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The Allman Brothers Band In Five Covers

The Allman Brothers Band In Five Covers

Courtesy GAB Archive


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The original Allman Brothers Band, the pre-October 29, 1971 version, was the brainchild of Duane Allman. The aural record of the band from this period has been augmented substantially since the advent of compact discs and streaming. A review of this music reveals that Allman intentionally kept the band's setlist limited, ostensibly so the band could perfect their sound and musical approach. The early band can be characterized by five song covers that were included in the majority of sets performed between May 1969 and Allman's death two years later. These songs are the band's and Duane Allman's legacy.

The Allman Brothers Band
"Statesboro Blues"
At Fillmore East
Capricorn Records

"Statesboro Blues" was the B-side to "Three Woman Blues" recorded by William Samuel McTier, aka Blind Willie McTell, in Atlanta, Georgia on October 27, 1928, and released as the Victor 38001 10-inch shellac in January 1929. Classified as a Piedmont blues, it differed from Mississippi Delta blues by its intricate alternating-thumb picking style and incorporation of ragtime elements. Where McTell enjoyed modest recognition during the blues revival of the '50s and '60s, his song was the vehicle introducing two significant musical acts. In 1968 Henry St. Claire Fredericks Jr. became Taj Mahal and recorded his eponymous debut with guitarists Ry Cooder and Jesse Ed Davis. On this record was a cover of "Statesboro Blues" that would be heard by a 22-year-old Duane Allman, inspiring him to learn to play electric slide guitar and elevate the old Piedmont blues number to its zenith. "Statesboro Blues" would go on to introduce a majority of the Allman Brothers Band live shows.

The March 13, 1971, first show performance released on the original 2-LP At Fillmore East is almost a perfect electric blues. Duane Allman's slide guitar is flawless when compared to other available performances. Gregg Allman's husky vocals rise to, and beyond, the occasion, and the two drum set-powered rhythm section led by the articulate bass playing of Barry Oakley never allow the bottom to lag. While Dickey Betts' guitar solo is etched in the subconscious of the Baby Boom generation, it did not rise to the level it would before the band finished at Fillmore East during the spring of 1971. The Allman Brothers band and these performances were equally compelled by the British Invasion, who, unencumbered by the institutional racism of the United States, taught America about her rich loam of music, and by the visionary Duane Allman, who saw no color, only music.

Blind Wille McTell, "Statesboro Blues" Victor Records 38001, recorded October 17, 1928, B-side to "Three Women Blues."

The Allman Brothers Band, "Statesboro Blues" At Fillmore East (Capricorn Records, 1971), recorded March 12, 1971, second show.

The Allman Brothers Band
"Trouble No More"
Live at the Atlanta International Pop Festival July 3 & 5, 1970
Epic Records

Following the standard concert opener, "Statesboro Blues," Duane Allman liked to keep the temperature high with his arrangement of Muddy Waters' 1955 recording, "Trouble No More." If we were to peer down the song's pedigree we would find that Waters developed his performance from one recorded by Sleepy John Estes in Memphis, Tennessee on Victor Records in 1935. Estes' title was "Someday Baby Blues," from his lyric, "Someday, Baby, ain't goin' worry poor John's mind anymore." Waters updated these words to the well-known "Someday baby, you ain't gonna trouble poor me, anymore" giving the song a propulsive rhumba rhythm while electrifying it. Duane Allman took Waters' arrangement and irradiated it, producing the lopping juggernaut that emerged on The Allman Brothers Band (Capricorn Records, 1969). But like many bands, the Allman Brothers in the studio were no comparison to the same on the concert stage.

The performances captured on Live at the Atlanta International Pop Festival July 3 & 5, 1970 are among the best sonically (especially for soundboard recordings). "Trouble No More" is especially notable for emerging from the initial twin-drum opening immediately at tempo and the clean separation of instruments from the mix. Gregg Allman's vocals are more inspired and better captured here than later live recordings. Dickey Betts' rumba rhythm guitar behind Gregg's vocals and Duane's slide guitar accompaniment, is readily heard and exists apart from the "lead bass" figures Barry Oakley plays. Betts' solo rings like a bell, subdued and calculated, leading to Duane's slide guitar solo, free and rollicking, on its way to the perfection of later performances. This performance finds the Allman Brothers Band developing its chops eight months before the Fillmore East shows. It shows the band's ability to find a good time in each performance and generously return it to the audience.

