming in at #2 and Trucks being the
youngest guitarist on their list. The Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks lineup continued the Allman Brothers Band's connection with younger music
fans via concert pairings with popular jam bands moe. and String Cheese Incident, among others. The Allman Brothers were a major attaction at
the Bonnaroo Music Festival in 2003 and 2005.
For many years, the Allman Brothers' song "Jessica" was closely tied to the BBC television series Top Gear, and used as its theme tune.
The current theme tune is a significantly reworked electronic version of the song. "Jessica" was also featured in a series of commercials in
2004 for the supermarket chain Publix, usually featuring scenes of happy family picnics. In 2005, the song "Melissa" was used in the soundtrack
of the film Brokeback Mountain.
The Beacon Theatre
The Allman Brothers Band first played The Beacon Theatre in September of 1989 as part of their reunion tour that supported the release of
their boxed set, Dreams. These few dates began a love affair with the band and the intimate theater located on Manhattan's upper west side
that continues to today. In 1992 and 1994 they played some Spring dates, and in 1996 began what has become an annual set of shows known
among the faithful fans as 'the Beacon run'.
The band is well acquainted with playing in New York City, having recorded their legendary "At Fillmore East" album there in 1971 with their
original lineup. It seems they approach each year much like a sports team, with each "season's" opening day taking place in New York. In recent
years, the Beacon run has become special for the many guest who have joined the band onstage as well as serving as a forum for experimentation
of new sounds, band members and songs. In 2005, most shows included an extended acoustic set that varied in content from show to show.
In 2006 the band played fourteen nights spread among three weekends. On practically every night, the they offered something special. A particular
highlight was the show on March 13th that was the 35th anniversary of the Fillmore East show that comprised their legendary album. That evening
they recreated the album as their first set -- with the album cover projected in full view behind the stage -- and then brought out ABB alumnus
Chuck Leavell to play keyboards with Gregg Allman during the second set.
Many have considered this to be the band's most successful and musically diverse outing, with 90 different songs highlighting the shows.
Throughout March the Band brought a wide variety of venerable bluesmen, classic rock legends and present-day stars to the stage, with each
night bringing a new special guest.
On the Saturday before his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Gary Rossington appeared for a run through of Skynyrd's "Simple
Man" with Peter Frampton joining in later on "Born Under A Bad Sign." The song reemerged on another night with Mountain's Leslie West. Robert
Randolph, the "Hendrix of the pedal steel guitar" showed his stuff on a "Turn On Your Lovelight" jam and Ben Harper brought his lap steel
guitar for renditions of "Midnight Rider" and "Southbound." The Allmans jammed not just with friends but family too. Trucks' wife Susan
Tedeschi appeared on numerous nights and Devon Allman, Gregg's son, collaborated on a reading of "Midnight Rider."
Awards and recognition
- Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, 1996, "Jessica"
- Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1995
- The Allman Brothers Band (1969)
- Idlewild South (1970)
- At Fillmore East (live, 1971)
- Eat a Peach (partly live, 1972)
- Beginnings (1973), a re-release of the band's first two albums
- Brothers and Sisters (1973)
- Win, Lose or Draw (1975)
- The Road Goes On Forever (compilation, 1975)
- Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas (live, 1976)
- Enlightened Rogues (1979)
- Reach for the Sky (1980)
- Brothers of the Road (1981)
- Dreams (box set, 1989)
- Seven Turns (1990)
- A Decade of Hits 1969-1979 (compilation, 1991)
- Shades of Two Worlds (1991)
- Live at Ludlow Garage: 1970 (1991)
- An Evening With the Allman Brothers Band: First Set (live, 1992)
- Where It All Begins (1994)
- Legendary Hits (compilation, 1994)
- An Evening With the Allman Brothers Band: Second Set (live, 1995)
- Peakin' at the Beacon (live, 2000)
- Hittin' the Note (2003)
- One Way Out (live, 2004)
- Stand Back: The Anthology (compilation, 2004)
- The Essential Allman Brothers Band: The Epic Years (compilation, 2004)
- Gold (compilation reissue of expanded The Road Goes On Forever, 2005)
- Duane Allman (1969-1971) - guitar
- Gregg Allman (1969-1975, 1979-1982, 1989-present) - vocals, keyboards, guitar
- Dickey Betts (1969-1975, 1979-1982, 1989-2000) - guitar, vocals
- Berry Oakley (1969-1972) - bass, vocals
- Butch Trucks (1969-1975, 1979-1982, 1989-present) - drums
- Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson (1969-1975, 1979-1980; 1989-present) - drums
- Chuck Leavell (1972-1976) - keyboards
- Lamar Williams (1972-1976) - bass
- Dan Toler (1979-1982) - guitar
- David "Rook" Goldflies (1979-1982) - bass
- David Toler (1980-1982) - drums
- Mike Lawler (1980-1982) - keyboards
- Warren Haynes (1989-1997; 2000-present) - guitar, vocals
- Allen Woody (1989-1997) - bass
- Johnny Neel (1989-1990) - keyboards, harmonica
- Marc Quinones (1991-present) - percussion, backing vocals
- Oteil Burbridge (1997-present) - bass, drums, backing vocals
- Jack Pearson (1997-1999) - guitar, vocals
- Derek Trucks (1999-present) - guitar
- Jimmy Herring (2000) - guitar
- Freeman, Scott. Midnight Riders: The Story of the Allman Brothers Band. Little, Brown & Co. 1995.
- The Allman Brothers Band: Dreams liner notes
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