The Allman Brothers Band is an American rock/blues band once based in Macon, Georgia. The band was formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1969 by brothers Duane Allman (slide guitar and lead guitar) and Gregg Allman (vocals, organ, songwriting), plus Dickey Betts (lead guitar, vocals, songwriting), Berry Oakley (bass guitar), Butch Trucks (drums), and Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson (drums). While the band has been called the principal architects of Southern rock, they also incorporate elements of blues, jazz, and country music, and their live shows have jam band-style improvisation and instrumental songs.
The band achieved its artistic and commercial breakthrough in 1971 with the release of At Fillmore East, featuring extended renderings of their songs "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and "Whipping Post" and often considered one of the best live albums ever made. George Kimball of Rolling Stone magazine hailed them as "the best damn rock and roll band this country has produced in the past five years." A few months later, group leader Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident. The group survived that and the death of bassist Oakley in another motorcycle accident a year later; with replacement members Chuck Leavell and Lamar Williams, The Allman Brothers Band achieved its peak commercial success in 1973 with the album Brothers and Sisters and the hit single "Ramblin' Man". Internal turmoil overtook the band soon after; the group dissolved in 1976, reformed briefly at the end of the decade with additional personnel changes, and dissolved again in 1982.
In 1989, the group reformed with some new members and has been recording and touring since. A series of personnel changes in the late 1990s was capped by the departure of Dickey Betts. The group found stability during the 2000s with bassist Oteil Burbridge, Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, (the nephew of their drummer), serving as its guitarists, and became renowned for their month-long string of shows in New York City each spring. The band has been awarded eleven gold and five platinum albums between 1971 and 2005 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. Rolling Stone ranked them 52nd on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time in 2004.
The group was formed in Macon, GA, and consisted of Duane and Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks, and Jai Johanny Johanson. Brothers Duane and Gregg Allman grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida, and had been playing music publicly since the early 1960s. They formed a garage band called the Escorts in 1963, which evolved into the Allman Joys in 1965. From there the brothers formed Hour Glass and moved to Los Angeles. The Hour Glass released two failed albums on Liberty Records in 1967 and 1968. They were all released from the contract except Gregg, who Liberty thought might have some commercial potential. Gregg and Duane had previously met Butch Trucks and his band The 31st of February while touring as the Allman Joys, and decided to record an album with them in September 1968, shortly after the breakup of Hour Glass. This album was eventually released as Duane & Greg Allman on the Bold Records label in 1972. Duane Allman played on Wilson Pickett's hit version of "Hey Jude" and became the primary session guitarist for FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, recording with Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, Percy Sledge, and others. Allman 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 to play guitar, but Hinton refused in order to join the Muscle Shoals studio band. Duane brought in Jaimoe, a drummer he had played with in the past.
Gregg was in Los Angeles, fulfilling the Hour Glass contract with Liberty Records. He was summoned back to Jacksonville.
Duane Allman playing guitar at the Fillmore East, June 26 1971 (late show)
The Allman Brothers Band played numerous shows in the South before releasing their debut album, The Allman Brothers Band in 1969 to critical acclaim. It featured future jam standards "Whipping Post" and a 12/8 time slide guitar tour de force "Dreams". A cult following began to build.
Idlewild South was released in 1970 to critical success and improved sales. Produced by Tom Dowd it featured the upbeat "Revival" and the moody-but-resolute "Midnight Rider". After completing the Idlewild South sessions Duane Allman joined Eric Clapton and his ad hoc Derek and the Dominos to record the classic Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.
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. Rolling Stone listed At Fillmore East as number 49 on of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It showcased the band's mix of jazz, classical music, hard rock, and blues, with arrangements propelled by Duane's 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 Ray Charles-like vocals and piano/organ play which all completed the band's wall of sound. The rendering of Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues" was a straight-ahead opener, the powerful "Whipping Post" (with its famous 11/4 bass opening) became the standard for an 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 were the last act to play the Fillmore East before it closed in June 1971. The final shows 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, S.U.N.Y. at Stonybrook: Stonybrook, NY 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 both that instrument and his imagination.
