The Allman Brothers Band

  • Southern Rock band formed in 1969 from Jacksonville Florida. The founding members were Gregg Allman (keyboards, vocals, songwriting), Duane Allman (lead guitar), Dickey Betts (lead guitar, vocals, songwriting), Berry Oakley (bass guitar, backing vocals), Butch Trucks (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Jai Johanson (stage name Jaimoe – drums, percussion, backing vocals).
  • Brothers Duane and Gregg formed their first band, the Escorts, in the mid-60s. Duane dropped out of high school to concentrate on practicing the guitar. The band evolved into The Allman Joys. In 1967, they were performing in St. Louis and a record executive discovered them, moving them to Los Angeles and renaming the group Hour Glass. They opened concerts for The Doors and Buffalo Springfield and recorded 2 albums, but neither were successful. Duane moved to Alabama to become a session guitarist, while Gregg remained in LA, hoping to launch a solo career.
  • Duane wanted to create a band that used 2 guitarists and 2 drummers. He recruited Johanson after hearing his drumming on a demo tape, and he invited Oakley to jam with them, whom he had met at a club some time earlier. Duane and Johanson moved to Jacksonville Florida, and they asked various friends to jam with them. Betts had been the leader of Oakley’s previous band, and he joined to become the second lead guitarist. Trucks had done some demo work with Duane the previous year, and he joined to become the second drummer. Duane felt that his brother should be the lead vocalist, so Gregg left LA and joined the group in 1969. They considered several names, including Beelzebub, eventually settling on The Allman Brothers Band.
  • A month after their initial performance, they moved to Macon Georgia, staying at a friends apartment and rehearsing at the recording studio of the record label that had bought Duane’s previous record contract in Alabama. They performed old blues music, and Gregg became the principal writer of new music for the group. In August 1969, they recorded their debut album, the self titled The Allman Brothers Band. A second album, Idlewide South, was released the following year. Neither album sold well – Revival (Love Is Everywhere) managed to chart at #92 on the Hot 100 chart.
  • In 1970, the band toured constantly, playing over 300 shows. Their live performances proved to be popular, and their next album was released in 1971 as a live double album. At Fillmore East was their breakthrough – it reached #13 on the Billboard album chart, it was certified platinum, and in 2004 it was selected by the Library of Congress to be part of the National Recording Registry. The album is at #49 on Rolling Stone’s list of the Greatest Albums of All Time. The performances on the album featured extended jams of some of their earlier songs, as well as covers of old blues standards.
  • Now successful, the band struggled with heroin addiction, and crisis came to a head when Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident in October 1971 – he was 24 years old. The band met and decided to continue. In December they went back to the studio to complete their next album, Eat A Peach. Released in early 1972, it was a hit, reaching #4 on the album chart and reaching platinum status. The singles did not chart highly, but the song Melissa became a signature song for the band, and remains popular on classic rock radio.
  • Oakley in particular took Duane’s death hard. He overindulged on drugs and alcohol, and in November 1972, he crashed his motorcycle into a bus and was killed, three blocks from where Duane died. He is buried next to Duane in Macon Georgia.
  • The band decided to continue, and Lamar Williams was brought in to replace Oakley. Betts evolved into the leader of their next album, Brothers and Sisters, which became their biggest success. It topped the album chart, and it included their biggest single, Ramblin’ Man, which peaked at #2 on the Hot 100 chart. Another song, an instrumental titled Jessica, became a classic rock radio standard, and in 1996, a live version of it from a performance in 1992 earned the group a Grammy award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
  • Their success continued to create conflict due to more drug usage, and the members began to tire of one another. Gregg Allman and Betts both released solo albums in 1974, and The Allman Brothers Band released Win, Lose or Draw the following year – it was disjointed and inconsistent, with Gregg handling vocals in Los Angeles and not performing with the band during recording. By the middle of 1976, the band broke up.
  • In 1978, Allman convinced Betts to reform the group. Trucks and Johanson agreed, with a new guitarist and bass player. Three reunion studio albums were released – record management tinkered with their sound, trying to give them a modern sound, which in retrospect they considered an embarrassment. One country-pop song managed to reach #39 on the Hot 100 and #11 on the Rock Top Tracks chart – Straight From the Heart was dubbed “a great Doobie Brothers imitation” with jazz and cool country overtones.
  • By 1982, the band broke up again, unhappy with their recent albums. Their final performance was on Saturday Night Live in January that year. In 1989, for their twentieth anniversary, they reunited for a summer tour, including original members Allman, Betts, Trucks and Johanson. The experience was positive, and 5 albums were released between 1990 and 1995, including 2 live albums. While they made it through their concert tours during the 90s, tensions were always present. By 2000, Betts sued the band and permanently left. After Betts, the group continued to record and perform until 2014 – original members Gregg Allman, Trucks, and Johanson still with the band.
  • The Allman Brothers Band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and they received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. Rolling Stone ranks them at #53 on their Greatest Artists list. Trucks committed suicide in 2017 and Gregg Allman died of liver cancer that same year.
  • Here is a clip of the band performing Ramblin’ Man in 1972. Pioneers of Southern Rock – a term that they didn’t particularly care for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *