It must have been about 1985 when a guy I traded tapes with in Chicago told me that someone in that city was getting ready to publish an Allman Brothers Band newsletter. I was thrilled! Finally I’d located someone else who shared my obsession. I spoke to Kirk West by telephone and received issue #1 of Les Brers by mail. It looked a little bit crude, but I thought it was great! I called Kirk to congratulate him and offer a few suggestions. The next thing I knew I’d committed to contributing an article for Issue #2!
I asked him to give me a deadline and started thinking about what I would write. I narrowed it down to three things: the first time I saw the Allman Brothers play, the last time I saw Duane, or the first time they played Atlanta without him. Deciding on the last show with Daune, I consulted with my old friend Ray Pavlovic, who had been at that concert with me. The two of us wracked our brains remembering every detail of that extraordinary day. I took pages of notes and sat down to write a story — but nothing came. I stared and stared at my notes and tried to write an outline. Still no inspiration. I put it aside hoping to get back to it again soon.
Finally the night before I’d promised a finished article to Kirk, I pulled out all my notes and previous efforts and tried to finish the job — I wasn’t about to miss my deadline! Still, I had no success. I decided to go to bed without a finished article and set my alarm to 4:00 am, then get up and try again (as I’d often done while studying for exams in college). As I lay in bed, half-way into a dream state with all the thoughts I’d had floating around in my head, I experienced a White Flash — and the finished article appeared in my head, complete.
I got up immediately and wrote everything down. I didn’t even have to think about what I was writing — it was all there and I just needed to put it on paper. Never before or since have I had such an overwhelming flash of creativity and inspiration. I went back to bed and fell asleep, hoping that when I awoke the next day I would like what I’d written. I did.
The story below is the result of that magical experience. Isn’t it wonderful what a deadline can do?
Incidentally, an audience tape of the afternoon show turned up about 6 or 7 years after I wrote this, and listening to it confirms completely what I felt that day. I’d pretty much dropped out of tape trading by then, but for some reason I glanced at a list I’d received from a Deadhead I’d never met and found a listing for an Allman Brothers Band show on July 17, 1971. I assumed the date was incorrect — there were numerous versions floating around of a show from the same day in July but in 1970. On the off chance that I’d discovered a new Duane tape I contacted the trader and found out that it was indeed that correct date and that it was from Duane’s last show at the Atlanta Municipal Auditorium!
Of course, he didn’t actually have it himself — it was his buddy who had it. Apparently his buddy had taped the afternoon show and never really traded it with anyone until his Deadhead friend discovered it and put it on his list. Unfortunately the buddy had just gotten out of rehab and was hard to get in touch with — it took me a year of working with the guy (God bless him!) who’d sent me the original list before he actually got his hands on a first generation copy of the tape from his buddy and sent it to me. Even then, the “Mountain Jam” they’d done for the encore that afternoon never did surface although it had been taped.
Anytime a new Duane show surfaces is a time for rejoicing, but for me to be able to listen to this show again — to recreate the music I heard the day I reached the highest high of my life — is remarkable beyond words. Please read this story and travel back in time to a simpler era and join me at the Allman Brothers Band concert here in Atlanta on 7-17-71 — the last show Duane played in his adopted home town.
The Last Show in Atlanta
This is no ordinary day. There is a tangible energy pulsing throughout the city — no matter what radio station I listen to, it seems like a cut from Fillmore East is playing. People are smiling everywhere I look; the anticipation is a palpable force. After all, this is Atlanta! It’s been six months since the Brothers last played at home — the longest wait ever, and I’m used to seeing them play for free every weekend in the Park. They’re a local band, an Atlanta band; they are our boys making good. And the long-awaited live album is finally available.
As much as I love their records, I know that the essence of the Allman Brothers Band is as a live experience. Now the album which would really capture their music had finally been released. Everyone could know them as we do. But as much a I like the Fillmore East album, I’ve heard the Brothers play better sets practically every time I’ve seen them here in Atlanta. And they haven’t played here since January! I feel deprived! I’m ready for my fix!
