The actor James Dean once said, "If a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live after he's died, then maybe he was a great man." James Dean is perhaps the charter member of a modern subset of such individuals who, due to modern technology, live on in the consciousness of others. They remain frozen in timeascendant, vibrant, and youthful.
When you think of James Dean, chances are you can visualize his magnetic good looks with a brooding expression that oozes bad-boy attitude, a hint of danger, and cool. He only appeared in three films, and yet he was the first actor nominated posthumously for an Academy Award for Best Actor. He is still regarded as one of the most significant film actors of all time, someone who moved seamlessly from subtle to intense. He died at the age of 24 in a traffic accident, in the prime of life, with a body of work that promised spectacular things to come.
In his own unique and rebellious way, Duane Allman
joined the ranks of this club. By substituting only a few words it is remarkable how well the above description fits Duane Allman. A musician with a magnetic personality that oozes self assurance, a hint of danger, and cut-the-crap cool. A musical icon who only appeared on a handful of albums under his own name, yet is still regarded as one of the most significant rock guitarists of all time. A musician who moved seamlessly from subtle to intense. He died at the age of 24 in a traffic accident, in the prime of life, with a body of work that promised spectacular things to come.
Membership in this club is not simply a matter of dying young, famous, and talented. Timing and a special career-arch are prerequisites. To join this club your career has to be in steep ascendancy, with the perception of tremendous untapped potential. Think of Michael Jackson and what comes to mind? Now imagine if Michael Jackson had also been killed in a traffic accident when he was 24. That would have been in 1982, just as Thriller
was released. Imagine if that were your lasting image of himtiming is everything.
The above description of Duane Allman is actually somewhat misleading. James Dean and Michael Jackson were huge stars at 24, but that was not the case with Duane Allman. As I reflected on Duane Allman's 70th birthday and thought back to the first and only time I saw him, I realized how easy that is to forget. He now occupies his rightful place in musical history, but it's striking how significantly his star has risen over the decades since his death.
Before the age of the Internet, bands without famous members rarely gained more than a metropolitan or regional following. With a bit of luck you might learn of a good out-of-town band by seeing them open for someone else if they were booked on a tour circuit that included your area. Even if you were enthusiastic about what you had heard, it wasn't easy to follow up on it. At that time, truly making it nationally was generally a function of being signed by a major label. That increased the odds of having a hit single, a good review in the national rock press, and a national television appearance.
During Duane Allman's life, his band had neither a hit single, nor a national television appearance. A couple of months before his 24th birthday I had a chance to see him live. For younger fans who discovered Duane Allman well after his death, here, within the context of those times, is how I remember his public persona and what it was like to see him live.
In 1968, as the Summer of Love was morphing into the Age of Revolution, my family moved to Daytona Beach, Florida from the suburbs of Washington, D.C.. Although Washington didn't have quite the counter-culture vibe of New York City's Greenwich Village or San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury, we did have Georgetown, DuPont Circle, and the Ambassador Theaterour local version of the Fillmore. That September I would be starting my senior year of high school, and I was old enough to drive and escape the suburbs. It should have been hard for me to leave, but my parents had made Florida sound like we were moving to a tropical paradise like Hawaii, so I was eager to get there.
Daytona Beach, as I soon discovered, wasn't Waikiki. At that time it was a sleepy little Southern town of just over 40,000 people that attracted retirees, a seasonal influx of Canadian snowbirds, NASCAR fans, and spring breakers. Segregation might not have been legal, but in some ways it was still very real. My new high school, from which Gregg Allman
had graduated some years earlier, and out of which Duane had dropped, had only a handful of black students. Blacks lived on the mainland, to the West of the train tracks. Whites lived primarily on the peninsula, which is a narrow strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and the Halifax River. Mrs. Allman had left Tennessee and resettled there ten years earlier with her sons Duane and Gregg.
