The Allman Brothers Band

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Legendary Allman Brothers Discover There’s Life After Betts

By: Alan Sculley

09/13/2002

Florida Today

Page 19

(c) Copyright 2002, Florida Today. All Rights Reserved.

Legendary Allman Brothers Discover There’s Life After Betts

By: Alan Sculley

For TGIF

When the Allman Brothers fired guitarist Dickey Betts two years ago, many people probably assumed it could be the setback that would lead to perhaps a lasting demise for the group. Betts was a key songwriting contributor and featured instrumentalist throughout the band’s 30-year history.

Instead, keyboardist/singer and founding member Gregg Allman hints that the change has revived not only the Allman Brothers Band, but even his work with his side project, Gregg Allman & Friends.

When Betts’ dismissal came just prior to the start of the group’s 2000 summer tour, the Allman Brothers Band had been in something of a creative holding pattern. In fact, guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody had cited the lack of songwriting by the group as one of the reasons they left the Allman Brothers Band in 1997 to devote their energy fulltime to their other band, Gov’t Mule.

But four years later, circumstances have changed. After the sudden death of Woody in 2000 left the future of Gov’t Mule up in the air, Haynes rejoined the Allman Brothers . What’s more, the band members have started work on a new studio CD, and Allman has seen a prolonged songwriting slump come to an end.

“I don’t want to get into anything really negative, but since the obvious happened, there’s a lot more peace in my life and a lot of other peoples’, too,” Allman said. “That’s about all I’m going to say about that.”

Allman, who said he would have left the Allman Brothers Band had the other members not agreed to fire Betts, said that while there were personal tensions in the group, the primary reason for the dismissal involved musical issues.

“I mean, our old player, I don’t know, I just didn’t hear much new out of him the last few years,” Allman said. “I mean, things got real loose, unpolished. There was no tightness.

“It was all musical,” Allman said, summing up the conflict with Betts. “Well it wasn’t all musical, but you put up with (stuff) as long as you can, you know, until the music starts going bad. We probably shouldn’t have put up with it, with the other crap either. But, like I said before, we don’t want to talk about that.”

What Allman was far more eager to discuss was the renewed vitality of the Allman Brothers Band, and his new marriage and the changes that has brought to his life.

The band, he said, has made considerable progress on a new studio album. And while Allman hesitated to describe the new songs and how they compare with the band’s other music, he offered a few hints about what fans can expect.

“I’ll give you this: It sounds like the Allman Brothers ,” he said. “It’s good. It’s exciting. Yes, it’s very bluesy. It’sjust good. It’s good and refreshing.”

Aside from the dismissal of Betts, Allman said the return of guitarist Haynes has helped give the Allman Brothers Band a shot in the arm. The circumstances that brought Haynes back into the fold, however, were tragic and sad. Haynes and the other members of Gov’t Mule, bassist Woody and drummer Matt Abts, had seen their band gain steady popularity with three studio CDs and a live disc.

But the death of Woody, who, like Haynes was in the Allman Brothers Band from 1989 to 1997, put the future of Gov’t Mule in question.

Gov’t Mule released a studio CD last fall, “The Deep End, Vol. 1,” which features Haynes and Abts performing original material with an all-star roster of guest bassists. The second volume of that set arrives Oct. 1.

But with the long-term future of Gov’t Mule in limbo, Haynes accepted the invitation in 2001 to rejoin the Allman Brothers , whose other members are Allman, guitarist Derek Trucks, drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe, percussionist Marc Quinones and bassist Oteil Burbridge.

“One good thing about having Warren in the band, one of the many good things, is we’ve got another singer. He really likes to sing, and he takes some of the weight off of me,” Allman said. “You don’t want to go on tour where you lose your damn throat after a few days, and you start juggling gigs and all that. I don’t care to go back to that crap anymore. That’s awful. Losing your throat is like losing the elastic in your underwear.”

Haynes’ presence, Allman said, has helped to renew the creative spark that has led to the writing and recording of new material.

The Allman Brothers last studio CD was 1994’s “Where It All Begins,” and Allman said a new studio record was overdue.

“We’ve got a good enough catalog that we could go on and just play (existing songs) from now on,” Allman said. “But sooner or later, probably sooner than later, we’d be labeled a classic act. But more than that, no new tunes brings on the boredom, you know? Then you start playing the old tunes kind of half-assed. So new blood, be it a new player or a new song, it really does something for everybody. A bunch of new songs will actually give you a youthful feeling.”

As for his personal life, things are looking up for Allman as well. It’s been six years since he’s had a drink, and about two years since he’s smoked a cigarette. Those changes have had a direct effect on his health.

“I’d recommend it to anybody,” Allman said of his healthier lifestyle. Meanwhile, Allman’s recent marriage has brought newfound stability to his life.

“I’m settled in,” said Allman, who dated his wife, Stacey, for five years before tying the knot. “I really enjoy life. It’s not just seeing how much music you can make and being screwed up all the time and being lonely at the same time. So all those things have been conquered now, and I’m so thankful to God, let me tell you.”

At a glance

— Who: Allman Brothers Band

— When: 7 tonight

— Where: Coral Sky Amphitheatre, West Palm Beach

— Tickets: $22.50-35.50.

— Also: The Allman Brothers will perform at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Ocean Center, Daytona Beach. Tickets are $39.75-45. Derek Trucks is the opening act.

— Call: (321) 459-3309

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