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The Jam for Duane: 2005


by Mitch Lopate
November 2005

Jam For Duane
October 27-29
2nd Street Music Hall
Gadsden, AL

I’m tellin’ ya and I mean it with no disrespect: three men looked down from the Big Music Studio Room in the Sky this weekend and smiled at a gig held in their memory. Let’s just say you know them by their formal names, but I’m gonna borrow nicknames for just a minute: The Dog, the Bear, and B.O., if you will. Oh, sure, I could be cute and say “Skydog,” and you’d know in a minute that this was a tribute for Duane Allman, but that wouldn’t tell the whole story. His colleague and fellow Muscle Shoals session guitarist Eddie Hinton was also honored and cheered in good measure, and from a friend known as the Duck who also played bass alongside Duane in the very earliest of days, Raymond Berry Oakley had a tip of the hat.

If you weren’t in Gadsden at Carl Weaver’s 2nd Street Music Hall for the three-day festivities, then you’re forgiven—but take the responsibility to heart to mark your calendar for next year and no excuses tolerated. Folks like Matt O’Neil came down from Michigan; two pals rode in from Indiana, and of course, there was a motorcycle escort from various parts of Florida—and me from New Jersey (at this time). Heck, honchos from Hittin’ the Note magazine played. There comes the time in each music fan’s life when he or she must pay their respects, even if it means sneaking out of town and using up those vacation days; be honest to your roots, as it were.

Capricorn Rhythm Section

Believe me, the shows were worth the energy spent in getting down there: would you tell me the last time you saw the two key partners of Cowboy onstage, let alone mixing it up with Mr. Lee Roy Parnell as special guest on a gold Les Paul? Tommy Talton’s lead and slide guitar and Scott Boyer on rhythm were one of the specialties on Gregg Allman’s tour in 1974, and it’s a natural fact that they were in the studio helping Gregg make Laid Back alongside Paul Hornsby’s clavinet and B-3, with Johnny Sandlin on bass. Production and engineering credits also go to Sandlin. Yes, and that was Bill Stewart thumping the drumkit. For the record—or the recording that was done there at the Music Hall, this collaboration of friends now call themselves the Capricorn Rhythm Section. For that matter, it’s been a good 30 years since Talton-Stewart-Sandlin had a go-round either as a structured independent unit, so to see these friends and associates in their own natural environment and reunited for this show was as significant as the “We loved our friend Duane” comments and stories.

They came together and put aside differences, schedules, obstacles, and just plain played because they love what they do and they loved the men who were no longer standing on the stage where they once were in the studio. It was more than Duane’s spirit there: they came to sing songs from the boy from Decatur who sung his throat out because he wanted to be so good that a black man would think him a natural soul brother: Eddie Hinton.

Yes, the Hourglass performed his “Down in Texas,” but that was pre-1969 and the launching of the Allman Brothers Band—so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Scott took over on vocals where Gregg had been decades ago. Not to miss out on Eddie’s song-writing skills, the CRS also presented his “300 Pounds of Hungry” and from Letters from Mississippi, “Everybody Needs Love.” Seasoned throughout the sets were hits from Cowboy (“Time Will Take Us,” with Tommy’s sweet Glen Frey-like vocals, and a blistering slide guitar duel on Fender alongside LeeRoy on “Where Can You Go?”); Scott meaningfully acknowledged Duane’s slide dobro touch on “Please Be With Me.” Heirlooms from Laid Back were also cleaned and polished: Boyer’s voice has taken on a gritty rasp that has a deep resemblance to vintage Willie Nelson on “Queen of Hearts,” “Midnight Rider,” These Days,” and “All My Friends.”

Not to go unnoticed, Lee Roy whipped up a hot rocker, “There Ought to be a Law.” Parnell’s fire drew the comment from the crowd, “How many Gibsons?” and a call back from another spectator, greeted with laughter and applause, “Only takes but one!” Oh, and the Marshall Tucker Band was remembered: “This Ol’ Cowboy” (with a hearty vocal from Scott) was as pretty and nostalgic for the days when Toy Caldwell was picking ‘em out. No, we weren’t just nostalgic; maybe more wistful would be correct. It ought to have been…if only…but thank God for friends.