At the time I had no clue who Duane and Gregg Allman were, but as I started my senior year of high school, they were within walking distance from me, just a few blocks down Peninsula Drive. But the window of opportunity to meet them closed quickly. Gregg soon returned to Los Angeles and Duane made his way to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to break into the session scene. I do remember hearing Duane Allman's name a few times at school, they were, after all, local heroes, but I smugly discounted any tales about the Allman Joys or the Hourglass as they were then called.
During the fall of 1968 there was no dearth of rock music: Cream's Wheels of Fire
, Jeff Becks' Truth
, the Beatles White Album
, Hendrix's Electric Ladyland
, The Band's Music from Big Pink
, Creedence Clearwater Revival's self titled album, Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
, and although it took a while to break nationally, Johnny Winter's Progressive Blues Experiment
. In 1969 the rock tsunami continued: The Beatles' Abbey Road
, Led Zeppelin's self titled album, King Crimson's In The Court Of The Crimson King
, Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed
, Sly and the Family Stone's Stand!
, Blind Faith's self titled album, David Bowie's Space Oddity
, Santana's self titled album, Jethro Tull's Stand Up
, The Chicago Transit Authority's self titled album, and Taj Mahal's self titled albumand those are just some of the more obvious rock releases. When the Allman Brothers Band formed in the spring of 1969, there was no void waiting to be filled, and the world wasn't looking for the next guitar hero.
Had I not lived in Daytona Beach, I doubt I would have been among the initial thirty-some-thousand who bought a copy of the Allman Brothers Band's self titled album. It was released on November, 8, 1969 and of course it got plenty of promotion in their home town. Although I didn't expect too much, I did swing by the Montgomery Ward's record department to pick up a copy. It didn't floor me, but the tight 33 minutes with dual lead guitars and two drummers did manage to stand out. The reluctant skeptic was now interested in the band. Nonetheless, their first album was a commercial disappointment for their label. They were playing for free in parks to gain a following, opening for other bands to keep gas in their Winnebago, and Duane continued doing session work to stay afloat financially. They ended 1969 at the Fillmore East, third on the bill after Blood Sweat & Tears and Appaloosa.
Although they were third on the bill, they gained a very powerful supporter, the legendary Bill Graham, owner and proprietor of the Fillmore East & West auditoriums. Graham recognized their talent and respected their approach and originality. A year and a half later, when he decided to close the Fillmore East, it was, appropriately, the Allman Brothers Band whom he allowed to take the stage last.
Initially Graham's support took the form of putting them on bills with artists they admired, or artists whose fans were likely to appreciate the Allman Brothers Band. Less than three weeks after their debut at the Fillmore East they were in San Francisco at the Fillmore West on the bill with B.B. King
and Buddy Guy
. (In the accompanying audio Jaimoe talks about that concert and more.) A couple of days later Gregg and Duane were once again in Los Angeles, at the Whiskey A-Go-Go, a venue on the Sunset Strip where they had headlined in 1968 as the Hour Glass. As the Allman Brothers Band they were now supporting Ten Wheel Drive. Earlier this year I asked lead singer Genya Ravan if she remembered that gig: "Well, that night I sat in with them and sang 'Stormy Monday' and that song never sounded better. I can only say it was a testosterone moment and I loved it. Real men, real music!"
Back on their home turf in Georgia, they opened for Santana in Atlanta in March of 1970, and were the opening and closing act at the three day Atlanta International Pop Festival in July. During the summer they had also gained exposure by opening for the group Mountain. Looking over their concert dates you'll find that in May 1970, a year after the band formed, they played two concerts in high school auditoriums. One was at their alma mater in Daytona Beach. Having graduated a year earlier, that escaped my notice, but even if I had known, given the venue I doubt I would have made an effort to goof course now it is frustrating to think I missed such an opportunity. They were steadily building a fan base, but clearly a long way from stardom.
