Sunday, July 17, 2011

Duane Allman

I was going to wait a day or two before writing anything more but the comment by Lacyguitar: "Wow! Duane was amazing! Allman Bros would not have existed without him." got me motivated. I am certain that many of you know that Duane put the Allman Brothers band together and was our leader. He led because that was just the way he was. He was very intelligent, totally honest, was of the highest character, morally and ethically and I would say that Duane was one of those people that, if you are lucky, you may meet one like him in your life. If you are extremely fortunate you will become friends with him, as I did.

I first met Duane when the band I was playing in, The Bitter Ind, decided to take our summer off from FSU and head to Daytona Beach to find a gig for the summer. We auditioned for damn near every club there and were met with the same results at each of them: "You guys are great but we need a band that people can dance to". We were auditioning at the last one we could find, The Martinique, when in walk "The Beatles", at least you would have thought so. They were a group of guys led by two blond headed dudes called the Allman Joys and man did the folks around Daytona think the world of them. This was the first time I laid eyes on Duane and Gregg. Well our audition finished with the usual comment from the club owner and we were sitting in the back of the place talking about putting our tails between our legs and heading back to Jacksonville when Duane came up to us and started going on and on about how much he liked our band. We told him our situation so he just said the hell with it, come on over to our house and hang for a few days until you can work something out. Well his house happened to be 100 Van Avenue, where Duane and Gregg lived with their mother. It also happened to be the place where all of the "heads" in Daytona would hang. We spent the next two or three days sleeping on couches and the floor and finally did decid to put our tails between our legs and......

Several months later, after getting a job working a warehouse for some precursor to Walmart, I got a call from Duane telling me that they were in town playing a club called "The Comic Book" and their drummer just quit would I mind playing with them till they could find a replacement. Of course I said "of course". It turned out that the manager of the club was a huge Dylan fan and since The Bitter Ind played pretty much everything Dylan ever wrote, either in his style or that of The Birds, Duane got us an audition. Well we got the job, Gregg and Duane took off, found another drummer and we played that place for over eight months. 

We would run into them from time to time playing around the south and one day we were in Daytona and stopped in to see them. This was just after they had left L.A. after the fiasco called The Hour Glass. Our band was kind of stuck in a rut plus we were recording our second album in Miami and Duane said we should join forces. Well hell this was incredible. We did and worked up a bunch of material that they played and a lot that we played and started touring as The Bitter Ind, The Allman joys or The Hour Glass depending on where we were playing. We also spent some time in Miami finishing that record. Melissa was one of those recordings. This was the first time it was ever recorded. Gregg had written some other tunes and we laid them down too. The crooks from Miami we were working for finally released those recordings on Bold Records, with Duane and Gregg's picture lifted off of Idlewild South as the cover and called it "Daune and Gregg Allman". You will most definitely get a rant sometime about what I think about the music business. Well Gregg decided to head back to try it on his own and get Duane and the other members of The Hour Glass out of their record and management contracts. Duane and I headed back to Daytona and this was when he got the call to come to Muscle Shoals and be one of their session guitarists. You can read all about what happened there from many sources.

Sometime later (I'm not great with dates) I was married, living back in Jacksonville, just about to give up on the music business and go back to college and finish my degree in math. (I guess that would have led to a nice teaching job somewhere) when there was a knock at my door and there was Duane with this muscle-bound black dude with an afro, a tank top and a damn bear tooth claw necklace around his neck. As only Duane could he said "Butch this is Jaimoe, my new drummer. Jaimoe, this is Butch, my old drummer. Well they came in, Duane hung for a while and then headed of to go see Berry Oakley and just left Jaimoe sitting there. Well my upbringing didn't really prepare me for this. If you know Jaimoe he is a man of few words. He just sat there, frowning and staring at the floor and all I could think was, "Oh my god a militant n..... he's gonna kill me. He wound up staying with me for a few weeks that trip and has become my very dear friend and partner for the 42 years since that day. What a wonderful way for a middle class, white Southern boy to be introduced to the real world. Thank you, Jaimoe.

It turned out that Duane had gotten really bored with session playing and the reason he was in Jacksonville was to start a new band. Once word got around this became the focal point for the burgeoning hippy community in Jax and we started getting together at least once a week, setting up huge piles of gear and jamming all day long. After a while Duane had pretty much decided on who he wanted for his band. Jaimoe came with him, Berry Oakley was the bass player and Berry convinced Duane that Dickey Betts would add a very cool new twist to things. Damn was Berry right! There were several drummers trying for a spot too. Jaimoe kept telling Duane that I was the one, but back then I was a pretty introverted player. Humility was what I had been taught and humility and rock and roll don't really go together. I think Duane decided that Jaimoe was right but I also think that he felt I needed an attitude adjustment if I was going to play in his band.

