Allman Brothers Band: Ramblin' On

By: Nancy Dunham

Allman Brothers Band by Danny Clinch
Craziness may rage outside the Beacon Theatre in New York but life is calm at 'Bert's house.'

That's what the Allman Brothers long-time manager Bert Holman calls the suite where he's living during the weeks the Brothers are in residency at their unofficial home base. As he dines on a breakfast of coffee and a bagel inside his suite the morning after one of the first Beacon shows, he is the calm ringmaster controlling what could easily explode into madness just on the basis of star power alone.

"We've been talking about it for over a year now," said Holman of the plans for this year's 15 show run, which mark the Brothers' 20th year at the Beacon and 40th year as a band. "We just said let's do something special. And it's still evolving. We're calling people we talked to at the beginning [of the planning]. People are calling us. Bruce Willis was there [one] night."

So, how can Holman and the Brothers relax on this day off as appearances by Ronnie Wood, Eric Clapton, Billy Bob Thornton, and other musical luminaries are bandied about? You could say it's the school of hard knocks endured dating back to 1967 when budding guitar master Duane Allman convinced his brother Gregg to leave Los Angeles and bring his vocal and keyboard skills to "fill out" Duane's Jacksonville, Florida-based band.

The Roots of ABB

Duane Allman from allmanbrothersband.com
As fans know, Duane and Gregg were members of The Escorts, which became The Allman Joys and then morphed into Hour Glass before becoming the Allman Brothers Band in 1969.

It was during the Allman Joy days that ABB founding drummer Butch Trucks first met the brothers Allman.

"I was playing with a band and in walked The Beatles; well, they were to me," said Trucks. "The Allman Joys – Duane and Gregg – walked in the room and there was such a presence. Duane [exuded] so much strength and grace and Gregg with his long, blonde hair [was captivating], and they really liked our band and we went to their house and were sleeping on the floor."

It wasn't long before Duane called and Trucks became a member of the Allman Brothers Band. Officially born March 26, 1969, the original founding members included Duane, Gregg, Butch, percussionist Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johansen, guitarist-singer Dickey Betts and bassist Berry Oakley.

"Those first couple years we'd go set up at a park on our days off. The first time we did that was Piedmont Park in Atlanta, and we just found some plugs and set up and started playing," Trucks said. "We didn't ask anybody. We just started playing."

And as the saying goes, if you build it they will come. That was certainly true for the ABB. When people heard the music they gathered and the crowd grew throughout the day. When the Brothers returned, the word-of-mouth spread and the crowds multiplied.

"The next Sunday somebody brought a flatbed truck for the stage and two or three other bands wanted to play," said Trucks. "In a few weeks we had 10,000 people [in the audience] and it just became this thing. The police were cool, just trying to keep harmony."

Playing For Time

Early promo pic from allmanbrothersband.com
Although the band's albums, starting with the 1969 debut The Allman Brothers Band - which was especially noteworthy due to "Dreams" and "Whipping Post" – received critical and popular acclaim, there were tensions fueled by stress, drugs and alcohol.

"Alcohol was my nemesis. You can get it anywhere, take it anywhere and it's accepted," said Gregg Allman as he rehearsed a few months before the Beacon gigs. "I used to always have a big jug in my bag. Always."

Just as Rolling Stone magazine heaped kudos on the band and their legendary 1971 live album, At Fillmore East, caught fire, Duane was killed when a truck hit his motorcycle on October 29, 1971. The breakdown of the band accelerated, but not right away, of course.

Dickey Betts filled in playing both his own and Duane's parts, and the band completed its in-progress album, Eat a Peach, to critical acclaim. Instead of trying to replace Duane, the group added Chuck Leavell as a second pianist and continued to record and tour. Then, Oakley died in a motorcycle crash in 1972, just a few blocks from where Duane had died.