Muddy Waters, "Trouble No More" Chess Records 1612 A, recorded November 3, 1955 -A side to "Sugar Sweet."

The Allman Brothers Band, "Trouble No More" Live at the Atlanta International Pop Festival: July 3 & 5, 1970 (Epic Records, 2003), Recorded July 3, 1970.

The Allman Brothers Band
"Stormy Monday"
Live From A&R Studios
The Allman Brothers Band Recording Company

"Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just as Bad)" is the proper title of the 1947 T-Bone Walker single that has since been reduced to the melancholy "Stormy Monday" among other names since its composition. The tune received a dramatic facelift in 1962 when retitled "Stormy Monday Blues" appeared on the Duke recording, Here's The Man!... by Bobby Blue Bland. Walker pioneered the use of ninth chords in slow blues. Further chord substitutions were added in Bland's arrangement, changes that have been parlayed in the bulk of covers of the song, the Allman Brothers version being no exception. Duane and Gregg Allman began performing "Stormy Monday" while playing together as the Allman Joys. Duane brought the music into the Allman Brothers Band slim book, making it a regular part of the band's repertoire. It was one of the two blues (the other being "You Don't Love Me") where Duane plays in standard tuning and was performed after the slide guitar section of the concert (following "Statesboro Blues," "Trouble No More," "Done Somebody Wrong," "Don't Keep Me Wondering," and "One Way Out") nestled among "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed" and "You Don't Love Me."

The version performed in concert was based on Bobby Bland's recording, expanded to over nine minutes with improvised soloing. The song's arrangement consisted of the band format of vocals, two electric guitars, bass guitar, organ, and drums. Performed at an uncharacteristic slow tempo where this is the introduction followed by vocals, and then solos. Duane Allman solos first, with Gregg Allman's organ solo directing the song into several jazz-waltz choruses. Betts solos before the vocal coda where the band definitively concludes the song. The "Stormy Monday" performance from the August 26, 1971 performance at New York City's A&R Studio is clean and well-delineated. The Instruments are effectively separated just behind Gregg Allman's vocals centrally located in the mix. Duane Allman begins his solo softly and simply, quickly building its gravity in the first chorus to explode in the second, where he delivers a master class on drama in an electric blues guitar solo. Gregg gives a jazzy assertive solo leading to Dickey Betts' two extroverted solo choruses. Gregg closes the song with his full-throated vocal coda. The Allman Brothers Band provided this as the apotheosis arrangement and performance of "They Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday's Just At Bad)"

T-Bone Walker, "They Call It Stormy Monday (But Turesday's Just As Bad)" Black & White Records, BW 637, recorded September 13, 1947 -B side to "I Know Your Wig Is Gone."

The Allman Brothers Band, "Stormy Monday" The Allman Brothers Band: Live From A&R Studios, New York, August 26, 1971 (Allman Brothers Records, 2016).

The Allman Brothers Band
"You Don't Love me"
S.U.N.Y. at Stonybrook: Stonybrook, NY 9/19/71
The Allman Brothers Band Recording Company

Willie C. Cobbs was born in Smale, Arkansas, a Delta community long gone, once located in the crook made by the intersection of Highways 49 and 79 in Monroe County outside of Brinkley on the way to Helena-West Helena. This is music country, the area being the childhood homes to Louis Jordan (Brinkley); Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Cotton Plant); Al Green (Forrest City), Luther Allison (Widener); and Robert Jr. Lockwood, Sam Carr, and Levon Helm (Marvell area). Like many before him, Cobbs moved to Chicago for a decade meeting with little success. Cobbs returned to Arkansas in 1959 with pianist Eddie Boyd appearing at local clubs and playing a new song containing a field holler cry, "Uh, uh, uh, you don't love me, yes I know" and a guitar riff patterned after Bo Diddley's "She's Fine, She's Mine" (Checkers Records, 1955). The song Cobbs wrote and recorded was "You Don't Love Me" at Echo Studios, with Cobbs singing and Boyd playing piano. Muddy Water's guitarist Sammy Lawhorn laid down the dirty guitar riff that propels the song. The record was released on Billy Lee Riley's Memphis Label, Mojo Records, then licensed the song to Vee-Jay for wider distribution.

