Allman Brothers Band

Given the longevity, it’s a remarkably thin discography, but then again, when you look at the back story it’s the longevity that comes as something as a surprise. There’s no doubt that the jam session in Jacksonville, Florida that brought Duane and Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks, and Jaimoe together created a bond that has proved difficult to break, though one notes the 2000 ouster of Dickey Betts for personal and professional reasons. That was described at the time as a temporary move, but one notes what appears to be ongoing bad blood between Betts and the remaining core trio of Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks and Jaimoe.

The cynic, of course, would label the band’s longevity despite deaths, substance issues and personality clashes as an exercise in milking the old cash cow, and the cynic would probably be close to the money for much of the band’s career after the breakup of the remainder of the original line up on the late seventies.

That seventies discography, from 1969’s The Allman Brothers Band through to Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas, in retrospect, was a story of sharply diminishing returns after the artistic triumphs of At Fillmore East, Eat a Peach (which was large tracts of Fillmore East anyway) and Brothers and Sisters. Things dropped away sharply (at least that’s how I felt at the time) on 1975 Win, Lose or Draw and the 1976 live Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas seemed, at the time, to suggest that there wasn’t much point in going much further.

At least that’s how it looked from where I was sitting in a late seventies mindset that was more intrigued by the possibilities of sharpish horn-driven R&B influenced outfits like Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band and Graham Parker & The Rumour or New Wave/Power Pop exponents like Elvis Costello, Dave Edmunds and Mink de Ville.

Given the choice between seemingly diminishing returns Allman-wise and new stuff on offer I managed to completely disregard the 1978 reformation, Enlightened Rogues and the pair of albums that followed it, and the news that they’d disbanded again in early 1982 probably slipped by without eliciting much more than a shrug and a So?

A second revival followed Epic Records signing Gregg Allman and Dickie Betts to separate solo contracts in the late eighties, and brought Warren Haynes into the fold as an ex-member of The Dickey Betts Band, along with bassist Allen Woody. The revival of interest produced the Dreams box set, which recaptured my attention, more out of a desire to catch up on the CD versions of the classic material, though I noted the subsequent material included therein wasn’t too bad.

Along the way the Allmans had picked up percussionist Marc Quiñones, and given the fact that the Allmans weren’t a full time touring outfit Warren Haynes and Allen Woody formed their own side project (Gov't Mule) in 1994, shortly before Hughesy discovered the Internet. Looking for interesting music related sites I ran across the ALLMAN email list, became aware of the tape trading scene and the rest, as they say, is history.

Things appeared to be going along quite pleasantly, and the wonderful world of tape trading had sparked a marked revival of interest in all eras of the ABB, then Haynes and Woody left to concentrate full-time on Gov't Mule in 1997, and I was left wondering What next? Those two considerable gaps were, as it turned out, filled by Jack Pearson on guitar and Oteil Burbridge on bass in a lineup that lasted two years before tinnitus and Dickie Betts volume forced Pearson out and Derek Trucks, nephew of original Brother Butch Trucks climbed on board.

The Pearson/Burbridge lineup remains undocumented as far as official releases are concerned, though there are numerous unofficial recordings that point to an outfit that was, largely, firing on all cylinders. My reading of the situation has the improvisational flair displayed by Jack and Derek, an unwillingness to let go the reins and shake up the setlist on Dickie Betts’ part, and a belief from the remaining founder members that Betts needed time off the road to sort himself out for the 2000 summer separation that seems to have turned into a permanent divorce. 


© Ian Hughes 2012