The legacy of the Allman Brothers Band

My summers are never very eventful; they’re usually spent watching television and making frequent trips back and forth to my grandmother’s house in B.F.E. (Warrenton, North Carolina).

However, this summer has proven to be different. I guess the fact that this will be my last summer as a high school student gave me the idea that I need to live life to fullest and come out of my shell — an idea that I soon grew to regret as I remembered how much I hate people. And, as I sat back down on my couch, turned on my television and completely retreated back into my shell, I happened upon a wonderful television singing competition entitled Rising Star.

Rising Star is a new ABC singing competition that takes an interesting spin on viewer interaction. Viewers are able to use an app to vote “yes” or “no” as the singers perform. And forgive me if this seems morally wrong, but I love the fact that I was literally holding someone’s future in my hands. But that’s beside the point.

The show had some interesting contestants, but there was one that stood head and shoulders above the rest: Jesse Kinch. After successfully making it past the duels with a strong performance of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell On You,” he came back with an even stronger performance of The Allman Brothers “Whipping Post” and I was completely hooked; I became completely obsessed with the song and wanted to explore the band behind the music.

The Allman Brothers Band is a rock/blues band formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1969. The band currently consists of seven members: Gregg Allman, one of the band’s founding members and lead guitarist; Butch Trucks, drummer; Jai Johanny Johanson, drummer and percussionist; Warren Haynes, guitarist and vocalist; Marc Quiñones, percussionist; Oteil Burbridge, bass guitarist; and Derek Trucks, guitarist. The group has gone through several lineup changes, losing three original members: Duane Allman, Dicky Betts and Berry Oakley.

I was not familiar with them before the show, but as I started to listen to their music I realized that there were quite a few places that I’d heard their work. Some of you may remember their song Ramblin’ Man from the very first Guitar Hero or Midnight Rider from a recent Geico commercial (although, that did receive some backlash). While the band’s music is what drew me in, the story behind the band is what kept me.

While the group’s debut album, The Allman Brothers Band, was only successful in the south, their second album At Fillmore East, reached the Top 10 and Rolling Stone state that the Allman Brothers were, “the best damn rock and roll band this country has produced in the past five years.”

Unfortunately, only three months of after the release of the album, Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia. The group decided to continue playing without a guitarist. Astonishingly enough, after the release of their second Top 10 LP, Oakley was also killed in a motorcycle accident. And, to top it off, the spot of his accident took place only three blocks from the spot which Duane’s accident had occurred the year earlier.

Years after the deaths, the members took several career-changing blows. In 1975, Gregg Allman married pop sensation Cher, and decided to meld the startlingly different sounds of the two genres into an album known as Allman and Woman. The album was an immediate commercial failure, and sold less than 550,000 albums worldwide.

One of the most severe blows happened when the band ran into their first major problem concerning drug use. Allman himself describes the intensity of their drug use in his personal memoir “My Cross to Bear.” At first, the recreational activity seemed like fun — a perk that often comes with many other pleasures of being a rockstar. Of course that rockstar lifestyle came at a price and, at the end of a 41-day tour that ran at $80,000 per show, the group had only $100,000 to their name.

It all came to a head when the group’s personal dealer and manager Scooter Herring was arrested in a high-profile case and Gregg Allman decided to testify against him in exchange for immunity from prosecution. This decision ultimately led to groups break up in August of 1976 as the rest of the members labeled Allman a narc.

Fortunately for longtime fans of the group (or late comers like myself), the group has reunited several times over the last 25 years. In fact, they have several performances at the Beacon Theatre scheduled for the end of October that are already sold out! I guess the power of music is, ya know, powerful.

So, in conclusion: I spent my last summer in high school obsessing over a television show which led me to discover an amazing artist and an amazing band. I say it was a summer well spent.

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