Muchas peachness to Brother Bill Ector for his loving, hard and patient work in making this archival Hittin’ the Note article available. We love you, Bill!
By: Lana Michelizzi
For: Hittin’ the Note, Issue 15 (long ago and far away … )
After the “Gospel According to the Allman Brothers Band” appeared in Issue #11 of Hittin’ the Note, several people commented on the fact that I was the only sister featured in it. This certainly wasn’t by design – I’d put out a blanket request for members of the extended family to share their thoughts. However, it wasn’t something that surprised me, either. From the early days of listening to Idlewild South spinning away on a turntable while we lazed about on a waterbed mattress, to the Spring ABBreak I took earlier this year, most of my Allman Brothers experiences have plunked me in the middle of “Boyland.” This gender imbalance has had its ups and downs.
On the plus side, I like being surrounded by guys, and have never had to worry about finding a dance (or twirl!) partner. I’ve learned how to set up and break down a gig, pee unabashedly alongside a road, sleep five to a bed thinking in terms of the bodies being more like kittens and puppies tumbling all over each other (instead of “That Man-Woman Thing”) and gotten away with a whole lot of Yankee lipping off cuz there has always been some guitar-wielding sumbitch willing to defend my dishonor.
ABB extended family men tend to look out for their women, and that includes sisters. Case in point: Three years ago the Brothers played an outdoor gig at Trout-Aire, near Minneapolis. At the end of “Melissa,” Gregg flipped his guitar pick in my direction. I caught it, and was immediately set upon by throngs of people who decided I was either too undeserving or weak to hang onto it. Thank the higher power that every other person standing in the front row was a brother. Several wrapped their arms around me like I’d been pulled from icy waters dripping wet and needed to be warmed, while others pushed the crowd back. No one touched me – or the guitar pick.
On the down side, I’ve learned that too many men are astonished when a woman’s opinion about music is deeper than, “I’d love to have ‘Evergreen’ sung at our wedding . . .”, too many men have been forced to put their guitars away when there’s still a ton of music in their souls waiting to be played, and peeing unabashedly alongside the road isn’t exactly a sign of equality when you’re the only one who gets poison ivy on the butt from doing it.
So, not wanting to be the only woman in this story, I’m going to turn the reigns over to a couple of extended family sisters now, so you can hear straight from their mouths (and hearts) what it’s like to be one of the “Babes in Boyland.” After all, “From the Mouths of Babes, Comes the Truth.”
The Truth from Sister Marsa Meyers of West Virginia:
I thought about this for a while, and it seems to me that the best way to explain it is to tell you how the Allmans got into my head and my heart and my soul. The first time I remember hearing the Allman Brothers Band was on a warm West Virginia summer night. The countryside was so alive with summer that I swear I could smell the green. I was partying with my friends out on some dirt road. Limited finances, the drinking age, and the general rebelliousness of the age prompted gatherings of about 20 of us at a time on deserted back roads off in the hills. Anyway, we had all agreed to meet at a spot that was close to the river and right next to a couple of meadows in full summer bloom. Car after car pulled up, people crawled out, beers were popped open, and tape decks played. Several momentous things happened that night. A reputation was lost, some reputations were made, there was a lot of laughter, tall tales, and a few acts of bravado.
And I heard that night, for the first time, Eat a Peach. It had been out for quite a while, but this night was my first experience with the ABB. The Brothers didn’t get a lot of airplay in my hometown. In fact, the only time “Dreams” was played was when Molly Hatchet released it. So I wouldn’t trade that night for anything. To me, this was the perfect way to be introduced to the band. The music and the overall mood of the night were entwined. There we were, sitting on the hood of Dave’s Camaro, when the music washed over us. And it was different, touching us in places where we hadn’t been touched before. I can’t recreate the moonlight, the far off silhouettes of people walking through the meadow to the river, the comfortable murmurs of voices and the occasional ringing out of laughter as everything faded away, and how we just listened to the music, really listened, for the very first time. The aching poignancy of “Melissa” and “Little Martha,” and how “Mountain Jam” had tentacles that reached far down inside me and curled around my soul as tight as honeysuckle around a fence post. The sound stirred me so much that I couldn’t breathe for the sheer joy of it. The music was everything.
There were numerous other experiences. Each one has a connection. Some songs have changed me, representing the various people who have come in and out of my life. I fell in love once with a man who could have been the inspiration for “Melissa.” And “Bougainvillea” still breaks my heart every time I hear it. And always, I still feel the visceral connection to that music. I’m not a musician, and I don’t listen to music technically, the way musicians do. I can’t tell you who is playing slide where, but I can tell you that the music is a part of me, part of who I am today, the part of me that is wild and free and unfettered. The part of me that I like best.
