Midnight Riders – I Go On the Road With The Allman Brothers Band – (1 of 4)

Well, I’ve got to run to keep from hiding
And I’m bound to keep on riding
And I’ve got one more silver dollar
But I’m not gonna let them catch me, no
Not gonna let ’em catch the midnight rider
—-Midnight Rider, Gregg Allman/Kim Payne

In March of 1996, I got a phone call from a woman who was close to the Allman Brothers Band (She was in fact, one of a couple of people behind their web site, Hittin’ The Web, so-named because when the ABB got into their playing zone, they called it hittin’ the note.)

After some chit-chat, she casually asked me if I’d like to go on a road trip with the band for one week in May. This was the Dickey Betts/Warren Haynes incarnation of the band which was to last until the year 2000 when Dickey got fired for being, well, a dick. After I scraped myself off the ceiling, I pretty quickly said ‘Yes!’

Prior to this I’d had some contact with this woman, Lana, mostly through the web site. (It was a small community back then. It may seem hard to believe now but Amazon had only started two years prior, in 1994.) But this call came totally out of the blue.

What was the deal? Well, the band was doing a tour of some of the cities in the Southeastern United States and they were convoying between the venues on two chartered bus. (I believe the days of the chartered plane were largely over.)

The specific cities they were touring were Atlanta, Georgia, (mostly just a gathering point); Knoxville, TN; Charleston, SC; Greenville, SC; Birmingham, AL; Memphis, TN; Elizabethtown, KY.

So yes, the Deep South. This sounded interesting not only because of the band but also because as a tried-and-true Yankee (Philly, New York, Boston), I confess I hadn’t spent much time in the South.

Spotify link

It turns out that somehow Lana had convinced the Allmans to add a third chartered bus and invite a few superfans onto the bus to travel with the convoy, give them backstage passes and let them enjoy a bunch of shows. (Meeting the band was not on the menu to happen but, well, as I’ve teased previously in a comment, did to some extent occur.)

So the idea was that the superfans would all meet in Atlanta on a Sunday in April, get on the bus and convoy with the band to the various sites. For the most part, we’d sleep on the bus, occasionally staying in a hotel. With few exceptions, none of the people knew each other in advance, just all folks Lana had “met” through the website and, for one reason or another, had identified as likely candidates.

The story I’m about to share is somewhat from my memory but largely from a contemporaneous diary I kept. A guy traveling with us named Ron Currens put out a fanzine called – what else? – Hittin’ the Note and asked several of us to keep diaries to be published later. So some of what you will read will be adapted from Ron’s fine, if now defunct, magazine. (With attribution of course.)

But first, the itinerary:

Opening act – Edwin McCain.

–April 28 – Sunday – Meet in Atlanta, Georgia, get settled on the buses, head out to Worlds Fair Park in Knoxville, TN. First show setlist.
–April 29 – Monday – Leave Knoxville for Charleston, South Carolina. Hang out in Charleston. Stay at Mills House hotel. Free day.
–April 30 – Tuesday – Show at Charleston Coliseum
–May 1 – Wednesday – Leave Charleston, for Greenville, SC. Show at Memorial Auditorium
–May 2 – Thursday – Leave Greenville for Birmingham, Alabama. Hang out
–May 3 – Friday – Hang out in Birmingham, head to venue in Pelham, AL, Oak Mountain Ampitheater
–May 4 – Saturday – Leave Birmingham for Memphis, go to Beale Street Festival
–May 5 – Sunday -Leave Memphis for Elizabethtown, Kentucky. (Same weekend as Derby. Leave for Louisville venue, The Palace Theater
–May 6 – Monday – End of tour

So. You may by now be asking yourself how in the world did yours truly wind up getting invited to this tour that we ultimately wound up calling ‘Peaches and Dreams?’ (For a mere $750 USD for room and board.). Well, sit by the fire kids because in the next few posts, I am going to tell you the whole story. So help me God.

24 thoughts on “Midnight Riders – I Go On the Road With The Allman Brothers Band – (1 of 4)

    1. There were no shows that weren’t outstanding, CB. I went back and read the fanzines with reviews from various travelers. The memories came flooding back in. Night after night they did pretty much every song we ever wanted to hear. The Dickey/Warren duo was fearsome and the band was on fire. A real musical feast, a lot of it experienced right from the soundboard. I’ve been wanting to do this story for some time, took me a while to absorb it, get it all down. Trust me on this one – you will dig this series or I will eat my blog.

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    1. I’ve been kind of sitting on it, Anthony. I have alluded to it at various times but I didn’t want to give it away prematurely. I knew it would be a pretty good thing when I got around to doing it. But as I mentioned to CB, I needed to find a way into it and I just couldn’t figure it out. I had so much fucking data from those diaries I didn’t even know where to start. I left half the shit out but highlighted the cooler stuff.

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    1. How cool is that? For one thing, one of the last times I saw the band was at the Orpheum. For another, I had never noticed Butch leaning against the bus till Dickey mentioned it. I was a little disappointed Dickey didn’t mention me. But then after all, it was four years before our trip. 🙂 Dickey’s going on tour and I trust his (one hopes) fond memories of the Orpheum bring him back to Beantown. Thanks!

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      1. Funny how little stuff like that on an album cover go unnoticed.

        Yes. I hopes he pops by on the tour and gives a shout out from the stage.
        If you chat with him, mention the bus tour you were a part of.

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        1. You know, that’s funny but if there’s a reasonably priced meet and greet, I might just do that. He was reasonably sober back then and might remember that trip. To my knowledge they never did it before or since. All this is, of course, assuming he comes anywhere near Boston. I’m not traveling to NY or anything. There’s a fest in, I think, July that has the jam bands and Dickey’s at that. Only announced date I know of for him.

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  1. I just found out 2 things Allman related.
    Johnny Sandlin, the producer that worked with them and a ton of other bands died mostly unheralded last year.

    Also, Duane Allman plays on Ronnie Hawkins 1970 S/T album. I never knew.

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    1. The first one I seem to remember, the second one I did not know. BTW, Rick Hall who founded FAME studios in Alabama just passed. Duane was, of course, one of their guitarists. Recorded a lot of great stuff. Check out ‘Muscle Shoals’ documentary if you haven’t seen it.

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