I will never forget the day. We were jamming in an open field surrounded by woods next to the #1 AM radio station in Jax: WAPE. Well we got into a shuffle and it really wasn't going anywhere. I did my usual "Oh god they're all looking at me" and pulled back. Duane turned around, stared me square in the eyes and played a screaming lick that just yelled "Come on mother fucker, play". To which I further retreated. Well he did it again, I pulled back again but then on the third or fourth time I realized that he was showing me up in front of all of those people and I started to get mad. I began to beat my drums like I was hittin him upside the head. We kept this up for quite a while. I mean we were locked eye to eye glaring at each other and the music just took off. In my anger, I forgot to be afraid and started playing the drums. Finally Duane smiled, pointed at me and said "there ya go". It was like he reached inside of me and flicked a switch. The light went off in my head "you can play so stop apologizing" It was that epiphany that made me capable of doing what I have done for the last 42+ years. It was Duane that caused that epiphany.

Duane Allman was the most powerful character I have ever known. After 40 years I still have dreams that I run into him. There is a part of me that will not let him go. He most certainly changed my life and touched the lives of everyone fortunate enough to be around him. He asked me to join the band. We started rehearsals and learned a few tunes "Trouble No More" being the first. Then he called his baby bro. He was absolutely right that there was no one else alive that could sing in that band.

Duane, I miss you, I love you and I always will.

THANK YOU !!!!!!


  1. Thank you for sharing the story of the beginning of your relationship with Duane. He would be proud of the Allman Brothers Band's accomplishments. I know it's been hard long, hard road~

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  3. Long live Duane !!

  4. Thank you for that Butch. I would like to suggest you consider writing your own memoirs. There is really so little written about the Allman Brothers Band, just the book by Randy Poe, the little book written by Willie Perkins, the book by Red Dog and the infamous book "Midnight Riders which, in any event, ends in 1994. I understand Gregg is working on a memoir and you being extremely literate would probably do a great one as well. I am only 44 years old and I really wish I could have seen Duane play. It's hard to believe he was only 25 when he left this world. He seemed the maturity of a much older man.

  5. Great story. I guess we can blame Duane for giving us your over inflated ego.

  6. This was such a great story! I wish I could have been around in those days and had the pleasure of meeting such talented individuals. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  7. Francine BlackwellJuly 18, 2011 at 1:19 AM

    This post was so heart warming. I'm sure that it was very difficult for you to write.
    You need to know that there are people out there that so appreciate your sharing these lovely memories. Thank You.
    Best Wishes to you,

  8. Butch, I am quite sure Duane is smiling down on his baby bro right now. What a great story, and I have heard many having lived in Macon for years before coming back to FL. ABB and friends :-) are in my heart and will be forever. You are great. Rock on! As for anonymous, I will simply say that I do not allow such narrow minded, inside the box types to take up my happy space in life. Assholes are like opinions, everybody has one right!

  9. Although I was a little over 8 months old when he died, Duane changed my life too. Since finally *getting* the ABB, and hearing all of the amazing stuff y'all were doing...together...I have never, ever been able to listen to music in the same way. And for that I am grateful.

    So glad you shared this & I echo the call for you to write a book. I remain enthralled by the stories of the coming together of this great band you've been a part of for 40+ years, of course my entre into it was the incredible music. To know that that music was made by a band of "brothers" who'd struggled some to carve out "the note" until y'all found each other, makes the sound of the music that much better.

    Glad you started the blog and look forward to more posts both music related and unrelated.

  10. Wow. I am loving your blog. Educational, inspirational - and you've only just begun! The quote you posted from Duane really struck a chord. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Looking forward to reading more! :)

  11. Thanks, Butch. That's really some great personal info! As for those 'anonymous' posters who are so negative, I recommend not responding and not being bothered by em, unless of course it concerns "the facts" of a particular situation. There's an old saying, "Don't let the bastards get you down." Not sure if that's from Plato or Jefferson or...whomever. Everyone has their opinions; you, me, and anonymous. If one doesn't agree, why read and respond to the blog at all?

    Butch, like it or not, you're a "public figure" and you can as easily become a subject of derision as one of adoration. The ABB has many fans; fans who want you to write your blog; fans who want to hear what the ABB is up to; and fans who appreciate your taking the time to do so. One does not have to agree with your views on religion, politics, etc to appreciate that you're taking the time to let fans know what you're all about. You're absolutely right, the heading says "The world according to Butch.." If one is not interested in what Butch thinks, then don't read it. Many of us think you'll shoot straight even if we don't always agree (I actually agree with most of your views on politics and religion).

