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The Allman Brothers Band: An Essential Link Through America's Music Generations

by James Calemine

 
“You don’t need no gypsy to tell you why/You can’t let one precious day slip by…”
                   --Gregg Allman


As The Allman Brothers Band play the final shows of the 40 year Anniversary engagement at the Beacon Theater this month, a few points must be made on the band's significance from the Mystery and Manners perspective.  Michael Buffalo Smith has provided amazing coverage of these shows as well as helping to further expose Butch Trucks' new organization, Moogis.  Buffalo proves a real authority on the 'Southern Rock Era' front.  He's ten years older than I am, and he attended many concerts in the 70s as well as later conducting classic interviews with the Allmans gang and beyond.  Buffalo, my brother in arms and comrade in our Swampland pursuits, has proved a valuable friend and essential force in this area of music journalism.  He's a marvel, and probably one of the few people who really holds a cultural grip on 'The Brothers' music.

Since I was born in 1968, I came of age in the 1980's.  By that point, ‘Southern Rock’ was dead. Hairbands and heavy metal dominated MTV and the music industry. Like many of my generation, I sought something a little more rooted, gritty, and earthy than the superficial music at that time. The Allman Brothers--then and now--serve as a vital link between generations of American music lovers...their road travels all the reservoirs of old, traditional American music.

In 1986, I met the Waycross, Georgia, writer Stanley Booth who knew the Stones, Gram Parsons, Jerry Wexler, Otis Redding, Sam Phillips, Elvis Presley, Duane Allman, B.B. King, Furry Lewis and a long list of other luminaries. Booth's served as a serious influence just by allowing me access to his book and record collection. I scoured the walls of his library over the years and made tapes of old obscure records that sharpened my insight.

In those days, I was already overdosing on old blues and country music, but the Allmans served as a confluence of music history to me--a sacred portal to America's oldest music. By then, I already re-bought all the Allmans music on the new compact discs to update my collection. During this time the Allmans had experienced a re-birth with success of Clapton's Crossroads boxset which led to the Allmans Dreams boxset which then inspired the band's permanent reunion after almost a decade apart.

The Allman Brothers’ original line-up, of course, ranks as one of the greatest bands ever, but any incarnation of the band in these last four decades proves quite formidable. Duane Allman was a different set of molecules…he was the ace in the hole for Jerry Wexler and later Phil Walden who later signed Widespread Panic to resurrect Capricorn Records in the early 90s. In 1976 I was only in the fourth grade when The Allman Brothers Band, Bob Dylan, Hunter S. Thompson and Rolling Stone magazine practically got Jimmy Carter elected as President of the United States by sheer artistic influence. I remember the bicentennial proved festive...

With Mystery And Manners, the intention is to bring my musical experience full circle focusing a little more on the very old, obscure and my generation of Swampland artists like Widespread PanicThe Black Crowes and The Drive By Truckers. Just as the Allman Brothers served as a link to previous generations of blues musicians like Robert JohnsonBlind Willie McTell and Reverend Pearly Brown, bands like Panic and the Crowes served as a link to bands like the Allmans, Bob DylanThe Rolling StonesNeil Young and The Band.

On Monday March 23 John Bell and Jimmy Herring (former ABB member) of Widespread Panic sat in with the Allmans. It’s good to see the generations come together in such a timeless musical zenith. The Allmans have hosted an incandescent list of musical guests on this run like Levon HelmBonnie Bramlett, Billy Gibbons, Boz Scaggs, Eric Clapton, and Taj Mahal. These bands keep the roots of American music alive in such ruthless contemporary times. The Allmans represent a door that transcends the past, present or future, which is what Mystery And Manners strives to attain in the literary sense.

The Allman Brothers remain a legacy in traditions of old American music. They fused country, blues, jazz and rock n roll into their own streamlined sound.  In the final weekend of this historic Beacon run, The Allman Brothers Band proves after 40 years, they’re still enlightened rogues…

 

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