Duane said it himself: if anything ever happened to him, just throw him in a pine box and jam. Well, let the boys go on and follow those instructions. And make room for those warm-up bands too: Lefty Collins and the No Mercy Band know just how to treat “Statesboro Blues,” even taking apart and reassembling the time signature to give it their own touch; The Zillionaires were “Born in Chicago” (Dickey Betts’s Second Coming did that one, you know); the Skydogs, and even ol’ Bill Ector from HTN bent some strings real fine on the final day. Heck, the doors opened at 2:00 that afternoon and kept on featuring bands. Even the next generation has their chops waiting: Scott Boyer III got up there on Night #2 for a snapping good electric time that had his daddy proud. Oh, yes, of course they kicked in “Shout Bamalama!”

Weaver’s place is as pretty as anything too—no wonder they picked it as a venue! You can’t miss the statues of the Blues Brothers standing guard outside. A shorter, handsome version of actor Brian Denehy, Weaver’s heart and love for the blues and good passionate music covers the walls and floor; tall outdoor streetlight fixtures bolted to the floor, too. This is the French Quarter done ‘Bama-style. And the sports bar that is being completed in the back portion of the building will boast a 50-year-old scoreboard. Take in, if you will, the ornate carved mahogany center command station that he imported from England, to the rich wainscoating carvings, elaborate mouldings, and trim work that frame the back wall and archway and side bar railing, to the intricate wrought-iron railing, to the fieldstone enclosures of the main floor sound booth, as well as the recording studio in the back. Just a special mention: BYOB. But you’ll get a good buzz from the music. You ought to: Jimmy Hall was there about a fortnight ago; Tinsley Ellis just played, Blueground Undergrass, and yes, that was Jack Pearson on the bill with his band too. Hmmm…upcoming…Bob Margolin, Jimbo Mathis, the Skeeters, Microwave Dave, Tab Benoit; Lefty Collins once again! Let’s see…where’s that link? Oh, yeah: look at http://www.2ndstreetmusic.net. I’d make it known that Col. Bruce Hampton is the guest for New Year’s Eve. Happy 2006, y’all! Bring your appetite too: Cooter Brown’s serves up the ribs and chops you’ve been yearning for, just across the big parking lot. Hallucination verification, I can’t wait to go back!

This was a session of love, too—but let me explain. A white-haired man and lady—Eddie Hinton’s parents--who sat at the back table alongside Ann Sandlin and me—where I watched an older gentleman named Tony Lempkin—or maybe it’s Lumpkin--come up to the lady and introduce himself as the lead singer of the Bleus, a band that was trying to make their mark on the R&B airwaves with a few recordings they had made back in the days of Muscle Shoals. I watched and listened as the man got on his knees to take Mama Hinton’s hands in his and tell her how much her son had impacted his life in a positive way: that he had been a 17-year-old-wanna-be singer who had turned to Eddie for guidance. However, in that young inexperienced way that we all seem bent on learning from, he had let immaturity have a stronger turn, and he showed up drunk on beer for a recording session. Eddie sized up the boy and led him out back by the Tennessee River—and pushed him in to sober up. Upon making it back to safety, Eddie delivered a tongue-lashing directive to decide what was more important: music or foolishness. It inspired him, Tony told her, so much so that he totally committed himself to learning to sing—and to be a sincere person in his adulthood. He achieved all that and more, now being financially secure enough to provide for his grandchildren in a career that had nothing to do with entertainment—but he had learned his lesson from Eddie’s words.

At that moment, over Carl’s PA system, “Everybody Needs Love” came through—the Bleus’s version, with Tony on vocals. It was obvious that he put his integrity where his future would be and followed Eddie’s tutorship.

So this gig is about friends…a brotherhood…and music—and maybe more of the honest Life and Values that can be found when you toss in wisdom. The Capricorn Rhythm Section is doing their part to fulfill those memories and leave us some of their own—and Carl Weaver wears his heart on his sleeve because he loves the blues. It was perhaps righteous that Scott led the band and audience in the final song of the night for the set: “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” I can only believe that Brothers Duane, Eddie, and Berry know that question will be asked at future times—and that we faithfully know, the road will go on forever.

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