The History Of: The Allman Brothers Band

author: Matt Montoya date: 06/06/2006 category: the history of
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The Allman Brothers Band were founded by legendary blues guitarist, Duane Allman in Macon, Georgia, 1968. Allman formed the band with guitarist, Forrest Richard Betts, aka Dickey Betts, also, the bass player, Berry Oakley, and Butch Trucks on drums. Butch Truck then introduced the band to Jaimoe, another drummer, giving the band an unheard-of drum sound. Although it had many talented musicians, they didn't have any good singers. Duane, loving the blues, chose his brother, Gregg Allman, as the keyboardist and lead singer. Although he was white, Gregg could sing like a blues musician from the '30s. His voice, mixed with the roaring guitar of Duane Allman could make an almost guaranteed success. Duane was never a frequent songwriter. His brother wrote the most songs out of all the band members on the first album, which was their self-titled debut. Gregg wrote the famous "Whippin' Post", and Berry Oakley wrote the bass intro. Gregg also wrote the mellow "Dreams". The first album, although getting good reviews, did not sell well. Their second album, "Idlewild South" also received even better reviews, getting a perfect 5 out of 5 stars from the All Music Guide. It revealed the genius songwriting of Dickey Betts, with "Revival" and the instrumental "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed". Gregg Allman scored with "Midnight Rider" and Berry Oakley had his singing debut in the bluesy "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man". However, this album failed to get the Allman Brothers well-known. Duane Allman said that their next album would be a live album, and he kept his promise. In March of 1971, the Allman Brothers Band played a concert at the Fillmore East. The concert was so impressive, they decided to make it the next album. Duane said that music is for people and that he wanted to sell it for $6.99. The producer said to Duane "You are f***ing crazy". The Allman Brothers Band released the album and it was a huge success. The critics were amazed with the band. It had electrifying blues songs with "Statesboro Blues", "One Way Out" and "Trouble No More". "Whippin' Post" was turned into a 22-minute version with Dickey Betts playing a 10-minute guitar solo, even out-playing Duane Allman. A member of the band can even be heard shouting "Yeah" during his solo. Betts' "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed" was 13 minutes long, with Dickey Betts getting the highlights of the album. He also had an instrumental mainly written by himself, "Hot 'Lanta". "Live At Fillmore East" was said to be the greatest live album ever. The Allman Brothers Band were one of the biggest names in music. Eric Clapton heard the Allman Brothers Band, and was amazed by Duane's guitar playing. When he heard they were coming to Miami, where he was, Clapton insisted to meet Duane. Eric's current band, Derek And The Dominos, was working on what would be their biggest hit, "Layla". Duane walked in and played a solo, using slide. The band was blown away with his skills. They used Duane for the solo, and it became the biggest song that featured Duane Allman. The Allman Brothers Band were it. They had the fame they had longed for. George Kimball of "Rolling Stone" said that they were "the best damn rock and roll band this country has produced in the past five years". Eric Clapton offered Duane a spot in Derek And The Dominos, but Duane wanted to stay with the Allman Brothers Band. Just a few months after the release of the Fillmore album, and right after it was certified gold, tragedy struck the band completely of guard. On October 29, 1971, Duane Allman was riding home on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, when he collided with a truck. He was taken to a hospital, where they could bring him back to life partially, but eventually, Duane Allman died at the age of 24. This sent Gregg Allman and Eric Clapton turning to drugs to help them deal with the death. The band decided to take 6 months off, but they couldn't make it 6 weeks. They decided to make another album in dedication to Duane. They released their next album "Eat A Peach" in 1972. It had some songs from the Fillmore East album, but most were new material. Gregg's hit for the album was Melissa, and according to Gregg, it was Duane's favorite song Gregg ever wrote. Dickey Betts had a hit with "Blue Sky", which was recorded with Duane Allman just