10/01/08 - Allman Brothers Band - Part 2

Tutelage Led By Vinny "Bond" Marini Wednesday, October 1, 2008

For Part 1 - Please Go Here

1973-Back Row: Greg Allman, Lamar Williams, Butch Trucks, Front Row: Chuck Leavell, Dickie Betts, Jaimoe

It is March 26, 1969. Gregg has arrived back in Florida from California having completed his agreement with Liberty Records.

Six men have found something special in their music.
With Gregg on organ, Duane and Dickie Betts on guitar, Butch Trucks and Jaimoe Johanson on drums and Berry Oakley on bass, the band was ready to get into the clubs and see what they could do.

After playing numerous shows in the Florida area, the band moved to Macon, Georgia to be near Phil Walden and the new recording studio he was opening, Capricorn Sound Studios.

Their first album, the self-titled Allman Brothers Band was actually recorded in New York City and released in November 1969 to critical acclaim, though the album did not attract many buyers. It was basically a blue-rock album with the exception of “Dreams”, which was a spacey tune played in 12/8 time. This timing would become the hallmark of the infamous Allman jams that became a hallmark of their live shows.

While in NY, the band opened for Appalosa and Blood Sweat & Tears at The Fillmore East, fulfilling the prediction Duane had made some 7 months earlier while at the Johnny Winter concert.

The band went back into the studio in Macon at Capricorn Studios, Miami, Fl at Atlantic South – Criteria Studios and some final dubbing in New York City at Atlantic Studios. This album entitled Idlewild South was produced by Tom Dowd who had a real feel for the sound the band was looking to produce.

It was released in September 1970 and quickly hit the Billboard charts. Two songs stand out from this album, the rocking “Revival” and the darker, resolute “Midnight Rider”. Both songs were more ‘radio-friendly’ and got much airplay.

It was right after the recording of Idlewild South that the Allman’s had a date to play in Miami. At the same time Eric Clapton had the band that made up Derek & The Dominoes laying down tracks for the Layla album at the Criteria Studios.

Clapton remembered the guitar player that had gotten his attention on the Wilson Pickett song and he insisted that he go to the concert. After the show, Clapton went backstage to introduce himself. The lore is that both Clapton and Duane were both like star-struck kids, each nervous about meeting the other!

After the show that night both bands went back to Criteria and had an all-night jam session (Wouldn’t it be great if there were tapes of that session and they were to be released!?!).

At one point in the evening Duane asked Eric if he could come by and watch Derek and the Dominoes record their album. Eric is said to have refused the offer, insisting if Duane came to bring his guitar because “you got to play”.

Layla & Assorted Love Songs is some of the most incredible work by Duane in the studio. There are live recordings where his is brilliant, but for studio work, Layla is the best. Duane was offered a full-time position in the band, but refused. He made two appearances with Derek & The Dominoes on December 1, 1970 at Curtis Dixon Hall in Tampa, FL and the next night at the Onondaga County War Memorial in Syracuse, NY.

In an interview, Duane explained how to tell who played what part on the album; “Eric played the Fender parts and I played the Gibson parts.” He continued by explaining, “…the Fender had a sparklier sound and the Gibson produced a full-tilt screech”.

On March 12th and 13th, 1971, the Allman Brothers took the stage at the Fillmore East in New York City.

The result of these shows is the consummate live album Live at the Fillmore East. This album was listed as #49 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It was truly the first time the multitude of musical genres The Allman’s played were showcased in one place.

A unique mixture of jazz, classical, hard rock and blues with arrangements propelled by the dueling lead guitars of Duane and Dickie, the rhythm section of Butch and Jaimoe laying a foundation that was solid, yet fluid based upon what was happening around the, the strength of Berry’s bass runs, some becoming a third lead guitar in places and all of this layered behind the gritty, soulful vocals provided by Gregg as he completed the wall of sound with his organ and keyboards.

During this time, Duane continued to do session work, just showing up at studios and sitting in, getting cash payments, but not recording credits. The amount of music out there with Duane as a contributor will never be known.

The Allman Brothers were the ‘unofficial house band’ of the Fillmore East having played over 25 shows in 2 short years and were given the honor of being the last band to play when it closed its doors in June of 1971. The band literally played all night, and as Gregg recounted years later, the band literally lost track of time until the side doors of the Fillmore were opened and the morning sun shined into the hall.

One of the last concerts the band played before tragedy struck has recently been released. It is their date at Stony Brook University on September 19, 1971. It is not the show I saw, as I believe that was in April of 1970, but from reviews I have read it reveals that Duane’s slide playing on songs like “Dreams” was touching the farthest reaches of both the instrument and his imagination. I plan on acquiring this and will share when I receive it.

Forty days later it all changed. On October 29, 1971, just a few weeks after the Fillmore East album was certified gold, Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident at the corner of Hillcrest and Bartlett in Macon, GA.

As Duane was approaching the intersection, a truck began making a turn. Suddenly, the truck stopped in the middle of the intersection. Duane tried to avoid the truck by going to his left, but the bike hit the back of the truck, throwing Duane from the Harley. The bike landed on top of Duane and dragged him, caught underneath, several hundred feet. He died about two hours later from crushed internal organs. He was less than a month from his 25th birthday.

Radio airplay of Fillmore East continued strong and many FM stations took to playing the 23 minute version of "Whipping Post" and the 13 minute version of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”, unusual for radio to do so at the time.

The band decided to continue on after a short period of mourning. At the time of Duane’s death the band had been in the studio beginning to lay down tracks for their album Eat A Peach (contrary to myths, the truck that killed Duane was not a peach truck, it was a flatbed carrying lead pipes).

The title of the album was selected in honor of Duane and based upon an interview he had given. When asked in the interview “How are you helping the revolution”, Duane responded “There ain’t no revolution, only evolution, but every time I am in Georgia I eat a peach for peace.”

The album contains a side of live and studio tracks with Duane and then two sides containing my favorite composition “Mountain Jam”, recorded at the Fillmore East concerts. One side is studio songs with the remaining members of the band and Dickie Betts taking on the role of leader.

A short time later, the band decided to add Chuck Leavell, a keyboardist to give them a chance to have another lead instrument without replacing Duane. Leavell took over most of Dickie’s roles in songs, while Dickie stepped up into Duane’s roles.

Then the band was struck by tragedy again. Eleven months after Duane’s accident and three short blocks away, Berry Oakley was riding his Harley and had an accident with a city bus near Napier and Inverness Street. Oakley insisted he was fine, refused medical treatment and returned to the house the band shared.

A few hours later Berry was rushed to the hospital where he passed away from a skull fracture.

The Allman Brothers Band, just 3 short years into their existence was forever changed.

TOMORROW - Part Three - The Brothers Continue...

Resources: wikipedia; Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; Allman Brothers Band web site; The book, “Skydog – the Duane Allman Story” given to me by my friend TurnBaby; My own knowledge of this band.