Popular Music Mechanics: the Allman Brothers


Tonight we’re going to see the Allman Brothers at the (newly restored) Beacon Theatre — one night in their annual month-long residency. But, besides some bad jokes about eating a peach, we realized we didn’t know all that much about this legendary group. Happily, plenty of other folks do. For our benefit, and yours, an Allman Brothers cheat-sheet, after the jump.

Duane Allman started out as a session guitarist in Muscle Shoals, at FAME studios, appearing on records by Aretha Franklin and John Hammond. For a while, he was living in a tent in the FAME parking lot.

The band’s 1968 debut, The Allman Brothers Band, only ever reached #188 on the Billboard charts. But, the final track, “Whipping Post,” is one of their most well-known jams. On their live double album, At Fillmore East, the song takes up almost an entire side of a record.

The Allman Bros were known as Bill Graham’s house band, for playing so often at his Fillmore East theater; they were also the last band to play there, before it closed in 1971.

Shortly after At Fillmore East went gold, Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident. Urban legend has it that the band titled their work-in-progress Eat a Peach because Duane had crashed into a flatbed truck carrying peaches. Nope: the cargo was actually heavy pipe. And, while we’re debunking, yes, it’s true that bassist Berry Oakley died in a motorcycle accident just over a year later, but it wasn’t the exact same intersection — he was about three blocks away.

Forty-year-old gossip is still fun! Gregg Allman was married to Cher in the late ’70s, and they — tragically — released an album together. Billed as Allman and Woman, they titled it Two the Hard Way. It’s out of print, presumably because it was terrible. Here’s their rendition of “You Really Got a Hold on Me.”

More gossip: the entire band swore they’d never play with Gregg again after he was brought in on federal drug charges, and to get out of it, gave up the band’s tour manager, John “Scooter” Herring. That was in 1976. The group reunited and began touring again in ’89 — after a stunt reunion for a Bill Graham benefit show in ’86.

The Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead frequently guested at each other’s shows for what we can only imagine were insanely epic (and really stoned) jams.

Yes, but how do they sound? Glad you asked. Like we said, they’re sort of jam-band legends, but with weighty nods to blues and southern rock. We realized we’ve been hearing these songs forever:

Ramblin’ Man

Riffage alert! “Jessica

Blue Sky

From the Beacon in 2003: “Statesboro Blues

And, of course, “Whipping Post” — parts 1 and 2, from a Fillmore East 1970 concert.