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Allman Joy
Posted by: Lana on Sunday, March 09, 2003 - 07:26 AM


By: Jim Farber
For: The NY Daily News


Gregg Allman doesn't like to mention ex-Allmans guitarist Dickey Betts when he does an interview these days, yet he can't avoid alluding to him over and over. When Allman talks about the band's difficulty in writing material during the past decade, or his dissatisfaction with some recent live tours and releases, or even the basic ability of the musicians to function as a group, he hems and haws in assigning blame.

But eventually he says, "Let's just put it this way. It seems like some dark cloud has moved away and it's back to business as usual." It isn't hard to figure out the identity of the "dark cloud" he refers to.

The Allmans expelled Betts, the band's original guitarist, in 2000, citing an alleged drinking problem. At the time, Allman said, "It's amazing how one person's disease can affect the band so much." Betts vigorously denied the characterization. He continues to tour with his own band. While the split was first described as temporary, Allman now labels Betts' ouster "liberating" and says a reunion is "very unlikely."

With Betts gone, the Allman Brothers has managed to record its first full album of new material in nine years, "Hittin' the Note," which will be released March 18. It's also set to play 13 shows at the Beacon Theatre, starting Thursday, with dates running through March 30.

It's the 14th year this legendary Southern blues band has performed its marathon upper West Side concerts. But an album recorded during its stint at the theater two years ago is part of what convinced Allman that Betts had to go.

"When we put out 'Peakin' at the Beacon,' we thought it should be called 'Reekin' at the Beacon,'" says Allman with a laugh. He adds that the band's record company, Epic, issued the CD against its wishes. It later left Epic to ink a deal with Sanctuary Records, an indie favored by older groups.

It couldn't have been easy to fire Betts, someone who had written and sung some of the Allmans' most beloved material — from "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" to "Ramblin' Man."

At first, Betts was replaced with Jimmy Herring ( who later subbed for Jerry Garcia in the Grateful Dead replacement band the Other Ones). But Allman says the band didn't really get its creative juices flowing again until the return of Warren Haynes in the lead guitar slot. Haynes, who occasionally fronts the jam band Government Mule, had previously filled in with the Allmans in the mid-1990s.

"When Warren and I got together, we wrote really good things for this record," Allman explains. "Before it was like pulling teeth [to write]."

The gruff-voiced singer-keyboardist admits that another factor in the Allmans' paucity of new recordings was his own drinking. He didn't get sober until 1996. "Cigarettes and liquor are slow death," he says. "I just realized I can't do it."

Allman credits being sober to his wife of the past 2 1/2 years, Stacey Fountain. It's his fifth marriage (including a famously troubled one in the '70s to Cher, with whom he has a son, Elijah Blue).

Allman has another son and two daughters from various relationships, but he calls his current marriage "the first one worth a damn." He gains further strength for sobriety, he says, "from music itself."

Allman says he worked with a new intensity for "Hittin' the Note." It was recorded in 20 days — the fastest in the band's history.

Besides Haynes and Allman, the players on the album include guitarist Derek Trucks (nephew of drummer Butch Trucks), rhythm man Jai Johanson, percussionist Marc Cuinones and bassist Oteil Burbridge. Other than Allman, Johanson and Trucks are the only members who played on the band's 1969 debut.

While Allman says he considers the new album the group's best since 1972's "Eat a Peach," its songs hardly have the same stellar quality. Where the CD soars is in its jams. All the cuts feature pitched and erudite playing. As one of the granddaddies of jam bands, the Allman Brothers is also one of few acts that can wade into oceanic solos without losing melodic ground.

"If you played the same songs the same way every night, it would drive you bonkers," says Allman. "This way, the music can still go to places that surprise everybody."

To keep on his toes, the 55-year-old Allman approaches long stints like the one at the Beacon a different way. "I work out now, and get a lot of rest. I don't go out like we did."

While the Allmans could headline two Madison Square Garden dates and play for as many fans as it will in 13 Beacon shows, the keyboardist says he prefers "the intimacy of this crowd, and the sound of the place. It's a good old 1920s opera house, like the Fillmore."

