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Legends of Southern Rock: The Allman Brothers Band

by Michael Buffalo Smith

The Legends of Southern Rock Series 


The Allman Brothers Band
is pretty much universally accepted as the premier Southern Rock band, the first, the founding fathers. 

Originally formed in Jacksonville, Florida on March 26, 1969, the band included 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).

Brothers Duane and Gregg had originally been begun playing in a Florida band called the Escorts. Then later on they were a part of both the Allman Joys and The Hour Glass. (Which included Pete Carr, Johnny Sandlin and Paul Hornsby) The Hour Glass released two albums from Liberty Records.

“Oh, yeah, we opened for Buffalo Springfield, and actually played on a show with The Doors and at the Whiskey,” Johnny Sandlin told GRITZ in an interview. “Janis sat in with us. Eric Burdon and Paul Butterfield too. Anyone that heard the band fell in love with Duane and Gregg both and they thought that they were great. Which they certainly should have”.

Following the breakup of Hour Glass, Duane Allman found himself in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, recording at FAME Studios. He added his smoking guitar work to recordings by Wilson Pickett (who first called Duane “Sky Man,” which combined with the knick-name “Dog” to become Skydog), Aretha Franklin and many others.  He also played on Johnny Jenkins Ton-Ton Macoute album, a record that was supposed to be Duane's first solo album before the ABB was formed. Duane started jamming with Dickey Betts, Butch Trucks and Berry Oakley in Jacksonville. Eddie Hinton, with whom Duane Allman had played in Muscle Shoals, was considered for the position of guitarist in the Brothers, but chose instead to join the Muscle Shoals studio band. Duane brought in Jaimoe, who had played behind Otis Redding. Gregg was in Los Angeles working when he was asked back to Jacksonville by Duane to be the lead singer. It was no time before the band relocated to Macon, Georgia and signed with Phil Walden at Capricorn Records, working with producer Johnny Sandlin.


The Allman Brothers Band played anywhere and everywhere, from free shows in the park to the stages of The Fillmore. One of their most popular albums, At Fillmore East, produced by Tom Dowd, was recorded on March 12 and 13 of 1971, and released later that same year.

The Allman Brothers were the last act to play the Fillmore East before it closed in June of 1971.

 

Not long after the Fillmore East album was certified gold, Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident on October 29, 1971 in Macon, Georgia (at the corner of Hillcrest and Bartlett) when he lost control avoiding collision with a flatbed truck used to carry heavy pipe.

When GRITZ asked Gregg Allman back in 1999 the most important thing he had learned from his brother Duane, he didn’t miss a beat. “I think it would be to stick to your guns, and not to let anybody weasel you into their pattern, you know? Like trying to get you to play some other kind of music, or sign something by hook or crook, you know? I learned a lot of things from my brother, and I think I can safely say, vice-versa. But that’s one that really sticks out. Stick to how you really feel about things. Keep your own mind about things.”

The loss of their leader was hard for the group to take, but they decided to carry on. Dickey Betts played extra guitar parts to help complete the last album Duane participated in, Eat a Peach.

The group played a handful of concerts as a five-man band before hiring Chuck Leavell to play piano.

“I wanted a gig with a band like that sooo bad, guys that could really play, and that had something different and special,” Chuck Leavell told GRITZ in 2000. “But it came totally out of left field to be asked to come into the Allmans. ...Well, they had finished "Eat A Peach," and had done some dates, and I think they were trying to sort out their future. Gregg was to do a solo album, and Johnny Sandlin called me in to play on it. As it turned out, the rest of the Allmans came down to the studio, hanging out, and we just started jamming. We had lots of these fun jams between Gregg's solo sessions, and things just felt really good. After a couple of weeks of this, sometimes doing Gregg's music, and sometimes jamming with the Allmans, I get a call to have a meeting with the band and Phil Walden at his office. I didn't know what was up, but when they asked me to join the band I nearly fell over!”

Mere weeks later, on November 11, 1972, Berry Oakley died in another motorcycle accident, only three blocks from the site of Duane's accident (near Napier Avenue and Inverness Street). (The common retelling that it was at the exact same site as Duane's death is incorrect, as is the legend that the Eat a Peach album is named for what was being carried by the truck involved in Allman's accident.)

