The Allman Brothers Band are a rock group founded in Macon, Georgia. Brothers Duane and Gregg Allman were raised by their mother Geraldine, aka “Mama A”; their father Willis was murdered, giving a ride to a casual acquaintance, when the brothers were toddlers. Mama A learned to be an accountant, and in 1957 moved her family to Daytona Beach, Florida. The brothers were interested in music at a young age, especially after seeing B.B. King in concert in 1959, a revelation which prompted Duane to say to his younger brother, “We got to get into this.” Within a year Gregg saved up money to buy his first guitar. Duane liked Gregg’s guitar, too, and Mom bought Duane an electric guitar for Christmas to stop the boys from fighting over it.
The brothers were soon playing in local groups around Daytona Beach, the beginning of a long apprenticeship. Duane was a fast learner, and soon eclipsed Gregg as a guitarist, while Gregg turned his attention to singing and playing keyboards. They made their first recordings as the Allman Joys in August, 1966, the beginning of a three year search to find a winning formula. Duane and Gregg traveled to Los Angeles to record as The Hour Glass; both brothers regarded the experience as painful. They returned home discouraged, but their fortunes were about to change. Duane received an invitation to work at the Muscle Shoals recording studio, where he received recognition for his growing prowess as a session guitarist. Gregg returned to Los Angeles, a lonely period in life during which he began to write songs. The restless Duane soon tired of session work, and went home to Florida to form his own band. Once he had the perfect sextet sound, he called his brother and urged him to come home. Gregg started hitchhiking home the next day.
For the next two years, the Allman brothers toured and recorded extensively, leaving behind a legacy that earned them a devoted following and widespread respect. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
Duane Allman (1946-1971), lead and slide guitar
Gregg Allman (b. 1947), vocals, organ, acoustic guitar, songwriter
Richard “Dickey” Betts (b. 1943), lead guitar, songwriter
Berry Oakley (1948-1972), bass
Butch Trucks (b. 1947), drums
Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johnason (b. 1944), drums
In addition, these two well-known guitarists have played with The Allman Brothers Band:
The Jam Band Phenomenon
The Allman Brothers sextet features an unusual instrumentation, with two guitarists and two drummers using full drum sets. The Grateful Dead utilize a similar complement of instruments, once Mickey Hart joined the Dead in 1967. These bands established a new style for rock music, and are considered founders of a style of music called jam band music, a genre that features long, guitar based, improvisational passages. Although the two bands were very different — a California band rooted in folk music and a Florida band rooted in blues music — the two helped to spawn an industry of musical concerts for fans of the jazz influenced rock music, with an emphasis on dance and recreational drug use. In recent years, the jam band culture has moved underground. Major record companies tend to not promote these bands, but many are financially successful; their popularity grows by word of mouth and the freedom of expression encouraged at their concerts.
“There ain’t no revolution, only evolution, but every time I’m in Georgia I eat a peach for peace.”
— Duane Allman
“Dreams” is one of the best Allman Brothers songs, and one of three songs presented here that features the original band lineup. Unfortunately, Gregg Allman’s microphone is malfunctioning, and his voice doesn’t record until the end. A disappointment, as this early recording could have generated publicity for the band. The music is crisp, clear and compelling.
The Allman Brothers Sound
The Allman Brothers Band sound is distinctive. They had two excellent guitarists, Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, each capable of long and varied improvisation. They often play in unison, orchestrated riffs used to transition between passages in songs like “Whipping Post” and “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed”, or to establish a recurring theme in blues songs like “One Way Out” and “Trouble No More”. In the two Chicago blues songs mentioned, the riff is augmented and a bit more intricate than the original versions of Sonny Boy Williamson and Muddy Waters.
The two drummers give the band great flexibility in establishing syncopated rhythm, though Jaimoe and Butch Trucks appear to play by telepathy, with no set rules or responsibilities. This gives the band a very jazzy, improvisational feel. Dickey Betts’ “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed” is essentially a jazz song, with an opening pair of themes that set the table for a long improvisational sequence, followed by a brief return to the second theme. Gregg Allman’s “Whipping Post” is challenging, with odd time signatures and stinging dual lead crescendos, not to mention the brilliant metaphor (“tied to the whipping post”) for a wickedly bad love. These two songs are part of a tight setlist of songs played by the band in their early days. From 1969 to 1971, the band typically played ten or so songs during each concert, and the setlist stayed the same from night to night, with few exceptions. The band would play a few shorter songs, blues numbers like “Done Somebody Wrong” and “Trouble No More”, before delving into their own compositions and long instrumental excursions.
