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Allman Brothers Band history: 1971 -- The final months of Duane Allman



One of the most tragic parts of the Duane Allman story is that he only got to enjoy a brief period of the Allman Brothers Band's massive success. The first two albums, 1969's self-titled debut and 1970's Idlewild South barely sold. They were on the road in a Winnebago non-stop (260 gigs between 1970 and 1971) but were still being kept afloat financially by Phil Walden and Capricorn Records. Band members made around $150/week. Not too bad for 1970 but hardly rock star riches.

Other than Walden, the band's other great benefactor was Bill Graham. They would end 1969 with several dates at the Fillmore East opening for Blood, Sweat And Tears, head out to San Francisco in January to open for BB King at Fillmore West and then be back in New York in February 1970 to open for the Grateful Dead. September and December would see more Fillmore East shows.

In March 1971, the monumental At Fillmore East album was recorded over three nights. A lesser known fact is that a horn section was used the first night but none of those recordings survived or were used for the album. What may be even more amazing is that the Allmans were not even the headliners but rather openers for Johnny Winter.

When they returned at the end of June for the final shows at Fillmore East before it closed there was no question as to whom would be headlining: The Allman Brothers Band.

At Fillmore East would be released on July 6, 1971. 3 1/2 months later it would reach Gold certification with a half-million sales -- not bad for a band that had sold only 35,000 copies of their previous album. As Gregg would say in Alan Paul's book One Way Out: "All of a sudden, here comes fame and fortune. In a three- or four-week period, we went from rags to riches, from living on a three-dollar a day per diem to 'Get anything you want, boys.'"

Later in July they would play Central Park in New York and the next month at The Academy of Music (later known as The Palladium). After an early September show in Miami they would head to Criteria Studios for a week with Tom Dowd to record three songs for the next album: Dickey's first vocal tune, "Blue Sky," an instrumental entitled "The Road To Calico" (later reshaped into "Stand Back") and a Duane instrumental played on the dobro called "Little Martha."

They immediately were back on the road for another month. For the first time the ABB were doing headlining slots in arenas: Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, SC, Hara Arena in Dayton, OH, Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston, TX, Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, Pan American Center in Las Cruces, NM. The last show of the tour was October 17, 1971 at the Painters Hill Music Fair in Owings Mills, Maryland.

The music was continuing to reach new heights. Unfortunately, the same could be said about the band's increasing dependence on drugs, heroin in particular. After the 10/17 show Duane, Berry Oakley and some crew members checked into what they assumed was a drug rehabilitation clinic in Buffalo, NY. But the world of recovery was still in its infant stages in those days. The clinic turned out to be more of a mental hospital and they departed quickly. Duane stopped in New York City to hang out with John Hammond and discuss producing his next album.

He would return to Macon to gear up for the next round of touring. A motorcycle accident on October 29, 1971 would end his life at 24 and rob the Allman Brothers Band of the only true leader they would ever know.

The last three months of Duane's life would result in no less than three archival releases: SUNY At Stonybrook 9/19/71, Boston Common 8/17/71, and Live From A&R Studios 8/26/71. There isn't much left to put out. Recording live shows was an afterthought in that era and the Allmans were no exception. There aren't hundreds of hours of quality Duane-era shows to pick from. Much of what exists is simply too hissy and distant to be enjoyed.

Here's a couple shows that fall a little short of official-release quality but are still eminently listenable. The 10/15 tape is noteworthy for being Duane Allman's final recording. Modern listeners have critiqued the band for playing the "same songs every night" but this was 1971 -- this is what you did back then. How many songs did the Grateful Dead even have that year? Besides, isn't the point of true improvisation being able to take the same material and explore new terrain every night? That is exactly what the Allman Brothers Band did with Duane Allman.


The Allman Brothers Band
Syria Mosque, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1971-10-15

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mp3 @ 320 [141 mb]
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Last recorded show with Duane

01 Statesboro Blues
02 Don't Keep Me Wonderin'
03 Done Somebody Wrong
04 One Way Out
05 In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed
06 Hot 'Lanta
07 Stormy Monday
08 You Don't Love Me
09 Revival
10 Trouble No More

tt: 1:01:32


The Allman Brothers Band
Municipal Auditorium , Austin, Texas
1971-09-28

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mp3 @ 320 [64 mb]
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artwork included

01 Statesboro Blues
02 Trouble No More
03 Done Somebody Wrong
04 One Way Out
05 In Memory of Elizabeth Reed
06 Hot ‘Lanta

tt: 27:41


Comments

  1. Very informative. Hard to believe the epoch-defining Fillmore East live album was recorded by a band that had not yet reached headlining status. However, Johnny Winter is just the right fit for this charming sliver of trivia.

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