Tuneage Tutelage: The Allman Brothers Band - Part 1

Sparks Of Insanity By Vinny "Bond" Marini Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pssst...Starr..this is post #666 and I am not even doing anything weird! bwahahahahahaha

Click on the logo above to head over to The Teach's blog to see all the entries this week. Just a little red this week...

This was from Sunday...at Harrah's Casino. Nancy saw it and we both thought of the same person at the same time...TRAVIS!


The Allman Brothers Band (circa 1970)

Nashville, TN is the birthplace of brothers Howard Duane & Gregory Lenoir Allman. Duane was born to Willis & Geraldine Allman on November 20, 1946 and baby brother Gregg was born on December 8, 1947. Their dad was a career Army sergeant and moved the family to Norfolk, Virginia soon after Gregg arrived.

In 1949 Willis Allman was murdered by a veteran after Willis befriended the man. After Willis’ death, Geraldine moved the family back to Nashville and finally moved the boys to Daytona Beach, FL when Duane was 11 and Gregg 10.

In 1959 while visiting relatives in Nashville, young Duane & Gregg attended a concert by the great B.B. King. Both boys fell in love with the music they heard that day and at one point Duane turned to Gregg and said “We got to get into this.”

Soon after, Gregg began playing guitar after hearing a neighbor playing country standards on an acoustic guitar. It was 1960 and older brother Duane decided to also try his hand at guitar. A few weeks later, Gregg stopped playing guitar and concentrating on his vocals because, as he recalled in an interview, once Duane began playing “he…passed me up like I was standing still”.

In 1961 the two brothers began playing in local bands and Duane quit high school to concentrate on his learning the guitar. The band the brothers eventually began playing with was called The Escorts. This band morphed into the Allman Joys, with Maynard Portman on drums and Bob Keller on bass.

When Gregg graduated from Seabreeze High School in 1965, the Allman Joys hit the road, performing throughout the Southeast and eventually being based between Nashville and St. Louis.

In 1967, the Allman Joy merged with a band out of Alabama who had been on the same club circuit as the Allman Joy. The new band was called The Hourglass and consisted of Duane on guitars, sitar, vocals; Gregg on organ, piano, guitar and lead vocals; Paul Hornsby on piano, organ, guitar and vocals, Johnny Sandlin on drums, guitar and gong and Mabron McKinney on bass. In 1968, McKinney was replaced by Pete Carr.

The new band was booked in St. Louis for a month-long gig when they met Bill McEuen, who was the manager of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. McEuen got the band signed to Liberty Records and the boys moved to Los Angeles.

Once they got there, they began opening shows for bands like The Doors and Buffalo Springfield, gaining some popularity.

Then, Liberty brought them into the studio and it all went wrong. Liberty was not really interested in the band per se. They really wanted Gregg for his vocals. The band was not used in many of the recording sessions and the music that was given to them to record was not even close to the type of material the band was playing in clubs. The album was a mish-mash of light-hearted pop-sounding soul and the band was not happy.

Dallas Smith, a formulaic producer noted for his work with Bobby Vee, knew the group was from the South. He knew they had formed from the ashes of groups that had performed liberal amounts of blues covers. And he heard soulful qualities in the voice of nineteen-year-old Gregg Allman. Therefore, he referred to them as a "Motown band", much to the chagrin of the group.

The self-titled album, The Hourglass, was recorded with an emphasis on lead vocalist Gregg's voice and dispensing with nearly all original material. Of the eleven tracks on the original LP, only one was penned by a group member, Gregg's "Got To Get Away".

The remaining ten were written by songwriters running the gamut from Curtis Mayfield and Jackson Browne to Del Shannon and the team of Goffin-King. All great songwriters, but definitely not suited for this group of musicians. The Hourglass performed the basic tracks, which were overdubbed by Smith with layers of vocals and instrumentation.

Just looking at the album cover would have told you what Liberty was thinking. The band was taken to a costume shop and told to pick things out. Gregg & Johnny were in Sgt. Pepperish uniforms, Duane was dressed like an English nobleman and Mabron was in top hat and tails. The whole album was described by Ben Edmonds who was editor of Creem Magazine as being "like a Woolworth bargain-basement concept of West Coast psychedelia", and as Gregg has stated "We were in debt and stuck in California, so we had little choice but to go along."

The Hourglass
The album flopped.

The band continued to perform in clubs, rarely playing any material from the album, instead playing music like Otis Redding and the Yardbirds. The record label forbid the band from touring outside of Southern California which caused even more tension between the label and the band.

It was during this time, in 1968, that a famous story of the Brothers Allman occurred. Duane was sick in bed on his 22nd birthday and his brother came to visit, bringing along the debut album by an artist named Taj Mahal as a birthday gift. He also brought a bottle of the cold medicine Coricidan to help his brother get better.

About two hours after Gregg had left, he received a phone call. “Baby brother, baby brother, get over here now!” When Gregg arrived, he found his brother sitting on the bed. All of the Coricidan pills were scattered on the bed. Duane had washed the label off the bottle and was using it as a slide. He proceeded to play the old Willie McTell song, “Statesboro Blues”, which Taj covered on his album, for his brother.