In my music collection, there are currently seventy songs over ten minutes long. The Allman Brothers own seven of them. The Grateful Dead also have seven, and Miles Davis has six. A few by Van Morrison and Neil Young as well. In general, I like short songs, and find long songs boring or tedious. Some of my friends listen to modern jam band music, where ten plus minute songs are common, but the Allman Brothers and the Dead form my nucleus of rock music with extended jams. Ultimately, I’d like my list of long songs to include more jazz.
Even measured against the formidable musical talent in the band, Duane Allman stands out as extraordinary. His ability to improvise, to fill the need in the musical soundscape, and to create a variety of sounds and emotions from his guitar is unparalleled. There are thousands of great guitarists, superb musicians with skills that surpass the young man from Florida, but for feel, for dynamics, and importantly, being in the right time of pop music history, Duane Allman is my favorite guitarist, the best I ever heard.
He’s not just the best soloist in a groundbreaking band. He’s the emotional leader. He assembled the band, demanded his brother come back from the west coast to sing and write, and willed the band to greatness with his intensity and devotion. His work with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, some of which is featured on the 2-CD set Duane Allman: An Anthology, is as good, perhaps better than the Allman Brothers. For example, Duane suggested to Wilson Pickett that he record the Beatles’ “Hey Jude”; after some convincing Pickett had a record which sold a million copies, and earned Allman the admiration of fellow guitar great Eric Clapton. While at Muscle Shoals, Allman soloed throughout the great thirteen minute “Loan Me A Dime”, discussed at length in the Boz Scaggs artist profile. In 1970, Clapton invited Allman to make a record with his band Derek & The Dominoes, and produced what is widely considered his greatest musical achievement, Layla, And Assorted Other Love Songs. In a short period of time, Allman left a significant legacy of inspired and very exciting music.
“(Rick) Hall put him on salary and Duane worked all kinds of sessions, cutting with people like Clarence Carter and Arthur Conley, to name a few. “I rented a cabin and lived alone on this lake,” Duane said. “There were these big windows looking out over the water…I just sat and played to myself and got used to living without a bunch of that jive Hollywood crap in my head. It’s like I brought myself back to earth and came to life again, through that, and the sessions with good R&B players.
Rick Hall described Duane on a session. “He’d always work standing up — and he had to have his amplifier turned wide open. He’d have the (head)phones on and couldn’t hear the strength coming out the amp and it’d be jumping off the table. Like the bottleneck in Clarence Carter’s “Road Of Love” — you’d swear the world was coming to an end. He only did that particular break one time. It was a first take. He said, “That’s all I want to do, I’ll never feel it again.” He was the kind of guy who had to feel it to do it — he’d build himself up to some kind of tantrum when he started to do a break. And he’d turn on so heavy that if it didn’t come off, he’d say, “It’s lost. I’ll have to come back tomorrow and do it.” He certainly was an inspiration to all the people here, he was the type of guy who inspired other guitar players — but sometimes he came on so strong he’d put the fear of God into them. They couldn’t even play ’cause he made them so nervous — he was so dynamic they felt inferior.”
— Rick Hall, Muscle Shoals studio producer reminisces, from the liner notes of “Duane Allman: An Anthology”, by Tony Glover
Allman’s guitar sound is often described as stinging; the notes are sharp and piercing. But he also plays loud, and requires powerful accompanists. In this regard he is like saxophonist Sidney Bechet, an intense performer with the loudest voice and the best skills, pushing his fellow musicians to greater heights.
Unlike his musical persona, Allman possessed a happy, easy going demeanor. He is so admirable, a great leader but also a consummate team player who cared deeply about the band and its music, anxious to play for people and expand the band’s audience, but with little regard for the business side of the music industry. Like many rock musicians, he had a voracious appetite for drugs and alcohol, but it didn’t seem to interfere with his career.
“Playing gigs at the Fillmore East during the sixties made it easier for you to get in and catch other bands, even if tickets were sold out. As a young saxophonist in a rock band, I played there several times and attended numerous concerts; the one group I never missed (unless I had to be on the road) was the Allman Brothers Band. More specifically, I went to see their guitarist, Duane Allman, the only “rock” guitarist I had heard up to that point who could solo on a one-chord vamp for as long as half an hour or more, and not only avoid boring you but keep you absolutely riveted. Duane was a rare melodist and a dedicated student of music who was never evasive about the sources of his inspiration. “You know,” he told me one night after soaring for hours on wings of lyrical song, “that kind of playing comes from Miles and Coltrane, and particularly Kind Of Blue. I’ve listened to that album so many times that for the past couple of years, I haven’t hardly listened to anything else.”
