The Allman Brothers Band

Reality Overpowers Myth

By: Dan Wilcock
For The Troy Record

Allman Brothers bass player Oteil Burbridge was six years old when he first heard the Allman Brothers do “Whippin’ Post.” In a phoned interview last week, I tried to explain to him how unusual the band was even in 1971. Because Duane Allman introduced slide guitar to a rock music audience that was largely ignorant of its very existence, most fans of the day thought he invented the form. Then, when both he and bass player Barry Oakley died within weeks of one another in blazing motorcycle accidents, that just made the band…… Oteil stops me. “Mythical,” he says.

That myth has grown to almost unbelievable levels as the group approaches its 40th anniversary next year with a SPAC show Tuesday. Even though Oteil has been with the group 11 years, longer than any other bass player in the band’s history, he still refers to the band in the third person. “People always laugh when I talk about the Allman Brothers. I refer to them as “them,” and they’re like, ‘What do you mean, them? You’re in the band.’ I’m like, ‘You know, I don’t really feel it because of the age difference. (“Whippin’ Post”) was done when I was six years old.'”

Of course, Brother Gregg Allman on B-3 organ along with drummers Butch Trucks and Jamoe have been with the band from the beginning, and lead guitarist Warren Haynes, who is generally credited with revitalizing the “myth,” has been in, out and back in the band since 1989. As The Allman Brothers prepare for their abbreviated 2008 tour due to Gregg’s hepatitis treatments, Haynes is very much in. But even he in 2005 described his situation to me as being “a dream come true.”

The group has always given long adrenaline rush concerts, which is why Gregg postponed their annual New York City run at the Beacon Theater in March. Their SPAC show on Tuesday will be the fourth in a reduced schedule of three weeks. “At the end of a really long night, I’m tired in the way that a ball player is after playing an intense game,” says Haynes. “But it’s a wonderful sort of exhaustion.”

Explaining Gregg Allman’s cancellation of earlier shows, Oteil echoes Haynes’ comments. “There’s no possible way you can gig and do that (hepatitis treatments). We play fairly long shows, but after it’s done, you feel better than you’ve felt in 20 years.”

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