“Duane had never played the slide before”, recalled Gregg years later, “he just picked it up and started burning. He was a natural.”

A second album Power of Love was planned and the band was given more control over the music they recorded, using many songs written by Gregg. However, this album was also a huge disappointment.

Frustrated, the band left Los Angeles and traveled to Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL to try and record some music they could be proud of without the heavy hand of the label being involved. They recorded a handful of tracks which made the group excited about their future.

Liberty rejected all of the tracks out of hand. They wanted a pop group, no matter what the pedigree of the members.

Duane and Gregg Allman traveled to Jacksonville, Florida where they jammed with folk-rockers The 31st Of February, which featured drummer Butch Trucks. The rest of the band stayed at Muscle Shoals and became the base for some of the great music which was recorded there over the years, as the house band.

Liberty Records threatening to sue the group for disbanding, and finally dropped the threats when Gregg agreed to travel back to LA to make a solo record. These recordings were not released for 25-years until the two Hourglass albums were released as a double album set.

It was late 1968. Gregg was in Los Angeles, a prisoner of Liberty records and Duane was kicking around Florida jamming with a number of bands. Rick Hall, the owner of Fame Studios had been impressed with what he had heard during the Hourglass sessions at his studio. He was especially interested in the guitar work of Duane.

Hall called Duane and hired him to work on an album being recorded at Fame by Wilson Pickett. The album was entitled Hey Jude, and Wilson performs the Beatles hit on the album.

This session brought Duane into the spotlight. Eric Clapton recalls, “I remember hearing Wilson Pickett’s “Hey Jude” and just being astounded by the lead break at the end. …I had to know who that was immediately – right now.”

Hall called Jerry Wexler; Atlantic Records famed executive and producer, and played the Pickett song over the phone. Wexler immediately bought Duane’s recording contract from Hall and began using Duane on many of the sessions that were done for Atlantic at Muscle Shoals and up in New York City.

Duane appears on albums by Clarence Carter, King Curtis, Aretha Franklin (it was Duane who suggested she record “The Weight” for her This Girl’s In Love With You album), Otis Rush, Percy Sledge, Johnny Jenkins, Boz Scaggs (all of the lead guitar on the song “Loan Me A Dime” is by Duane), Delaney & Bonnie and even the great jazz flutist, Herbie Mann.

"Loan Me A Dime"

While in NY for the sessions with Aretha, Duane went with fellow Shoals session guitarist Jimmy Johnson to see Johnny Winter at the famous Fillmore East. During the show, Duane turned to Jimmy and stated “I will be on that stage within a year".

While recording at Muscle Shoals, Duane rented a small cabin away from everything and spent most of his time practicing his craft. Some of this session work is considered the best Duane ever played and ironically, most people do not even realize it is him playing.

Around this time Phil Walden, who had been manager to the late Otis Redding, was managing Duane and looking to build a 3-piece band around him. Walden sent R&B and jazz drummer Jaimoe Johanson to meet Duane. The two men called to Florida and convinced Chicago-born bassist Berry Oakley to come up from Florida and jam as a trio.

Berry came up, but he was committed to a band he was playing with, The Second Coming, which included a guitar player named Dickie Betts. After a few days of jamming, Berry returned to Florida.

It was now March 1969 and Duane was antsy. He enjoyed the session work and meeting the many artists, but he wanted something to call his own. He convinced Jaimoe to join him and they headed south, back to Jacksonville, FL, where they moved in with drummer Butch Trucks.

A short time later, a jam session occurred which included Duane, Jaimoe & Butch on drums, Berry on bass, Dickie Betts on guitar and the keyboardist from the Second Coming, Reese Wynans. Later that evening when the session was over the men all looked at each other in silence. Words did not have to be spoken for them to realize something special had just occurred.

The next day Duane called Gregg and convinced him to come on back to Florida. When Gregg arrived, he replaced Wynans on keyboards and vocals and during the last week of March, 1969, The Allman Brothers Band was formed.

As a side note, Wynans did not do so badly, ending up as organ player for Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble.

TOMORROW: The Allman Brothers Band has its coming out party

More Duane Session Work:

King Curtis - "Games People Play"

Johnny Jenkins - "Down Along The Cove"

Herbie Mann - "Push Push"

Resources: wikipedia; Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; Allman Brothers Band web site; The book, “Skydog – the Duane Allman Story” given to me by my friend TurnBaby; My own knowledge of this band. Pictures of the Allman Joys borrowed from www.robertoreg.blogspot.com

Radio Happy Hour

Coming up this week on DR. BLOGSTEIN’S RADIO HAPPY HOUR:
(Live on Tuesday September 30 at 9PM ET and forever archived at

Dr. B and Dangerous Lee welcome actor Jordan Belfi from HBO’s hit series “Entourage.”

Belfi, who plays Adam Davies, arch nemesis to Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold, will also be seen opposite Bruce Willis and Ving Rhames in the upcoming Touchstone Pictures sci-fi thriller, “The Surrogates.” saaphyri.jpg

Also this week, Saaphyri, the volatile VH-1 ‘celebrealitry’ star of Flavor of Love 2 and the winner of Mo’Nique’s Charm School.

