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Music / The Allman Brothers Band

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The Allmans' classic lineup in 1971. From left to right:
Dickey Betts, Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Jaimoe,
Berry Oakley, and Butch Trucks.

"The road indeed goes on forever. So stay calm, eat a peach and carry on..."note 

One of the progenitors of Southern Rock music (although they themselves disliked the term) and also one of the pioneering jam bands, The Allman Brothers Band originally consisted of the brothers Duane and Gregg Allman, guitarist Dickey Betts, bassist Berry Oakley, and drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny 'Jaimoe' Johanson. Founded in Jacksonville in 1969, they went two years in their original incarnation until Duane Allman was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident on October 29, 1971. Remaining lead guitarist Dickey Betts filled in for Duane and the group remained together, eventually adding pianist Chuck Leavell, but about a year later, they lost another member, bassist Berry Oakley, also to a motorcycle accident.

The band limped through a few years fueled by drug scandals (including the arrest of Gregg Allman, though he avoided trial by testifying against some of his friends and colleagues), and a brief marriage between Gregg Allman and Cher. Afterward, the band broke up for a short time, only to reform in 1978 with a new album and a few new members.

Though the faces in the band changed over the years, The Allman Brothers Band always delivered strong southern rock, heavily influenced by the blues. The band celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009. Their associated acts include Gov't Mule (Warren Haynes' band) and The Derek Trucks Band / Tedeschi Trucks Band (the former focusing more on World Music and African influences, while the latter is slightly more bluesy and allows the married Tedeschi and Trucks to tour together.) Their notable songs include "Ramblin' Man", "Midnight Rider", "Melissa", "Blue Sky", "Whipping Post", and "Jessica", among others.

The group announced their separation at the end of 2014 and performed their final concert on October 28, 2014. The deaths of Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks in 2017 has most likely closed the door on any further reunions for good and leaves Johanson and Betts as the two surviving founding members of the band.

Principal Members (Founding members in bold):

  • Duane Allman - vocals, guitar (1969–1971; died 1971)
  • Gregg Allman - vocals, organ, piano, guitar (1969–1976, 1978–1982, 1986, 1989–2014; died 2017)
  • Dickey Betts – guitar, vocals (1969–1976, 1978–1982, 1986, 1989–2000)
  • Oteil Burbridge – bass, vocals (1997–2014)
  • David Goldflies – bass (1978–1982)
  • Warren Haynes – guitar, vocals (1989–1997, 2000–2014)
  • Jimmy Herring – guitar (2000)
  • Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson – drums, percussion (1969–1976, 1978–1980, 1986, 1989–2014)
  • Mike Lawler – keyboards (1980–1982)
  • Chuck Leavell – piano, synthesizer, vocals (1972–1976, 1986)
  • Johnny Neel – keyboards, harmonica (1989–1990)
  • Berry Oakley – bass, vocals (1969–1972; died 1972)
  • Jack Pearson – guitar, vocals (1997–1999)
  • Marc Quiñones – drums, percussion, vocals (1991–2014)
  • Dan Toler – guitar (1978–1982, 1986; died 2013)
  • David "Frankie" Toler – drums (1980–1982; died 2011)
  • Butch Trucks – drums, timpani (1969–1976, 1978–1982, 1986, 1989–2014; died 2017)
  • Derek Trucks – guitar (1999–2014)
  • Lamar Williams – bass, vocals (1972–1976; died 1983)
  • Allen Woody – bass, vocals (1989–1997; died 2000)

"Lord, I was born a tropin' man...":

