A Six-Pack of the Allman Brothers Band

Credit where credit is due dept: Recently, fellow blogger Cincinnati Babyhead did a post on the ABB’s “Ramblin’ Man.” We got to talking about this, that, and the other thing and then he asked me for recommendations on later ABB stuff. I listened to some and thought, hmm, doing some tunes from their Return to Glory years starting in 1989 or so might not be a bad idea.

So thanks to Mr. CB on that one. Frankly, I’m not even sure if CB is a real person. He claims to be from Canada but for all I know I could have been talking to a bot all this time. Anyway, onward. (And a little bonus for you at the end of the piece if you stick around).

The ABB’s first active, popular years were 1969 – 1976. At one time in that period, say about ’73-74 they loomed large. They even, by Carter’s own account, helped raise enough money to get fellow Georgian (they’d migrated there) Jimmy Carter elected President.

The band fell apart for all the usual drug/ego-related reasons. And then, per Wikipedia,  the “breaking point” came when Gregg Allman testified in the trial of security man Scooter Herring. Bandmates considered him a “snitch,” and he received death threats, leading to law-enforcement protection

After saying they could “never work with Gregg Allman again,” the band miraculously reformed in 1978 adding in guitarist Dan Toler from Dickey Bett’s Great Southern Band. This ensemble managed to crank out a few albums but by then, not only was the magic largely gone but the music cycle had turned away from their patented long jams and found them smack-dab in the middle of both the disco and punk eras. This incarnation lasted till 1982.

Meanwhile, a whole bunch of people in Austin, TX hadn’t gotten the message that blues was dead. And so one of those guys, Stevie Ray Vaughan, managed to break out of Austin’s gravity and make somewhat of a name for himself throughout the ’80’s. Dickey Betts was heard to say that SRV singlehandedly brought back the blues guitarist.

And so in 1989, the band, sensing that the time for yet another rebirth was ripe, reformed. This time Dickey brought in guitarist Warren Haynes from one of his ensembles and they later found bassist Allen Woody in open audition. (As a side project, Warren and Woody founded Gov’t Mule in 1995.)*

And in 1990, the newly reinvigorated, somewhat clean Allman Brothers band released their ninth studio album, Seven Turns. We still had excellent FM radio back then here in Boston and I recall what a joy it was to hear “Good Clean Fun” come blasting out of the radio. The thing that the ABB do that a lot of rock bands cannot is they fucking SWING:

Spotify link

It was this version of the band that I traveled with in 1996 which, Lordy Lordy, will be 25 years next month! You can read about that here if you haven’t already.

In 1995, the band traveled the country and recorded their shows. Their live album, An Evening With the Allman Brothers Band: 2nd Set was released in that year. Oddly, even though none of it was recorded at my old stomping grounds the Orpheum Theater in Boston, they put that picture you see on top of the post on the cover. (That’s from a previous album called First Set.) The Allmans very first show outside the south way back when was at the Boston Tea Party opening for Velvet Underground.

From that album, this is their Bo Diddley-inspired tune, Dickey’s “No One To Run With.” When they would play this tune live, they would flash pictures of rockers who are no longer with this on the screen behind them. By this time, many in the audience, sadly, did not recognize Duane Allman. And so Jerry Garcia’s picture got more cheers. Go figure.

Spotify link

From that same album, another classic Dickey Betts tune, ‘Jessica.” If you’re in the UK you know it as the intro music to the TV show Top Gear. The Wall Street Journal, of all publications, referred to it as a “national treasure.” It won a Grammy that year for Best Rock Instrumental Performance:

Spotify link

Wikipedia: The group recruited Oteil Burbridge of the Aquarium Rescue Unit to replace Woody on bass, and Jack Pearson on guitar. Concerns arose over the increasing loudness of Allman Brothers shows, which were largely centered on Betts. Pearson, struggling with tinnitus, left as a result following the 1999 Beacon run. (The band played residencies at New York’s Beacon for several years. I was fortunate enough to attend a couple including one of their very last shows in 2014.)

Trucks phoned his nephew, Derek Trucks, to join the band for their thirtieth-anniversary tour. But trouble was brewing. “It had ceased to be a band—everything had to be based around what Dickey was playing,” said Allman. Anger boiled over within the group towards Betts, which led to all original members sending him a letter, informing him of their intentions to tour without him for the summer. Dickey, in turn, sued the band and they tossed him out by, if I recall correctly, sending him a fax. 

And so from 2000 to 2014 the two guitarists in the band were Haynes/Trucks and so began the legend of the latter. Not that Warren sucks by any means. Interestingly, this unit only managed to release one album, 2003’s Hittin’ the Note. (Hittin’ the Note is what the Brothers called it when they were in the zone.)

