The Allman Brothers Band. (The Duane era).

Many of you have  heard the theme music to Top Gear which, over the years, has been altered to keep up with the times. The original piece of music is called ‘Jessica’. which was written by the The Allman Brothers Band and this set the tone for the style of writing to follow. The band are still playing their unique brand of music with guitarists like Butch Trucks (whose father was one of the drummers in the original line up) and Warren Haines, but it is the Duane era that I would like to tell you about.

Duane was a wizard on slide guitar, not only playing with great feeling he often invented most of the riffs you hear being played today. A.K.A. ‘Sky Dog’, Duane was a very humble man, great to get along with and was much loved by all.

In their teens Greg and Duane Allman were already well known in the music business as ‘The Allman Joys’ and Duane was a well known session musician, playing with Aretha Franklin and King Curtis to name but two. But they gave all this up to start again with their own brand of music and lived in an old church fuelling themselves with cheap wine and magic mushrooms.

They recruited Dickey Betts on guitar and Berry Oakley on bass, then drafted in Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny Johanson, both on drums. With Greg on keyboard the band was set. When they played live it was like being taken on a wonderful musical journey. Just listening to live albums such as ‘Live at the Fillmore’ you still get the feeling of a musical journey ,with such songs as ‘Mountain Jam’ which lasts two sides of an album. Just by listening you can hear them two lovely Les Paul guitars interweaving to create great tones and melodies over bluesy country and jazzy kind of rhythms driven by the two drummers. An evening in front of these boys would leave you stunned for weeks.

Having mastered their live sound they worked hard in the studio to create the same kind of feel. As we all know there is an atmosphere at gigs which you cannot bottle, but they were capturing the vibe of the band. For example ‘Blue Sky‘, Duane and Dickey spent two weeks on the guitar solos and it shows. Greg’s voice sounds so rootsy you would think he was a black man from the Mississippi Delta! Yes, things were going well for the band with all the spouses getting on and all the road crew so tight with the band. This was one big family seemingly with only good times to come, but this was not to be.

One evening, on his way home from the studio riding his beloved Harley Davidson, just minutes from the house Duane died as a result of a collision with a peach truck. Grief hit the whole extended family as well as the fans but the band decided to try and carry on just as Duane would have wanted. Although Duane’s death hit them all hard, it was bassist Berry Oakley who found it the most difficult to carry on. Berry and Duane were regarded as the energizers in the band always pushing the envelope. Berry would still be looking for Duane to help lead on stage, something he would never overcome.

Near the first anniversary of Duane’s death, Berry was taking flowers to Duane’s widow when he also crashed his motorbike on the same stretch of road as Duane. Sadly Berry Oakley also lost his life. This was an end of an era. After solo careers and one marriage to Cher (what were you thinking Greg?) the band were back penning such songs as ‘Jessica’ and ‘Ramblin’ Man’, which would see them through to the modern day.

Check out this band who are still going strong, but two albums of note are ‘Live at the Fillmore’ and ‘Eat a Peach‘. Duane passed away at the young age of 24,a true legend and with wisdom way beyond his years.

The ‘Sky Dog’ will always live on!

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