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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.