When Oakley was replaced the group finished Brothers and Sisters, which had the powerhouse hits "Ramblin' Man" and "Jessica," and the band was one of the top concert bands in the country. However, its members were close to breakdowns.

"In 1976 there were a lot of reasons we were the biggest band in the country and we lost all that in a rock & roll fantasy," said Trucks. "Drugs and alcohol were incredibly destructive and I met a woman – we just had our 31st wedding anniversary – and she told me, 'Alcohol is not the best thing to do. You're a complete asshole when you're drunk.'"

As the band began to spiral out of control Gregg held onto alcohol until he was "almost completely dead," said Trucks.

Continue reading for more on the Allman Brothers Band...

 
Right now we've got the right mix of players, maybe the best since [my brother died]. When we're together there is no bullshit, credit grabbing or paranoia. It's just a group of seven guys playing music, which is what it should be.

-Gregg Allman

 

The band broke up, reconciled and broke up again numerous times gaining and losing more members than Christopher Guest's fictional "New Main Street Singers." Through it all they continued to perform, have hits and pull plenty of fans to their shows, netting Gold and Platinum records, a Grammy Award (for "Jessica") and sold-out tours.

Betts, Haynes & Woody - ABB by Blakesberg
The turning point for Gregg Allman, and in many ways the band, was when he saw a video of himself giving the acceptance speech during the band's 1995 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"For years doctors told him, 'If you don't stop drinking you'll die.' And he would say to the doctors, 'I’ve been hearing that for years and I'm still here,'" said Trucks. "When he saw that speech and how bad he looked that is what straightened him up."

Although Allman has been sober for years, he suffers from a host of ailments including Hepatitis C and a back condition that forces him to have ample rest between shows. Allman said his drinking is a major regret of his life.

"I tell my kids, 'You are not going to live forever. Don't put anything in your mouth that will shorten your life. If you don't do it, then my illness won't be in vain,'" he said.

Son Devon Allman, who heads the band Honeytribe, took his father's message to heart.

"I am nearly a year sober," said Devon. "The road can swallow you up if you let it. You have to make the decision, 'No, I am not going to find an after party or find a place to jam.' When the house lights go up and people go home, you have to go home. I am so happy and proud that my dad is happy and healthy and sober enough to do this. My hat's off to him and the other Brothers."

Still Ramblin'

However, Allman's sobriety didn't end the band's troubles. Trucks explains how various internal uproars kept pushing him to leave the group.

"It was almost always because of one person and when I finally did make the decision to leave that's when we decided to change personnel," said Trucks of the dark days of 2000. "Dickey just couldn't stop drinking. When Gregg would get drunk, he'd try to stay out of the way. We'd run his mic down, turn is organ down and play more instrumental. Dickey stayed right in the middle of the stage and became very mean and aggressive. At one point I said, 'I can't do this anymore.' I called Gregg and he felt the same way."

The band sent Betts a letter urging him to seek help while they toured without him.

"Instead of seeking help, he sought a lawyer," said Trucks and a lengthy litigation continued. "That's when he was out."

Today's Band

Haynes & Allman - ABB by Blakesberg
After Betts left, the band went through several personnel shifts before it settled into the current lineup of Allman, Trucks, Jaimoe, percussionist Marc Quiñones, guitarist Derek Trucks (Butch's nephew), bassist Oteil Burbridge and guitarist-singer Warren Haynes.

"Right now we've got the right mix of players, maybe the best since [my brother died]," said Allman. "When we're together there is no bullshit, credit grabbing,or paranoia. It's just a group of seven guys playing music, which is what it should be."

Holman said residencies like the Beacon keep the members centered and give Gregg the much-needed time he needs to recharge before playing the marathon three-plus hour shows for which the band is famous. The result, said Trucks, is apparent on stage.

"It is getting better and better and better – it's like it was in this early days," he said. "We are all playing music because we like playing music. We like each other. We respect each other. If we have a little blow up we confront it and get it out and the band is stronger than ever. The people in the band are acting like adults rather than children. It's the right chemistry."