Can music really do all this? Of course it can, but you already know that. You understand what it’s like to connect to the music, and to other members of the ABB extended family. The music of the Allman Brothers touches all of us, and brings us together.
A final note: I spent some time working as a DJ at a 50,000 watt FM radio station in Parkersburg, WV. It was my pleasure, when working the late night shift, to treat listeners to the best of the Southern Boys: the Allman Brothers Band, the Marshall Tucker Band, the Outlaws, the Charlie Daniels Band, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. They rocked the River City, and our listeners were jamming long before it became popular. I was just doing my bit for the ABB. Another gypsy for peace and peach, Marsa …
The Truth from Sister Jenny Lubow of Minnesota:
How can one describe a feeling so profound as being One with the Music? I could try to describe the first time I heard the Allman Brothers, but my memories are so multi-layered that they wouldn’t translate well to the written word. Instead, I will try to describe how the “Gospel According to the Allman Brothers Band” has taken shape in my life and influenced the way I live.
Each year, summer means many things to many people. To me, it is my pilgrimage, my retreat, my time to be with the Band I love, whose music renews my spirit and makes me feel as if every cell in my body is alive. I pack up my old truck and take to the open road. With a glorious sunset behind me, the full moon rising in front of me, and a rainbow to my right, I coast past the greenest fields, the thickest forests, the silliest road signs. I feel the sunshine on my face, admire the sunflowers on the side of the road, and buy a souvenir can-cooler in every state, for the Allman Brothers have taught me that it is not the destination that matters, it is the journey.
For a week, I am alone with my thoughts by day, and in the company of my Brothers and Sisters and the greatest band in the world by night. This time is a period of great importance to me, on so many levels. Traveling alone can be scary, but it is exhilarating, and it renews my faith in myself. Being alone among strangers can be daunting, but I have bonded with so many wonderful people because of the Allman Brothers, some for a moment and some for a lifetime. And always, there is the music. Every note is exquisite, every layer so perfectly constructed and free. Gregg’s voice is as familiar as my own, as much a part of me as my flesh and bones. Dickey’s guitar is my blood, and the rhythm section is my heart, filling me with life. There is no experience that will ever come close to seeing the Brothers live.
My mother is sixty-eight-years-old. She saw them for the first time when she visited me in Minneapolis in November, 1994. She felt the Magic so completely that when she returned to Ft. Lauderdale, she went to see them BY HERSELF three nights later. Sixty-eight years old! Love is ageless, and the music of the Allman Brothers Band reaches everyone whose heart is pure and open.
In the music of the Allman Brothers I have found my independence, my freedom. I have found myself, the self each of us knows is within us, but too often goes undiscovered because of life’s hurts and future worries. We are afraid. But in listening to the Brothers, I have learned to let my spirit take control, to leave my mind alone. Their music has been a soundtrack for half of my life. “Melissa” is a serenade for my best friend and soulmate, and “Little Martha” is a serenade for her mother. “It’s Not My Cross to Bear” soothed my soul when my lover told me he had found someone new. “Blue Sky” and “Jessica” have brought the sun out during many harsh and gloomy Minnesota winters, warming my Florida-bred bones. And “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” sent chills up my spine as I wept over the deaths of my cousins Jeff and Erik – Jeff, who was as free as the wind and died like Duane and Berry, and Erik, who was the sweetest person I will ever be blessed to know. May his soul always shine through me.
The Gospel of the Allman Brothers is this: Be free. Find out who you are and always be true to that person. Always keep growing and stretching and loving. See beauty everywhere, for when you see beauty you are reflecting the beauty inside yourself. Be harmonious in your thoughts, because you are what you think about. Be creative. Go up on the mountain and see what you can see. Life is for living, so eat a peach for peace and enjoy every juicy bite! Peace and love, Sister Jenny.
The Truth from Sister Meg Andrietsch of Wisconsin:
So what attracts a reasonably sane, gainfully employed, tax paying, adult female to the Allman Brothers? Well, when I was a teenager, I guess it was just something about those long-haired southern guys with raspy voices, tattoos and tight jeans – the kind mom warned me about. The word “dangerous” still springs to mind when I think of the Brothers. However, that first attraction got supplemented a long time ago by an overall appreciation for the way I feel when I hear the music they make.
I’m not a guitar freak, and don’t know a Gibson from a Fender from a Paul Reed Smith. I’ve never played air guitar (usually I pretend to have a keyboard in front of me), and I don’t even care who takes the first guitar solo. I think both Dickey and Warren are great. I have heard folks comment that women see and hear things differently. Yes, I notice hair styles, facial hair, and the overall attitude of the band more than I notice the technical side of their music. But I also notice how good the music makes me feel, which songs make me smile, and which ones leave me speechless. Have you ever tried to explain the ABB to someone who hasn’t heard them? “Two drummers, a percussionist, two lead guitars, bass and keyboards, and three lead singers, who play rock/blues/jazz/fusion, including blues standards and even Rolling Stones covers, but who play mostly their own material?” I gave up explaining, and just tell people to listen. The music speaks for itself.
