The Allman Brothers Band in 1972. (l-r) Butch Trucks, Dickey Betts, Jaimoe Johanson, Gregg Allman, Berry Oakley
Origin: Jacksonville, Florida, and Macon, Georgia , United States
Genres: Southern rock, jam band, blues rock, country rock
Years active: 1969–76, 1978–82, 1989–2014
Labels: Capricorn, PolyGram, Arista, Epic, Sanctuary
Associated acts: Gov't Mule, The Dead, The Derek Trucks Band, Derek and the Dominos, Hour Glass, Great Southern, Marshall Tucker Band, Sea Level
Discography at Wikipedia
Duane Allman – guitar, slide guitar (1969–1971; died 1971)
Gregg Allman – organ, piano, guitar, vocals (1969–1976, 1978–1982, 1986, 1989–2014)
Dickey Betts – guitar, slide guitar, vocals (1969–1976, 1978–1982, 1986, 1989–2000)
Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson – drums, percussion (1969–1976, 1978–1980, 1986, 1989–2014)
Berry Oakley – bass, vocals (1969–1972; died 1972)
Butch Trucks – drums, timpani (1969–1976, 1978–1982, 1986, 1989–2014)
Chuck Leavell – piano, synthesiser, background vocals (1972–1976, 1986)
Lamar Williams – bass, vocals (1972–1976; died 1983)
David Goldflies – bass (1978–1982)
Dan Toler – guitar (1978–1982, 1986; died 2013)
Mike Lawler – keyboards (1980–1982)
David "Frankie" Toler – drums (1980–1982; died 2011)
Warren Haynes – guitar, slide guitar, vocals (1989–1997, 2000–2014)
Johnny Neel – keyboards, harmonica (1989–1990)
Allen Woody – bass, background vocals (1989–1997; died 2000)
Marc Quiñones – drums, percussion, background vocals (1991–2014)
Oteil Burbridge – bass, vocals (1997–2014)
Jack Pearson – guitar, vocals (1997–1999)
Derek Trucks – guitar, slide guitar (1999–2014)
Jimmy Herring – guitar (2000)
The Allman Brothers Band
The Allman Brothers Band was an American rock band formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1969 by brothers Duane Allman (slide guitar and lead guitar) and Gregg Allman (vocals, keyboards, songwriting), as well as Dickey Betts (lead guitar, vocals, songwriting), Berry Oakley (bass guitar), Butch Trucks (drums), and Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson (drums). While the band has been called the principal architects of southern rock, they also incorporate elements of blues, jazz, and country music, and their live shows have jam band-style improvisation and instrumentals.
The group's first two studio releases stalled commercially, but their 1971 live release, At Fillmore East, represented an artistic and commercial breakthrough. The album features extended renderings of their songs "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and "Whipping Post", and is often considered among the best live albums ever made. Group leader Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident later that year, and the band dedicated Eat a Peach (1972) in his memory, a dual studio/live album that cemented the band's popularity. Following the motorcycle death of bassist Berry Oakley later that year, the group recruited keyboardist Chuck Leavell and bassist Lamar Williams for 1973's Brothers and Sisters, which, combined with the hit single, "Ramblin' Man", placed the group at the forefront of 1970s rock music. Internal turmoil overtook the band soon after; the group dissolved in 1976, re-formed briefly at the end of the decade with additional personnel changes, and dissolved again in 1982.
The band re-formed once more in 1989, releasing a string of new albums and touring heavily. A series of personnel changes in the late 1990s was capped by the departure of Betts. The group found stability during the 2000s with bassist Oteil Burbridge and guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks (the nephew of their drummer), and became renowned for their month-long string of shows at New York City's Beacon Theater each spring. The band retired in 2014 with the departure of the aforementioned members. The band has been awarded eleven gold and five platinum albums, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. Rolling Stone ranked them 52nd on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time in 2004.
Roots and formation (1965–69)
Duane Allman, and his younger brother, Gregg, grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida. Gregg was first to pick up the guitar, but his brother soon surpassed him, dropping out of high school to practice constantly. The duo formed their first band, the Escorts, which evolved into the Allman Joys in the mid-1960s. When an African-American friend introduced Gregg to R&B and soul music, they began to incorporate it into their sound. By 1967, the group spent time in St. Louis, where a Los Angeles-based recording executive discovered them; they consequently moved out West and were renamed the Hour Glass, cutting two unsuccessful albums for Liberty Records. Duane moved back to pursue a career as a session musician in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, while Gregg stayed behind in Hollywood bound by contractual obligations with Liberty, who believed he could hold a solo career. The two were apart for the first time for a year, but managed to reconvene in Miami, producing an album-length demo with the 31st of February, a group that included drummer Butch Trucks.
At FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Duane Allman became the primary session guitarist, recording with artists such as Aretha Franklin and King Curtis. Duane suggested to Wilson Pickett they record a cover of "Hey Jude" by the Beatles; the single went to number 23 on the national charts. FAME signed Duane to a five-year recording contract, and he put together a group, including Johnny Sandlin and Paul Hornsby. Duane recruited Jai Johanny Johanson (Jaimoe) after hearing his drumming on a songwriting demo of Jackie Avery, and the two moved into his home on the Tennessee River. Allman invited bassist Berry Oakley to jam with the new group; the pair had met in a Jacksonville, Florida club some time earlier, and became quick friends. The group had immediate chemistry, and Duane's vision for a "different" band — one with two lead guitarists and two drummers — began evolving. Meanwhile, Phil Walden, the manager of the late Otis Redding and several other R&B acts, was looking to expand into rock acts. FAME owner Hall became frustrated with the group’s recording methods, and offered the tracks recorded and their contract to Walden and Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records, who purchased them for $10,000. Walden intended the upcoming group to be the centerpiece of his new Atlantic-distributed label, Capricorn.
Duane and Jaimoe moved to Jacksonville in early March 1969, as Duane had become frustrated with being a "robot" of those at FAME. He invited anyone who wanted to join to the jam sessions that birthed the Allman Brothers Band. Dickey Betts, leader of Oakley’s previous band, the Second Coming, became the group’s second lead guitarist, while Butch Trucks, with whom Duane and Gregg had cut a demo less than a year prior, became the new group's second drummer. The Second Coming's Reese Wynans played keyboards, and Duane, Oakley, and Betts all shared vocal duties. The unnamed group began to perform free shows in Willow Branch Park in Jacksonville, with an ever-changing, rotating cast of musicians. Duane felt strongly his brother should be the vocalist of the new group (which effectively eliminated Wynans' position, as Gregg also played keyboards). Gregg left LA and entered rehearsal on March 26, 1969, when the group was rehearsing Muddy Waters' "Trouble No More" Although Gregg was initially intimidated by the musicians, Duane pressured his brother into "singing [his] guts out." Four days later, the group made their debut at the Jacksonville Armory. Although many names were kicked around, including Beelzebub, the six-piece eventually decided on the Allman Brothers Band.
Debut and early years (1969–70)
The group moved to Macon, Georgia by May 1, where Walden was establishing Capricorn Records. Mike Callahan and Joseph "Red Dog" Campbell became the band’s early crew members. "Red Dog" was a disabled Vietnam veteran who donated his monthly disability checks to the band's cause. In Macon, the group stayed at friend Twiggs Lyndon's apartment on 309 College Street, which became known as the communal home of the band and crew, nicknamed the Hippie Crash Pad. "There were five or six occupied apartments in the building with the Hippie Crash Pad and you would expect they would call the police on us because we were constantly raising hell at three or four in the morning, but they all just moved out," said Trucks. Living meagerly, they found a friend in "Mama Louise" Hudson, cook and proprietor of the H&H Soul Food Restaurant, who ran a tab when they were short of funds, early on made good with proceeds from Duane's recording sessions on the side. The band's image was radical in the just barely integrated Macon: "A lot of the white folk around here did not approve of them long-haired boys, or of them always having a black guy with them," said Hudson. The band performed locally, as well as eighty miles north in Atlanta's Piedmont Park, and practiced at the newly minted Capricorn nearly each day.
The group forged a strong brotherhood, spending countless hours rehearsing, consuming psychedelic drugs, and hanging out in Rose Hill Cemetery, where they would write songs. Their first performances outside the South came on May 30 and 31 in Boston, opening for The Velvet Underground. In need of more material, the group remade old blues numbers like "Trouble No More" and "One Way Out", in addition to improvised jams such as "Mountain Jam". Gregg, who had struggled to write in the past, became the band's sole songwriter, composing songs such as "Whipping Post" and "Black-Hearted Woman." The band was originally set to record their first album in Miami with Cream and John Coltrane producer Tom Dowd, who proved unavailable. Instead, they headed off for New York City in August 1969 to work with Atlantic house engineer Adrian Barber in his first producer credit. The Allman Brothers Band was recorded and mixed in two weeks, and proved a positive experience for the ensemble. New York became regarded within the group as their "second home." The Allman Brothers Band saw release in November 1969 through Atco and Capricorn Records, but received a poor commercial response, selling less than 35,000 copies upon initial release.
