It was the spring of 1970 and it was a beautiful day in Atlanta, Georgia, where I was a student at Georgia Tech. I was living on campus in my fraternity house, an easy three-block walk to Alexander Memorial Coliseum where Tech student concerts were held. I had already become an avid ABB fan after seeing them first at a Georgia State concert at the Atlanta Municipal Auditorium and then in Piedmont Park, but this was special – tonight the boys are going to play on MY campus.
The Student Center Concert Committee had hired a band called Smith to headline the show. Smith had a chick singer with long white-blonde hair and they were enjoying very brief success with a top-40 song – I no longer have a clue what the name of that one song was. But they needed an opening act, so they went out and hired a local band – the Allman Brothers Band.
I got to the venue nice and early and was well prepared to enjoy the show, if you know what I mean. This was supposed to be a Tech student-only show, but somehow 100s of Piedmont Park hippies had gotten in and were crowding the stage. The Brothers opened with “Don’t Want You No More / Not My Cross To Bear” and the crowd went wild at the first notes.
After the Brothers finished their set, the MC came up and announced that Smith’s plane was delayed and asked if the Brothers could play a little more. Well, all right! Duane took that as his cue to get serious and I only wish somewhere a tape existed of this night. I do not remember the setlist, unfortunately, but I do remember the band jamming the best I ever heard in all the times I saw them play. Before Smith finally showed up, the Brothers had played for more than FOUR delirious hours.
But that’s not the end of the story. Duane flat didn’t care that Smith was there – he was having so much fun he didn’t want to stop playing and the happy crowd was egging him on. Tech Security took the stage and tried to get the Brothers to leave and were roundly booed for their efforts. A few minutes later a cop grabbed a mike at the soundboard and, over the music, announced that if the band did not leave immediately the power to the stage would be cut.
Duane just laughed and kept on playing, while the crowd cheered and cheered. Then a few minutes later POW the sound was killed.
And the venue was filled with total silence ….
Stunned silence ….
And the audience milled around, bewildered – this is not how a concert is supposed to end. Nobody left as we watched Smith’s equipment set up – we were still in a state of shock after the premature end of the Brother’s jam. Then when Smith struck up the first note of their set, everyone realized simultaneously that the fun was over and filed quietly out. The coliseum was vacant in minutes, as Smith performed to an empty house ….