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Gregg managed to play along to the opening of "Whipping Post" (in 11/4) by treating it like it was three bars of Waltz time (1, 2, 3) punctuated by a bar of cut time (1, 2). As he put it...
    I didn't know the intro was in 11/4 time. I just saw it as three sets of three, and then two to jump on the next three sets with: it was like 1,2,3—1,2,3—1,2,3—1,2. I didn't count it as 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11. It was one beat short, but it didn't feel one short, because to get back to the triad, you had two steps to go up. You'd really hit those two hard, to accent them, so that would separate the threes. ... [Duane] said, 'That's good man, I didn't know that you understood 11/4.' Of course, I said something intelligent like, 'What's 11/4?' Duane just said, 'Okay, dumbass, I'll try to draw it up on paper for you."
  • Artifact Title: After Duane's death, there was only one Allman Brother.
  • The Band Minus the Face: After Duane died in 1971, there was some speculation that the band would break up or suffer, but they continued on until 2014.
  • Bash Brothers: Certainly between the two Allmans in a literal sense, but that only lasted so long. Another, more long-running example from the band is with the two drummers, Butch Trucks and Jaimoe. The two are regularly considered one of the best rhythm sections in rock music and were known to play off of each other as much as they would provide the beat. The two were so in sync that the one album that didn't feature Jaimoe (Brothers of the Road) is considered their weakest album by some.
  • Breather Episode: Most of their albums, studio or live, have at least one of these. "Stormy Monday" and "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" play this role on At Fillmore East, for example, while "Dreams" plays the same role on the Self-Titled Album.
  • Call-Back: The coda of "Jessica" is similar to the opening of "Les Brers in A Minor".
  • Cliffhanger: A rare musical example. After the end of "Whipping Post" on At Fillmore East, we hear the band move into the first chords of "Mountain Jam" as the album fades out, a cliffhanger that wouldn't be resolved until a year later, when Eat a Peach came out with the remainder of the Fillmore East live tracks and some new studio material.
  • Child Prodigy: Derek Trucks started playing guitar at the age of nine and within two years he was playing with various Allman-related groups. By the time he officially joined the band at twenty he had his own band and had toured with many well-known musicians.
  • Cover Version:
    • They've done one of Donovan's "There Is a Mountain" (as "Mountain Jam", an indicator of its length), and often worked several blues standards into their jams.
    • One unusual cover they did was of Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman", a song that takes potshots at rock and roll stars' tendencies for excessive indulgence (something the Allman Brothers were no stranger to).
  • Distinct Double Album: At Fillmore East was originally released as 2 LPs, the first containing blues covers and the second containing original pieces. Had the band had their way, it would have been a Distinct Triple Album with "Mountain Jam" on the third LP, which simultaneously credits Donovan Leitch (who wrote the original song "There Is a Mountain") and each of the members of the Allman Brothers Band (who transformed Donovan's theme into their own piece).
  • Despair Event Horizon: By all accounts, bassist Berry Oakley crossed it when Duane died.
  • Downer Ending: Subverted repeatedly. When Duane died, the remaining members considered disbanding but decided to soldier on. Then, Gregg testified against a security guard, which his bandmates didn't appreciate and broke off communication with, effectively ending the band. Then they made up and reformed. Then tensions started brewing between Dickey Betts and Gregg, which ended with Betts getting kicked out in 2000. The band soldiered onwards until 2014 when they amicably broke up after a Grand Finale. Then, Butch Trucks died in January 2017 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, while Gregg Allman died four months later from complications of liver cancer; Jaimoe and Dickey Betts are the two founding members who are still alive.
  • Driven to Suicide: Butch Trucks died of suicide in January 2017.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener:
    • "Don't Want You No More" (see Siamese Twin Songs).
    • "Les Brers in A Minor" and "High Falls" are rare examples of instrumentals that start out with one. They're both lengthy pieces ("Les Brers" is 9 minutes, "High Falls" is 14) with a few minutes of progressively epic false starts before the song actually gets going.
  • Epic Rocking:
    • The 23-minute version of "Whipping Post" off of At Fillmore East is their earliest, taking up a full side of the double LP. ("You Don't Love Me" from the same album is no slouch either, also taking up a full LP side and running for more than nineteen minutes.) The 33-minute version of "Mountain Jam" (based on Donovan's two-minute long(!) "There Is a Mountain") from Eat a Peach also qualifies, powering through "There Is a Mountain", "Third Stone from the Sun", and "May the Circle Be Unbroken", over two sides of an LP, featuring extended soloing and duelling between every band member, and reportedly fuelled by a bottle of whisky each. The icing on the cake is that the Eat a Peach performance of "Mountain Jam" literally followed the At Fillmore East performance of "Whipping Post" immediately in the actual live performance; you can hear the opening notes of "Mountain Jam" at the end of At Fillmore East before the recording fades out. The band wanted "Mountain Jam" to be included on At Fillmore East as a third LP, but the record company vetoed this. Longer versions of "Mountain Jam" are known to have been performed; a forty-four minute version can be heard on the Live at Ludlow Garage album, on which it comprises the entire second disc, and a forty-five minute version can be heard on the Fillmore West '71 album (although recorded from their March 1970 gig at The Warehouse in New Orleans) which was an added bonus on the fourth disc.
    • Around half of their songs, really, especially live.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: Not an instrument as such, but Duane achieved his signature slide guitar sound by placing one of his fingers inside an empty Coricidin pill bottle. Music shops sell glass replica bottles for aspiring guitarists who want to re-create the sound.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: A variant with their live material, in which songs could have false endings. The most infamous case is probably the At Fillmore East version of "Whipping Post", which has a couple of false endings, and even the actual end is just a lead-in to "Mountain Jam" (which didn't actually get released until Eat a Peach the next year).
  • Genre Mashup: Although they were primarily a blues rock band, they also had elements of jazz fusion, Latin jazz, progressive rock, country, and other styles in some of their songs.
  • Grand Finale: Their 2014 run of Beacon Shows. The band played several of their best songs for three nights, before coming on stage, taking a collective bow, and then returning to their instruments to play "Trouble No More," the first song they ever played
  • Gratuitous French: "Les Brers in A Minor". Dickey Betts confirms it's "bad French for 'less brothers'".
  • Improv: often considered rock's greatest improvisers of the time alongside the Grateful Dead.
  • Insistent Terminology: Although they were generally classified as a Southern Rock band, they themselves didn't care for the term, as they felt it was too associated with things like Rebel flags and reactionary politics, none of which any of the band members supported (they were in fact racially integrated at a time when that was still quite rare for rock bands, a fact which got them some unwanted attention in some of the more backwoods parts of the South). Gregg Allman also argued that the term was simply redundant, since the two musical genres that had the largest impacts on rock music, Blues and Country Music, were largely products of the American South to begin with. If asked, the band members tended to prefer the term Progressive Rock.
  • Instrumentals: Usually one or two per album, with "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" or "Mountain Jam" the most famous. (Or perhaps "Jessica", now better known thanks to Top Gear.)
  • Jazz: John Coltrane and Miles Davis were two of Duane's biggest influences (reportedly Kind Of Blue was Duane's favourite album), and the band's lengthy improvisations (moreso Duane's guitar and Jaimoe's percussion) had strong jazz influences.
  • Live Album: On top of the main releases, the band instituted an "Instant Live" gimmick in the early 2000s, recording every concert and making them available to those in attendance, effectively flooding the market with live material - right at the same time they started releasing older concerts featuring Duane as well. Their discography is a mess.
  • Long Runner: The band played for a total of 45 years, with the exceptions of inactivity from 1976-1978 and 1982-1989.
  • Looped Lyrics: "Revival". After an Epic Instrumental Opener and a single verse, the rest of the song is just repeated variations of "People can you feel it? Love is everywhere."
  • The Namesake: Current guitar player Derek Trucks was actually named after Derek and the Dominos.
  • New Sound Album: Brothers and Sisters. While their basic sound stayed the same, the adjustments they had to make after Duane's death led to some noticeable differences from their earlier work. Piano figured prominently in their musical mix for the first time courtesy new member Chuck Leavell. Dickey Betts took on a larger role as lead guitarist, songwriter, and singer. And there was some Genre Roulette as well, with the Country Music influenced "Ramblin' Man" and the Delta Blues styled "Pony Boy".
  • Progressive Rock: While they're not generally classified as a prog band, they can probably be considered prog-adjacent due to their lengthy instrumental sections and the complexity of their songs, not to mention their incorporation of substantial influences from genres outside rock's usual vocabulary (jazz, most notably). For what it's worth, the band members themselves described their music as progressive rock rather than Southern rock (the label most commonly associated with them, and one they didn't particularly care for).
  • The Real Heroes: The roadies are on the rear cover for "At Fillmore East" for this reason.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Much of their history reads like "What if William Faulkner wrote a novel about a rock band?" But some details are so wild they'd be slammed by critics for being way too contrived if they were part of a fictional story.