    So, thanks for taking the time and for letting us into the inner circle of the ABB and your life.

  12. it's kind of funny that duane did that to you. what i remember, from the two shows y'all did in 1970 in brevard, was that duane kept pushing dickie. dickie seemed really shy then, too. not much of a stage presence, but (and my memory isn't that great either) it seemed like duane kept building him up. "great song," or something. and some comment about how he (duane) wished he would have played some lick dickie had played. not exactly the same approach as the one you describe, but certainly seemed to be aimed at the same end.

    but i have to say that my biggest impression of duane came out of his streeps appearance (streeps being a local music store) where he told us that if we wanted to play like he did that we'd go out and find our local blues player (because he was sure that every community in florida had one) and learn everything we could from them. even if he only said a few words, those words hung around those of us who saw him for ages...

  13. Awesome once again, Butch! I've read everything ever written about Duane, but nothing compares with your firsthand memories. Write that book.

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  15. People who see the big picture aren't worried about the lime light no matter what the profession. The best of the best let the others shine around them and then everyone shines together and isn't that the point.

    Duane wanted and demanded that everyone be great - as great as they could be - that's what I get out of reading the comments and article.

    Having been in a few pathetic band situations I can tell you there are plenty of players out there but damn few get it. Once the "its all me" thing pokes its head out of your subconscious everyone can see it and feel it, and the life goes right out of the room.

    There's no faking it and no getting around it you are either selfless and working together or you are not. There's no hiding it.

    Playing music is not stepping out and showing off but grabbing the collective vibe and taking it somewhere together. When a flock of birds fly in that "V" formation they take turns leading. They rotate out of the front spot naturally and efficiently. In my experience that is how musical thought travels, flourishes and grows at its best.

    Stephen Colbert's 2011 commencement address had thoughts on improvisation as a tool for life. Life isn't winning or losing its an improvisation. That thought from Stephen is very illuminating not just for theatrical work but any kind of ensemble work as well as life itself.

    According to Stephen you are taught in improv that the other person or people on stage are the most important. Think about that for a second "the other" people than you are the most important.

    Once that happens mutually then you really have synergy, mutual respect, the whole greater than the parts and everyone working together to make sure we all reach our highest potential together.

    It not only works on stage but life itself.

  16. Hey Butch,
    Great story brother, thanks for taking the time to write and share it with us and good work on the blog. There can never be too many Duane stories, it is always a good day when you hear a new one! I felt like I was there on stage with you getting that push to take it higher -- nice!!

  17. Butch very nice post.What is the future of the Allman Bros band?

  18. Still having trouble with the URL...I'll figure it out.

    I think Duane's death is a sickening tragedy. He was only getting started. You listen to these old recordings and you can easily start to think you're listening to an accomplished master, but he was JUST GETTING GOING! I think had he lived Gregg and the band would not have had all the terrible issues that they had in the 70's, and he would have kept getting better and better as a musician. I feel bad for people like you who had his friendship and then had to suddenly find out one day that he was gone forever. I feel bad for people like me who were unable to witness his talent live. An astonishing loss.

  19. Butch, always great to hear some about Duane. Really enjoyed reading how you, Jaimoe and Duane came across each other. Some of it I have heard before but this verifies it. Helped fill in some blanks of that time period also. Thanks!

  20. Even if I had never heard all the stories that friends and family have told about Duane, I still feel like I knew him. It's the mark of a true genius that plays from his soul. You can speculate on how good he could have become had he lived longer but, he gave us enough. And, I God bless him for that.
    Thanks Butch. Keep 'em coming.

  21. Thanks for delving into this, Butch. I enjoyed hearing these stories raw and from your perspective. As some of the commenters said, many of these stories haven't been told, or have not been told authoritatively, so thank you for giving us a peek.

    Wondered what you thought about this new joint (but separate) radio interview with Gregg and Dickey on Live at the Fillmore East? Any stories of your own from that time?

  22. Thanks, Butch. I never tire of reading about the formation of the band. Is the band planning on any sort of "40th" to reflect upon the importance of 1971?


  23. Great story Butch, I enjoyed reading it, always look forward to reading ABB stuff from someone who was there.

  24. Another great entry Butch (as well as the 2nd one addressing the reactions to your 1st blog post)

    If I'm being selfish from a musical perspective, (and what fan isn't?) it would be great to hear any stories relating to the Fillmore stands, Atlanta Pop, or especially Watkins Glen. The Watkins Glen show was one of the biggest festivals in the history of this country, yet so little is known or documented about it.

    In fact, I'd highly encourage you to write that memoir as well, it'd be fascinating to hear a first hand account of those early ABB days, playing with the Grateful Dead, the Warehouse in New Orleans, and the hard life of touring in the old days.