Of course, that storied theater is where the Allmans recorded the 1971 live double album that cemented its reputation. The Fillmore shows established New York as the band's strongest fan base, outdrawing even its Southern home. While Allman says his band hopes to keep playing the Beacon runs — and tour nationally — he begs to differ with the title of a famous old Allman Brothers album: "The Road Goes on Forever." "Nothing lasts forever," he says.

Clearly, that goes for friendships as well as health. But despite the band's sad partings, and advancing age, Allman says the group has a will to endure that draws from the genre that first inspired it: the blues.

"It's been said that blues is the roots and everything else is the fruit," says Allman. "To me, that says it all."

 
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Allman Joy | Log-in or register a new user account | 13 Comments
  
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Re: Should Dickey Betts ever be allowed back (Score: 1)
by marksundevil (marksundevill@aol.com)
on Mar 09, 2003 - 05:36 PM
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Just a thought or two from a long time ABB fan who cares. Dickie Betts is an original founding member of the ABB. As you know 1/3rd of the original band members are no longer with us. Most of the other original band members have had their problems from time to time affecting the band as a whole. I think that when Dickie is ready, and has conquered his problems, then he should be welcomed back. as much as I like the current line up, when ready, the band should make room for Dickie. Remember,after Duanne died, It was Dickie who took over the lead guitar role and because of him in large part the band carried on. I hate to think what might have happened to the ABB if Dickie wasn't around to "carry the tourch" after duannes death. The band should welcome Dickie back, although mabey without open arms. It should be said that there will be no repeat of past problems. A line up with Dickie, Warren and Derek might be too awesome to immagine, or mabey,just mabey?


Re: Allman Joy (Score: 1)
by Rael on Mar 10, 2003 - 01:36 AM

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Nice article, but two questions to the reporter. . . Who's Marc "Cuinones" and what year was the "famous old Allman Brothers album 'The Road Goes On Forever'" released? (These are asked with tongue firmly planted in cheek, in case it wasn't obvious enough) Call the editors!


Re: Allman Joy (Score: 1)
by greggreg on Mar 10, 2003 - 08:57 AM

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I don't think Gregg Allman should get into 'dissing' Dickie Betts. It is disrespectful. As many have said, Dickie Betts saved the band thirty years ago and has kept it going with beautiful, soaring songs and muscianship that Gregg Allman simply cannot match. Look at who has written the songs in the last thirty years. They are both wonderful musicians with many human failings. We all pray that they will play together again some day.



[No subject] (Score: 1)
by melvichf on Mar 14, 2003 - 03:15 PM

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I agree totally, I have not seen ABB since Dickey was let go - nor will I see them again till Dickey returns! I can't even listen to the old stuff knowing what has happened. If Skydog were still here this would not have happened.




Re: Allman Joy (Score: 1)
by Alligator (mderr2000@yahoo.com)
on Mar 10, 2003 - 08:00 PM
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Can't believe Gregg continues the trash talk about Dickey. Give it a rest. Gregg - Keep in mind the ABB (along with the fans) put up with your drug & alcohol problems too. Give it a rest. Let the music do the talkin'.



[No subject] (Score: 1)
by melvichf on Mar 14, 2003 - 03:18 PM

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Totally agree - they are not the same without Dickey. I can't believe that Butch and Jaimo voted Dickey out. I can still see Jaimo thanking Dickey and Gregg at the Hall of Fame inductions.




Re: Allman Joy (Score: 1)
by ChrisR (seafair@bellsouth.net)
on Mar 11, 2003 - 06:54 AM
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Gregg Allman is without doubt one of, if not THE finest blues singer out there. I don't think anyone here would argue that and if they did, they'd be a fool. Aditionally, Gregg is in a class by himself as a writer. Whippin' Post, Dreams, Melissa, the list goes on and on. Gregg is also a recovering drug addict and alcholic, and thank God for him and to the benifit of the rest of us he is seeing his way through his Demons. However, what Gregg is doing is blaming all of his problems on Dickey Betts. That's insane. The reason Gregg couldn't write was because he was a drug addict drunk, plain and simple. Whoever is sitting in the back of the tour bus with a pocket watch waving in front of his face saying "Blame it all on Dickey. Blame it all on Dickey" isn't doing Gregg any favors. Gregg needs to face the music and be accountable for his lack of creativity to himself, if not the press. To go off blaming Dickey Betts for his own problem is only using Dickey as a crutch for his own personal problems.



