DUANE ALLMAN

1970 June Harris

GETTING TOGETHER

[ DUANE ARTICLES ]

WITH THE ALLMAN BROTHERS  

 


 

JUNE HARRIS:
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 rehearsing seriously."

"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 . . ."

June Harris.
 

 
 
 

 

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