Dickey Betts on guitar
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, The popular version of the accident was that he collided with the rear of a flatbed truck that had turned in front of him. However it has been revealed in recent years that the truck had turned before Allman was in view due to the road being on a slope. When Duane topped the crest of the hill it can be only assumed that he simply was going to swerve behind the truck. It is well known that Duane always broke speed limits on his motorcycle and on this day it would cost him his life. As he neared the truck and started the swerve the road dipped sharply and as he rode up out of the dip the motorcycle became airborne causing Duane to fly off the bike and land on the pavement. The motorcycle then landed on him with both sliding into a curb. Duane was taken to a hospital but never regained consciousness. He died from massive internal injuries. The group decided to carry on. The album continued to gain FM radio airplay, with stations even playing 13-minute and 23-minute selections.
Dickey Betts on lead guitar
Dickey Betts filled Duane's former role in completing the last album Duane participated in, Eat a Peach, released in February 1972. 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, however, directly replacing Duane. This new configuration debuted on November 2, 1972, on ABC's In Concert late-night television program.
Dickey Betts, Lead Guitar
Days later, on November 11, 1972, Berry Oakley died from head injuries he received in another motorcycle accident near Napier Avenue and Inverness Street, only three blocks from the site of Duane's accident the previous year. The common retelling that it was at exactly the 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. Both Duane and Berry were 24 years old, yet another coincidence.
Oakley was replaced by Lamar Williams at the end of 1972, in time to finish the next album, Brothers and Sisters, released in August 1973.
Dickey Betts was becoming the group's unofficial leader. Brothers and Sisters included the group's best known hits, "Ramblin' Man" and "Jessica", both written by Betts; the former reached No. 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. Probably their most celebrated performance of the era took place on July 28, 1973 at the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen outside Watkins Glen, New York, in a joint appearance with The Grateful Dead and The Band. An estimated 600,000 people made it to the racetrack where this massive outdoor festival took place.
In the wake of The Allman Brothers Band's success, many other Southern rock groups rose to prominence, including the Marshall Tucker Band (who played as the Allman Brothers Band's opening act for many shows on their 1973 tour) and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Despite this success, Butch Trucks recalls of the time that, “celebrity is the worse thing that ever happened to the Allman Brothers." In an interview, Trucks recalled that after Allman’s death in 1971, the band “got away from the music," producing “country-fried hit records,” which created egos that “ripped [them] all apart.”
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 Boz Scaggs sitting in, along with Grateful Dead members Jerry Garcia and Bill Kreutzmann (Allmans and Grateful Dead members guested at each other's shows multiple times in the early 1970s).
Gregg Allman, playing organ and singing
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.
Gregg Allman and Cher
The tension resulted in the uneven Win, Lose or Draw (1975), with some members not participating on all tracks 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 managed to limp along until 1976, when Gregg Allman was arrested on federal drug charges and agreed to testify against a friend and tour manager and bodyguard for the band, John "Scooter" Herring. 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.
Meanwhile, Capricorn Records released a compilation album, The Road Goes On Forever, and a poorly received live album, Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas. Neither sold very well.
The group reformed in 1978 and released the strong Enlightened Rogues (1979). It featured new members Dan Toler (guitar) and David Goldflies (bass), who replaced Leavell and Williams, both of whom concentrated on Sea Level instead. "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.
Allman quickly formed The Gregg Allman Band with the Toler brothers Dan and David ("Frankie") (drums) in 1982 and began touring small venues and clubs. Betts, Leavell, Trucks and Goldflies formed the band Betts Hall Leavell Trucks (BHLT). Neither garnered attention from any record labels. BHLT would dissolve two years later.
Allman Brothers Band reunited in 1986 for a pair of benefit concerts for promoter Bill Graham in New York and Macon. Allman, Betts, Trucks, Jaimoe, Leavell, and Dan Toler performed together but no subsequent reunion plans for the band were made. The following year, the Gregg Allman Band and the Dickey Betts Band co-headlined a theatre and club tour. After each band played a set of music, Betts, Allman and the Tolers performed a closing set of Allman Brothers music together.
In 1987, Epic Records signed both Allman and Betts to separate solo contracts. The Gregg Allman Band had a surprise FM hit single with the title track to the 1987 album I'm No Angel. Just Before the Bullets Fly quickly followed from Allman in 1988. The Dickey Betts Band, including Warren Haynes, was also formed during this time and released the album Pattern Disruptive in 1988. This series of collaboration among bandmembers and interest from a major label during the late 1980s laid the groundwork for the next era of Allman Brothers Band activity and success.