In February 1970 the band had begun recording Idlewild South
, their second album, under the tutelage of veteran engineer Tom Dowd, whose credits go back the giants of the bebop era. Fortunately for the Allman Brothers, he was also working with Eric Clapton
in 1970. The Allman Brothers Band played in Miami at the end of August as Eric Clapton was there to record the Layla
album with Tom Dowd.
Dowd took Clapton and his band to the Allman Brothers' concert. Bobby Whitlock, keyboardist and vocalist with Clapton's Derek and the Dominos, already knew Duane from his time Delaney and Bonnie. He remembered the gig well, and gave a telling indication of where the band was at in September of 1970. According to Whitlock, the Allman Brothers Band was set up on the flatbed trailer of an 18 wheeler in the parking lot of the Convention Center in Miami Beach, Florida. He laughingly recalled that bales of hay had been placed before the trailer to keep back the throng of 175 people who had gathered there. His party crawled under the truck and sat directly in front of the stage, resting their backs against the bales of hay and looking straight up at the band.
Whitlock recalled Duane soloing with his eyes closed. When he opened them, he looked down, made eye contact with Clapton, and immediately froze. Dickey Betts then looked over to see why Duane had stopped, then looked down and saw Clapton, and he stopped too. After the concert the band was invited back to the studio where they jammed all night long, and thankfully the tapes were rolling. It took decades, but eventually these jam sessions were officially released.
There was an instant chemistry and musical kinship between Duane Allman and Eric Clapton. Duane's ease in the studio, soulful playing, warm tone, and Southern drawl completely charmed Claptonin an interview he admitted to being captivated by Duane Allman, both by his playing and his personality. As a result, Clapton asked him to stay on and finish the album with him.
With the exception of a five day break because of concerts dates, Duane was in the studio with Clapton from August 27 until September 10, 1970. From his daughter Galadrielle Allman's excellent book we learn that on September 5th he wrote to his wife from his hotel room in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that Clapton had actually asked him to join his band. It would mean a house in England, five thousand dollars a week, and twenty percent of tour receipts which he assured her would be phenomenal. He cautioned her to keep that secret. Even today, $5000 a week is serious money, but adjusted for inflation that would be over $30,000 a week in today's moneystardom was no longer a dream, he only had to say "yes."
Less than a week later, on September 16th, Duane Allman was back in Daytona Beach for a concert. Mentally he must have been in an unimaginably euphoric placehe and Clapton, his former idol, had bonded musically. Clapton thought of him as the brother he never had, as a peer and musical equal, and he had made him a spectacular offer. Duane knew the album they had just recorded was excellent, and regardless of what he decided, that would give his career a major boost.
That night the Allman Brothers would be playing at the Peabody Auditorium, just off Main Street. It was the premier venue in Daytona Beach. elvis
, Frank Sinatra
, Itzhak Perlman, Dave Brubeck
, Ray Charles
, and scores of others had played there. Peabody Auditorium seats about 2500 people and is known for its exceptionally good acoustics, easily the equal of the Fillmore in New York.
Just a few months earlier the Allman Brothers had played at Duane's former high school, and as mentioned above, Clapton had just seen them perform on a truck trailerso clearly things were looking up. It must have seemed a bit surreal to Duane, the Peabody is within walking distance of the pier where he and Gregg performed as teenagers, and just around the corner from the pool hall where he had regularly hung out when he skipped school.
Being home this time must have been a very different experience, and no doubt he was fired up with the Clapton experience still fresh in his mind. Given such a life changing decision, it seems likely he would have been eager to compare that with playing in front of a home town crowd with his own band. He could say "yes" to Clapton and achieve something he'd always dreamed of, and in so doing destroy the hopes and dreams of his brother and band mates; or he could say "no" and return to touring in a low-rent Winnebago and hope their future albums would do a hell of a lot better than the one they had released a year earlier.
The rest of the band must have been excited by the possibilities that would result from Duane appearing on Clapton's next album. On the other hand, even if they didn't know of Clapton's offer to Duane, on some level they also must have sensed that his interest in Duane represented a risk to their own future. Would his loyalty to them withstand such temptation? Considering all that, it is easy to imagine that they too were fired up and had something to prove, to each other, and especially to Duane. There was also one other bit of excitement in the works. In exactly one week, on September 23rd, their second album, Idlewild South
, would be released.
