On March 26th, 1969, the Allman Brothers Band played together for the first time. The six men united from all different directions in life to pave their way through music-making history. Ultimately, they would become pioneers of southern rock. After the early days’ irreplaceable losses of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, the band has since welcomed a revolving cast of characters to continue the spirit of their timeless music, but eventually closed the book in 2014. Despite not being together today, a true brotherhood was born and its roots continue to flourish every time their songs are played. The road, indeed, goes on forever.
It all started in the mid-1960s, when brothers Duane and Gregg Allman started playing music growing up in Daytona Beach, Florida. They formed their first band, The Escorts, which eventually became the Allman Joys. The Allmans’ musical palettes expanded when they were introduced to R&B and soul, which eventually became huge cornerstones in the influence of their southern sound. Producers began to notice the brothers’ talent and moved them out west to pursue a career, consequently cutting two unsuccessful albums for Liberty Records under the name, Hour Glass.
Duane’s guitar-playing was escalating quickly and so he moved back east to focus on a career as a session musician in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, while Gregg stayed in Hollywood to pursue a solo career. The brothers reunited a year later in Miami where they produced an album-length demo with the 31st of February, which included the drummer, the late Butch Trucks.
Back at FAME Studios, Duane was making a name for himself as the primary session guitarist, recording with artists like Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, and Wilson Pickett. It’s safe to say that his time spent in the studio perfected his musical imagination and became an incubator for his inspiration. It was during these successful recordings, that he got the idea to start a new band, something “different.” His vision was clear; he wanted two lead guitarists and two drummers.
He recruited Jaimoe (Johanny Johanson) after hearing his drumming on a demo of Jackie Avery and the two immediately moved into his home on the Tennessee River. Berry Oakley came to mind next, after he and Duane became friends in a club in Jacksonville, Florida months prior.
By this point, Phil Walden, and Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records were starting to take interest in whatever Duane was working on next. They ultimately ended up purchasing demo tracks for $10,000 from FAME owner Hall, who became frustrated with the group’s recording methods, with the intention of introducing the band with Walden’s new label, Capricorn Records.
Duane stepped away from FAME and relocated to Jacksonville with Jaimoe, where jamming became the primary concentration. Anyone who wanted to join was invited, thus bringing Dickey Betts, Butch Trucks, Berry Oakley, and Reese Wynans. They started playing around Jacksonville with an evolving cast of characters, until Duane was finally able to get his brother Gregg back to the scene to sing and play keys, eliminating Wynan’s membership from the unnamed band.
The six united for the first time on March 26, 1969. The first song that they played together was Muddy Waters‘ “Trouble No More.” Within a few days, they decided on a name: the Allman Brothers Band. Their careers would go on to become legendarily successful, though turbulent times would ultimately define the band with a series of untimely deaths and breakups.
Forty-five years later, on October 28, 2014, Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks, and Jaimoe played their last show as the Allman Brothers Band at the Beacon Theatre in NYC. In true ABB fashion, the show went well past midnight, seeping into the anniversary of Duane Allman’s death. After giving their farewell speeches, the band played one more song, and it was “Trouble No More,” which you can watch below:
Happy Birthday to one of the greatest rock bands of all time!