And that, observes Allman, is the reason he plans to continue playing with these guys for as many years as possible.

"I guess there is part of me that thinks there will come a day I can only sit back and watch," he said. "I want to get in as many shows as I can without taking anything away from the fans. I won't do the show half assed."

The Allman Brothers Band is currently in the midst of their annual Beacon Theatre run and recently announced West Coast dates. Details available here.

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Continue reading for further thoughts on the Beacon run...

Best of The Beacon

By: Nancy Dunham

Gregg Allman :: 03.16.09 :: Beacon Theatre by Perrucci
It's a given that some Allman Brothers' fans will stay in New York for several nights to see shows during the band's annual Beacon residency.

Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy, Bruce Willis, Taj Mahal, Stanley Clarke plus Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell of Phish are just some of the musical guests who've joined the band during the shows thus far. Eric Clapton, Ronnie Wood and others are on the short list of those expected to make appearances before the run is over.

"I can't spoil all the surprises," said Gregg Allman. "We're mixing it up."

Aside from the excitement generated by secret guests and set lists, the ABB isn't making many plans public because they don't know what's around the corner during this residency. Take the second night when David Hidalgo and Cesar Rojas of Los Lobos joined the band.

"The guys from Los Lobos came directly from JFK [airport] to play," said long-time ABB manager Bert Holman. "They had just flown in, took a cab to the Beacon, and walked in. They gave [us] the high sign and came up and played... They stayed on until 1 am, all of us just talking."

That kind of connection is what convinced Devon Allman, Gregg's son, to become a musician.

"The first song at the first concert [at a 1989 show in Miami] I knew," said Devon, who will play a Beacon after party show with his band Honeytribe on March 27. "The electricity, the bond between the band and crowd was overwhelming. It's not about being a 'rock star,' it's about being able to touch people with that type of energy."

Although the 15 nights of shows are sold out, fans can check out live streaming videos of each show at Moogis.com. Founding drummer Butch Trucks started the site, which includes extras such as interviews with band members and archived video.

"Every day we keep raising the bar," said Holman. "It's always part of the challenge."

Continue reading to see what's up with Devon Allman's Honeytribe...

Space Age Blues: Devon Allman's Honeytribe

By: Nancy Dunham

Devon Allman
Where, oh where, has Devon Allman's Honeytribe gone?

Fear not, they've just been on an eight-week break and are coming back to tour and road test some of the songs Devon's written for the band's new album, Space Age Blues.

"It's halfway written," said Gregg's son. "There is a lot of funky stuff that is different for us. It's hard to describe stylistically but it's really steeped in the old school thing."

Devon knows that avoiding the dreaded "sophomore slump" is key to keeping his band on track. That's why he's taking his time writing this second album, which he expects to have about a dozen songs.

"Everyone gets a [honeymoon for their] debut, but the second record is so important. It's a real statement," he said. "I am not in a rush but I am. It's been two and a half years since the last release and I really want this to be a jaw dropper and heartbreaker."

Devon's currently deciding whether to record in Ardent Studios in Memphis, in a studio owned by friend Billy Bob Thornton or elsewhere (trivia alert: Ardent is the studio where Honeytribe recorded its debut Torch. It's also where the Allman Brothers Band, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and many other musical legends have recorded). Whichever studio he chooses, he sees the album as advancing the band, especially now that drummer Gabriel Strange has joined.

"I think we are still exploring our signature sound," said Devon. "The principals have always been and will also be the dynamics. It's kind of where it's going organically. We aren't in this for MTV or to have hit singles. We're trying to perpetuate the first decade out of the bag and if you want a career in this business you have to slam it down people's throats."

Find Devon Allman and Honeytribe's tour dates here.