Of course at that time I didn't have a clue about any of this. The Allman Brothers had become a minor blip on my musical radar. It had been almost a year since I bought their debut album, and other than a few album reviews, there was little indication in the national rock press that they even existed, let alone any mention of them making any significant impact on the music scene. In a couple of months Duane would be turning 24, and returning to my opening theme, he was far from famous.
September 16th, 1970 was a typical Wednesday in Daytona Beachtemperatures in the high 80s and tolerably muggy. That night's concert had slipped my mind, but luckily over on the mainland I bumped into a guy from high school I hadn't seen in over a year. He needed a lift back to the beach side so we decided to hang out and catch up. By the time we crossed the Silver Beach Bridge I had agreed that I "had to" see this amazing band that night. I did my best to keep my teenage snobbery in check as I listened. After graduation I had spent the summer in England and hitch-hiked around Europe, and I had seen several impressive groups live: Taste with Rory Gallagher, Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green, Led Zeppelin with Jimmy Page, John Myall, Savoy Brown with Kim Simmonds, Chicken Shack with Stan Webb, and The Nice with Keith Emmerson.
There was certainly no reason to expect that I would see something extraordinary that evening. Friends up North I shared the Allman Brothers Band debut album with hadn't become instant fans. I knew little about them other than what was in the album note, and the studio versions of seven songs: "Don't Want You No More," "It's Not My Cross to Bear," "Black Hearted Woman," "Trouble No More," "Every Hungry Woman," "Dreams," and "Whipping Post." Inside there was of course the photo of six full grown men hanging out nude in a creek in the Georgia woods, which might have been better suited as an alternative cover for James Dickey's 1970 novel Deliverance
. It's not that I didn't want to see the Allman Brothers, but my expectations were modest.
As we approached the Peabody Auditorium it was twilight and the heat had dissipated. We were immediately approached by hippy girls panhandling for money to buy a ticket, and there was a palpable sense of excitement in the air. We bought our tickets at the box office without any difficulty and got seats about a dozen rows back.
Over the years I've had a chance to hear most of the recorded shows from the Duane Allman era that are in circulation in the fan community. It is fascinating to hear the band grow tighter, and you can also hear them growing as musicians. Yet for various reasons, few of these recordings convey how extraordinary this band was live. Those recordings, interesting as they are, are so different from the musical experience emblazoned in my mind that they hardly seem real. The only recording that truly captured their magic as I remember it, was their breakout album The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East
. As I sat waiting for the concert to begin, that album's release would be ten months in the future. Little did I suspect what an improbable bit of serendipity was at play.
Looking back at that concert now, what more could an Allman Brothers fan hope for: headlining without an opening act, an ideal venue with near perfect acoustics, Duane Allman in an incredibly good place, and the band motivated to really bring it. Add to all that, the element of utter surprise. At that time, I remember the typical question you asked someone who went to a rock concert was: "Were they as good as the record?" Generally speaking, that was as good as it got, and in my experience that was rarely the case. My expectation for the Allman Brothers was that they might be almost as good as their first album.
As the house lights went down, my buddy's wide-eyed enthusiasm and imploring grim seemed way over the top, but I was about to be served a huge slice of humble pie. I would soon learn there was indeed a band that was not only better than their album, they were remarkably better. No studio could capture that magic, and no vinyl disk or home sound system could do it justice. This was a band that had to be seen live in order to be fully appreciated.
I'm so grateful that I hadn't heard Idlewild South
or The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East
prior to seeing them live. Listening to their live album on a great sound system is an excellent way to be introduced to the original band, but imagine seeing them live and hearing that very same music for the first time in a venue with ideal acoustics. No need to debate the superiority of vinyl compared to digital, this was Duane Allman's warm tone coming directly from his ampnot only could you see what he was doing, you could hear it, and thanks to the loud-but-clear volume, feel it.