Executives suggested to Walden that he relocate the band to New York or Los Angeles to "acclimate" them to the industry. "They wanted us to act 'like a rock band' and we just told them to fuck themselves," remembered Trucks. For their part, the members of the band remained optimistic, electing to stay in the South. "Everyone told us we'd fall by the wayside down there," said Gregg Allman, but the collaboration between the band and Capricorn Records "transformed Macon from this sleepy little town into a very hip, wild and crazy place filled with bikers and rockers". The band rented a $165-a-month farmhouse on a lake outside of Macon, the busy comings and goings at which reminded them of New York City's Idlewild Airport. Idlewild South was the home of rehearsals and parties, and was "where the brotherhood came to pass," according to roadie Kim Payne; "There was a pact made out there around a campfire—all for one and one for all ... Everybody believed [in the band] 100 percent." Much of the material presented on the band's second album, Idlewild South, originated at the cabin. Oakley's wife rented a large Victorian home on 2321 Vineville Avenue in Macon and the band moved into what they dubbed "the Big House" in March 1970.
Live reputation, At Fillmore East and breakthrough (1970–71)
Duane Allman, the group's leader, was killed in a motorcycle crash in 1971.
The band played continuously in 1970, performing over 300 dates on the road traveling in a Ford Econoline van and later, a Winnebago, nicknamed the Wind Bag. Walden doubted the band’s future, worrying whether they would ever catch on, but word of mouth spread due to the band's relentless touring schedule, and crowds got larger. The close proximity of the Winnebago brought about heavy drug use within the group, and all in the group, with the exception of the brothers, were struggling to make a living. In one instance, touring member Twiggs Lyndon stabbed and killed a promoter for not paying the band; he later claimed temporary insanity. Later that year, Duane accidentally overdosed on opium after a show. Idlewild South, produced by Tom Dowd, was recorded gradually over a period of five months in various cities, including New York, Miami, and Macon, and contained two of the band's best-known songs, "Midnight Rider" (later a hit for various artists) and "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed", which became one of the band's famous concert numbers.
Idlewild South was issued by Atco and Capricorn Records in September 1970, less than a year after their debut. The album sold only "marginally better than its predecessor, though the band had a growing national reputation and the album included songs that would become staples of the band's repertoire—and eventually of rock radio." Shortly after completing recording, Dowd put Duane in contact with guitarist Eric Clapton, who invited him to contribute to his new project, Derek and the Dominos. Allman was a huge fan of Clapton's work with Cream, and Clapton had been blown away by Allman's session work on Wilson Pickett's "Hey Jude" some years prior. They met after a show one night in Miami and jammed together until the next afternoon, with the two guitarists regarding one another as "instant soulmates." Clapton invited Duane to join Derek and the Dominos, and by several accounts he considered it; in the end, he declined the offer and rejoined the Allman Brothers Band, returning after missing a string of several shows. The sessions were collected on Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, issued that November.
Their fortunes began to change over the course of 1971, where the band's average earnings doubled. "We realized that the audience was a big part of what we did, which couldn’t be duplicated in a studio. A lightbulb finally went off; we needed to make a live album," said Gregg Allman. At Fillmore East was recorded over three nights — March 11, 12, and 13, 1971 — at the Fillmore East in New York, for which the band was paid a nightly $1,250. At Fillmore East was released in July 1971 by Capricorn Records as a double album, "people-priced" for the cost of a single LP. While previous albums by the band had taken months to hit the charts (often near the bottom of the top 200), the record started to climb the charts after a matter of days. At Fillmore East peaked at number thirteen on Billboard's Top Pop Albums chart, and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America that October, becoming their commercial and artistic breakthrough. The album is considered among the best live albums of all time, and in 2004 was one of the albums selected for preservation in the Library of Congress, deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important" by the National Recording Registry.
Eat a Peach and Duane Allman and Berry Oakley's deaths (1971–72)
Although suddenly very wealthy and successful, much of the band and its entourage now struggled with heroin addiction. Four individuals — group leader Duane Allman, bassist Berry Oakley, and roadies Robert Payne and Joseph "Red Dog" Campbell — checked into the Linwood-Bryant Hospital for rehabilitation in October 1971. On October 29, 1971, Duane Allman, then 24, was killed in a motorcycle accident one day after returning to Macon. Allman was riding his motorcycle at a high speed at the intersection of Hillcrest Avenue and Bartlett Street as a flatbed truck carrying a lumber crane approached. The truck stopped suddenly in the intersection, forcing Allman to swerve his Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle sharply to the left to avoid a collision. As he was doing so, he struck either the back of the truck or the ball on the lumber crane and was immediately thrown from the motorcycle. The motorcycle bounced into the air, landed on Allman and skidded another 90 feet with Allman pinned underneath, crushing his internal organs. Though he was alive when he arrived at the hospital, despite immediate emergency surgery, he died several hours later from massive internal injuries.
