Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



Southern rock band formed 1968. Original lineup: Duane Allman (b 20 November 1946, Nashville; d 29 October 1971, Macon GA), guitar; Gregg Allman (b 8 December 1947, Nashville; d 27 May 2017, Savannah GA), keyboards, guitar, vocals; Richard 'Dicky' Betts (b 12 December 1943, West Palm Beach FL), guitar; Berry Oakley (b 4 April 1948, Chicago; d 11 November 1972, Macon GA), bass; Jai Johanny Johanson, aka Jaimo (real name John Lee Johnson, b 8 July 1944, Ocean Springs MO), Claude Hudson 'Butch' Trucks (b 11 May 1949, Jacksonville FL; shot himself 24 January 2017, West Palm Beach), drums. Duane and Gregg worked in various Florida bands, then formed the Allman Joys (pun on a U.S. chocolate bar) with Bob Keller (bass), Manard Portwood or Billy Canell (drums); after two LPs they re-formed with Paul Hornsby (keyboards), Johnny Sandlin (drums) and Mabron McKinney (bass); moved to Hollywood '67, replaced McKinney with Jesse Willard Carr, renamed band Hour Glass on two LPs '67-8, they still didn't sell. The Allmans returned to Florida '68, briefly joined 31st of February, a folk-rock trio (Scott Boyer, guitar, vocals; David Brown, bass and Trucks), who had cut one album. (Five-piece LP later issued early '70s as Duane and Gregg Allman.) This band folded, Gregg was obliged to cut an album for Liberty (Hour Glass's label) not released at the time; Duane became a notable session player at Fame Studios, Muscle Shoals, playing for Wilson Pickett, Boz Scaggs, King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, others, also cutting an unreleased LP with Hornsby, Sandlin and Oakley; and met Betts, who had played with Oakley in group the Second Coming. After jamming with Betts, Oakley, Trucks and Johanson decided to form a band; Gregg came to complete it.

In this original form they made three highly-rated albums: The Allman Brothers Band '69, Idlewild South '70 (later combined as Beginnings), Live At The Filmore East '71; then Duane was killed in motorcycle accident while recording the two-disc album Eat A Peach. Two double-LP sets on Capricorn '72-4 both called An Anthology compiled his session work, later on Polydor CDs. They decided to continue without replacing Duane; both Live and Peach were top ten albums. Chuck Leavell added on keyboards '72; while making Brothers And Sisters Oakley was killed in an accident similar to Duane's. The completed LP made no. 1; single 'Ramblin' Man' made top three with Les Dudek (guitar) and Lamar Williams (bass, b 1947, d January 1983, Los Angeles). Win, Lose Or Draw '75 followed by two double-LP sets The Road Goes On Forever (compilation) and Wipe The Windows/Check The Oil/Dollar Gas (live) '75-6.

Gregg was briefly married to Cher, made Allman And Woman with her; the band broke up after he testified in a drug case against the road manager. Betts formed Great Southern (Dickie Betts And Great Southern '77, Atlanta Burning Down '78), while Gregg formed the Gregg Allman Band; Trucks, Leavell, Johanson, Williams and Jimmy Nalls (guitar) formed Sea Level. In '78 the Allman Brothers re-formed with Allman, Trucks, Jaimo, Betts, Dan Toler (guitar) and David Goldflies (bass) from Great Southern. LP Enlightened Rogues '79 was a good seller; Jaimo left, Mike Lawler (keyboards) and David Toler (drums) joined; Reach For The Sky and Brothers Of The Road '80-1 were on Arista. Leavell rejoined '82; the state of flux continued.

They were the most important of the Southern 'boogie' genre, their original two-guitar style extremely influential, though Duane was never satisfactorily replaced. He can also be heard on the classic Layla (Derek and the Dominos; see Eric Clapton). Betts's solo albums include Highway Call '75, Pattern Disruptive '88; Gregg's include Laid Back '73, two-LP Tour '74, Playin' Up A Storm and Two The Hard Way '77, I'm No Angel '87, Just Before The Bullets Fly '88. Dreams '89 was a six-LP/four-CD set on Polydor compiling 55 '66-88 tracks; the Allman Brothers Band with only one brother carried on with Seven Turns, Shades Of Two Worlds, Where It All Begins '90-4, plus two live sets both called An Evening With The Allman Brothers Band '92-5, all on Epic.

Gregg's Searchin' For Simplicity '97 on Epic was his best work in a long while. Hittin' The Note 2003 was by the Allman Brother Band, but the death of the legendary Atlantic engineer Tom Dowd had been a terrible blow; they had done some of their best work with Dowd. Suffering from Hepatitis C, Greg had a liver transplant in June 2010, but not before his manager Michael Lehman had put him together with T Bone Burnett: Low Country Blues was released in January 2011 to glowing reviews, a collection of covers of the likes of Muddy Waters and B.B. King, and the Allman brother, still healing, was on the road again.

He had said in interviews that his generation had abused a lot of alcohol and drugs. In 2017 he was working on a solo album when he died of liver cancer.