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Allman Brothers logo
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    ROBERT JOHNSON   ERIC CLAPTON   LYNYRD SKYNYRD                                             LINKS PAGE     SITEMAP     
Allman Brothers on Austin City Limits
The Allman Brothers appearing on "Austin City Limits".
Photo courtesy of
My father was a gambler down in Georgia.
He wound up on the wrong end of a gun
And I was born in the back seat of a greyhound bus
Rollin down highway forty one

        Like the other artists I've profiled on this site, the Allman Brothers have an abiding love for the blues. Since this uniquely American art form was born in the South, it was only natural that Duane and Gregg Allman would eagerly embrace it. Like Robert Johnson and so many other musicians from the early days, these two brothers and their bandmates paid their dues. They also shared Johnson's wanderlust, touring constantly and playing their music for a wide audience. Therefore, it seems quite appropriate that standards such as "Statesboro Blues", "Stormy Monday", and "Crossroads" have been a regular part of their live sets from the very beginning of their career. Considering the litany of misfortunes which they've endured over the years, the Allman Brothers Band have a clear understanding of the blues.        Return to the TABLE OF CONTENTS

        The Allman Brothers Band are generally acknowledged to be the principal architects of the Southern rock sound. They developed an improvisational style, with long freeform jams that required significant musical prowess. Their success did not come easily, though. Reaching their stellar position took years of hard work. However, they faced every adversity with unflinching determination.
        Duane was born in Nashville in 1946 and his younger brother Gregg was born a year later. Although the brothers initially enjoyed a happy childhood, they were soon beset with tragedy. While on Christmas leave from the Army, their father was murdered by a hitchhiker. But they wouldn't allow this dreadful occurrence to adversely affect them. In the years to come, they turned to music for solace. After moving to Florida, the boys began playing with various local bands around Daytona Beach. By the time they formed The Allman Joys in 1965, "Crossroads" was a regular part of their set. After several failed musical projects in California, they relocated to Muscle Shoals, AL and recorded some demos at Fame Studios. Unfortunately, their record company had no interest in these songs and the brothers went home to Florida.        Return to the TABLE OF CONTENTS

        In 1968, Duane returned to Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals to record several songs with Wilson Pickett. This single soon began a steady rise in the pop charts and Duane was subsequently asked to play guitar on other sessions.During the session, Duane suggested that Pickett should cover "Hey Jude" by the Beatles.
b&w group photo
                        Photo courtesy of Wharf Rat
Over the course of the next year, he recorded with a string of well-known artists, including Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, and Clarence Carter. With this growing list of credits, it was inevitable that his talents would be recognized. At the time, Jerry Wexler was a vice president at Atlantic Records. After hearing Duane's guitar wizardry on Pickett's single, he was very impressed. He encouraged Duane to form his own group and the Allman Brothers Band were eventually signed to Capricorn records. Although the sales from their debut LP were rather disappointing, they had soon made a name for themselves as a concert draw and their fans came to expect blistering live performances from them. Duane also continued his freelance work in the studio, most notably adding slide guitar to "Layla" during the Derek And The Dominoes sessions with Eric Clapton. But a dark cloud was hanging over these recording sessions, despite the brilliant music which was being created. In addition to their mutual love for guitars and the blues, Duane and Eric also shared an addiction to heroin.         Return to the TABLE OF CONTENTS

        Building on the momentum of their first LP, the band released their second album. By now, they were no longer just a Southern phenomenon and their live appearances had become legendary. But for all their triumphs, bad luck seemed to shadow the band. To avoid the draft, Gregg had shot himself in the foot. Then while on tour, they were arrested at an Alabama truck stop in 1971 on charges of marijuana and heroin possession. State troopers had noticed that some of the band members were behaving erratically. After a cursory search of their car, the officers found the illegal narcotics on the backseat. But although this was a major setback, the worst was yet to come.         Return to the TABLE OF CONTENTS

        Hoping to capitalize on their reputation as a live band, the Allman Brothers decided to release a concert album. In March of 1971, they recorded their performances at the Fillmore East in New York City. This landmark double album was released in July and eventually climbed all the way into the Top Ten. The music press lauded them with glowing reviews and it seemed as if there was no limit to their potential. But on October 29th of that year, the band was dealt a severe blow. While riding his motorcycle in Macon, Duane swerved to avoid a truck and lost control of the bike. He died as a result of his injuries. Then even before the band members had a chance to fully recover from this shock, bass guitarist Berry Oakley was also killed in a motorcycle accident on November 11th, 1972. Strangely enough, this second accident occurred less than a mile from the scene of Duane's death. Although the surviving members decided to continue with new musicians, many of their fans feared that the original spirit of the band had been lost.        Return to the TABLE OF CONTENTS

        Although some observers may have assumed that the group's best days were behind them, they still had a few surprises left in store for their critics. Dickie Betts was responsible for writing "Ramblin' Man", which quickly became their most successful song. And of course, they continued to tour extensively. In July of 1973, they performed for more than half a million people at a huge concert in Watkins Glen, NY. However, tensions within the group were mounting, as addictions and rivalries began to have an effect on them. The lowest point for Gregg came in 1976, when he testified at the criminal trial of his former road manager, who had been charged with narcotics distribution. Allman's testimony was devastating and Scooter Herring was sentenced to seventy-five years in prison. The rest of the band felt that this was a cowardly act of betrayal by Gregg. They refused to work with him any longer, abruptly ending the band's career. But the music proved to be stronger than any grudges that the band members might hold towards each other.
        In January of 1977, Gregg and Dickie ran into each other at President Jimmy Carter's Inauguration. This chance meeting allowed them to settle their differences and the band reformed a few months later.
Allman Brothers graphic art
Graphic by Retro-Rocket Design. From: Hittin' The Web
They enjoyed several years of renewed success, mostly from the long touring schedules which had always sustained them in the past. Regrettably though, they soon discovered that old habits died hard. As before, drug abuse and personality conflicts started to plague the band, disrupting their working relationship. By 1982, they had grown tired of the constant bickering and they decided to go their separate ways again. But it seems that their bond is simply too strong to be broken and the power of their music will always pull them back together eventually. This proved to be true in 1989, as they reunited once more. There are few bands who could ever hope to achieve this same level of longevity and creativity. Despite some personnel changes along the way, they continue to be a potent emsemble. After more than three decades, they still perform live on a regular basis, delighting audiences all over the world.        Return to the TABLE OF CONTENTS

I have not come to testify
About our bad bad misfortune
And I ain't here a' wonderin' why
But I'll live on and I'll be strong
Cause it just ain't my cross to bear

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    ROBERT JOHNSON   ERIC CLAPTON   LYNYRD SKYNYRD                                             LINKS PAGE     SITEMAP     

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