“Oakley and I were both young adults when we met, and we were both still searching for our style of playing,” recalled Dickey Betts in his 2000 GRITZ interview. “He had so much insight and vision. I was playing night clubs, and I was making what would be the equivalent now of about $3000 a week. Back then it was about $600 a week, which was real good money in the sixties. Oakley would come around and he's say "You gotta get out of these clubs, and do your original stuff!" I'd say, "But Oakley, we'll starve to death. I'm married, and I've got to pay rent." But he kept telling me we had to break out of it and kind of starve for a couple of years. I used to kid him, I'd say, "You're like my big brother, but you're younger than I am." (Laughs) He was the real visionary in the band.”

Oakley was replaced by Lamar Williams at the end of 1972, in time to finish the next album, Brothers and Sisters (1973).

Brothers and Sisters
included the group's best known hits, "Ramblin' Man," included in the film The Exorcist and "Jessica"; the former reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 as a single, while the latter was a seven-minute instrumental hit.

The Allman Brothers Band had become one of the top concert draws in the country, playing alongside The Grateful Dead and the now legendary Watkins Glen Jam on July 28, 1973 in front of 600,000.

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, the band members were going in different directions.

In 1976, Gregg Allman was arrested on federal drug charges. Leavell, Johanson, and Williams formed Sea Level, while Betts worked on his solo career.

The group reformed in 1978 with new members Dan Toler (guitar) and David "Rook" Goldflies (bass), replacing Leavell and Williams. However, financial problems 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 disbanded once again in early 1982.

Allman formed the Gregg Allman Band with the Toler brothers in 1982 and Dickey formed BHLT with Jimmy Hall, Leavell, Trucks and Goldflies, a band which lasted for just under two years.

In 1987, Epic Records signed both Allman and Betts to separate solo contracts. The Gregg Allman Band had a hit single with the title track to the 1987 album I'm No Angel. The Dickey Betts Band. featuring Warren Haynes on guitar was also formed during this time and released the album Pattern Disruptive in 1988.

In 1989 The Allman Brothers reunited hitting the American summer outdoor amphitheatre circuit. Warren Haynes (guitar, vocals), Johnny Neel (keyboards and harmonica), and Allen Woody (bass guitar) joined originals Allman, Betts, Jaimoe and Trucks. Leavell opted to go on tour again with the Rolling Stones, with whom he has been a touring member since 1982.

“Getting a chance to work with an institution like the Allman Brothers, that’s a once in a lifetime situation,” Warren told GRITZ in 2000. “I never really knew that they were thinking about getting back together. And they never kept it a secret, they didn’t want to get back together. They just said, “We’re never going to play together again.” But somewhere along the line, with Stevie Ray achieving success, and being so good at bringing blues back to the people, and Robert Cray coming into the picture, and The Grateful Dead was doing great, they started seeing opportunities for The Allman Brothers to be a valid entity again, and knowing that if the right combination of players could be brought in, it could be a great thing. So they had a little meeting, and they brought me and Johnny Neel into the band. Then they auditioned bass players, and they auditioned Woody, and he got the gig. It was just a great feeling, that first year, knowing that The Allman Brothers Band was coming back full force. I had always been a big fan. I’d grown up listening to that music, and it was just a great opportunity for somebody like me to come in, and be allowed to interject my personality into it.”

When Haynes and Woody decided to concentrate full-time on their Gov't Mule project 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 out of the band, citing for "personal and professional reasons." For this tour, he was replaced by Jimmy Herring. In 2000, former bassist Allen Woody was found dead in a hotel room in New York on August 26th.

The band released Peakin' At The Beacon that year which chronicled the now-annual March tradition of a multi-night stand at the Beacon Theater in New York City. The album's live version of Dickey's "High Falls" was nominated for a Grammy.

Warren Haynes began appearing with the Allmans again in 2000 and rejoined full-time in 2001, while also maintaining his active schedule with Gov't Mule. (Haynes also toured during this time with Phil Lesh and Friends, and later with The Dead in 2004).