It’s easier to discuss your Allman Brothers “affliction” with other Peachheads. I’ve found that America Online enhances the ABB experience, via Newsgroups, the Net List, and the ABB folder. All the e-mails are interesting, and usually informative. There’s a live “chat” on Wednesday evenings at 8:30 Macon time, where a small group of us meet and talk about the Allmans, Bloodline, Derek Trucks, Gov’t Mule, and almost anything else. There’s a caring, family atmosphere with lots of laughs, and plenty of ABB content. The folks who chat have either met, or plan to meet, at ABB-related events. We have had visits from the “Tour Mystic,” Vaylor Trucks, Berry Oakley Jr., and Kirsten West. Join us, and bring your sense of humor. You’ll find people who understand your feelings about the Allman Brothers Band.
I have listened to the band enough that the sounds of each song are in my head, like a juke box waiting to be played. Of course, I know each song by the first few notes. Certainly, one of the best aspects of being an Allman Brothers fan is going to a concert. There’s always something special about a Brothers show, from watching the roadies set up, to glimpsing one of the band members on the side of the stage. You get a rush while waiting for the lights to dim, and it increases when you see figures appear on the stage and hear the Hammond B-3, because then you that the magic is about to begin. The excitement level is palpable, and all the ABB brothers and sisters are smiling, knowing that “this is gonna be good.”
One of the most important aspects of being an ABB sister is the spreading of the Gospel, and sharing those good feelings and the family attitude. I’ve met great brothers and sisters from all over the country. These people have helped me with my tape collection, and have shared valuable ABB insight. At every show, I keep a record of the set list, and many times during the intermission people ask to borrow my pen, or ask the name of a song, and I am happy to share the information with them. I have also created a sheet with pertinent information (like the Hotline phone number and Big House address), that I give to those in need. Part of my philosophy is that you can never really pay back the people who were good to you and helped you get where you are today, so you “pay forward” by doing good things and helping others. Sharing information and dialogue is my way of being an ABB sister and spreading the word according to the Allman Brothers Band. Meg.
The Truth From Sister Susan Kesti of Superior, Wisconsin:
My experience as a sister comes from the perspective of someone who has only recently become aware of the Allman Brothers Band, and even that awareness began indirectly. You see, I came to know the spirit of the “ABB Family” through Lana before I came to know the Allman Brothers’ music. This particular sister is a living example of generosity, faith, laughter, love, and a burning passion for life. When she told me that her “gospel for living” was based on the ABB, I listened to their music and gained an understanding of what this heartfelt musical group is all about.
What I see in these Brothers, these gifted musicians, is their “Soulshine”. Their music is a manifestation of their spirits. The brothers and sisters in the ABB extended family recognize and share this remarkable blessed spirit, and I, the “newly enlightened”, do, too. . . . Ciao, Susan.
The Truth From Sister Lana Michelizzi of Tripville:
Wings. The truth about being a Babe in Boyland is that when you look inside your spiritual mirror you find you’ve grown wings to fly, and that flying, on many different levels, is energizing, affirming, and fully-filling. Stretch those wings and they may chart a course that carries you all over the country to your mobile home, the home that moves from night to night, but always finds your Brothers waiting to inspire you, protect you, love you, and lift you higher.
Stretch those wings and they may chart a course inside your head that leads to the revelation that being called “babe,” “sugar,” “honey,” “sweetheart,” “miz,” or “darlin’” ain’t condescending and sexist after all, but affectionate and endearing. Say yessssssssss to the revelation that brothers can be trusted.
Stretch those wings and they may elevate you to the point where your voice rings true with words pipelined straight from your heart and mind with no need for editing, no fear of rejection, no chance of not being taken seriously, and every likelihood of attentive ears and respect.
Stretch those wings and they will wrap around a family larger than the one which is linked to you by a birth certificate. Babies surely are born into biological families, but Babes in Boyland are born again, into an extended family cresting with kindness. You may feel the warmth of that emotional wave tickling your toes. Let it wash over you, baptizing you in the gospel of the Allman Brothers Band.
Stretch those wings and let them lift you beyond the boundaries once considered “normal” and “appropriate” for woman, and leave them far behind.
Stretch those wings and fly as high as you can. Keep going till you see clearly what it is you are meant to do with your life on this planet, and go for it. Don’t look back. If someone is meant to fly with you, they will be there.
Stretch those wings. There ain’t no fear of fallin’, because chances are, in your weakest moment, some brother whose name you might not even know is going to swoop down to your rescue, to smile and say, “I got you . . . Babe.”
Take care and know that you are loved,