You’re doubtless by now saying so where the hell is the blues? Well, “Woman Across the River” should answer that nicely. Warren leads off on not only that stinging guitar but also vocals. And Gregg lays down some really nice organ. YouTube version is live:

Spotify link

In 2003, our restless Dickey-less boys released a live album called One Way Out recorded at one of their Beacon residencies. Thus far I’ve steered clear of the band’s classic tunes. But I know you wanna hear some Derek Trucks slide. So here he is on the tune “Dreams” which was on the band’s debut album way back in 1969. Another live one here with a guy on trumpet (!) who I do not recognize:

Spotify link

So much good stuff to choose from. But you know, fuck it. Let’s end it here with “Midnight Rider.” I’m pretty sure you’ll recognize it. When Gregg died, the country music award guys did a pretty nice tribute.

Spotify link

In January 2017, founding member Butch Trucks died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. That May, Gregg Allman died from complications arising from liver cancer at the age of 69, putting an end to any possibilities of a reunion. And Dickey had a stroke a year or two back (I had tickets to see him) and so is not likely to tour.

In January 2020, the five surviving members of the final Allman Brothers lineup, calling themselves the Brothers,  held a show to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the band on March 10 at Madison Square Garden.

And now for the bonus – back in 1984, Dickey and Brian Setzer were at some “guitar greats” show. They’d never met before but jammed together on the 2nd tune. (The first one is Jessica so if you want to skip that, to about 8:15 or so. I guess this was played on TV which explains the brief commercial.

*Woody died in 2000 at the age of 44 from a heroin overdose.

41 thoughts on “A Six-Pack of the Allman Brothers Band

  1. Great picks, Jim. That live tune with Brian Setzer is really smoking – damn!

    While I did discover them very late, I’ve really come to dig the Allman Brothers. Shockingly, this even includes their instrumentals! 🙂

    I’m also glad I got to see them once at a great outdoor venue in New Jersey. Just in time – it was only a few months prior to their final show at the Beacon.

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    1. I realized after chatting with CB that the later years of the ABB have not been well covered on this blog and maybe not in a lot of places. Needed rectifying. Yeah, that Setzer number just popped up one day. If he thought he was gonna smoke old Dickey, he had another thing coming.

      It’s hard for me to realize the ABB aren’t around anymore. It was always a tradition to just go see them when they were in town. Well, we have the music and the various offshoots.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s the weirdest thing, Jim. While I was never as much into Gregg Allman as The Beatles, his death really got to me, similar to Tom Petty. There are certain artists who once they pass away leave gaps that simply cannot be filled.

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        1. Yeah, Gregg was an outsized personality. All-around great performer. Interesting he said he saw himself more in a vein of his friend Jackson Browne than a blues guy.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for these! I’ve always tended to stick with their earlier work, but these show you need to step out every now & then. Loved Derek Trucks slide work on Dreams, and that trumpet dude was no slouch, either.

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    1. Yea, the ABB had an incredible run from 1989 to 2014, more than twice as long as the original incarnation. And yet with only three studio albums in that whole time, you wouldn’t necessarily know it. They mostly carried the flame live to older fans and some new jam band fans. And so I wanted to get some stuff out there that said, hey, they might not have still been fashionable. But they were still mighty powerful.

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  3. Loads of great stuff here… and a nice ABB history lesson to boot! I think I’ve mentioned before that it was only over the last could of years that I got into some ABB stuff (a pal gave me the Fillmore LP about 5 years ago and I got into a couple of other albums a year or two ago) and I’ve enjoyed all of it. But it’s all the classic stuff, so this gives me some more stuff to explore. Even if they weren’t happy with Dickey as they stretched their run, there’s no denying that guy was integral. A helluva player.

    Also, I have one Gov’t Mule album (Dose) and it is pretty brilliant. A pal recommended it last year. I don’t know why they were never on my radar… go figure.

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    1. Yeah, the world knows the classic stuff. In that last 15 or so years of their run they weren’t really relevant on a popular scale. But nobody bothered to tell them so they just keep churning out great stuff. And yeah, Mule has good stuff. Different focus, harder-edged as i recall.

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  4. I know very little about these guys outside the music (I like it that way). Other than how Duane was killed and his brother marring Cher (To much info already). I dont know anything about Betts other than what I read on your take. What I do know is these guys,( new stuff included) can play their asses off. You talk about guitar tone or something like it Doc, that last cut of Dickie is just great. What a sound and what a talent. He was given something from somewhere. He must of had some bluegrass ties because I get that vibe in his playing. All those notes and he knows exactly what he’s doing.
    This music is timeless and the new tunes or newer tunes sound more than good to me. Who cares about trends in music (I don’t unless my ear likes it) Im fine with listening and re listening and rediscovering this kind of music. I will be digging more of their latter music but still going back to Duane and the beginnings. That trumpet guy is Maurice Brown he plays with Trucks/Tedeschi (I really like that band). I actually looked him up. A jazz guy. Imagine that.