Earlier, I’d met Duane and his brother Gregg when they had a teenage band called the Hourglass. One day I’d played Duane a copy of Coltrane’s Olé, an album recorded a little more than a year after Kind Of Blue but still heavily indebted to it. He was evidently fascinated; but a mere three or four years later, at the Fillmore, I heard a musician who’d grown in ways I never could have imagined. It’s rare to see a musician grow that spectacularly, that fast; I’m not sure there’s any guitarist who’s come along since Duane’s early death on the highway who has been able to sustain improvisation of such lyric beauty and epic expanse. But the influence of Kind Of Blue, even to the point of becoming a kind of obsession, wasn’t unusual at all; it was highly characteristic of musicians of our generation, mine and Duane’s.”
— Robert Palmer
Duane Allman was killed on October 29th, 1971, when his motorcycle swerved to avoid a flat bed truck. Bassist Berry Oakley, deeply distraught and depressed afterwards, also died in a motorcycle accident, almost exactly one year later and three blocks from where Duane died. Both band members were just 24 years old. It is the saddest story in rock music.
To the Editor:
I am a founding member and am still the drummer for the Allman Brothers Band. In 35 years of playing music for the public, and especially because of the nature of the music we played and the time and origin of our group (late 60’s, the Deep South), we have had more than our share of controversy and criticism. I realize that this comes with the territory and accept it for what it is. In these 35 years of criticism I have read reviews and articles that run the gamut, but there has always been one article that stands above all the rest as being the single most mean spirited piece of fiction ever written about us. It is to journalism what an ant is to an aardvark. That is the Rolling Stone article about the Allman Brothers Band written by Grover Lewis, which is referred to in Roy Blount Jr.’s review of “Splendor in the Short Grass: The Grover Lewis Reader”.
First, let me state unequivocally that Duane Allman was one of the most powerful, charismatic and trustworthy men I have ever known. I would use the word “messianic” to describe the impact he had on the people around him, and his influence on music today runs much deeper than all but a very few even begin to know. He was a man of the highest character and principles, and for Blount to refer to him as “one of these churls” is inexcusable. Blount also quotes Lewis’s article about us: “At my teasing suggestion . . . Duane coldly offers to punch me out on the spot.” To put things in their proper perspective, I will tell you exactly how Lewis, our “fellow traveler”, came to be threatened.
Lewis joined our tour in 1971 at the insistence of our management. We were a very close knit group of musicians and had little use for all the interviews, photo shoots and other such nonsense that went with the image building that made for big-time rock ‘n’ roll success. I am sure that our fellow traveler was used to bands falling all over themselves at having one of the great writers from Rolling Stone magazine around. He was somewhat taken aback by our lack of interest in his presence. What he wound up writing under the guise of journalism could have been humorous satire, at best, if it weren’t for one very tragic fact: it was published within weeks of Duane Allman’s death, and the people at Rolling Stone had time to pull the article but did nothing.
Lewis writes at one point about a conversation between me and Dickey Betts about a book on Zen Buddhism by D.T. Suzuki. I asked Dickey if he had read it. He said that he had and that it was too academic an approach to a subject that had to be felt and experienced. Dickey and I went on to discuss the book and the topic for some time. Lewis’s version was that I asked Dickey if he had read the book and Dickey’s response was, “Yeah, good, ain’t it.” There actually was a conversation that went somewhat like this later in Lewis’s stay with us. I had just bought a copy of Saul Bellow’s “Herzog.” I asked our fellow traveler if he had read the book. His answer? “It’s a good book.”
In Lewis’s article, all the dialogue among members of our group seemed to be taken directly from Faulkner. We are from the South. We did and still do have Southern accents. We are not stupid. The people in the article were creations of Grover Lewis. They did not exist in reality.
Finally, Rolling Stone had sent Annie Leibovitz to photograph us. As I said earlier, we were busy playing music, and photo sessions just got in our way. We all had tattoos of a mushroom on our right calves. The reasons for getting these tattoos were personal and had deep meaning for us. Somehow Leibovitz had heard of them and asked if we would all pull up our pant legs and line up so that she could shoot a photo of the tattoos. We looked at one another and started to comply when Dickey Betts pushed his pant leg down and said, “No, this is silly.” Our fellow traveler’s “teasing suggestion” was, “It’s no sillier than getting a tattoo in the first place.” This was the final straw for Duane. That was when he looked Grover Lewis in the eye and said, “One more crack like that out of you and I’m gonna knock your block off.”
Palm Beach, Fla.
— Letter to editor of New York Times, dated November 9th, 2005
A Sampling of Blogs and Articles
RollingStone.com Biography and Album Reviews of The Allman Brothers Band
An Analysis of Duane Allman’s Guitar Technique
One of Several Good Interviews About the Allmans by Author Jas Obrecht
Gregg Allman Looks Back
Blog: The World According To Butch Trucks
The collection recommends forty-one Allman Brothers recordings, with no songs after Brothers And Sisters, their first album after Duane Allman’s death. Despite the high song ratings and high praise given, I feel somewhat uninspired by the two week experience of reviewing the band’s music. Today I admire the music more than I revel in it. I fear this will be the case with many upcoming bands, ones I devoured years ago. There is less unexplored territory and fewer new surprises.
