Off the top of your head, can you think of any instrumental that is played on mainstream rock radio other than “Jessica?” Unless you live somewhere where surf rock is still a staple, the Allman Brothers classic written by non-brother, Dickey Betts, is probably the only one. For over seven minutes in A major, the band jams through a series of heartwarming riffs that sound like comfort food tastes. Such is the awesome power of this band.
For a generation that loved the live album—seemingly every band had one in the 70s, or at least a tour documentary—the Allman Brothers Band had the best one with At Fillmore East. It is the gold standard of live albums, and is probably how you were introduced to the Allmans, if you’re anything like me. “Ok, The Allman Brothers Band,“ eternal words before Duane Allman fucking tears into “Statesboro Blues,“ playing slide guitar like no one has since.
They were known, originally for their blues inflected southern rock, but their artistry and ability set them apart from lesser bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd. Each member of the original lineup was a skilled musician at the top of their game. With Duane and Dickey taking the leads on guitar, Gregg Allman on Piano, Berry Oakley on Bass, and Jaimoe and Butch Trucks on Percussion (Yes, they had two drummers). One listen through Fillmore East, proves that, especially on the 30 minute long “Mountain Jam,” one of the benefits of CD technology was finally releasing this gem that can’t reasonably fit on a vinyl record.
The Allmans weren’t a one trick pony with ridiculously long and amazing live jams, Gregg and Dickey were incredibly talented songwriters as well. “Whipping Post,” “Midnight Rider,” “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” “Melissa,” the above-mentioned “Jessica,” and “Ramblin’ Man,” which is just so so good.
Unfortunately, the story of the Allman Brothers isn’t all peaches and cream, Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia in 1971 cutting his ridiculously talented at 24, having also played with greats like Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin, and his unforgettable turn on Clapton’s “Layla.” And if that weren’t fucked enough, Berry Oakley died in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia in 1972, blocks from where Duane died. He was also 24.
WHO THEY INFLUENCED:
Nearly anyone with a guitar in the 1970s was influenced by either Duane Allman or Dickey Betts. They came to represent, with other bands like CCR, Americana Rock that still takes root in bands like My Morning Jacket and Wilco (who toured under the Americana banner with Bob Dylan), albeit in slightly different form.
Taking a look at their list of band members (which there are so many, it has its own Wikipedia page), is a list of people who were influenced by this band, including Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, whose Uncle is founding member Butch Trucks. Derek didn’t become a member on name alone, influenced by Duane, he’s now one of the best living guitarists to pick up the slide guitar mantle.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING TO THE ALLMAN BROTHERS:
Do you like good music played well? Did you ever feel that you needed more guitars and more drums? Did you watch Top Gear and wanted to hear more songs like the theme song, except better? Then you need the Allman Brothers in your life.
Also, no one but the Dead does live better than the Allmans, and this year Gregg Allman is premiering the Laid Back festival at the Jones Beach Theatre. Head here for more info.
FIVE ESSENTIAL ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND TRACKS:
In Memory of Elizabeth Reed:
Article: Christopher Gilson