It’s difficult to grasp the profound and abundant impact that the original Allman Brothers Band lineup from forty-five years ago has on music today, especially when a core chunk of those members didn’t make it past 1972. The few recordings that do remain of founding members Duane Allman, his younger brother, vocalist, and master of the organ Gregg Allman, bassist Berry Oakley, guitarist Dickey Betts, and drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe, remain just as transcendent today as when recorded.
Just a few months after the legendary At Fillmore East was recorded in 1971, the young band headed over to A&R Studios in New York to perform a live radio concert. The August 26th recording is rarely thrown into rotation, though a mixed and mastered version will now be officially released through the band.
Rolling Stone recently sat down with Butch Trucks to discuss the album, which will come out under the band’s label Peach Records. In addition to the flawless communication that a studio room grants between musicians in a circular formation, the time limit of a radio show forced the jam band to choose their setlist based on concision and detail, though some recordings still lasted 10, sometimes 20 minutes.
Their rigs were cut down and the audience was no larger than 200 people. It was raw, organic Allman Brothers. The “fans that made it into A&R were, I would imagine, the ones who came to see us at the Fillmore East every time. And they were there to hear what we had to play, not to see how cute we were or how big our dicks were,” said Trucks.
An interesting omission to the setlist was “Whipping Post,” which lasted at least 20-minutes at the Fillmore East recordings, and sometimes, definitely, way longer. “Once we started headlining at the Fillmore East, we were free to play all night, at least for the second set. ‘Whipping Post’ could get lengthy. So we decided, ‘Let’s go with some other stuff.'” And that’s when Duane Allman unexpectedly took the opportunity to honor R&B saxophonist King Curtis, who Allman had played with on many recording sessions and who was murdered on his doorstep less than two weeks prior.
In the interview, Trucks explains how Duane molded the ABB stage-classic, Willie Cobb’s 1960 “You Don’t Love Me,” and inserted Curtis’ 1964 instrumental “Soul Serenade” toward the end as an epic tribute to his fallen friend. It is within this moment that the combination would stick for all future renditions of “You Don’t Love Me.” You can listen to the recording below:
“That day, on the air, was the first time we knew we were doing a tribute or, actually, ‘You Don’t Love Me.’ I don’t recall a set list. But if we had one, ‘You Don’t Love Me’ wasn’t on it. Duane was at the microphone, talking about King Curtis. You can hear him: ‘Have you guys all heard ‘Soul Serenade’?’ He played a bit on guitar, then you could almost see a light bulb go off in his head. He stopped and start playing that riff [hums the opening lick of ‘You Don’t Love Me’].
We knew what was coming then, although we didn’t now when or exactly how. Duane played ‘Soul Serenade’ a little slower than I was expecting. I was ready to kick into something more uptempo. But Duane was still so torn up by the fact that King was dead. It ripped him apart. When he came back from the funeral, that’s when Duane started talking about his own funeral. He really did,” said Trucks.
Two months later Duane Allman passed away in a motorcycle accident at the age of 24. He had just gotten out of rehab for heroin addiction. When asked about the effects of drugs on Duane’s playing, Trucks responded with details of his final months:
“It did for awhile. It was one of the few times I actually got in Duane’s face. But you have to know Duane to know how something like this could happen. You ever read Faust by Goethe? His Faust — all he wanted to do was experience everything life had to offer. Good and bad didn’t matter. His deal with Mephistopheles was, ‘The minute I tell you I am content where I am, that is the minute you can have my soul.’
Duane Allman was very much Goethe’s Faust. He wanted to try everything. When I first met him, he was eating Black Beauties [diet pills with amphetamine and benzadrine] like they were going out of style — just wired out of his gourd, until the night he realized it was messing with his music. That’s the night he stopped. I saw him go through many periods where he would experiment with some drug — psychedelics, whatever — until he realized it was messing with his music. Duane had this laser-like focus, and it was his music. He was also living life to the fullest.
I remember we were playing in San Francisco [in early October 1971]. Duane followed me back to my room, walked in, closed the door, looked me in the eye and went, ‘Butch, what the fuck is going on with you guys? Every time I start to play, you give me nothin’. When Dickey starts playing, you guys are kicking ass.’ I stared him in the eye and said, ‘Duane, you are so fucked up that you’re not giving me anything. How can I give you anything if you’re not giving me anything to play off of? That’s the way I play. I follow you, every single thing you do.’
He stood there, it seemed like forever. It was one time when he knew I was right. Finally he turned around and walked out. It was almost right after that — he grabbed Berry, [roadies] Red Dog and Kim Payne and checked into rehab in Buffalo, New York. Then Duane walked into the common room there, saw Red Dog laying there out of it on methadone. Duane went nuclear: ‘We didn’t come here to get fucked up. We came here to get straight.’ They slipped out that night, back to Macon. But that was the last time Duane touched heroin — from that night in San Francisco, when I told him that shit was screwing with his music and he believed me. He was that strong as a human being.”
Read more about Duane, the 1971 A&R Studio concert, and Trucks’ Les Brers supergroup in Rolling Stones’ exclusive interview.