By VennerRoad, 4th Jun 2017
Duane Allman died in a motor accident in 1971; last month, his brother joined him.
The young Allman Brothers
If you haven’t heard of the Allman Brothers Band, you have quite likely heard some of their music, unless you are a non-English speaker and have lived in a cave for the past fifty years. Arguably their most widely known track is the guitar instrumental Jessica, which currently has eleven soundtrack entries in the IMDb, but has probably been used scores of times as background music.
Jessica was written by Mr Betts, who served four terms with the band from its inception in 1969. The other guitarist was Duane Allman. Although like the legendary Wishbone Ash, the Allman Brothers Band did not originate the twin lead guitar, along with the English melodic rock band they pioneered it, in Southern Rock. At 24, Duane was already a master of his instrument, but tragically his life was cut short in October 1971 when he came off his motorbike. The following year, the band’s bass player Berry Oakley was killed in similar fashion; he too was only 24. Fittingly, the two men are buried side by side in Rose Hill Cemetery, Georgia.
The death of first his older brother followed shortly by a fellow band member was far from the first tragedy Gregg Allman had suffered. When Duane was three and he two, their father was murdered in a carjacking on Boxing Day, 1949, aged just 31. Their mother never remarried, and life was not easy for the boys, but somehow they managed to forge a career in music, and were on the verge of breaking through when tragedy struck.
Gregg wrote all five of the original songs on their eponymous debut album, which included two covers, but their 1973 release Brothers And Sisters included heavy input from Richard Betts, and is arguably their finest studio album. Three of his finest compositions are included herein: Ramblin’ Man, the under-rated Southbound, and of course Jessica.
Gregg’s finest songs include Whipping Post – which needs no explanation, we’ve all been there at some point – and the morose Dreams. Again, we’ve all been there – for dreams, read living nightmare. An excellent uptempo version of this was recorded by another Southern Rock band, Molly Hatchet, in 1978.
The Allman Brothers Band were at their best live, and thankfully there are many extant recordings of passable or even excellent quality. With the exception of a short gap in the 70s and a hiatus in the 80s, the band remained active until 2014 when Gregg’s health deteriorated.
Although he was laid back on stage, multi-instrumentalist Gregg Allman lived the rock star lifestyle in two ways: women and unspeakable substances. His most high profile relationship was with Cher, whom he married in 1975; the two divorced four years later. He had a son from that relationship, and two other sons and two daughters. That we know of!
If his relationships with women were transient and fulfilling, those with forbidden substances were sadly permanent and deadly: alcohol, recreational drugs, tobacco – he did the lot. In 2010, he underwent a successful liver transplant, but in recent years he looked like a man living on borrowed time, and his death at 69 came as no shock. Fittingly he was buried alongside his brother and Berry Oakley, in a private ceremony shortly after his death.
Although he made many TV and film appearances as himself, in 1991 he had a fairly small part in the thriller Rush; he played a drug dealer rather than a drug user. Obviously he had no ambitions for the big screen, but Gregg Allman achieved more than most in his chosen field, and centuries from now the name of the Allman Brothers Band will be treated with the same reverence as those of Beethoven and Mozart today. With the tiny caveat of Mankind still existing.
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