The Allman Brothers Band

Allman Brothers Find Peace and a New Set of Fans

08/16/01

Anastasia Pantsios

Special to the Cleveland Plain Dealer

It’s a contented Gregg Allman who is calling from Denver. The Allman

Brothers Band has played the big annual biker gathering in Sturgis, N.D.

Recently married (on May 3) to the woman he’s been with for six years,

clean and sober, and newly relocated to Savannah, Ga., from San

Francisco, Allman declares “My life is great. I’m as happy as I’ve ever

been.”

Anyone who knows even a little about the 32-year history of the Allman

Brothers Band knows it’s a wonder there still is an Allman Brothers Band.

Keyboard player Gregg and his guitarist brother Duane formed the band in

1969 in Macon, Ga., along with bassist Berry Oakley, drummers Jaimoe

Johanson and Butch Tricks and guitarist Dickey Betts.

The band quickly became legendary, and commercially successful, with

its special brand of Southern-fried blues rock.

It was driven by soaring twin lead guitars that extended tunes like

“Whipping Post” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” into the stratosphere.

Within little more than two years, it recorded the music that guaranteed

its place in rock history and a 1995 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall

of Fame. But Duane Allman and Oakley were both killed in motorcycle

crashes in the early ’70s;

Oakley’s replacement, Lamar Williams, died of cancer in 1983. And the

other band members left a trail of drug habits, brushes with the law and

broken marriages in their wake. The band broke up in 1976, reformed in

1978 and then broke up again in 1981, remaining inactive until the end of

the ’80s.

Since reforming in 1989, it has toured and recorded steadily, despite

suffering the departure of yet another founding member, Betts, under

cloudy and seemingly acrimonious circumstances last year.

“We can’t really talk about that for legal reasons,” says Allman. “Dickey

left and we’ve got Warren Haynes back and everything’s fine.”

Allman and drummers Johanson and Trucks have been joined by bassist

Oteil Burbridge, percussionist Mark Quinones and guitarists Derek Trucks

(Butch’s nephew) and Warren Haynes. Haynes worked with the Allmans

in the early and mid- ’90s before leaving to devote time to his own project,

Gov’t Mule. He’s available, sadly, due to another tragedy – the death of

Gov’t Mule bassist Allen Woody earlier this year.

Its live performances have always been an Allman Brothers Band strength.

The group’s most recent album, “Peakin’ at the Beacon,” released late

last year, is yet another in a string of live albums for the band that began

with 1971’s “The Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore East.” The

“Fillmore” album is widely considered one of the best live albums of all

time.

With a reputation for changing its set list from night to night and

constantly tinkering with its material, it’s no surprise the band has found

favor with the young hippie crowd. In 1994, it went out with the Horde tour,

a multiband festival-style tour aimed at fans of Grateful Dead-style jam

bands. Although the Allman Brothers Band doesn’t fit in that mode, its

improvisational spirit and its mix of blues and country roots appealed to

the audience.

“It worked real well for us,” says Allman. “We’ve got all kinds of people at

our shows.”

On its current tour, which brings it to Blossom Music Center tonight, the

band is playing some new material. It’s road-testing tunes for a new studio

album which may turn up sometime next year.

“We haven’t started working on it yet, but we’re playing some new songs

live now,” says Allman. “But first, as soon as this tour is over, I’ll be doing

another album of my own.”

Pantsios is a free-lance writer in Cleveland Heights.

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