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Reflections On The Allman Brothers Band
(first published on www.macon.com, April 5, 2009)

I believe that life is a gift, that dreams really do come true and that sometimes great souls come among us to illuminate our existence. Lucky am I to have known two of them.

The first time I saw Duane I was thunderstruck. He seemed to have that effect on a lot of people. He was cocky, confident, and even then, the best guitarist I’d ever heard. The Allman Joys were playing in a funky Jacksonville club. I walked in hearing the soulful harmonies of “Reach Out” — I swear better than the original. After hours they kicked back into the blues. My world would never be the same.

About a year and a half later, I walked into another club. The Second Coming held court at The Scene, and it was exactly that. There was Dickey Betts’ smokin’ guitar, wife Dayle’s voice soaring, Crazy Rhino getting psychedelic and Nasty Lord John partying on his drum kit. The spotlight, though, was on the bearded Christ-like figure of Berry Oakley with his Fender bass, growling “Hoochie Coochie Man.” It was spring. Peace and love were in bloom everywhere, and fortune was surely smiling on me.

By the next spring a new band of brothers was born. It seemed quite natural the way everything fell into place. A magnetic force drew them all together. The magic was in the music, the energy-powerful. The rest is history.

Young as they were, Berry and Duane had no doubts about what they were here to do. They were filled with the spirit and they were on fire. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Ecclesiastes IX, 10). They didn’t waste a minute. They blazed through here so quickly, left us too soon. I am, however, comforted knowing this: When they departed, they’d been happy doing what they loved.

— Linda Oakley Miller, widow of the late Berry Oakley

When I approached the walkway of the old grand Tudor house at 2321 Vineville Ave. on a hot summer morning back in 1970 for my first day of work with a fledgling rock and roll group called The Allman Brothers Band, I had no idea that I would be reflecting on their huge success 40 years later or that I would have authored a book about it.

I had heard about the newly formed group in the spring of 1969 from friends in Macon and soon saw them perform live at a free concert in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. I immediately felt that the music they played was something new and magic and I had to be a part of it. Through a strange twist of fate I would leave my job as a banker with the Trust Company of Georgia and become their tour manager just over a year later.

In those early times, we were so broke that all we exchanged at Christmas were glances, but soon the band was at the pinnacle of financial and creative success. Then came the tragic and untimely deaths of the brilliant, charismatic founder, Duane Allman, and one year later bassist Berry Oakley, followed by the destructiveness of drug and alcohol abuse and a temporary loss of their creative juices. Nothing, however, could stop the band for long. They have set box office and attendance records, recorded recognized album classics and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Best of all, they are still performing live concerts that leave their audiences breathless. Truly, may the road go on forever!

— Willie Perkins, former road manager for the band from 1970-76 and 1983-89

In 1969, I was serving as an enlisted man in the Navy (trying to stay out of Vietnam), and I went home to Macon on leave one weekend. On the drive down from Norfolk, I was listening to the radio when I heard the opening licks to “The Weight” by Aretha Franklin. I reached over and turned up the volume and thought who the #&*@% is that on guitar. I had no idea.

My brother, Twiggs Lyndon, was living on Orange Street at the time. When I went over to see him, he was all fired up about a new band that had formed. He was being hired as the band’s road manager. Twiggs said “this is the best #$%^&* band you have ever heard and you ain’t going to believe these $%^&* guys” and similar statements. Well, I was somewhat skeptical because Twiggs was always excited about some music (when I was about 12 and Twiggs was 16, he took my $1 weekly allowance and bought a Freddy King record that he didn’t think we could live without!). He then told me that one of the guitar players was on Aretha’s new release, and that certainly got my attention. Also Jaimoe (we called him Jay Johnny at that time) was one of the drummers, whom I had known for a couple of years, and I knew he could play.

Anyway, Twiggs had a “test pressing” of the band’s first album which had not yet been released. The record plant had run off several copies of the album for the band to make sure everything was OK before the plant pressed all the albums. It had a plain white label, and the album cover was also plain. ... I gave it to Kirk West a few years ago to keep at the Big House. Well, I remember Twiggs putting the record on the turntable and the tone arm making contact, and like everyone else who heard this record I was blown away. As we listened to each cut, Twiggs would tell me who was playing what and when it was Dickey and when it was Duane, etc. When we got to “Black Hearted Woman,” he told me that the band had had difficulty getting the chant (I don’t know what else to call it — the part when everyone is on vocals right after the brief drum solo) down right and they had been through several takes in the studio. They thought they had screwed this take up as well, so they broke up laughing at the end. But it was decided that this version would be on the record. If you turn up the volume, you can hear them laughing at the end of the chant.

Every time I hear the laughter on “Black Hearted Woman,” it takes me back to that day on Orange Street when I was with my brother and he was so excited about this band.

— John Lyndon, an Athens attorney and the brother of the late Twiggs Lyndon

Surviving 40 years of rock and roll and life on the road is something not many bands can accomplish! Most bands are lucky to have a five-year run, if that long.

But consider (that) The Brothers have been The South’s leaders of the whole Southern movement of musicians leading the way for other Southern bands since the beginning of Southern Rock. They set the example and the standards for all of the other bands.

The Allman Brothers were managed by my brother Phil while I managed Lynyrd Skynyrd, and even though Skynyrd probably sold more albums, tapes and CDs, ABB was still the headliner. Skynyrd was the South’s best “juking band,” but ABB offered a little more variety with their jazzy influences. All of the Southern Rock bands looked up to The Brothers and tried to capture that special music they produced and played so amazingly.

In the late ’60s and early ’70s when they arrived in Macon, it was a major shock to our quiet little town. The boys and girls and women loved the band while the men did not know how to react to these long-haired hippies. Our city had not yet gotten over all of the R&B artists and bands flooding into Macon ... when ABB first moved here. They were something brand new and very exciting, and picked right up where Otis Redding had left off with bringing more and more music into Macon. Their impact to our community was the most powerful than ever before and still remains the same.

No other band from the South paid more dues and had more hardships on the road. They were the first out there, and so we think of them as the pioneers. Imagine what it was like to rise all the way from a small nightclub in Macon to headlining almost ever major coliseums and halls all over the world as well as some of the huge festivals like Watkins Glen, which had close to 400,000 in attendance.

Otis, James Brown and Little Richard first brought attention to Macon, but The Allman Brothers locked it in as a music capital. Music is, and I hope will always be, the most recognized product of Macon, Georgia. I and every music fan here should thank them for keeping it going 40 years later.

— Alan Walden, a music promoter and the brother of the late Phil Walden, founder of Capricorn Records


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