The hottie hothead has since launched her own line of unisex lip balm called Saaphyri’s Lip Chap which stemmed from Saaphyri offering fellow Flavor of Love girl “lip chap” after their fight on the hot show.

Then, Charlie Wheeler of the Charlie Wheeler Band stops by to rock the Radio Happy Hour.

All that plus, Vinny Bond drags his Big Leather Couch into the Radio Happy Hour Lounge to chat live with the listeners, Shawn Amos returns with another GetBack.com Pop Quiz, Justin the Weatherman and we’ll take your calls at 646-652-4804.

18 Of Your Sparks

  1. DrillerAA Says:
  2. Good Lord, Greg Allman and I were born on the same day! Who knew? We will both qualify for Medicare in a couple of months.

  3. Travis Says:

    I knew this tuneage was going to be good. Great job so far.

  5. Bond Says:
  6. DRILLERAA: See we give you all sorts of facts during our Tutelage Series

    TRAVIS: LOL...knew you would like the T-Bird...and thanks...this one is certainly a labor of love.

  7. Kimmie Says:
  8. You are such a *nice* guy and good friend to so many Vinnybond! Thinking of Travis like that was such a RAOK. That is one gorgeous car! Love the RED touch for Ruby Tuesday. This post if jam packed! Holy Cats! ;-)

    Have A Great Day!

  9. Jay Says:
  10. Those T-Birds are very cool.

    The Tuneage was cool too!

  11. TopChamp Says:
  12. Hello! I'm trying a youtube upload - if it works I'll email you a link.... I'm too embarassed to post it publically yet.

    I enjoyed reading this post - Duane sounds so talented.

  13. Mags Says:
  14. This WAS a good post!! I want to know what lip balm isn't unisex though...I guess the tinted kind?

    How's Matt by the way?

  15. Bond Says:
  16. KIMMIE: LOL..easy to please Travis when I see a T-Bird! Glad you enjoyed the Ruby Tuesday and the Tutelage

    JAY: Yes they are...and thanks..

    TOPCHAMP: Can not wait to see your video...and more on the Brother's tomorrow

    mags: Thanks..more to come...and Matt is doing well - thanks

  17. Turnbaby Says:
  18. I finally get to comment! I got interrupted three times because this seminar is an interactive one.

    This is really cool--very interesting stuff.

    I knew you'd love that book;-)

  19. Ralph Says:
  20. I liked the classic round RED taillights of the previous T-Bird. I's a shame Ford never make the new 'Bird work and never promoted it. Sigh.

    The Allman Bros. story shows how, especially in the 60s, the producer, A&R and Label really stifled the artists. Yet left to their own devices, the Allman Bros. proved to be successful for Atlantic by letting them perform as is.

    Naturally, there is no Jerry Wexler or John Hammond types today...those who have an uncanny, really extraordinary sense of what the artist offers...for the company as well as the artists.

  21. Fred Says:
  22. Sheesh...there's a lot going on here today. I'll have to come back to finish this post. In the meantime, I'll listen to the music while I comment all over the internet.

    I love their music.

  23. Mimi Lenox Says:
  24. I'm sorry but I simply cannot read or comment on a post that is #666.

  25. Starrlight Says:
  26. The Coricidan Bottle =) I loved that story. I am gonna say something that might just piss everyone off. Clapton is guitar genius. But Duane had soul!

  27. Bond Says:
  28. TURN: Thanks and glad you got to comment and OF COURSE I loved the book!

    RALPH: Excellent points Sir

    FRED: Hope you like the music

    MIMI: bwahahahahahahahaha but you DID comment

    STARR: It is a great story and I love telling it to people who have never heard it. You did not piss me off with that comment! Hey Rolling Stone had Jimi first and Duane second in their list of great guitar players!

  29. Starrlight Says:
  30. I totally support that ranking! Jeff Beck needs to be high up as well. Oh and Stevie Ray.

  31. Bond Says:
  32. Here are the top 15 (Think I will do a post on this next week)

    BB King
    Robert Johnson
    Chuck Berry
    Ry Cooder
    Jimmy Page
    Keith Richards
    Kirk Hammett
    Kurt Cobain
    Jerry Garcia
    Jeff Beck

    I think Cobain is up too high...and Beck should be up a couple of spots...I have always been a HUGE Jeff beck fan

  33. Starrlight Says:
  34. Um...where the hell is Buddy Guy?! Hello!

    Cobain is too high. When I think of Kurt I don't think of the guitar I think of the lyrics and the voice. Not to say the boy couldn't play because he could and very well. Just not that high.


    Of course RS recently featured both The Hills Girls and The Jonas Brothers on the cover. And gave the JB 4 fucking stars for their album. So apparently Jann let's anyone and everyone suck his dick these days.

  35. Bond Says:
  36. STARR: I still read RD religiously, but I don't read it cover to cover as I used to...i skip over the kiddie stuff


Music On The Couch