For those of you who were never fans of the Allman Brothers band, the title of this post is a tribute to one of my favorite songs of theirs, “In memory of Elizabeth Reed.” The Allman Brothers were an iconic band for my generation. They were still playing together, with some new personnel, a few years ago. I saw them on TV (one of the music stations on cable) front a performance in 2013 or 2014. Given the fact that a number of the members of the band where into their 60s then, I doubt they performed all that often, which is way sad.
The Allman Brothers were basically a blues band. Greg was the lead vocalist and keyboard player. Boy, did he have the voice for the blues: kinda low and gravelly. The band has gone through more personnel changes over the last 50 years than even the Rolling Stones. Their first two losses there were the loss of Duane Allman to a motorcycle accident just when the band was getting popular. Duane also appeared on the Derek and the Dominoes album. It is his guitar that is at the forefront on “Layla.” For someone to outperform Eric Clapton is really doing something and Duane does on that song.
Then, about a year later, they lost Berry Oakley, their bass player, also to a motorcycle accident. I saw the Allman Brothers live on their first tour after Duane died. In fact, I had a backstage pass, so I got to sit just behind the PA speakers on one side of the stage. That gave me an excellent view of the band when they were on stage and also when they were backstage.
The guys came on stage and started playing, I cannot remember what. Barry had to have someone from the road crew bring his bass guitar on stage and strap it on for him. He was that stoned. After about 30 seconds to a minute of playing, Barry stopped and walked backstage. Someone brought him something which he snorted up his nose. I suspect it was cocaine to help him get himself together. From what I understand, this kind of behavior was rather commonplace back in the late 60s and early 70s. It took most of us a while to figure out that maybe we shouldn’t be doing so much dope. Too much of anything is not good for you!
The band never replaced Duane until just a few years ago. Dickie Batts took over most of the lead guitar duties, and that was no real let down. Obviously, they had to replace Barry. A blues band cannot function without a solid base player. The guy who replaced Barry, whose name I do not recall off the top of my head, was quite adequate to the task. But, he was no Barry Oakley, in my estimation one of the best bass players of my generation.
Getting back to Greg Allman, sadly Greg passed away May 27. He was 69, same age as myself. He will be missed. The rock ‘n roll band in heaven just got themselves a helluva vocalist and keyboard player. Rest in peace, Greg Allman.