Warren Haynes, vocalist and guitarist
In 1989 The Allman Brothers reunited and returned to the popular consciousness of the American public, spurred by Gregg's recent FM radio success, the release of archival material by PolyGram, and the start of regular appearances on the American summer outdoor amphitheater 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.
After the 20th Anniversary tour, the band signed to Epic Records and 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 by the RIAA (1998), both featuring new percussionist Marc Quiñones. 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.
Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks
In 2000, the band forced Dickey Betts out for "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. Also in 2000, former bassist Allen Woody was found dead on August 26. The band did release the live CD Peakin' at the Beacon that year which chronicled the now-annual March tradition of a many-night stand at the Beacon Theater in New York City. The band has sold out the 2900-seat Upper West Side Manhattan theatre 188 times since 1989. The tradition is known as the "Beacon Run" among fans, who travel from across the United States, Canada and Western Europe to see these annual March and April shows.
Derek Trucks playing slide guitar, 2009
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 and later in the decade with former members of the Grateful Dead). Haynes' return marked a new period of stability and productivity for the band after nearly four years of lineup shifts. 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 Platinum 2004). The live CD One Way Out (2004) also chronicled the Beacon concerts.
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 the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, with Allman coming in at No. 2 and Trucks being the youngest guitarist on their list.
The Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks lineup continued the band's connection with younger music fans via concert pairings with popular jam bands The String Cheese Incident, moe, and Dave Matthews Band among others. The Allman Brothers Band continue to be a major attraction at the Bonnaroo Music Festival since 2003. Since 2005, the Allmans have staged their own two day Wanee Music Festival at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida. The Allmans, Gov't Mule and The Derek Trucks Band perform on different stages along with younger roots artists including the North Mississippi Allstars, Robert Randolph and The Family Band, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Devon Allman's Honeytribe, Nickel Creek, Mofro and others.
Allman Brothers songs have been used in various advertising campaigns and television programs, with the most well-known use being that of "Jessica" used in both the 1977 and 2002 formats of the BBC television series Top Gear. "Jessica" was also used in the film Field of Dreams. It was also the opening song of a famous radio show in the State of Bavaria, Germany during the 70s known as "Club 16" (http://peterhammer.de/sound4/br/club16outro.html with an example while the show ends. )
Oteil Burbridge, bass guitarist, 2005
The band cancelled their Beacon run for 2008 due to Gregg Allman recovering from hepatitis C treatments, but they were back on the road that summer for the amphitheater circuit. On November 20, 2008, The Allman Brothers Band received the Legend Of Live Award at the 2008 Billboard Touring Awards ceremony in New York. The award recognized "a touring professional who has had a significant and lasting impact on the concert industry." At the ceremony, Gregg Allman talked about his brother Duane, saying: "It happens to be today would have been his 62nd birthday and I'm sure he's looking down on this and is really proud of us. We'll keep coming back until we can't come back no more."
The Allman Brothers Band celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2009. That year's Beacon run also marked the 20th anniversary of their appearances in that venue; and the band focused on paying tribute to Duane, inviting guest appearances from those who had played with him. The 15-night stand was considered to be the best Beacon run of all, highlighted by two nights of the first-ever stage appearance of Eric Clapton with the band and performances of numbers from Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Guests on other nights included members of the Grateful Dead, Phish, Levon Helm and his band, and represented genres from bluesman Buddy Guy to jazz great Lenny White to rap-rock-country eccentric Kid Rock. On March 26, three days after the actual anniversary of the band's 1969 forming, what's been known as the "Legendary Jacksonville Jam", the band featured no guests but performed their first two albums in their entirety.
In March 2010, The Allman Brothers Band's New York run changed venues from the Beacon Theater to the far uptown United Palace Theatre, but in March 2011, the Allman Brothers returned to the Beacon Theater, playing their 200th show there on March 26.
In 2012, the Allman Brothers Band was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
It has been a couple of weeks since my last post, but I’ve been out of town due to business. I hope you enjoyed this post on The Allman Brothers Band, one the greatest blues rock bands of all-time. Remember to keep your boogie down !
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