One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band
St. Martin's Press
Apparently the calling to go out and capture the American spirit on canvas came to Norman Rockwell at an early age. Picking up the mantel, and paintbrush, he documented boys at play, secretaries at work, housewives baking pies and other scenes brilliantly depicting various aspects of Americana. What he neglected to chronicle however, either intentionally or not, is what has come to be one of the great American settings and a true stroke of "Americana." As true as a barbecue on the fourth of July and as powerful as the accompanying fireworks display is the sight of the Allman Brothers Band barreling across the barren western landscape by bus or playing on a stage before a careening crowd of adoring fans. Those responsibilities and that portrait have thankfully been left to complete by author/journalist Alan Paul in his new book One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band
With a foreword by drummer Butch Trucks and an afterword by co-drummer Jaimoe, One Way Out
tells the perfectly timed and gripping tale of a band destined to come together, find their identity and work to make some of the most meaningful and memorable music of the last 45 years. This is a riveting story of perseverance against all odds; personal conflicts, death of loved ones, drug abuse, loss of direction, legal problems and all manner of hardships and discomforts in the ultimate quest for self expression and the achievement of a long envisioned and sought after sound. Aside from being a glowing testimony to Mr. Paul's journalistic prowess and access to the band, the hundreds of interviews Mr. Paul has conducted over the years with the band itself, their friends, roadies, managers, record company executives and family, also form the structural foundation of the book. Though a chronological narrative of the band, what fascinates is that the tale is told through the words and only the words of the principles and those intimately involved thereby lending the written word a strong sense of truth and authenticity.
Statements by one person are at times immediately bolstered by another. At other moments, statements are disputed and varying views of events are presented. The back and forth dialogue all lends a very human and truth-seeking element to the telling of this unique story and seemingly transports the reader to the time and place of the events. Mr. Paul provides an intimate look at the inner workings of the band and the passion that has driven it forward these many years. Early in the Allman Brothers career, for instance, the band was staying in Boston
for a brief period. Anxious to get into a club, The Tea Party, to rehearse their music and lacking the owners phone number, they called the local Rock station and cajoled the DJ into sending out an impassioned plea over the airwaves for the club's owner to come down and open the space. On another occasion at their base in Macon, Georgia, they called in the wee hours of the morning to have the Capricorn Records studio opened. Gregg Allman, fresh from having penned a rough initial version of "Midnight Rider," wanted to lay it down on tape before the inspiration to complete the tune evaporated. Being told to go back to sleep and wait for work-a-day hours before the studio would be available, they proceeded to take matters into their own hands and broke into the space through a forlorn window and started flipping all available switches to get the lights, mikes and tape equipment up and running. These visceral accounts and others give some inkling into how, and perhaps more importantly, why the band was able to make the inroads they did and how, due to their tenacity, they have had such staying power over the ensuing years.
Perhaps the most poignant sections of the book deal with the Allman Brothers Band's beloved and fallen leader Duane Allman. That he is still loved and credited with forming the band goes without saying. The fact that he is still revered, that his presence is still felt and that his spirit inspires the band to this very day imparts a depth to the music and to the experience of witnessing a live performance that is rare if not impossible to find elsewhere.
"Probably not a day goes by riding around on the buses that we don't talk about Duane. It's almost like he's with us. Sometimes when I'm on stage I can feel his presence so strong I can almost smell him. I don't want to get too cosmic, but it's like he's right there next to me."