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 legacy of The Allman Brothers Band continues today, with sold out stadium tours and no end in sight. The road truly does go on forever.

 

 



The Allman Brothers Band: Members

(1969-1971)    

    * Gregg Allman - organ, piano, guitar, vocals
    * Duane Allman - guitar, slide guitar
    * Dickey Betts - guitar, slide guitar, vocals
    * Berry Oakley - bass, vocals
    * Butch Trucks - drums, tympani
    * Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson - drums, percussion

(1971-1972)    

    * Gregg Allman - organ, piano, guitar, vocals
    * Dickey Betts - guitar, slide guitar, vocals
    * Berry Oakley - bass, vocals
    * Butch Trucks - drums, tympani
    * Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson - drums, percussion

(1972)    

    * Gregg Allman - organ, piano, guitar, vocals
    * Dickey Betts - guitar, slide guitar, vocals
    * Berry Oakley - bass, vocals
    * Butch Trucks - drums, tympani
    * Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson - drums, percussion
    * Chuck Leavell - piano, synthesizer, background vocals

(1972-1976)    

    * Gregg Allman - organ, piano, guitar, vocals
    * Dickey Betts - guitar, slide guitar, vocals
    * Butch Trucks - drums, tympani
    * Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson - drums, percussion
    * Chuck Leavell - piano, synthesizer, background vocals
    * Lamar Williams - bass, vocals

(1978-1980)    

    * Gregg Allman - organ, piano, guitar, vocals
    * Dickey Betts - guitar, slide guitar, vocals
    * Butch Trucks - drums, tympani
    * Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson - drums, percussion
    * Dan Toler - Guitar
    * David Goldflies - bass

(1980-1982)    

    * Gregg Allman - organ, piano, guitar, vocals
    * Dickey Betts - guitar, slide guitar, vocals
    * Butch Trucks - drums, tympani
    * Dan Toler - Guitar
    * David Goldflies - bass
    * David Toler - Drums
    * Mike Lawler - Keyboards

(1989-1990)    

    * Gregg Allman - organ, piano, guitar, vocals
    * Dickey Betts - guitar, slide guitar, vocals
    * Butch Trucks - drums, tympani
    * Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson - drums, percussion
    * Warren Haynes - guitar, slide guitar, vocals
    * Allen Woody - bass, background vocals
    * Johnny Neel - keyboards, harmonica

(1991-1997)    

    * Gregg Allman - organ, piano, guitar, vocals
    * Dickey Betts - guitar, slide guitar, vocals
    * Butch Trucks - drums, tympani
    * Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson - drums, percussion
    * Warren Haynes - guitar, slide guitar, vocals
    * Allen Woody - bass, background vocals
    * Marc Quinones - drums, percussion, background vocals

(1997-1999)    

    * Gregg Allman - organ, piano, guitar, vocals
    * Dickey Betts - guitar, slide guitar, vocals
    * Butch Trucks - drums, tympani
    * Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson - drums, percussion
    * Marc Quinones - drums, percussion, background vocals
    * Oteil Burbridge - bass, vocals
    * Jack Pearson - guitar, vocals

(1999-2000)    

    * Gregg Allman - organ, piano, guitar, vocals
    * Dickey Betts - guitar, slide guitar, vocals
    * Butch Trucks - drums, tympani
    * Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson - drums, percussion
    * Marc Quinones - drums, percussion, background vocals
    * Oteil Burbridge - bass, vocals
    * Derek Trucks - guitar, slide guitar

(2000)    

    * Gregg Allman - organ, piano, guitar, vocals
    * Butch Trucks - drums, tympani
    * Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson - drums, percussion
    * Marc Quinones - drums, percussion, background vocals
    * Oteil Burbridge - bass, vocals
    * Derek Trucks - guitar, slide guitar
    * Jimmy Herring - guitar

(2001-present)    

    * Gregg Allman - organ, piano, guitar, vocals
    * Butch Trucks - drums, tympani
    * Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson - drums, percussion
    * Warren Haynes - guitar, slide guitar, vocals
    * Marc Quinones - drums, percussion, background vocals
    * Oteil Burbridge - bass, vocals
    * Derek Trucks - guitar, slide guitar


The Legends of Southern Rock Series

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