The Allman Brothers Band Biography

Formed in Macon, Georgia, USA, in 1969 by guitarist Duane Allman (Howard Duane Allman, 20 November 1946, Nashville, Tennessee, USA, d. 29 October 1971, Macon, Georgia, USA), the band included brother Gregg Allman (b. Gregory Lenoir Allman, 8 December 1947, Nashville, Tennessee, USA; keyboards, vocals), Forrest Richard ‘Dickey’ Betts (b. 12 December 1943, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA; guitar), Raymond Berry Oakley (b. 4 April 1948, Chicago, Illinois, USA, d. 11 November 1972, USA; bass), Butch Trucks (b. Claude Hudson Trucks Jnr., Jacksonville, Florida, USA; drums) and Jai ‘Jaimoe’ Johanny Johanson (b. John Lee Johnson, 8 July 1944, Ocean Springs, Mississippi, USA; drums). The above line-up was an amalgamation of the members of several southern-based aspirants, of which the Hour Glass was the most prolific. The latter pop/soul ensemble featured Duane and Gregg Allman, and broke up when demo tapes for a projected third album were rejected by their record company. Duane then found employment at the Fame studio where he participated in several sessions, including those for Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and King Curtis, prior to instigating this new sextet.

The Allman Brothers established themselves as a popular live attraction and their first two albums, The Allman Brothers Band and Idlewild South, were marked by strong blues-based roots and an exciting rhythmic drive. Nevertheless, it was a sensational two-album set, Live At The Fillmore East, that showcased the band’s emotional fire. ‘Whipping Post’, a 22-minute tour de force, remains one of rock music’s definitive improvisational performances. The set brought the band to the brink of stardom, while Duane’s reputation as an outstanding slide guitarist was further enhanced by his contribution to Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs, the seminal Derek And The Dominos album. Unfortunately, tragedy struck on 29 October 1971 when this gifted musician was killed in a motorcycle accident.

The remaining members completed Eat A Peach, which comprised live and studio material, before embarking on a more mellow direction with the US chart-topper Brothers And Sisters, a style best exemplified by the album’s number 2 hit single, ‘Ramblin’ Man’. A second pianist, Chuck Leavell (b. 1950, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA), was added to the line-up, but just as the band recovered its momentum, Berry Oakley was killed in an accident chillingly similar to that of his former colleague on 11 November 1972. Not surprisingly, the Allman Brothers seemed deflated, and subsequent releases failed to match the fire of those first recordings. Their power was further diminished by several offshoot projects. Gregg Allman (who later married Cher twice) and Dickey Betts embarked on solo careers while Leavell, Johanson and new bass player Lamar Williams (b. 14 January 1947, Hansboro, Mississippi, USA, d. 21 January 1983, a victim of cancer) formed Sea Level.

The Allmans broke up acrimoniously in 1976 following a notorious drugs trial in which Gregg testified against a former road manager. Although the other members vowed never to work with the vocalist again, a reconstituted 1978 line-up included Allman, Betts and Trucks. Enlightened Rogues was a US Top 10 success, but subsequent albums fared less well and in 1982 the Allman Brothers Band split for a second time. A new incarnation appeared in 1989 with a line-up of Gregg Allman (vocals, organ), Betts (vocals, lead guitar), Warren Haynes (b. 6 April 1960, Asheville, North Carolina, USA; vocals, slide and lead guitar), Douglas Allen Woody (b. 3 October 1955, USA, d. 26 August 2000, Queens, New York City, New York, USA; bass), Johnny Neel (keyboards), Trucks (drums) and Mark Quinones (percussion). This much-heralded reunion spawned a credible release: Seven Turns. Neel left the band and the remaining sextet made Shades Of Two Worlds. Quinones (congas and percussion) joined forAn Evening With The Allman Brothers Band in 1992. The 1994 album, Where It All Begins, was recorded effectively live in the studio, with production once more by Allman Brothers veteran Tom Dowd. Further studio work followed, but it is as a touring unit that the band retains its remarkable popularity. Woody and Haynes left in April 1997 to join Gov’t Mule. New members Derek Trucks (b. 8 June 1979, Jacksonville, Florida, USA; guitar) and Oteil Burbridge (bass) were subsequently added to the line-up. Betts was sacked in early 2000 and released a solo album Let’s Get Together the following year.

The work displayed on the Allman Brothers Band first five albums remains among the finest guitar music recorded during the late 60s and early 70s, noted, in particular, for the skilful interplay between two gifted, imaginative guitarists.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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