site logo

The Allman Brothers Band Biography

Last updated: 06/29/2012 12:00:00 PM

On March 26, 1969 in Jacksonville, Florida, guitarist Duane Allman convened a jam session including bassist Berry Oakley, guitarist Dickey Betts, and drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks. It was the first musical meeting of the group which, with the addition of Gregg Allman on vocals and Hammond organ, would become The Allman Brothers Band-one of the most acclaimed and influential groups in the history of rock and roll.

On March 26, 1999 at the Beacon Theater in New York, the Allman Brothers Band celebrated its 30th Anniversary with the penultimate performance of their sixth annual "March Madness" stand at the venerable theater-a total of 80 sold-out Beacon shows since 1993.

On June 12, 1999 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver, Colorado, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of '95 inductees The Allman Brothers Band will begin their 30th Anniversary grand tour of the US. NASCAR Rocks will be on the road, hosting select 1999 Allman Brothers Band tour stops. NASCAR Rocks will enhance each stop on the tour with a sec-ond stage featuring exciting emerging bands and a plaza displaying show cars, "Pit Crew Challenge," and other hot NASCAR items.

The 30th Anniversary tour introduces a new member of the Brothers: 20-year old slide guitar prodigy Derek Trucks, who replaced Jack Pearson when the latter left (at the conclusion of the Beacon Theater run) to concentrate on his career as a Nashville-based solo artist, songwriter, session player, and producer. "Jack's a class act," says Gregg Allman. "We've enjoyed sharing the stage with him. The fact that this was a mutual decision doesn't mean it was easy."

"The Allman Brothers Band has always played in the spirit in which the band was founded," states Dickey Betts. "We welcome Derek Trucks as a guitarist who understands and comple-ments what the Allman Brothers Band stands for musically."

Derek Trucks, the nephew of ABB drummer Butch Trucks, has been a touring musician since the age of 11. He has performed with such legends as Bob Dylan, Buddy Guy, and R.L. Burnside, and recorded with Gregg Allman (Searching For Simplicity on 550 Music), Gate-mouth Brown, Johnny Copeland, and Junior Wells. He has released two albums as a leader, The Derek Trucks Band (Landslide) and Out Of The Madness (House Of Blues). In 1998, Derek filled in with the ABB for three shows when Jack Pearson was stricken with ap-pendicitis. "I have the utmost respect for Jack as a musician and as a person," he says. "I wish him all the best."

For the 30th Anniversary tour, Derek Trucks (guitar and slide guitar) joins the founding mem-bers of the Allman Brothers Band: Gregg Allman (vocals, Hammond B-3 organ), Dickey Betts (lead guitar, vocals), Jaimoe (drums), and Butch Trucks (drums); longtime percussionist Marc Quinones, and bassist Oteil Burbridge.

In honor of the Brothers' 30th Anniversary, the Macon Braves-the Macon, Georgia-based Class A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves-have "retired" the No. 30 for the season. During the Beacon Theater stand, Braves manager Mike Dunn flew to New York to present the Brothers with their own personal No. 30 jerseys. And during the third inning of every Macon Braves home game this season, only Allman Brothers Band recordings will be played over the public address system at Macon's Luther Williams Field.

The Story So Far

With their mix of down-home groove and instrumental virtuosity, blues-drenched soul and hard rock, bound together by an ethos of all-night jamming, the Allman Brothers Band defined Southern Rock. The originators of a sound that continues to this day, they spawned a host of bands who drew on their model-proving only that the genius of the ABB could be imitated, but never duplicated.

In 1969, Florida-born guitarist Duane Allman left Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where he'd estab-lished himself as an in-demand session player on recordings by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, King Curtis, and Boz Scaggs, among others. Seeking to form his own dream band, Allman recruited bassist Berry Oakley and guitarist Dickey Betts from Jacksonville, Florida psy-chedelic band The Second Coming.

He also tapped not one but two drummers: r&b veteran Jaimoe, who had worked with Otis Redding, Joe Tex and Percy Sledge; and Butch Trucks, late of the Jacksonville folk-rock group The 31st Of February. Hammond B-3 organist and lead vocalist Gregg Allman had recorded two albums with brother Duane as part of the LA-based Hourglass, and was developing into one of the finest white blues singers of all time.

The Allman Brothers Band's sonic trademarks were all in place by the time their self-titled de-but album was released in 1969. Driven by the relentless propulsion of Jaimoe and Butch, Gregg's bluesy keyboard comping and Berry's deep, melodic bass lines, Dickey Betts and Duane Allman crafted a unique twin lead guitar approach which took its cues from both jazz horn players (particularly Miles Davis and John Coltrane) and the double fiddle lines of western swing and bluegrass. Together, they rewrote the rule book on how rock guitarists could play together, and paved the way for every two- and even three-guitar band that followed in the ABB's wake.

"Most fans had never heard anything quite like the mercurial solos and meticulous counterpoint effortlessly unreeled by Duane Allman and Betts," wrote author Joe Nick Patoski in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll (1992, Random House). "In many respects, indeed, the Allman Brothers Band had become one of the most im-pressive bands in the country."

