2017 was a tough year for music lovers everywhere given the loss of a number of major musical heroes, including three quintessential rock icons, Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks, and Tom Petty. Despite being similar ages, their music sometimes seems worlds apart. The Allman Brothers pioneered both Southern rock and jam music, breaking out with 1971’s live album At Fillmore East and 1972’s studio record Eat A Peach, while Petty and the Heartbreakers formed a few years later in 1976. Even though their paths diverged initially, the two came together during a legendary performance at Berkeley, California’s Greek Theatre on May 19th, 2009, long after both had achieved rock star status.

Tom Petty and a few of his Heartbreakers bandmates, Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell, joined the Allman Brothers Band in 2009 as the group was celebrating their 40th-anniversary tour. At the time, the Allman Brothers Band lineup consisted of Gregg, drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe, bassist Oteil Burbridge, percussionist Marc Quinones, and guitarists Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes. Petty and company came out and joined the Allman Brothers Band during a mini-tribute to another rock legend, Bob Dylan, with the augmented lineup opening up the show’s second set with stand-out versions of “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” and “Highway 61 Revisited”.

ABB With Tom Petty – “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry”, “Highway 61 Revisited”

[Video: Sean’s Lawn]

However, this was not the only surprise sit-in of the evening. Earlier in the evening, during the Allman Brothers’ first set, movie star Bruce Willis came out and joined the band on harmonica for a take on “You Don’t Love Me”. Tom Petty’s sit-in was also hinted at during the end of the first set, when the Heartbreakers’ piano player, Tench, came out and lent his services during “The Sky Is Crying”. Both Willis and Tench would return to the stage for the final song of the evening, a fantastic rendition of “Southbound”.

ABB With Bruce Willis – “You Don’t Love Me” 

 [Video: Tim Hand]


Setlist: Allman Brothers Band | The Greek Theatre | Los Angeles, CA | 5/19/2009

Set One: Don’t Want You No More, It’s Not My Cross To Bear, Statesboro Blues, Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’, Rockin’ Horse, Midnight Rider, You Don’t Love Me @, New Instrumental, The Sky Is Crying #

Set Two: It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry $, Highway 61 Revisited $, Dreams, Whipping Post, Southbound @#

Notes: @ = w/ Bruce Willis, harmonica | # = w/ Benmont Tench, piano | $ = w/ Tom Petty, guitar and vocals; Mike Campbell, guitar; Benmont Tench, piano

[Originally published 3/30/18]