before he died. He also showed the genius of his songwriting with another instrumental, "Les Brers In A Minor". The Album featured the only Allman Brothers song written completely by Duane Allman, The acoustic "Little Martha". Duane and Betts were the only members to play in this song. The album was another huge hit. It also got a perfect 5 out of 5 stars from the AMG. At this time, the Allman Brothers Band were the #1 band in America. They used the death of Duane Allman as an inspiration. But like the last album, tragedy struck just shortly after. Berry Oakley was riding home on a motorcycle, when he crashed and was thrown off. Berry wasn't wearing a helmet. He got back on and rode home. Later, he started to get headaches. He went to the hospital, but they couldn't save him. His crash was almost at the exact intersection as Duane's, just three blocks away. Raymond Berry Oakley III died November 11, 1972 at the age of 24, just nine days before Duane's birthday. He died of a skull fracture. This only worsened Gregg's use of drugs. But again, the Allman Brothers Band used tragedy and turned it into triumph. Dickey Betts wrote the Allman Brothers biggest hit, "Ramblin' Man", peaking at #2. Their next album, "Brothers & Sisters" became another huge success, hitting #1 on the first week of release. Betts shined again on this album, with another brilliant instrumental, "Jessica". This song achieved good radio play. Betts proved to be an incredibly talented songwriter. The Allman Brothers just weren't the same with the two missing members. Dickey Betts released the critically acclaimed bluegrass album, "Highway Call", and Gregg started a solo career with the album "Laid Back", and also got involved in a marriage with famous singer, Cher. The marriage last from 1975 to 79. They even had a duet album, "Allman and Woman", but fans of the Allman Brothers Band mainly did not like Cher's music, and vice versa. The Allman Brother got back together for another album, "Win, Lose Or Draw", peaking at #5. It featured a second keyboardist, Chuck Leavell. The album did not continue the band streak of 5-star albums in a row, only getting 1.5 stars. The album recieved poor reviews, but "High Falls", another instrumental by Betts held the album up. It did not receive good radio play, mainly because it was 15 minutes long, but it was the only good thing about the reviews of the album, proving that Betts was still a spectacular songwriter. They released another moderately successful live album, "Wipe The Windows, Check The Oil, Dollar Gas". The album got okay reviews, and featured a good version of Jessica, and a 17-minute version of "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed". In 1978, they had somewhat of a comeback with "Enlightened Rogues", featuring a new guitarist, Dan Toler. Betts once again has the highlight of the album with "Crazy Love", "Blind Love", and "Pegasus". This got, for the most part good reviews. In 1980, they released "Reach For The Sky", which also got poor reviews, but had some good songs with "Angeline", "Mystery Woman" and Betts held the album up again with his instrumental, "From The Madness Of The West". After a 9 year break in the '80s, they came back with "Seven Turns". The album got excellent reviews, and the title track was Dickey Betts composition, "Seven Turns". They had another huge live album, with "An Evening With The Allman Brothers Band", containing the Grammy-winning "Jessica" performance. In 2000, The Allman Brothers Band's Gregg Allman fired Dickey Betts from the band for alcohol problems. Betts was known for his drinking, showing up to concerts drunk. His alcohol problems can be heard on the unsuccessful "Peakin' At The Beacon" live album where Betts has disorganized guitar playing. "Rolling Stone" Magazine had an issue of the top 100 guitarists. Duane Allman was #2, trailing only Jimi Hendrix. The Allman Brothers released "Hittin' The Note", which had good reviews, but they just weren't the same. After "Hittin' The Note", they released one of the best live albums since Fillmore East, "Live At The Atlanta International Pop Festival", a concert from July 3rd and 5th in 1970, which had the founder, Duane Allman, with powerful solos. It was a double-disc album, receiving very high reviews. The Allman Brothers Band are still doing concerts and so is Dickey Betts. Although the achieved huge success, the main talent and the incredible guitar playing belonged to Duane Allman.
More Matt Montoya columns:
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