Formed: 1969 in Jacksonville FL
With deep-rooted Southern music influences, the Allman Brothers Band successfully blended blues and hard rock with elements of soul, country, and even jazz. Led by guitarist Duane Allman, the band's dynamic on-stage performance style would often spin a song off into an extended 20-or-30-minute jam while their devil-may-care proclivity for fusing genres would prove to be influential beyond the band's commercial success. Blame them for the "jam band" movement of the 1990s if you must, but the ABB also helped bring us the blues-rock explosion of the 1980s as well!
Born In The South
Brothers Duane and Gregg Allman played together in several bands during the early-to-mid-1960s, including the Escorts, the Allman Joys, and the Hour Glass, which was based in Los Angeles and recorded two unremarkable albums for Liberty Records in 1967 and 1968. The label released all the band members save for Gregg from their contracts, thinking that they could still make some money off the soulful vocalist.
Duane Allman returned to the South, becoming an in-demand session player at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Spurred on by Phil Walden, Duane began jamming in Jacksonville, Florida clubs with guitarist Dickey Betts, bassist Berry Oakley, and drummer Butch Trucks. Sensing that they had something special, Duane called brother Gregg back from L.A. to sing and play keyboards with the new band, and they added a second drummer/percussionist in Jaimoe Johanson.
Movin' To Macon
After playing around the Jacksonville area for a few months in early 1969, the still-unnamed band signed with Phil Walden's fledgling Capricorn Records label and moved its base of operations to sleepy Macon, Georgia where the label was based. Honing their muscular blues-rock sound with steady touring across the rough-n-tumble clubs of Florida and Georgia, the band recorded its self-titled debut album in New York City in August 1969. Released later in the year, the album won widespread critical acclaim although it experienced only mediocre sales.
For their sophomore album, the Allman Brothers Band was paired with producer Tom Dowd, who had worked with Cream. Recording at the Capricorn Studios in Macon, the collaboration resulted in the Idlewild South album. Widely considered to be the band's best studio work, it showed a further maturation of the band's complex instrumental sound and represented the first songwriting efforts of guitarist Dickey Betts, whose "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" would become a staple of the ABB's live set for decades. Gregg Allman's "Midnight Rider" would also become a fan favorite.
Live At Fillmore East
The band's commercial breakthrough would come with the double live set At Fillmore East. Recorded over a two-night stand at New York's legendary Fillmore East club in March 1971, the Dowd-produced album spotlighted the band's instrumental prowess at, or near its peak of creativity. Duane's incendiary slide-guitar howled and Gregg's soul-drenched vocals were supported by the band's musical buzzsaw. The album would vault the band to stardom, rising to #13 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.
As the band was enjoying the perks of its success, recording had begun on their third studio album, Eat A Peach, when tragedy struck. Guitarist Duane Allman, the band's founder and driving musical force, would die in a motorcycle accident on October 29, 1971. The band would finish up the two-record Eat A Peach as a five-piece without Duane, adding a second disc consisting of live tracks to compliment the studio tracks recorded both with and without Allman. The album would be a huge success, rising to #5 on the Billboard albums chart and selling in excess of a million copies.
Brothers and Sisters
The Allman Brothers Band would add keyboardist Chuck Leavell, while Betts picked up the slack on guitar. The band would lose another member in November 1972 when bassist Berry Oakley died from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident just blocks from the site of Allman's fatal encounter.
The band replaced Oakley with Lamar Williams for the completion of 1973's Brothers and Sisters, although the bassist appeared on three previously-recorded tracks. It would become the band's first #1 album, selling over a million copies, and yielding two hit singles in "Jessica" and "Ramblin' Man."
Win, Lose or Draw
By the mid-1970s, personality conflicts and personal problems began to affect the band. Gregg Allman would marry the singer/actress Cher, their brief union characterized by emotional turmoil before ending in divorce. Both Allman and Betts would launch solo careers, and drug abuse would take its toll on all of the band members. The band's uneven 1975 album, Win, Lose or Draw, was still a hit, rising to #5 on the Billboard albums chart. It also represented the fragmenting of the band's trademark chemistry, with band members recording their parts separately for the first time.
Break-Up and Reunion
The band delivered 1980's Reach for the Sky and the following year's Brothers of the Road before firing Jaimoe and breaking up. Allman formed the Gregg Allman Band with guitarist Toler, and Betts put together the Dickey Betts Band, both frontmen pursuing their individual musical visions.
The band's original members would reunite in 1989, adding guitarist Warren Haynes, bassist Allen Woody, and keyboardist Johnny Neel. This line-up would release 1990's Seven Turns album, after which Neel left. The band added percussionist Marc Quiñones for 1991's Shades of Two Worlds. Haynes and Woody left the band in 1997 to form Govt. Mule, replaced by guitarist Jack Pearson and bassist Oteil Burbridge.
The Allman Brothers Band Today
Guitarist Derek Trucks, nephew of Butch Trucks, joined the band in 1999, replacing Pearson. The band forced out guitarist Dickey Betts in 2000, the move resulting in a flurry of lawsuits between the ousted musician and his former bandmates. Haynes returned to the band full-time in 2001, splitting his time between the Allman Brothers Band and Govt. Mule.
In 2003, the band returned with Hittin' the Note, its first studio album in a decade. Since then, the ABB has been content to release nothing but live albums, and they remain a popular concert draw. In March 2009, the Allman Brothers Band celebrated its 40th anniversary with a series of 15 sold-out nights at NYC's Beacon Theater, with guest stars like Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy appearing.
Recommended Albums: There's no doubt about it, At Fillmore East is the place to begin to get the most from your Allman Brothers Band listening experience. Hittin' the Note, with both Haynes and Trucks, is a strong statement from the current ABB line-up.
The Allman Brothers Band - Select Discography
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- The Allman Brothers Band (Capricorn Records, 1969)
- Idlewild South (Capricorn Records, 1970)
- At Fillmore East (Capricorn Records, 1971)
- Eat A Peach (Capricorn Records, 1972)
- Brothers and Sisters (Capricorn Records, 1973)
- Win, Lose or Draw (Capricorn Records, 1975)
- Enlightened Rogues (Capricorn Records, 1979)
- Reach for the Sky (Polydor, 1980)
- Brothers of the Road (Polydor, 1981)
- Seven Turns (Epic Records, 1990)
- Shades of Two Worlds (Epic Records, 1991)
- Where It All Begins (Epic Records, 1994)
- Peakin' At The Beacon [live] (Epic Records, 2000)
- Hittin' the Note (Peach Records, 2003)
- One Way Out [live] (Peach Records, 2004)