On their first four classic recordings-The Allman Brothers Band, Idlewild South, At The Fillmore East, and Eat A Peach-the ABB perfected a sound that effortlessly combined rock, blues, country and jazz on such unforgettable original tunes as "Dreams," "Revival," "Midnight Rider," "Melissa," and "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed." By 1971, they were poised for super-stardom. Even the tragic deaths of both Duane Allman (on October 29, 1971) and bassist Berry Oakley (on November 11, 1972) in eerily similar motorcycle ac-cidents couldn't stop the band's upward trajectory.

The success of the No. 2 Pop single "Ramblin' Man" was the start of a mid-Seventies run (with the four surviving original members joined by bassist Lamar Williams and key-boardist Chuck Leavell) that ended only when internal conflicts sundered the group in 1975. A third incarnation of the ABB was formed in 1978, for the album Enlightened Rogues; after two additional albums, the group disbanded once again.

But the pull of their roots was too great for the Brothers to remain apart. In the summer of 1989, the ABB launched a 20th anniversary tour with Allman, Betts, Trucks and Jaimoe com-plemented by guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody. Signed to Epic Records, they re-turned to the recording studio with producer Tom Dowd for three studio albums and two live sets. (Percussionist Marc Qui駉nes joined in 1991; Tom Dowd is the the legen-dary pro-ducer and engineer who had been at the board for Idlewild South, Eat A Peach, and Enlightened Rogues.) Of the ABB's Epic label debut Seven Turns, The New Yorker wrote: "The Brothers play with the energy of teenagers and the ornery wildness of veteran bluesmen."

In an increasingly predictable world of prefabricated pop, the ABB's peerless musician-ship and extravagant flights of improvisation earned the group a new audience-one which transcended generational and regional boundaries. Their lengthy annual tours grew to include multi-night stands: six shows at New York's Radio City Music Hall, five nights at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia. In October 1989, the Allman Brothers Band head-lined the Beacon Theater in New York City for four nights, inaugu-rating a live per-formance tradition. To date, the ABB has played 80 sold-out Beacon Theater shows, in-cluding eighteen nights in March, 1999.

Nineteen-ninety-four was a banner year, though not an untypical one, in the recent his-tory of the Allman Brothers Band. The group made five live network television appear-ances; did 90 live shows including the H.O.R.D.E. tour, which the Brothers headlined; played one of the best, most ex-citing sets heard at Woodstock '94; and was voted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in its first year of eligibility. "In terms of sheer creativity, they're experiencing the strongest second wind of any act," noted The New York Daily News. "For sheer soloing ability, not only do the Allman Brothers run circles around any-one of the present generation, they outperform anyone of their own匱heir road de-serves to go on forever."

In the 38th Annual Grammy Awards held in February 1996, the Allman Brothers Band won the first Grammy in its 27-year history: Best Rock Instrumental Performance for "Jessica," a track from the acclaimed live album 2nd Set. This 16-minute improvisation may be the longest single non-classical performance ever to win a Grammy. (Another track from 2nd Set, "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed," was also nominated in the Pop Instrumental category.)

In the spring of 1997, Warren Haynes and Allen Woody left the Allman Brothers Band. Their successors were Jack Pearson on guitar and Oteil Burbridge on bass. Pearson had subbed briefly for an ailing Dickey Betts on shows in 1993; he later co-wrote "Sailin' 'Cross The Devil's Sea" with Gregg Allman, and had recorded and/or toured with the Gregg Allman Band, Bobby Bland, and Delbert McClinton. Oteil Burbridge, a founding member of the popu-lar Southern jam band Aquarium Rescue Unit, had also worked with members of Phish and with T. Lavitz, among many others.

On June 9, 1998, 550 Music released Mycology: An Anthology. This collection features eight tracks culled from the Brothers' Epic catalog: "Good Clean Fun" and "Seven Turns" from their Epic debut Seven Turns; "End of The Line" and "Get On With Your Life" from Shades Of Two Worlds (1991); "Nobody Knows" from An Evening With The Allman Brothers Band (1992); "Sailin' Cross The Devil's Sea" from 2nd Set (1995); and "No One To Run With" and "Back Where It All Begins," from Where It All Begins (released 1994, certified gold in November 1997). In addition, Mycology includes two bonus tracks: a live acoustic version of "Midnight Rider"; and a previously unreleased version of "Every Hungry Woman," recorded live at the 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival by the original Allman Brothers Band including Duane Allman and Berry Oakley.

Upon inducting the Allman Brothers Band into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Willie Nelson said:

"The Allman Brothers Band took what moved them and merged it into something unique that audiences love: a sound that redefined the direction of rock and roll, and opened the doors to a spirit of experimentation that continues in today's music.

"The Allman Brothers Band were and still are one of the most exciting live bands ever to hit the stage. They became road warriors with a vengeance and left devoted fans wherever they went匸The ABB is] a band that reflects so many of my sentiments about music: originality, a determination not be confined musically or stylistically but instead to forge your own way and make music that moves you, a devotion to the road, and understanding that beyond pleasing yourself as an artist, the only other consideration should be the people, the fans who come to hear you.

"And so with pleasure, I give you rock and roll's greatest jammin' blues band, the Allman Brothers Band!"