I am well prepared for the experience. They’re coming back with two shows in a single day at the old Municipal Auditorium. I’ve listened to them play four hours at a time or longer on occasion, but this is the first time they’ve booked a matinee and an evening show. I have the same fifth row left of center seats for both shows, directly in front of Duane.
Driving to the afternoon show, the streets are packed with smiling people headed the same direction. It’s a new feeling, going to the Auditorium while the sun is up. The matinee is just short of sold out — only a few empty seats are left in the back of the horseshoe. The crowd is not disappointed.
While waiting to begin, the stage is pitch black. Then the house lights are quickly lowered — suddenly, it’s so dark I can hardly see my hand in front of my face. I detect some movement on the stage, still indistinct in the darkness. But before the crowd can react, a heavenly sweet dweet-dwoo floats through the auditorium. It’s him! Brother Duane! Not a soul is sitting now! The audience is a single entity, transformed by the comfortable, familiar sensation — the Brothers are back, everything’s alright now.
The matinee show is intense, easily outdistancing the tunes on Fillmore East — just as I’d expected. I knew I’d heard them play better here than on their live album from New York! The only thing to do now was to get them to record another live album, this time in front of an Atlanta crowd! Still, as good as the afternoon show had been, as much as it fulfilled my need for an Allman Brothers fix, something was missing. It hadn’t been quite sold out; maybe the Brothers were holding a little back for the evening show. And I was still dying to hear them play “Dreams” — I haven’t heard them play it in over a year, and it’s my favorite!
If anything, the evening crowd is even more enthusiastic, the anticipation even more intense. It seemed like half the people had also been to the afternoon show. The evening show is a certified sell-out, and I can feel the presence of the band as I file to my seat.
The opening is similar, only this time the crowd is already on its feet when the lights are dimmed. We are already anticipating that first heavenly sweet dweet-dwoo, knowing that no other guitarist in the world could play two notes that sounded like that.
There it is! The amps are humming, the leslies spinning, and almost before I can comprehend what’s happening , I’m out of my seat, vibrating to “Statesboro Blues.” This is it! The Brothers are peaking! This is what I’ve been waiting for! Now I realized that the afternoon show had only been an appetizer — the audience is mesmerized by the ultimate power of this music.
This is it! This is a rare conjunction in space and time of musicians, music, and audience with maximum potentiality. Every aspect of every song, from Duane’s stinging slide, to Dickie’s superb guitar work, to Gregg’s bluesy vocals was uniting listener and performer in an upward spiraling exchange of energy. Duane’s slide is somehow even hotter than before. Dickie is outstanding in “Elizabeth Reed” and “Stormy Monday.” The band and the audience are building each other to an incredible peak. Yes! They’re playing “Dreams”! My soul touched Heaven, while my body gripped a wooden theater seat. Six thousand people have their consciousness joined and elevated to incomprehensible heights.
Even the little things, the sound mix, the lighting, the crowd are just perfect. During Duane’s lead in “Mountain Jam,” when he plays “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” slowly, almost like a hymn, overhead spots come on with filtered beams — Duane is transfigured. I am transcended. I can hear angels singing along with Duane’s guitar, and I can feel every one of the 6000 souls in the building sharing my energy.
The one thing in my life that I will never forget is the sound of that crowd when the Brothers finished “Mountain Jam.” During the show I was bombarded with the delicious sound energy of the finest music I had heard. But in the end — the energy of the huge crowd behind me was stronger than anything that electricity had amplified.
For over two hours, the wonderful music coming from that stage was the primary focus of 6000 very happy people. Now, suddenly, I was actually staggered by the force of a pure, blissful, spontaneous roar coming from 6000 voices united in ecstasy. The most incredible communal energy release I’ve ever experienced was melding performer and listener together in an indescribable cathartic bond.
After that “Mountain Jam,” after that primal roar, what could they do as an encore? The Brothers were peaking, right along with the crowd. What must it have felt like to them, hearing, seeing, and feeling that kind of joyous response? They never even left the stage — we all knew they’d play another tune. The band broke into the uplifting strains of “Revival,” and as the concert wound down, the last time I saw Duane Allman play guitar — truly, “love was everywhere.”