Most people who know me know what a powerful influence Jimi Hendrix was in my life. He lead me down a wildly diverse but unique musical road. He also gave me some inspiration. I was a black kid who liked his music, he was a black man who played his music.
Being an adventurous and slightly obsessive guitar fan I started to listen to rock radio and when I was a kid I heard “Rambling Man”, “Southbound” and “Jessica” on the radio all the time. I loved them because they had lots of guitar. As I read more and associated things…I thought Charlie Daniels was cool. I identified – quite bizarrely – with being Southern, and I mean redneck Southern. So, the Allman Brothers couldn’t be far off my radar.
In college I was moving from a metalhead to a blues fanatic and again, the Allman Brothers were there. They were played on the same radio as Metallica and AC/DC and all the classic rock – guitar rock – I loved but they played blues songs and really long versions. I was hooked. At some point in the 80s I saw them at the Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam, I saw Gregg Allman play at the Grand Ole Opry House, I saw Dickey Betts play at what was then called Summer Lights, a free arts fest in Nashville during the 80s. Somewhere along the lines I focused in on Duane Allman and started to find all these studio records he played guitar on, especially “Hey Jude” by Wilson Pickett and “The Weight” by Aretha Franklin. It was obvious that there was something special about Duane.
Two things happened in the late 80s that would cement this belief and my adoration of the band even more. They were arbitrary, unrelated and almost completely disconnected from the Allman Brothers. A friends band while in college…some local guys from Tullahoma adopted me into the band. I was a mediocre player and I was young but I LOVED what they did, especially their lead guitar player who’d actually seen Duane play. The second thing was while working at a record store I met the newest member of the Allman Brothers Band, the bassist who played a 12-string bass, Allen Woody. He came in with an Allman Brothers Band business card that had his name and “Bass player” on it. It was my brush with greatness.
Fast forward a few years when Allen & Warren Haynes started, along with Matt Abts, Gov’t Mule. I was living in Baton Rouge, I was dying to hear them and then I go back to Nashville where a record store friend hands me a copy of the first Gov’t Mule record and I lost my shit! The first song was a cover of one of my all-time favorite blues songs (and I was a full fledged blues fanatic at this point), “Grinnin’” by Son House. I’m not going to talk much about the Mule but sufice to say that by getting to know them and the Derek Trucks Band I got close enough to the Allmans to know real behind the scenes stuff and to meet several of the original members of the band.
Duane still remained an enigma to a degree. I knew the story, I knew the music but I didn’t know much about the motivation or causes. Reading this book I did get some of the information I was after. The book is pretty well written, lots of citations for solid sources. Its a fan’s book written by a fan so take that for what its worth. I would suggest you listen to some records and not worry about the rest.