Allman Brothers Band
In 1970, Eric Clapton was at a crossroads. The guitar "god" had been praised since his Yardbirds/John Mayall days, all through Cream and even Blind Faith. But his solo career was nothing exceptional. Certainly not worthy of the Clapton "legend." But Clapton, unlike most extraordinary musicians, was not a flaming egomaniac. He decided to start a group where he would just be a member. Derek & The Dominoes were recording in Miami when Clapton spotted Duane Allman (playing with the Allman Brother's Band) in a local club and invited him to the sessions. Their playing on "Layla" was stunning. It's one of the greatest guitar tracks in Rock. Each guitarist challenged the other to step it up and both excelled.
Four years earlier, brothers Duane and Gregg were struggling as the Allman Joys. That outfit gave way to Hour Glass who managed to get a recording contract and served as opening act fodder at the Fillmore West. After two inconsequential albums, the record label rejected a third. That spelled the temporary end. Duane found work as a session guitarist with Wilson Pickett ("Hey Jude") and King Curtis, among others. Phil Walden, head of Capricorn Records, suggested Duane start his own group. Walden was expecting a guitar trio or something like that. First, Duane installed his brother as the lead singer. Nobody liked that idea even though Gregg also handled keyboards. Dickey Betts was the second guitarist - you can never have too many guitars. Berry Oakley played bass. Also, the Allman Brother's Band featured, not one, but two drummers - Butch Trucks and Jaimoe Johanson. That was about as far from a power trio as you could get without adding horns. Walden did establish Macon, GA, as the group's home base.
The Allman Brother's Band released their self-titled debut in late '69 and hit the road playing over 500 shows in 30 months. Do the math. On top of that, they recorded their sophomore album "Idlewild South." It had the classic "Memories of Elizabeth Reed." Since the group was perpetually on the road it was natural to release a live album. "At The Fillmore," a double set, was a guitar jam paradise. The extended "Whipping Post" showed the passion, fire and talents of guitarists Allman and Betts. It was lean, tight and enthralling.
Here is where the story took the first of several tragic turns. In Macon, Duane attended a birthday party for Oakley's wife. Riding his motorcycle home he swerved to miss a truck and crashed. Three hours later, following extensive surgery, one of the great guitarists of the time was gone. It was an immeasurable loss. Still, the Allman Brother's Band persevered. "Eat A Peach" arriving in early '72 featured Duane's last recordings. "Mountain Jam," "One Way Out" and Betts' timeless classic "Melissa" were among the band's best and prime examples of Southern Rock. A little over a year after Duane's death, Oakley hit a bus on his motorcycle, just three blocks from where Duane crashed. Initially, he didn't appear seriously injured. Later, at home, he collapsed and died.
"Brothers and Sisters" contained "Ramblin' Man," which was their biggest pop hit. Ironically, in light of future events, it was kept out of the top spot by a Cher song, "Half Breed." Finally, Trucks was in an auto accident, also in Macon. But he escaped with only a broken leg.
Both Gregg Allman and Betts released successful solo albums. Allman even had a hit with "Midnight Rider." But '75 was not a good one for the surviving Allman. Busted and under threat of serious jail time Allman testified against the band's former road manager regarding drug trafficking. John Herring got seventy-five years. For turning on a friend, the other Allman Band members disowned Gregg. He compounded his troubles by marrying Cher.
That "happy" union lasted only slightly longer than it takes to drive cross-country with Sammy Hagar. Through it all the "Win, Lose or Draw" album went gold. But aside from the live "The Road Goes On Forever" the band was done (for the time being). Each member busied himself with various projects. But as the '90s dawned, a cleaned-up Allman Brothers Band began touring and even took a shot at recording. Kinda like old times.
For '03's "Hittin' The Note," original members Gregg Allman, and drummers Trucks and Johanson were still there. The album also featured relative newbies; guitarist Warren Hayes ('89), drummer Marc Quinones ('91), bassist Oteil Burbridge ('97) and Butch's nephew, guitarist Derek Trucks ('99).
Not to be left behind on the technological front, the Allman Brothers Band announced the '09 launch of a subscription-based website called Moogis. Fans could view high-definition streaming video of the group's annual stand at New York's Beacon Theatre. There was also archival video and audio.
