The Allman Brothers Band
This month Martin Cooper unveils the rockier side of a legendary band of true feel players, the hugely influential Allman Brothers Band.
Formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1969, the Allman Brothers Band is one of those quintessentially ‘southern’ rock bands along with the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Consisting of Duane and Gregg Allman (guitars and keyboards respectively), Dickey Betts (guitar), Berry Oakley (bass) and drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny Johanson, the band was one of the forerunners of the southern rock sound of the 70s, which incorporated elements of country, blues, folk and rock’n’roll. Gregg Allman once commented that the genre is so ‘southern’ that “calling it southern rock is like calling it ‘rock rock’”.
As well as containing many southern traits and themes, bands such as the Allmans contributed to the presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter in 1980, although Ronald Reagan beat Carter in the election. Nonetheless music and politics were often walking alongside each other down many avenues of American life.
Look back in time though and the rock history books show that Duane Allman lost his life in a tragic motorcycle accident in 1971, at just 24 years of age. Despite his early demise and short career, Allman achieved such acclaim that he was ranked at number 2 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the world’s 100 greatest guitarists in 2003, with only Jimi Hendrix scoring more highly. Shockingly, just a year after Allman’s death, Berry Oakley was also killed in a motorcycle accident and Chuck Leavell and Lamar Williams replaced the pair. The band actually hit the top of their commercial success after these events with their Brothers & Sisters album in 1973, but of course Duane and Berry remain in the hearts of Allman Brothers Band fans to this day.
After first disbanding in 1976, the second incarnation of the band reformed at the end of the decade, before dissolving again in 1982. However, they reformed in 1989 and still tour to this day, with the inclusion of superb guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks (nephew of drummer Butch Trucks).
This month’s piece is a mixture of blues and rock and is based largely around a 12-bar chord progression in C major, but with lots of dominant 7 and 9 sounding chords. It’s not too tricky to play, but you’ll need to focus a lot on tone, timing and phrasing to make it authentically ‘southern’ in style and sound.
The solo uses the C minor pentatonic scale (C Eb F B Bb) and some nice string bends and vibrato. It’s not fast or flash, but will present a few challenges, more to do with feel and phrasing than out-and-out technique.
In 2003 Duane Allman was second only to Jimi Hendrix in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 greatest guitarists of all time list.
Warren Haynes and Dickey Betts of The Allmans