The Allman Brothers Band Song Notes:
1. Songs designated (Live)* are found on the deluxe edition of Eat A Peach.
2. Dreams (Live) and Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’ (Live)† found on the live album Atlanta International Pop Festival, July 3-5, 1970.
3. Blue Sky (Live) is found on the live album SUNY at Stonybrook, NY, September 19, 1971.
4. All other live performances are found on The Fillmore Concerts, and most of them are also found on Live At Fillmore East.
5. Little Martha (Alt), Dreams (Demo), and related songs by the Hour Glass, the Second Coming, the 31st of February and the Allman Joys are found on the box set Dreams.
6. Dreams (Alt) is a slightly different mix of the song, not relevant to most collectors.
The Allman Brothers Band Songs:
Dreams, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭✭✭
Dreams (Alt), The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭✭✭
Blue Sky, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭✭✭
One Way Out (Live)*, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭✭
In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭✭
In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭✭
It’s Not My Cross To Bear, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭✭
Midnight Rider (Live)*, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭✭
Whipping Post, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭✭
Stormy Monday Blues (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭
Hot ‘Lanta (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭
Statesboro Blues (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭
Jessica, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭
Dreams (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭
Dreams (Demo), The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭
Trouble No More, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭
Trouble No More (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭
Midnight Rider, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭
In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed (Live)*, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭✭
Black Hearted Woman, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭
Don’t Want You No More, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭
Whipping Post (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭
Whipping Post (Live)*, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭
Hot ‘Lanta (Live)*, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭
Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’ (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭
Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’ (Live)†, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭
Revival, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭
Little Martha, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭
Little Martha (Alt), The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭
Melissa, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭
Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More, The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭
Blue Sky (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ✭✭
Ramblin’ Man, The Allman Brothers Band ✭
Southbound, The Allman Brothers Band ✭
Please Call Home, The Allman Brothers Band ✭
I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ✭
Drunken Hearted Boy (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ✭
You Don’t Love Me/Soul Serenade (Live)*, The Allman Brothers Band ✭
You Don’t Love Me (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ✭
Stand Back, The Allman Brothers Band ✭
Done Somebody Wrong (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ✭
One Way Out, Sonny Boy Williamson ✭✭✭
Midnight Rider, Gregg Allman ✭✭
Just Another Rider, Gregg Allman ✭
Stormy Monday Blues, Bobby “Blue” Bland ✭✭✭
Stormy Monday Blues, Little Joe Cook (aka Chris Farlowe) ✭✭
Stormy Monday Blues, T-Bone Walker ✭✭
Statesboro Blues, Blind Willie McTell ✭
Don’t Want You No More, Spencer Davis Group ✭
The various versions of “Worried Life Blues”, also known as “Trouble No More”:
Worried Life Blues, Big Maceo Merriweather ✭✭
Someday Baby, Bob Dylan ✭✭✭✭
Someday Baby, Ray Charles ✭
Trouble No More, Muddy Waters ✭✭✭✭
I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town, Louis Jordan ✭✭
You Don’t Love Me, Angela Strehli ✭✭✭
You Don’t Love Me, Dawn Penn ✭✭
You Don’t Love Me, John Mayall ✭✭
You Don’t Love Me, Willie Cobbs ✭✭
Shapes Of Things, The Allman Joys ✭
She Has Funny Cars, The Second Coming ✭
God Rest His Soul, 31st Of February ✭
Morning Dew, 31s Of February ✭
B.B. King Medley, The Hour Glass ✭
Duane Allman appears as a session guitarist on the following songs:
Hey Jude, Wilson Pickett ✭✭
The Road Of Love, Clarence Carter ✭✭✭
The Weight, Aretha Franklin ✭✭✭✭
Games People Play, King Curtis ✭✭✭
Loan Me A Dime, Boz Scaggs ✭✭✭✭✭
I’ll Be Long Gone, Boz Scaggs ✭✭✭✭
Waiting For A Train, Boz Scaggs ✭
Rollin’ Stone, Johnny Jenkins ✭✭✭✭
Mean Old World, Eric Clapton ✭✭
Layla, Derek & the Dominoes ✭✭✭
I Looked Away, Derek & the Dominoes ✭✭✭
Bell Bottom Blues, Derek & the Dominoes ✭✭✭
Keep On Growing, Derek & the Dominoes ✭
Anyday, Derek & the Dominoes ✭✭
Key To the Highway, Derek & the Dominoes ✭✭
Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?, Derek & the Dominoes ✭✭✭
Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Derek & the Dominoes ✭✭