After Duane's death, the band held a meeting on their future; it was clear all wanted to continue, and after a short period, the band returned to the road. "We all had this thing in us and Duane put it there. He was the teacher and he gave something to us—his disciples—that we had to play out," said drummer Butch Trucks. The band returned to Miami in December to complete work on their third studio album. Completing the recording of Eat a Peach raised each member's spirits; "The music brought life back to us all, and it was simultaneously realized by every one of us. We found strength, vitality, newness, reason, and belonging as we worked on finishing Eat a Peach," said Allman. "Those last three songs [...] just kinda floated right on out of us [...] The music was still good, it was still rich, and it still had that energy—it was still the Allman Brothers Band." Released in February 1972, Eat a Peach was the band's second hit album, shipping gold and peaking at number four on Billboard's Top 200 Pop Albums chart. "We'd been through hell, but somehow we were rolling bigger than ever," said Gregg Allman.
The band performed nearly 90 shows in the following year, touring as a five-piece. The band also purchased 432 acres of land in Juliette, Georgia for $160,000 and nicknamed it "the Farm"; it soon became a group hangout and fulfilled bassist Berry Oakley's communal dreams. Oakley, however, was visibly suffering from the death of his friend: he excessively drank and consumed drugs, and was losing weight quickly. According to friends and family, he appeared to have lost "all hope, his heart, his drive, his ambition, [and] his direction" following Duane’s death. "Everything Berry had envisioned for everybody—including the crew, the women and children—was shattered on the day Duane died, and he didn’t care after that," said roadie Kim Payne. Oakley repeatedly wished to "get high, be high, and stay high," causing quiet concern from all those around him. On November 11, 1972, slightly inebriated and overjoyed at the prospect of leading a jam session later that night, Oakley crashed his motorcycle into the side of a bus, just three blocks from where Duane had been killed in a bike accident. He declined hospital treatment and went home, but gradually grew delirious. He was taken to the hospital shortly thereafter and died of cerebral swelling caused by a fractured skull. Oakley was buried directly beside Duane at Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Georgia.
Brothers and Sisters, celebrity, and inner turmoil (1973–74)
The band unanimously decided to carry on and arrange auditions for new bassists, with a renewed fervor and determination. Several bassists auditioned, but the band picked Lamar Williams, an old friend of drummer Jai Johanny Johanson's from Gulfport, Mississippi, two years removed from an Army stint in Vietnam. Chuck Leavell was asked to play piano for Allman’s solo album, Laid Back (1973), and gradually found himself contributing to the Allman Brothers as well. Dickey Betts became the group's de facto leader during the recording process. "It's not like Dickey came in and said, 'I'm taking over. I'm the boss. Do this and that.' It wasn't overt; it was still supposedly a democracy but Dickey started doing more and more of the songwriting," said road manager Willie Perkins. Brothers and Sisters was an enormous success, peaking at number one, resulting in the band becoming "the most popular band in the country." "Ramblin' Man", Betts' country-infused number, received interest from radio stations immediately, and it rose to number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Allman Brothers Band returned to touring, playing larger venues, receiving more profit and dealing with less friendship, miscommunication and spiraling drug problems. This culminated in a backstage brawl when the band played with the Grateful Dead at Washington's RFK Stadium in June 1973, which resulted in the firing of three of the band's longtime roadies. The band played arenas and stadiums almost solely as their drug use escalated. In 1974, the band was regularly making $100,000 per show, and was renting the Starship, a customized Boeing 720B used by Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. "When [we] got that goddamn plane, it was the beginning of the end," said Allman. Both Allman and Betts released top 20 solo albums in 1974 (The Gregg Allman Tour and Highway Call). The sessions that produced 1975's Win, Lose or Draw, the last album by the original Allman Brothers Band, were disjointed and inconsistent; Gregg Allman was largely living in Los Angeles and dating pop star Cher, and was, according to biographer Alan Paul, "[becoming] more famous for being famous than for his music." His vocals were recorded there, as he could not be bothered to return to Macon much. Upon its release, it was considered subpar and sold less than its predecessor; the band later remarked that they were "embarrassed" about the album.
