Duane Allman’s birthday was Nov 20th so I listened to music from The Allman Brothers Band all day. I was in the kitchen prepping for a houseful of guests scheduled to arrive Saturday for an early Thanksgiving celebration. More than once I found myself marveling at the genius of Duane’s slide guitar playing, the intricate harmonies of the dual guitar leads that he and Dickey Betts arranged, Gregg Allman’s soulful vocal deliveries and the solid foundation maintained by bassist Barry Oakley and drummers Butch Trucks and "Jaimoe" Johanson.

Duane and his younger brother Gregg formed the band in Florida in the late 60s before relocating to Macon, Georgia. The band has been tagged as the originators of the Southern Rock sub-genre. Granted they paved the way for acts such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Outlaws and Marshall Tucker, but their music is heavily influenced by Blues, Jazz and R&B and their live shows were legendary.

Duane’s professional career took off after he landed a gig as a session guitarist at the Florence Alabama Music Enterprises (FAME) Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama where he recorded with Aretha Franklin, King Curtis and Wilson Pickett. He put together a group and started recording their jams. FAME Studios wasn’t crazy about Duane’s recording style or his music so they sold his contract to Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records

At the same time Gregg was recording in Los Angeles in the band Hour Glass, a band he and Duane started in 1967. With the Atlantic Records deal Duane persuaded his brother to return home and be the vocalist and keyboard player for the band.

The Allman Brothers Band recorded three stellar albums before Duane died in a motorcycle accident. He was the heart and soul of the band, inspiring them to continue to improve in both performance and composition. He kept everyone focused and moving forward. Shortly after his passing, drug use and drinking increased among band members and crew as did the internal bickering. Sadly the group rarely achieved the creative high notes realized during Duane’s tenure.

 

My picks from the collection:

The Fillmore Concerts (1971)

First released as “At the Fillmore” then remixed and expanded, this set was recorded at the storied Fillmore East in New York City during a three night stand in the spring of 1971.

The Fillmore Concerts may be one of the best live Rock N Roll albums ever recorded. It was the release that caught everyone’s attention and their first commercial success.

The first disc includes covers of Blues standards “Statesboro Blues”, “One Way Out” and “Stormy Monday”. Disc two has a searing rendition of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”, a set list staple of the band for years to come.

Eat A Peach (1972)

It was recorded before and after Duane’s death and is one of my Desert Island Discs (i.e., you’re on an island and can bring only 10 discs…) The double LP was in regular rotation on my turntable from 1973 well into the 90s featuring some of my favorite Allman compositions “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”, “Melissa”, “Blue Sky” and “Little Martha”

Beginnings (1973)

This is actually a reissue of the first two Allman Brothers albums, “The Allman Brothers Band” and “Idelwild South”. It’s a double shot of Blues standards and original songs. My faves are “Dreams”, Whipping Post”, “Midnight Rider” and “Revival”

Brothers and Sisters (1973)

The first complete album without Duane. Additionally, bassist Barry Oakley died in a motorcycle crash in late 1972. Tom Dowd produced the first three albums, but the band replaced him for this release. Dickey Betts stepped into the leadership role and composed four of the seven tracks which reflect his Country and Bluegrass roots. Highlights “Ramblin’ Man”, “Jessica” and “Southbound”

The library has the aforementioned discs and many more so stop by your local branch and check them out.

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