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Comments

Road To Shambala Thu 3/19/2009 09:15AM
+6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Road To Shambala

THIS BAND IS STILL KICKING MAJOR ASS!!!! PERIOD!!!!!

irtimed starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/19/2009 09:46AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

irtimed

They're better off without dickey. don't believe me? read the article.

farquha starstarstarstar Thu 3/19/2009 11:05AM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

this band kicks ASS

nsafay Thu 3/19/2009 11:05AM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

The Allman Bros Band is just freakin amazing. My favorite band ever. What hisory of rock and roll saga that has a few of the greatest musicians of all time as the lead characters. Man how I wish I could have seen Duane live in person then, and man how much I wish I could be in New York right now seeing some amazing shows now. My jaw drops in wonder everytime Derek Trucks gets a solo. Please keep it coming fellas!

nsafay Thu 3/19/2009 11:06AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

sorry "what a history" I meant in there.

Deadphishbiscuits Thu 3/19/2009 11:08AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Deadphishbiscuits

hope they announce a nasty summer tour with atleast one western ny stop on the map love me some allmans i sure do

jazzfester starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/19/2009 11:53AM
+6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I know...I know...but I still miss Dickey.

Mexicenfood Thu 3/19/2009 02:38PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

i have a 1130 bus tomorrow to NY cant wait to see two nights of the brothers, they are as good now as they have ever been, play awesome sets and have great guests

Parsonsgoggles starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/19/2009 03:30PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Parsonsgoggles

Fox in Oakland....!!!!!!!!!!

n-1 starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/19/2009 08:21PM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

clapton tonight. dicky had the best guitar solos period. thats the end of it. better is subjective. probably wouldn't be as successful with him. music, who knows.

gsu8406 starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/19/2009 08:43PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great article! I've been checking these Beacon sets and been getting more and more jealous every time. Can't wait for Wanee this year. I've made it down there every year they've had it and it's a blast. Y'all stay healthy and make sure all the brothers make it down this year.

gsu8406 starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/19/2009 08:57PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Dreams and Layla with EC tonight!!! Anyone know some deals on last minute flights to NY?

nsafay Fri 3/20/2009 05:45AM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Differ on the above Betts comment. Duane's solos were WAY more intense/quicker/unique/etc. In fact, I believe that Warren and Dereks's solos have better style and skill than Dickey's, but hey, that's only my opinion.

Wholedamnlawn Fri 3/20/2009 06:23AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great look at what the band has going on this month. Honest Tune also had some really good stuff about the Allmans this month.

http://www.honesttune.com/content/view/1584/49/

jmasur Fri 3/20/2009 06:33AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I've listened to the band since 1970, and just now appreciate how much Dickey

brought to the group. He and Duane played off each other so beautifully. The band was a little more free-form with Dickey, because he had a jazzier feel than Warren, who is primarily rooted in the blues. Also, I think Gregg and Dickey challenged each other (musically) and that amped things up.

kandrokitis starstarstarstarstar Fri 3/20/2009 08:09AM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

kandrokitis

RIP Duane and Berry. The new lineup is definitely doin the music justice and more though. Derek and Warren are two of the best guitarists around today and possibly one of the best guitar combos ever. and not many people can play the bass like Oteil.

Dire46daysWolf Fri 3/20/2009 10:41AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Dire46daysWolf

one the best jam bands out there right now....a powerhouse to say the least keep on Ramblin'!

WidespreadMule3 starstarstarstarstar Fri 3/20/2009 11:15AM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

WidespreadMule3

love me some allman brothers! i've been listening to the beacon runs and i gotta say they're still stronger and tighter than 80-90% of the bands out there. i just hope ole gregg can handle to keep on keeping on. i have a great fear they're not gonna be together much longer. i'd love to see them one more.