[No subject] (Score: 1)
by melvichf on Mar 14, 2003 - 03:21 PM

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AGREE with you!




Re: Allman Joy (Score: 1)
by KCJimmy (Jim.Steding@worldnet.att.net)
on Mar 11, 2003 - 02:49 PM
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I also love Dickey's contributions to the band. The Band would not be the same today if it were not for him. BUT We have to accepet the fact that the Band in it's current form is so much happier than before. The Band does not call press conferences to bash DB. In fact they (Gregg included) do a pretty good job of dancing around the subject. Journalists on the other hand WANT to talk about DB and that whole situation. When asked about the situation Gregg & the others try to shy away. When asked about why they are so much happier and productive we can't expect them to lie. So they are honest and imply that they are Happier w/out DB. We may not like it but thats the way it is.

I am just extremely happy that they are still playing. ABB current line up beats the heck out of some of the other versions and sure beats no ABB at all. They are playing extremely well and having a good time. Don't know about ya'll but I'm In


Re: Allman Joy (Score: 1)
by fnclough on Mar 11, 2003 - 07:27 PM

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Loyalty is a good thing. We can be loyal to this person or to that person, but when it comes to the Allman Brothers Band, I am loyal to the sound, the music, and the concept.

Why get bogged down into who did what, and when, with the parting of Dickey Betts? Three out of the four original members felt the same about the parting, isn’t that enough weight?

Dickey’s contributions are immense and undeniable. But in my opinion, the Allman Brothers Band, what made it fly and soar, was their democratic approach. Look, all the players in the original band were amazing, talented musicians (much like today!). But one was, perhaps a little more special and he was their leader. Duane pulled the best out of everyone because he cared for everyone both musically and personally. And he had the chops to back himself up. If Duane had declared the band his backup, how would that have affected the music? His personality, fortunately, was democratic. That is what MADE the Allman Brothers Band then, and this same attitude is what is firing its engines today.

This, of course, is all an outsiders opinion. There is a huge pillar of salt behind these words and sentences. So, I leave you with this last thought; Wish Dickey Betts well and buy his music. Then wish the Allman Brothers Band well and buy “Hittin the Note”! I thank God for both of these gifts.




[No subject] (Score: 1)
by mcnallymw on Mar 12, 2003 - 04:11 PM

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I can remember seeing the Allman Brothers in Mobile back in 1999. It was an OK show by their standards. They just didn't seem to gell. I don't know if it was because of Dickey or that Derek and Oteil hadn't been playing with them for all that long, but they sound so much better and tighter now. Sure, Gregg has had his problems but he seems to have conquered them now. Hopefully Dickey can too.




Re: Allman Joy (Score: 1)
by DanaVClouser (DanaatAoldotcom)
on Mar 12, 2003 - 05:08 PM
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Correct....sort of fellow friends.....No Original Album or CD called "The Road Goes on Forever" but there was--and IS--a "HITS/Retrospect" package with that name. Released on double disc moons ago and just recently with added material on CD.....maybe the guy writing the article was just sort of a "hits" type of person!!! Hee hee....see you all at the Beacon on the 20, 21 & 22. DVC



[No subject](Score: 1)
by Motab_Duke (MotabDuke@yahoo.com)
on Aug 06, 2005 - 10:29 AM
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Hello Brothers and Sisters, Yes, there is a "hits" type release called "The Road Goes On Forever", I have it on vinyl actually, picked it up at a garage sale just for the heck of it. DanaVClouser, hi, i'm curious to what was added to it. Was it other older tunes, or some newer ones? Let me know, if, or when you can. Thanks a bunch. And let's all hope that, "The (Allman Brothers) Road Goes On Forever"





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