When they took the stage they got a warm and enthusiastic hometown reception. Luckily we had taken seats on the left side of the room, so we had a particularly good view of Gregg and Duane, but the entire band was clearly visible. They were dressed in typical hippy street clothes of the day, and there were no theatrics or stage antics. They opened with a driving version of Taj Mahal's great cover of Blind Wille McTell's "Statesboro Blues."
It was when Dickey Betts took the night's first solo that I had my first holy crap momenthe was on fire. I'd seen lots of great rock guitarists by this time, but for me Dickey Betts embodied a whole new level of honesty and intensity. His sound and musical choices were completely original. It was as if he were solving tricky musical equations with an onslaught of blisteringly fast serrated loops, or stitching the complex pattern of a musical kaleidoscope with his guitar. I distinctly remember thinking to myself: "Why in the world would they need two lead guitarists? This guy is fantastic!"
The set list was such that it took a while before I had a chance to experience Duane Allman as a lead guitarist. Initially it seemed like, "oh, now I get it, Dickey plays lead guitar, and Duane plays slide," and at that time I had a fairly limited appreciation of slide guitar. I'd seen Peter Green masterfully recreate Elmore James' signature licks and sound, and on record I'd heard Johnny Winter tap into the authentic sound and technique of the blues masters. So at first I just soaked in this new sound and approach. Duane's blues slide was interesting and exotic, but Dickey's playing was something I could readily appreciate.
Nonetheless, even on straight ahead blues I recognized that compared to the slide I'd heard before, Duane was more fluid and lyrical, and his tone was unusually warm. With natural ease he played notes higher on the neck than a conventional guitarist could so it didn't take long before his intensity began to capture my attention. Also, you didn't need an expert to explain to you that his slide sound had a lot in common with a blues harp. But it was on songs like "Dreams" that he took the slide to places it had not gone beforethere it had more in common with a horn than a blues harp.
In terms of style, as the night progressed there was no doubt that the Allman Brothers had their own unique sound. They are widely credited with being the originators of "Southern Rock," but I've always spurned that label. There was plenty of rock energy, and certainly a solid blues foundation, with a tinge of gospel and country twang, but also unmistakable elements of jazz. When I interviewed Jaimoe, he dismissed labels and spoke of "improvised American music," and that is an apt description.
Musically there were some life-changing moments for me during the concert. The most powerful and lasting memory was when I heard "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" for the very first time. The opening was so beautiful, the dual guitar harmonies with the B3 were so compelling, the great bass lines, the dual drumsit was absolutely magical. Several minutes in, just after Gregg finished a well constructed, tasteful and pace-changing Hammond B3 solo, Duane played a conventional lead guitar solo and tapped into something other-worldly.
It was like the back wall of the auditorium had become a canvas, and Duane Allman used his guitar as a paint brush. His eyes were shut tightly and his mouth was wide open as he filled the hall with colors. Visually and acoustically it was so highly charged that you could almost imagine he was plugged into an electric outlet. As he played I kept going back and forth between him and Berry Oakley, whose playing was also so compelling. They were completely in syncat times the band seemed like a group of motorcycles racing down the highway, weaving in and out around each other, on a journey you hoped would never end. The closest analogy I can find to convey what that was like, is something you might recognize if you've ever been in a automobile accident. That sensation when you see the inevitable coming, time slows down to a crawl, and you are completely focused and in the moment like never before. That's what it was like.
Watching and listening to Duane Allman that night was a spellbinding experience that affected me profoundly. Color and form are powerful tools in the hand of an artist, but that night I realized that sound and rhythm are truly magical. Music, speaking for myself, is the acme of artistic expression. It wasn't just Duane's tone and melodic choices, his approach to time was almost as important. That's perhaps one of the reasons why he would not have been an outstanding power trio guitaristhe wasn't a driving, steady, lick specialist. He was a tour guide who used time in a very unusual way. The band would be roaring along, and suddenly it was like he rode his bike up a ramp and was hanging in thin air, sustaining a note, motionless, yet somehow still traveling with the band. Then he would land and seamlessly transition to a whole new emotional soundscape and the band would follow.