D-Line Fri 3/20/2009 02:14PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

not a bad article but no love for Allen Woody? you serious? and there are two nights still on sale. and p.s. the band isnt better off without dicky, they are a differnt band, still awesome, but differnt. im just waiting for dicky to come out on this run, they are missing so many good songs in the setlist that are his, blue sky anyone? rambling man? back where it all begins? BRING DICKY HOME. ive been to every show on this run and last nights clapton show was insane, hands down the best night so far, but they were all great in their own way. also, i saw roger waters there last night, MAYBE A "WISH YOU WERE HERE" TONIGHT WITH CLAPTON????? FOR DUANE???

(clapton was roger waters guitarist on his first tour without pink floyd)

D-Line Fri 3/20/2009 02:17PM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

www.live365.com/stations/2012_live this is a link to hear music from this run, have fun, your welcome

mgizmo Fri 3/20/2009 06:20PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

"You're an asshole when you're drunk" Great quote from Butch Truck's wife. If only more people realized this!

phishinpanic Sat 3/21/2009 08:27AM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

phishinpanic

I've been to the cemetary where Duane and Berry rest next to each other. There headstones have mushrooms engraved on them "and the road goes on forever".

phishinpanic Sat 3/21/2009 08:28AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

phishinpanic

I know, I know.."Their"

boom shanker Sat 3/21/2009 04:14PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

boom shanker

haha mushrooms on headstones is brilliant! lord i was born a ramblin' man!

garrettgsell starstarstarstarstar Sat 3/21/2009 05:54PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

garrettgsell

RIP Dickey... Lets hope he gets sober sometime.

futhepharmer Sun 3/22/2009 08:57AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

futhepharmer

anyone know where to get me some ABB SBDs for DLing?

Barneyfife star Mon 3/23/2009 06:15AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I cant believe anyone would trash Dickey Betts. How about Liz Reed, Jessica, Ramblin man', Back where it all begins, Southbound. Who is Derek Trucks to be in the Allmans for a year or two and say Betts has gotta go? Betts should be in the Allman Brothers Band, Period. A living legend kicked out of his own band. This article made me sick to my stomach, and bummed me out to hear Trucks said that. I've been to plently of Betts band shows, and he is still blowin' it up!!

Ching starstarstarstarstar Mon 3/23/2009 01:25PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Awesome article!!!

be sure to check out OTEIL w LEE BOYS next week!!!

kaiserbun starstarstarstar Mon 3/23/2009 05:45PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

the whole dickey thing is tough to analyze no matter how you look at it. sure he isn't nearly the best guitar player the band has ever had. duane, warren, and derek are all way ahead of him, but he was the best songwriter in the band, the reason they stayed together after duane died, and the heart and soul of the band for a very long time. that needs to be remembered in my opinion, bashing him is completely unecessary and shows that your not a true allman brothers fan if your doing it. he wrote instrumentals like jessica, liz reed, and high falls by himself. warren haynes has praised how hard it is to do that. sure gregg has sobered up, but he was a piece of shit for years and years. he couldn't finish shows half the time in the 90s. however, after hearing the story over and over the past few years i can't necessarily say i disagree with the rest of the band for removing betts. it sounds like they just couldn't make it work with the situation. i personally love the current sound of the band. derek trucks is flat out amazing, and they're still going strong. However, if your going to take a look at the overall history of the allman brothers, dickey betts should be a very large part of it.

rainydayman starstarstarstarstar Mon 3/23/2009 06:48PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

rainydayman

^^^^ Barneyfife, you are quoting the wrong Trucks. Derek didn't say those things about Dickey Betts, Butch did....duh.

jayhawk21 Mon 3/23/2009 09:37PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

jayhawk21

JB and Jimmy Herring played with them tonight, I heard it was nasty

kappy9991 starstarstarstarstar Tue 3/24/2009 12:00AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

March 23... one of the best sounding Allman Shows ive ever been to

redwhiteandgreen starstarstarstarstar Wed 4/15/2009 10:09AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

redwhiteandgreen

If y'all are looking for a new band that has a similar vibe to the A Bros, but who is pushing the sound forward check out Blues and Lasers. Two drum sets, two lead guitars, heavy shit. Support the next generation!!!