Switching from business news to health issues in '10, Gregg underwent a successful liver transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL. He had been battling Hepatitis C for several years. "I changed my ways years ago, but we can't turn back time," he said in a statement. "Every day is a gift, and I can't wait to get back on the road making music with my friends."
Allman Brothers Band
1969 The Allman Brothers Band
1970 Idlewild South
1971 At Fillmore East
1972 Eat A Peach
1973 Brothers And Sisters
1975 Win, Lose Or Draw
1979 Enlightened Rogues
1980 Reach For The Sky
1981 Brothers Of The Road
1990 Seven Turns
1991 Shades Of Two Worlds
1992 An Evening with the Allman Brothers Band: First Set (1992)
1994 Where It All Begins
1995 An Evening with the Allman Brothers Band: 2nd Set (1995)
2003 Hittin' The Note
2003 Live At The Atlanta Pop Festival
2004 One Way Out: Live At The Beacon Theater
2004 Stand Back: The Anthology
Like many legendary bands, the latter day Allman Brothers resemble a corporation. Founders are recognized and revered but their participation is not mandatory. Often, second generation members are in the group longer than the original players. Death, drugs and disputes depleted the Allman Brothers early on. Still, they were able to re-group after a tragedy or conflict and move on. Sometimes the effort took time and often their progress was halting. To get through those periods the group leaned on what they knew. The result was the Allman Brothers became a brand, much like Microsoft or Coke, that's known for a product, Southern Rock, with specific features - extended jams, duel guitars and soaring solos. In a way too, like a corporation, they became a competent but largely faceless entity. But that's not how it started.
As the best of the '70s Southern Rock groups, the Allman's hit their peak with "At The Fillmore East." It was followed by another double set "Eat A Peach." This is a studio/live record. The live portion includes the thirty-plus minutes of "Mountain Jam" clearly illustrating the group's musical chops. Their classic "Melissa" is on the studio portion. Following Duane Allman's death "Brothers and Sisters," with Dickey Betts taking an even more predominate role, is another stand out. The album includes "Ramblin' Man" and "Southbound." Most everything the band did during the early to mid-70s is excellent. After that they slipped a notch due to burnout, drugs and differences (not to mention Gregg Allman's bust). As solo artists Gregg Allman did well with the "Laid Back" LP and, fourteen years later, "I'm No Angel" while Dickey Betts' highlight is "Highway Call."
"Live At The Atlanta Pop Festival" is another example of the group in its prime. Recorded in the summer of '70, the '03 release features the original line-up. There are two versions of "Mountain Jam" with the latter featuring Johnny Winter. There are also two cracks at "Whipping Post." It's like those old Trad Jazz recordings with alternate takes. A true aficionado can hear the differences. The only downside is many of the tracks appear on other live albums. "One Way Out: Live At The Beacon Theater" was recorded in '03 and released the following year. It gives talented guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks a chance to step out. While there is yet another version of "Midnight Rider" the set features lesser-known and newer material. '04 release "Stand Back: The Anthology" spans 35 years of Allman Brothers history. Though it covers way too much ground, the group's later editions hold their own - entertaining and proficient, if not spectacular. The early material speaks for itself.
Gregg Allman Solo Albums:
1973 Laid Back
1974 The Gregg Allman Tour (live)
1977 Playin' Up A Storm - The Gregg Allman Band
1977 Two The Hard Way - Allman and Woman (Cher)
1986 I'm No Angel - The Gregg Allman Band
1988 Just Before The Bullets Fly - The Gregg Allman Band
1997 Searching For Simplicity
1997 One More Try: An Anthology
2002 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection
2002 No Stranger To The Dark: The Best Of Gregg Allman
2011 Low Country Blues
Dickey Betts Solo Albums:
1974 Highway Call (Richard Betts)
1977 Dickey Betts & Great Southern (Dickey Betts & Great Southern)
1978 Atlanta's Burning Down (Dickey Betts & Great Southern)
1989 Pattern Disruptive (Dickey Betts Band)
2001 Let's Get Together (Dickey Betts Band)
2002 The Collectors #1 (Dickey Betts & Great Southern)
2005 Back Where It All Begins: Live At The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame & Museum (DVD)
(Dickey Betts & Great Southern)
2006 The Official Bootleg (Live) (Dickey Betts & Great Southern)
2010 Dickey Betts & Great Southern - Rockpalast: 30 Years Of Southern Rock, 1978 - 2008 (DVD)