Another extremely powerful memory was their cover of Willie Cobbs' "You Don't Love Me." By 1970 this song had been covered several times, but the Allman Brothers turned it into something epic. During this song the secret of their unique appeal became easier to perceive. The song began with a single guitar playing the familiar riff. Gradually rest of the band joined in, until it became a powerful locomotive. While this was happening you began to realize that the two drummers, Jaimoe and Butch Trucks, were fundamentally different. Their contrasting temperaments and approaches could have been a real problem, but somehow these two jagged pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly. Butch Trucks was the steam in this engine who could really put the pedal to the floor and sustain a high level of energy, while Jaimoe improvised within that framework to accentuate what the rest of band was doing.
"You Don't Love Me" began as an inventive blues cover of a classic tune, but after a few minutes it took off in a completely unexpected direction. The locomotive stopped and each of the guitarists took turns playing essentially alone. Unconstrained by the rest of the band, they went where the mood took them. Playing in isolation gave the audience a unique chance to experience each guitarist's style, expression, technique, and tone. It wasn't self indulgent noodling, it was riveting. Finally they cued the locomotive and the train began roaring down the tracks again, with the guitars doing a long series of calls and responses. There was no sense of one trying to cut the other, it was joyful.
It also became clearer how different these two guitarists were, and why this worked so well. A band with two lead guitarists easily could have become an egotistical nightmarea danger Duane and Dickey were well aware of, and had discussed. Duane and Dickey's innate and unmistakable musical differences allowed them to keep things interesting by giving them the freedom to explore and express themselves without stepping on each others toes, and to appreciate each other without feeling jealous or threatened.
When the song "Whipping Post" began, it was something I immediately recognized from their first album, and I thought I knew what to expect. It was another aspect of why the band had initially impressed me; the song had blues roots, but it also had an intro with an 11/4 time signature, and a vintage sound without any cheesy effects. But this was not the straight five minute studio version I knew, it might have been three or four times that long. It was transformed into another epic soundscape, an odyssey with slow foreboding interludes that would gradually build and speed up until they reached astounding crescendos. It was an unlikely brew with some serious mojo: a big dose of Sonny Boy Williamson, with some John Coltrane and Richard Wagner mixed in.
There is one more distinct and vivid memory to share, the song "Hoochie Coochie Man." It was emblematic of all the blues classics they covered. The Model T Ford was still recognizable, but it was now a bad ass hot rod with their unmistakable styling and power upgrades, yet somehow tasteful and respectful of the original.
"Hoochie Coochie Man" was essentially the same as the studio version I knew, yet so different because of the intensity, volume, and live energy. It was about as different as the experience of seeing a hot rod on television, compared to riding around in one. In the studio mix I hadn't really appreciated the power of the gradual build up of the introduction, followed by explosive drum rolls and the dual lead guitars playing the signature Allman Brothers style riffs. It was also especially memorable because Berry Oakley sang, and in contrast to the mournful or heavy nature of the songs Gregg sang, this was light and fun.
Although Duane wasn't presented as the leader of the band, somehow there was no doubt that he was in charge. I can't really explain why, but that was my clear sense. He introduced the songs, but, as far as I remember, he hardly interacted with the audience. Although Gregg sang, he rarely spoke. Berry Oakley, however, was quite animated and did interact with the audience at times. At one point, he pointed out Duane and Gregg's mother in the front row and asked the crowd to give her a big hand, which we willingly didI think he called her Mama Allman.