"You Don't Love Me" was added to the Allman Brothers set list on or before their appearance at SUNY Stony Brook New York on July 26, 1970. For this discussion, we use a performance of the song from a SUNY Stony Brook appearance a year later on September 19, 1971. This performance of "You Don't Love Me" is the lengthiest in the Allman Brothers catalog, clocking in at 25:47. Duane opens the song riffing off the riff, embellishing effectively, before Barry Oakley enters, setting the momentum for Gregg Allman's vocal choruses. Duane is in full control soloing freely and outside of earlier song performances. He often used "You Don't Love Me" as a vehicle to present a snippet of King Curtis' "Soul Serenade," but not in this performance. Betts is given equal solo space, effectively juxtaposing the two guitarists' disparate styles: Duane all r&b fire and Betts all country finesse. Chronologically, these Stonybrook shows occurred six months after the Fillmore East shows and five weeks before Duane's death. Like "Whipping Post" and "Mountain Jam," "You Don't Love Me" was an Allman Brothers showpiece, a vehicle for the invention and improvisation that made the name of the early band.

Willie Cobbs, "You Don't Love Me" Mojo Records, 2168, Recorded 1960 -A side to "You're So Hard To Please."

The Allman Brothers Band, "You Don't Love Me" S.U.N.Y. at Stonybrook: Stonybrook, NY 9/19/71 (Allman Brothers Records, 2003)

The Allman Brothers Band
"One Way Out"
Eat A Peach

Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James recorded the blues standard "One Way Out" in the early 1960s, independently of one another. The song evolved in a performance by G.L. Crockett, released as "It's A Man Down There" in 1965. Songwriting credits remain unresolved as evidenced in the copyright registrations: Elmore James release—Elmo James & Marshall Sehorn, Rhinelander Music, February 23, 1965; G.L. Crockett release—George Crockett & Jack Daniels, June 18, 1965; and Sonny Boy Williamson II release —Sonny Boy Williamson, Arc Music, November 12, 1965. A short 15 years later, the song was brought to its most realized form in an arrangement by Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, appearing first on Eat A Peach (Capricorn Records, 1972) as a live recording originally recorded at the band's performance at the closing of Fillmore East, June 27, 1971. "One Way Out" appeared in the setlist as early as February 1971 in a show at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. The song illustrates Duane's slow and methodical introduction of new material to the band.

Of all Allman Brothers performances, "One Way Out" from the closing of Fillmore East, was considered by engineer and producer Tom Dowd to be the definitive treatment of the song. It is the most perfect electric blues committed to record. Betts introduces the song with a funky, rolling figure not unlike "You Don't Love Me," accompanied by subdued support from drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe. After eight measures, Duane layers his slide guitar over the band's full entry ahead of Gregg's two vocal choruses. The solo sections are introduced by a fiery Betts solo, showing none of the timidity that marred the At Fillmore East "Statesboro Blues." Betts' solo is a study in building drama. Over two choruses, Betts escalates the pathos to a near-breaking point before dropping out of a brief four measures of drums before picking up where he left off, trading licks with Duane before the slide guitarist's scintillating solo. Gregg finishes with the final verse and "big" coda. Perfection. The original Allman Brothers take the blues as far as they can, which is what we are left with.

Elmore James, "One Way Out" Sphere Sound Records 702, B-side to "My Bleeding Heart" recorded in late 1960, released posthumously in 1965.

The Allman Brothers Band, "One Way Out" Eat A Peach (Capricorn Records, 1972)

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