'One Way Out'
It has been a news-filled couple of months for the Allman Brothers Band.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group is about to celebrate its 45th year in existence in 2014 with a 14-show run at the Beacon Theatre in New York City in March.
However, this past January, the Allman Brothers Band’s current guitarists, Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, announced that they were leaving the group at year’s end. Singer, songwriter, keyboardist and namesake Gregg Allman responded to the news by suggesting that this will be the last year that the ABB will tour together.
Over the last four and a half decades, the ABB has experienced a lot of success on the upside, while going through many trials and tribulations on the downside. The heart of the group can be found in the formation of the original lineup in 1969. Under the guidance, drive and musical vision of guitarist Duane Allman, that crew of musicians laid down the foundation on which rock and roll history would be made. The initial lineup featured Allman, brother Gregg, Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Jaimoe Johanson and Butch Trucks.
The story of the ABB can be found in the new book by Alan Paul, called “One Way Out – The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band.” The story-telling style chosen by Paul consists of letting the band members and those who witnessed the events tell the tales in their own words, culled from more than 100 interviews conducted by the author.
The book is a rollercoaster ride from the beginning. The original lineup of the ABB produced four albums and introduced songs, like “Whipping Post,” “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” “Dreams,” “Mountain Jam,” “Midnight Rider,” “Blue Sky” and other tunes, into the American rock music lexicon. Unfortunately, by the third year of the band’s existence, both Duane Allman and Oakley had died from motorcycle wrecks.
The band regrouped with the 1973 album, “Brothers and Sisters,” which climbed the charts with songs, like “Ramblin’ Man” and “Jessica.” However, without the leadership of Allman and Oakley, and with money, fame, drugs and egos unleashed along with the newfound success, the ABB began to go through a long line of hiring and firing, lawsuits, fist fights, one band member holding a knife behind his back when confronting another member and other craziness.
Still, this band has lasted for 45 years because of the music, and there are some wonderful quotes in “One Way Out” that showcase that side of the narrative.
Before Duane Allman started the ABB in 1969, he showed up at the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., wanting to be hired as a session musician. Studio head Rick Hall talks about Allman’s resolve and fortitude after initially turning him down for the position. Said Hall in the book, “He put up a little pup tent on my property and slept there for two weeks. What turned me around on Duane was simply hearing him play; after seeing his determination.”
Betts is quoted as describing Oakley as a “huge personality” and the “social dynamics guy” of the ABB. Said Betts of Oakley, “He wanted our band to relate to the people honestly. He was always making sure that the merchandise was worth what they were charging, and he was always going in and arguing about not letting the ticket prices get too high, so that our people could still afford to come see us.”
Renowned New Orleans musician Dr. John talks in the book about an “eerie” conversation he had with Duane Allman that could only be described as a premonition of his upcoming death. Allman would die on Oct. 29, 1971, and bandmate Oakley would lose his life in November 1972. Both were only 24 years old.
Before the original lineup of the ABB was tragically altered, however, they performed here in Boone on Jan. 15, 1971, at the Varsity Gym on the campus of Appalachian State University. According to the remembrances of the concert found on the ABB’s official website, the group apparently played on and on until the house lights were turned up in an attempt to shut the show down at 2 a.m. And they had brought in some horn players from somewhere in North Carolina to join in on the jams.
As a result, the High Country will forever be a part of the history of the Allman Brothers Band.
Editor’s note: If you are reading this and happened to be at that 1971 ABB concert in Boone or know of anyone who was there, drop us a line at (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell us about it.