Those are my distinct memories of that night. Other than that, much of the concert is fused into a shadowy composite of impressions. I remember how they looked on stage, how they behaved, how they sounded, and strangely how it feltby that I mean feeling the power of the sound vibrations, a sensation that is beyond my ability to describe. I wish I could replay those solos in my mind, but they are by nature spontaneous and ephemeral. It is like waking up and trying desperately to recall details of a vivid dream. They are there, but frustratingly just beyond reach. Yet in a strange way, I'm glad this was prior to the invention of cell phone video and YouTube. There is simply no substitute for experiencing music live, and you can't capture that kind of magic. Moreover, there is a danger that with time the limited inferior copy will gradually replace the actual memory. That memory might be incomplete, but I cherish it.
Because I didn't know all the music prior to the concert, I can't be sure of every song they played that night, but of these I am sure: "Statesboro Blues," "Done Somebody Wrong," "Trouble No More," "You Don't Love Me," "In Memory of Elisabeth Reed," "Don't Keep Me Wondering," "Dreams," "Stormy Monday," "Hoochie Coochie Man," and "Whipping Post." There were a few more, and from old set lists I could probably guess which they were, but it would only be a guess.
When the house lights came back up, the dreamlike atmosphere vanished as the audience made its way to the exits. The concert had been an overwhelming experience that I couldn't quite process. I had considered the Allman Brothers Band just another local band that had managed to cut an album I wasn't even aware of their local hero status in Georgia, or that they were gaining fans in several major metropolitan areas. Yet my ordered musical universe had been thrown into chaos. This wasn't simply a matter of adding a new band to my list of favorites, it was instead the realization that in terms of rock music, I had just experienced something that was markedly superior to anything I had ever experiencedwith one possible exception.
My buddy smiled and tapped me on the arm, "Didn't I tell you!?!" Indeed he had, and as I agreed with him, I heard my own voice as if someone else were talkingempty platitudes were all I could muster. I didn't want to wake up from this dream like state, so I begged off and drove down South Atlantic Avenue and parked at the first motel that afforded a view of the ocean. I watched the waves come in with "Liz Reed" and "You Don't Love Me" replaying in my mind.
As I thought about it, the only other experience that had come close to this was seeing Santana perform "Soul Sacrifice" on the big screen in the Woodstock documentary film. When I saw the film, they too were complete unknowns to me, but their soulful honesty, intensity, infectious rhythm, unique sound, inspired playing, and obvious dedication to the music set them apart, and they blew me away.
There were obvious similarities between the original Santana Band and the Allman Brothers Band: Duane Allman and Carlos Santana were exceptional guitarist whose playing seemed preternaturally inspired, each had an impressive and unmistakable sound, spot-on tone, and a compelling musical vision. Each band had multiple drummers, and a Hammond B3 player who sang lead vocals. Decades later I would learn they had even more in commonboth had been heavily influenced by Miles Davis and John Coltrane.
In 1997 Robert Palmer, saxophonist and music critic, wrote the liner notes to the Legacy/ re-release of Kind of Blue
by Miles Davis. To demonstrate its impact and influence on the music world, he used the example of Duane Allman. Anyone who does not understand why Duane Allman has been covered so extensively on All About Jazz can read it for an answer. Palmer had met him in New York City in 1965 when Duane was there with the Hourglass. He had played John Coltrane's Olé
for Duane and noted that he had been fascinated by it.
Five years passed and now Palmer was also playing gigs at the Fillmore East, and was thus able to get backstage and see shows even when they were sold out. He wrote that when he was in town he never missed seeing the Allman Brothers. Once after a show in which he had experienced Duane "soaring for hours on wings of lyrical song," Duane told him that kind of playing came from listening to Miles and Coltrane, especially Kind of Blue
. Duane told him that for the past couple of years he had hardly listened to anything else.
In his liner note Palmer wrote, "I heard a musician who'd grown in ways I never could have imagined. It's rare to see a musician grow that spectacularly, that fast; I'm not sure there's any guitarist who's come along since Duane's early death on the highway who has been able to sustain improvisation of such lyric beauty and epic expanse."