Getting Together With The Allman Brothers
(first published in 'Hit Parader', September 1970)
Getting Together With
THE ALLMAN BROTHERS
Duane himself is the first to admit that his task with the
Allman Brothers has been made easier by the success of the
British blues-rock groups.
"The best thing that happened was that the British intervention
of the scene made it possible to play what you wanted to play
and do what you wanted to do without having to be relegated to
the funky places. It widened the whole thing to the point where
we didn't have to be restricted."
"Everyone began to dig the blues and everyone was getting it. At
first I didn't like it because I felt it was pretty cheap and
watered down. We were digging Jimmy Reed and Sonny Boy
Williamson. In the beginning, I dug the Beatles more than the
Stones because they were doing something new. Later I
appreciated the Stones. Now everything's run together and melted
into one big thing."
"Whatever anyone has on their minds, they can get it heard.
People are ready for anything. A lot more good music is going to
come out. All kinds. It's hard to distinguish one thing from
another anymore, there are so many influences. Ten different
kinds all in one form. It's a great time now."
"When we first started, Greg and me were playing rhythm and
blues. We always had blues roots, but there weren't any other
white groups in Daytona, Florida, and the only way we could
break into the scene was to try to play black music in white
clubs. It was tough 'cause black musicians were doing black
music in black clubs. Like we were all doing the same thing, so
in the end we alternated with each other playing lead guitar on
different nights with a black group."
"The only music you can play is the music you feel. The rest of
it's mechanics. As people get behind it, we get a lot more
behind it. We can play for us all day, but do it for other
people, that's something. If we can give people a reason to
laugh and dig each other and us at the same time, that's great,
man, that's what we want to do."
Duane Allman, twenty-three, is the founder member of the Allman
Brothers Band, the hard driving, blues-rock outfit from the
south, whose gutsy music and instrumentation has brought success
with their album, "The Allman Brothers Band".
The nearly instant acceptance of the Allman Brothers Band, led
by Duane and his twenty-two year old organ playing, vocalist
brother Greg, runs deeper than just digging their album. It
proves that an American group has been able to "bring it all
back home" so to speak, that U.S. tastes in music have become
sophisticated enough to feel the great American heritage without
looking to England, whose groups made an incredible breakthrough
during the past decade.
Later, in 1965, Duane and Greg formed a four piece group called
the Allman Joys. Recalls Greg, "We did the club circuit down
south, and then we broke up around February 1967. I guess it was
about that time that we formed The Hourglass with some people
from Alabama who are now session men for Phil Walden."
"We went out to the West Coast with that group and then, because
of many reasons, we broke up and they went back East. I stayed
out on the West Coast keeping on songs and trying to put
together a group. Just as I was reaching a complete loss what to
do, Duane called and said he was getting another six piece group
together. So I went back to Florida and joined up with them as a
singer in the spring of 1969."
"I was really disillusioned and strung out with the West Coast,"
says Duane. "The group thing left a bitter taste in my mouth.
But then I had an opportunity to go to Muscle Shoals. I was
messing around and having some fun. I could have gotten a group,
but no one was really ready. Then Rick Hall heard about me and
invited me to do a session with Wilson Pickett. I didn't get
into the session thing right then. I went back to Florida, but
then Rick called me again and said that I should move up to
Muscle Shoals. I wound up doing sessions with Aretha, Arthur
Conley, Wilson Pickett, the Soul Survivors, Clarence Carter,
John Hammond. Then Rick asked me if I wanted to do an album as a
solo artist. I didn't have anything together, but I said 'yes'.
He asked what musicians, and I said I wanted to use these cats
from Florida and from the old Hourglass."
"Anyway, we did some cuts and nothing came of it except the
desire to get back into the group thing. So Barry Oakley, our
bassist, was there on the session and we talked it all out about
getting a group thing, and we decided on what would be the best
group we could possibly get together. Then Jai Johnny Johnson
came down to Muscle Shoals and he became the first one in the
group. He plays drums and congas. Then I told Rick the studio
thing was stringing me out and I wanted to go back to Florida
and work in a little more creative capacity."
"So I went back and me and Barry and Dickie Betts (second
guitarist) and Jai Johnny jammed together some. Then I found out
Butch Trucks our other drummer was in town, and decided two
drummers would be a good lick, since we had two guitar players.
But nobody could really sing as strong as we needed."
"I thought about Greg, but I thought he was hung up with his
work on the Coast. He said it was getting to be a drag and he
was ready to do something again, so he came back and we started
"With Phil Walden's encouragement, we moved to Macon and began
to get something solid together."
"We always played blues but they didn't want it. Everyone
contributed roots and stuff to the whole sound, but before this
group, no one was laying it down as hard as we could do it."
"When we heard it together for the first time, that's when we
knew it. As the music got freer, we were able to get into it
more. It grew rather than being built. It just kinda came out.
We decided when we started that every set we ever played was
going to be the best set we ever did, and when you go on stage
with that in mind, you can do some incredible things."
"You can get everything out when you play anything you want.
It's the greatest communication in the world. Better than
talking, writing, anything. It's all there . . . It's so close.
The group's like a one piece unit with six parts."
"I guess success depends on how many people dig you. There are
always people to slam you, but you have to lay down things you
can live with. There are people who put you down, but those are
the ones who have already made it. You play what you feel and
hope you're doing the right thing. You've got to do whatever you
believe in. If you're wrong, you change and keep making changes
till you make it - or till you're happy with the whole thing."
"Being successful is a nice thing. It's financial proof that
people dig what you're doing."
The Allman Brothers Band first album is a collection of deep
influences. Hard core blues, rhythm and blues, and rock. Six
people with a merging of feelings and sounds.
"Our next album will be a lot different," said Duane. "There
will be more variations in the material. The sound will probably
be more different, more seperated, so that individual patterns
will emerge. It will just be a collection of songs, not
necessarily a total concept album."
"We'll go off somewhere and jam for two weeks. Out of it will
come the basis for new material. But it's always good to keep
those old blues cats in mind because they really did it.
Structurally, you don't even have to stay within the framework
to convey the blues idea or feeling. You really can't explain it
. . . It's not something you can hear."
"You just have to feel it, deep down, inside. And let it all
come out naturally . . ."