From August 1975 to May 1976, the Allman Brothers Band played 41 shows to some of the biggest crowds of their career. Gradually, the members of the band grew apart during these tours, with sound checks and rehearsals "[becoming] a thing of the past." Allman later pointed to a benefit for presidential candidate Jimmy Carter as the only real "high point" in an otherwise "rough, rough tour." The shows were considered lackluster and the members were excessive in their drug use. The "breaking point" came when Gregg Allman testified in the trial of security man Scooter Herring. Bandmates considered him a "snitch," and he received death threats, leading to law-enforcement protection. Herring was convicted on five counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and received a 75-year prison sentence, which was later reduced. For his part, Allman always maintained that Herring had told him to take the deal to turn state's evidence and that he (Herring) would take the fall; nevertheless, the band refused to communicate with Allman after the incident. As a result, the band finally broke up; Leavell, Williams, and Jaimoe continued playing together in Sea Level, Betts formed Great Southern, and Allman founded the Gregg Allman Band. The 1976 live album Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas was seen as "the last gasp of a dying band," which was unfortunate for the now-foundering Capricorn Records, which desperately needed the band together to stay afloat.
First reunion, subsequent break-up, and interim years (1979–88)
In 1978, Allman and Walden first approached Betts with the idea of a reunion. Their first public appearance together came at a Great Southern show in New York's Central Park that summer, when Allman, Trucks, and Jaimoe joined the band for a few songs. Williams and Leavall declined to leave Sea Level, so the Allman Brothers Band hired two new members: guitarist Dan Toler and bassist David Goldflies. The band reunited with Tom Dowd at Criteria Studios in Miami to cut their reunion album, which was released in February 1979 as Enlightened Rogues, a term Duane had used to describe the band. While the band "tried to make it happen," they later concluded that the chemistry was not there; the album was a minor commercial success, which was credited to the production work from Dowd. Betts filed a lawsuit against Walden for nonpayment of record and publishing royalties, and Betts's lawyer, Steve Massarsky, began managing the group. Betts won the lawsuit, and the rest of the band filed suit while Capricorn declared bankruptcy that October. Massarsky led the successful effort to sign the band with Arista, which pushed the band to "modernize" their sound. "[Arista founder] Clive Davis destroyed any hope that we had that we could make the thing work again," said Trucks later. "He wanted us to be a Southern American version of Led Zeppelin and brought in outside producers and it just kept getting worse."
Their first Arista effort, Reach for the Sky (1980), was produced by Nashville songwriters Mike Lawler and Johnny Cobb. Bonnie Bramlett, who toured with the band near the end of the decade, sang lead on one song. Lawler soon became a part of the band's touring ensemble, incorporating center-stage keytar solos "that most fans consider the band's nadir." Drugs remained a problem with the band, particularly among Betts and Allman. Although the album was made with the intention of creating a hit single, the genre of southern rock was waning considerably in the mainstream. The band again grew apart, firing longtime roadie "Red Dog" and replacing Jaimoe with Toler's brother Frankie, who had been a member of Great Southern. The main point of contention was Jaimoe's insistence that his wife and manager, Candace Oakley (Berry's sister), handle his business affairs. "One of the real blights on the history of The Allman Brothers Band was that Jaimoe, this gentle man, was fired from this organization," said Allman later. Not long after, "the band changed managers, hiring the promoter John Scher after Massarsky eased himself out, reportedly saying, 'It’s a million-dollar headache and a quarter-million-dollar job.'"
For their second and final album with Arista, Brothers of the Road, they collaborated with a "name producer" (John Ryan, of Styx and the Doobie Brothers), who pushed the band even harder to change their sound. "Straight from the Heart" was the album's single, which became a minor hit but heralded the group's last appearance on the top 40 charts. The band, considering their post-reunion albums "embarrassing," subsequently broke up in 1982 after clashing with Clive Davis, who rejected every producer the band suggested for a possible third album, including Tom Dowd and Johnny Sandlin. "We broke up in '82 because we decided we better just back out or we would ruin what was left of the band’s image," said Betts. The band's final performance came on Saturday Night Live in January 1982, where they performed "Southbound" and "Leavin'." The members regrouped occasionally in the intervening years; in 1986, Betts and Allman toured together, with each opening for one another and collaborating for a set. Allman's solo career began looking up when he released his first solo album in over a decade in 1987, I'm No Angel. The title track became a surprise hit on radio, garnering heavy airplay.