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    1. I’m the opposite. I don’t know what it is but if I like an artist I have to know everything about them up to and including what they ate for lunch.. Not all of them mind you. But I could write books on the ABB, Beatles, Stones, Zep and Bruce with all that shit in my head.

      Yeah, Dickey had bluegrass and all that country stuff. Both Duane and Dickey had blues and country but Duane leaned more towards blues, Dickey country.

      I think we might have talked about it before but Dickey was a gigantic fan of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. In fact, the only reason I’d ever heard of them was because of him.

      All the music I listen to going back to the 50’s guys still sounds fresh to me. The only ones who worry about trends are either the trendsetters or people trying to make a living in music who have to jam indie or hip-hop or whatever into their repertoire to survive, like it or not. That’s show biz. I’d heard that actors sometimes have to sell toilet paper.

      Thanks for the intel on Brown. Duane loved sax and was always trying to get horns in the band. Outtakes from Fillmore East revealed that they had them on there one night. Tom Dowd, the producer, dumped it. Not sure if they were even in tune.

      You can probably count on one hand the number of rock bands today who could actually play jazz. A shame.

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      1. I didnt know the Wills thing but it really makes sense. The swing part and the skill. The country in Betts is obvious but that last clip the bluegrass thing just hit me. Not the actual music but just his technique. That’s how he plays. The jazz thing also. As I get older this kind of musician ship just keeps giving for me, You have me curious on the horns that Dowd nixed.
        If Marlon Brando was selling toilet paper Id be all over it like I dont know what. You come up with something.

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        1. Ok, here’s a little treat for you. When the band played Fillmore that weekend, the intention of course was to make a live album. So they pretty much played the same songs each night. What they released on FE was what they felt was cream of the crop.

          But the rest of the stuff was all on tape and it was all pretty damn good. And so back in 2014, they released ‘The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings’. This included ALL the stuff recorded on those two nights plus their concert on the last night of the Fillmore a few months later. Elvin Bishop and Steve Miller (piano) show up on it. So does Thom Doucette who played some nice harmonica.

          And so does some cat named ‘Juici Carter.’ He’s the sax guy.

          So you wanna hear any of this? Travel over to Spotify and dial up ‘The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings.’ If you want to hear old Juici (on soprano sax) check out ‘LIz Reed’, Disc 2 about 9:36.

          But there’s also some nice alternate takes to what you probably have memorized from the original. Haven’t listened to the set in a while (have it on CD) but I know on one of the longer cuts Duane and Dickey drop the rhythm/lead interplay and just go back and forth. Exciting stuff.

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        2. Here’s where it gets tricky Doc (And thanks for the heads up). I had a friend who left me all his blues music years ago. Two of the CD’s were the original ABB at FE and another one ‘The Fillmore Concerts’ (The boys sit in a different formation on the cover) so I knew about a few of those things you mentioned, Bishop etc. Thing is it says its all the recordings but obviously not because that ‘Liz cut you mentioned isnt on it but there is a cut of Hot ‘Lanta that has a small snippet of sax at the end. Not worth mentioning really. Now that Im totally confused I will live in this 6 hours of music over the next few days.
          This is, again like travelling back and hearing some timeless music. I’m not one of these “i have to have everything” that someone I dig records but this is special stuff. “Exciting stuff” is right.

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        3. Let me de-confuse it for you. The record label has released ‘Fillmore East’ in a number of different configurations. So the one I turned you onto tonight was the most recent and most comprehensive.

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        4. So you dug the sax? I would definitely have liked to hear them with horns more often. Maybe not the soprano. I wonder if a Chicago-style horn section would work or just, like we saw, the solo wind instrument.

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        5. That’s true. Although I’m not sure how that would fly over 25-minute “Whipping Post.” I think Derek’s other band is more R&B-ish. Gregg liked horns too. The sax player King Curtis was tight with Duane.

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        6. I was reading something about Dylan, what he told an interviewer about how he chose to go the rock route. He said, “Carelessness. I lost my one true love. I started drinking. The first thing I know, I’m in a card game. Then I’m in a crap game. I wake up in a pool hall…” Sounds like CB’s life story.

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        7. Hey, did you get an email today that I posted? I re-published an old Who post and I’m not sure if it sends notifications if you do that. If you didn’t, I’ll have to reblog my own post.

          Liked by 1 person

        8. I hadn’t listened to it all the way before so I only just realized that the Bros break out into “Mountain Jam” near the end of that “Jessica ” I posted. Nice touch.

          Liked by 1 person

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