    • The band regularly hangs out in a cemetery. Within a few years two of their members would be buried there.
    • Berry Oakley dies in an almost identical motorcycle accident a little over a year after Duane Allman, just three blocks away.
    • Oakley's replacement Lamar Williams, and Allen Woody, who played bass in the reunited band in The '90s, also suffer untimely deaths.
    • Duane plays guitar on "Layla". After his death, keyboardist Chuck Leavell joins the band. Then when Eric Clapton has a hit with his Unplugged Version of the song, Leavell plays piano on it.
    • Road manager Twiggs Lyndon gets in a fight with a club owner over money and stabs him to death. Afterwards, he sits down and waits for the police, saying "I don't care if I get the electric chair. I proved a point." Instead, his lawyers successfully use the Insanity Defense. Years later he dies in a skydiving accident near Duanesburg, New York.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The two drummers. Butch Trucks (Red) was the flashy beatmaster. Jaimoe (Blue) was the more subtle, rhythmic drummer.
  • Repurposed Pop Song: One of the more awkward examples. In The '90s Red Lobster used a rewritten version of "Revival" in a commercial, changing "Love is everywhere" to "Lobster's everywhere."
  • Revolving Door Band: Quite a bit. The only constant members were Gregg Allman and drummer Butch Trucks, with fellow Drummer Jaimoe coming a close second (Jaimoe was absent for only one album, Brothers of the Road) and guitarist Dickey Betts clinching third (he was with the group from when they formed until he was acrimoniously kicked out after Peakin' at the Deacon). In total, the number of bandmates the Brothers cycled through totaled up to 20, including a few who didn't contribute to any releases at all.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: Gregg Allman had several very public scandals involving drugs, and even flipped on his friends, bodyguards, and a manager to avoid jail time.
    • Gregg wasn't the only one to indulge in this - Duane even checked himself into rehab for heroin addiction shortly before his death in October 1971, as did Berry Oakley. Unfortunately, Oakley fell even deeper into his addictions after Duane's death.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Siamese Twin Songs: The first two songs on their first album, in fact: a cover of Spencer Davis' "Don't Want You No More" followed by Gregg's "It's Not My Cross to Bear", a medley that has shown up in countless concerts since.
  • Standard Snippet: The At Fillmore East rendition of "You Don't Love Me" concludes with a few bars of "Joy to the World" (the Christmas carol, not the Three Dog Night song) and then a Big Rock Ending.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Berry Oakley sang one lead vocal for the band—Idlewild South's "Hoochie Coochie Man".
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Averted with Dickey Betts and zig-zagged with Gregg Allman. Dickey filled in for Duane after his death, he never occupied the same prominence and didn't take over all his duties. When Chuck Leavell was in the band as a second keyboard player, Gregg would occasionally play as a second guitarist onstage, but like Dickey, he didn't take on all of Duane's parts and never really emulated Duane's appearance either (preferring a clean-shaven look through most of the band's first decade).
    • Warren Haynes took the Duane role in The '80s. Slide guitar prodigy Derek Trucks (drummer Butch Trucks' nephew) replaced Warren, then Warren later on returned and replaced Betts!
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: Gregg meant to save "Melissa" for his solo albums, considering it too light a song for the band before deciding to record it on Eat a Peach in tribute to Duane. It falls even more into this trope as the years go by since the Derek Trucks/Warren Haynes lineup plays heavier than their predecessors.
  • Team Dad: Duane. The lack of his steadying presence after 1971 played a big role in the chaos of their later career.
  • Uncommon Time: The Epic Riff from "Whipping Post" is in 11/4. Gregg Allman wasn't actually thinking about the time signature when he wrote it, just whether it sounded cool. Duane had to explain to him what 11/4 was. Gregg later returned to this time signature in his solo song "Queen of Hearts".
    • And it gets more complicated during live performances. The At Fillmore East version, for instance, has two distinct sections in free time.
    • Also on their first album, "Black Hearted Woman" starts in 7/8, then spends most of its time in 4/4, then back to brief reprises of 7/8 and 4/4, and finally ending in a 12/8 fadeout. Definitely an unusual rhythmic progression for a Southern blues-rock song.
    • "Revival" uses 5/4 for most of its Epic Instrumental Opener (its first few bars are in 4/4, though). The band employed this trope pretty often, really.
    • The body of "You Don't Love Me" is mostly in (4+4+6+4)/4, or 18/4. In live performances, it later transitions to mostly Common Time for an extended jam section, though there are, as with "Whipping Post", a few segments in free time.
  • Vocal Tag Team: Gregg Allman is the main singer, but Dickey Betts and Warren Haynes have taken on lead duties for specific songs.

Alternative Title(s): The Allman Brothers