2005 The New York Times




'Whipping Post'!
(published on www.nytimes.com, May 8, 2005)


To the Editor:

I am a founding member and am still the drummer for the Allman Brothers Band. In 35 years of playing music for the public, and especially because of the nature of the music we played and the time and origin of our group (late 60's, the Deep South), we have had more than our share of controversy and criticism. I realize that this comes with the territory and accept it for what it is. In these 35 years of criticism I have read reviews and articles that run the gamut, but there has always been one article that stands above all the rest as being the single most meanspirited piece of fiction ever written about us. It is to journalism what an ant is to an aardvark. That is the Rolling Stone article about the Allman Brothers Band written by Grover Lewis, which is referred to in Roy Blount Jr.'s review of "Splendor in the Short Grass: The Grover Lewis Reader" (April 3).

First, let me state unequivocally that Duane Allman was one of the most powerful, charismatic and trustworthy men I have ever known. I would use the word "messianic" to describe the impact he had on the people around him, and his influence on music today runs much deeper than all but a very few even begin to know. He was a man of the highest character and principles, and for Blount to refer to him as "one of these churls" is inexcusable. Blount also quotes Lewis's article about us: "At my teasing suggestion . . . Duane coldly offers to punch me out on the spot." To put things in their proper perspective, I will tell you exactly how Lewis, our "fellow traveler," came to be threatened.

Lewis joined our tour in 1971 at the insistence of our management. We were a very close-knit group of musicians and had little use for all the interviews, photo shoots and other such nonsense that went with the image building that made for big-time rock 'n' roll success. I am sure that our fellow traveler was used to bands falling all over themselves at having one of the great writers from Rolling Stone magazine around. He was somewhat taken aback by our lack of interest in his presence. What he wound up writing under the guise of journalism could have been humorous satire, at best, if it weren't for one very tragic fact: it was published within weeks of Duane Allman's death, and the people at Rolling Stone had time to pull the article but did nothing.

Lewis writes at one point about a conversation between me and Dickey Betts about a book on Zen Buddhism by D. T. Suzuki. I asked Dickey if he had read it. He said that he had and that it was too academic an approach to a subject that had to be felt and experienced. Dickey and I went on to discuss the book and the topic for some time. Lewis's version was that I asked Dickey if he had read the book and Dickey's response was, "Yeah, good, ain't it." There actually was a conversation that went somewhat like this later in Lewis's stay with us. I had just bought a copy of Saul Bellow's "Herzog." I asked our fellow traveler if he had read the book. His answer? "It's a good book."

In Lewis's article, all the dialogue among members of our group seemed to be taken directly from Faulkner. We are from the South. We did and still do have Southern accents. We are not stupid. The people in the article were creations of Grover Lewis. They did not exist in reality.

Finally, Rolling Stone had sent Annie Leibovitz to photograph us. As I said earlier, we were busy playing music, and photo sessions just got in our way. We all had tattoos of a mushroom on our right calves. The reasons for getting these tattoos were personal and had deep meaning for us. Somehow Leibovitz had heard of them and asked if we would all pull up our pant legs and line up so that she could shoot a photo of the tattoos. We looked at one another and started to comply when Dickey Betts pushed his pant leg down and said, "No, this is silly." Our fellow traveler's "teasing suggestion" was, "It's no sillier than getting a tattoo in the first place." This was the final straw for Duane. That was when he looked Grover Lewis in the eye and said, "One more crack like that out of you and I'm gonna knock your block off."

Butch Trucks Palm Beach, Fla.


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