    Keep on Truckin'.....

  25. Awesome story Butch. Just love reading about Duane, recently finished SkyDog and waiting impatiently for Gregg's book. You should definitely consider your own book. You are very well-written and literate, look forward to reading more from you and would love to hear your take on the "old days".

    I was lucky enough to spend 3+ hours last fall in the Big House, by myself, just taking it all in. I still go back there in head on a regular basis!

    Would love to hear your stories about Derek too. Just saw him with his new band a month or so ago. They were great.

  26. Thanks for your time writing, bloging and giving insights. Also thanks for quoting Duane - we all need to be reminded on what we CAN DO in order to shape this world to a world we all want to raise our kids in. Thanks, all the way from Germany, Europe. Wolf

  27. Thanks for the blogs Butch!!! Great to hear a sane voice amongst the insanity. I've been a fan of ABB since the get go. Fortunate to have heard the original band back in the early 70's at Michigan State Fair grounds. What a great day that was. Being a musician myself and into the ABB style of music. So glad you guys are still around. Great stuff your nephew and Warren are doing too.

  28. awesome post. keep these coming! and let us know if we can request a song, er... post. there is so much that we want to hear about.

  29. Finally something about Duane Allman with substance. Am actually awaiting your book (and to read a few I certainly am not the only one). I wish you stamina, fun and success in writing it. Take your time and if you must let everyone wait: just do that. It's your book and memory and God knows to get things right it takes some research and effort. I liked the Scott Freeman book, but it is sometimes incomplete I think. Randy Poe is just Edgar Allan Poe's far cousin and I prefer the old Poe. Lots of things he left out and thus censored. I don't like people to do that. We are big boys and girls and must make up our own minds from stuff written as objectively as possible by an outsider. Duane Allman deserves to get the respectable attention he deserves both as a human being as one of the greater musicians of these times.
    Love your blog: politics, philosophy, literature!! Something to learn, think, and enjoy.

  30. Not only do I have the largest entry for which I am sorry (not...) but as is my habit with comments I forgot something: I want to thank you for voicing the "liberal" thing. You did an incredible good thing and highly original too! A voice of reason finally. Stay safe and tell Duane in your dream we love him, thanx for his music and vision and the Allman Brothers Band.

  31. Erland from Paris (France)July 27, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    Thanks so much, Butch, for sharing these precious moments you had with "Skydog" !
    I have enjoyed for years listening to THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND but I have never seen them on stage.
    I miss DUANE as many do. He is the one who opened the road to SOUTHERN ROCK and gave all THE BROTHERS The Strength to keep on !

    I was lucky to see 2 generations of BROTHERS a few weeks ago in PARIS :

    On June 29th 2011,GREGG ALLMAN & HIS BAND :

    On July 7th 2011,your nephew,DEREK, and his wife SUSAN with their Band :

    And on July 8th 2011,WARREN HAYNES sharing his show with JOHNNY WINTER.

    I had DUANE in my mind during these Concerts especially when DEREK was sliding !!!

    I hope to see All The Brothers together in Paris someday !

    Keep On Truckin'...

  32. Any comparison between Duane and Derek is vain and useless. It denies and/or overlooks the special talents of both Duane Allman and Derek Trucks. Both are different individuals with different souls and thus personalities which one can hear in their guitar playing. Adulation often comes with pedestals and empty generalisations but also the persons are rendered as robots who just came off the production line: everyone the same.
    In contrast, music is something like Duane once said very gracefully himself: he called it for many reasons a grace on top of which he had no words how it came out of himself. Music is not definable nor are humans. Derek Trucks does not sound like Duane and he could not. Duane is Duane. Just listen.
    And as I can appreciate the love you have for him, Butch, he was a mortal with character flaws like everyone of us. I have no intention to opine on someone I never met nor speak out in the open about a man who is no longer on this earth and cannot defend himself. So I wish not to speak ill of him. And surely, the few books are incorrect at times and/or incomplete when it comes to talking about him. But still having listened to and read all of the interviews at (a must visit musical vault about this great and so talented musician who absolutely must be remembered for his talents) I do get an impression of him including my never failing intuition. Let's not worship him: let's love him for what he rendered and loved i.e. his music and the music that influenced him. I for one have not come upon a substantial and lasting remembrance of his upcoming 40th anniversary of his passing on. Something that lasts after that moment next October, honoring him and his legacy and maybe benefiting others. I have tried to contact the webmasters at Hitting the Web and via the emailaddress I got from when I still got the Peach-o-Grams but never received any answer. The website has verbatim texts from the ABB site and only referrals to other external websites. This is to remember him by? Not much effort went into this, unfortunately. Can something more fitting for him be established? He certainly as one of the greater musicians of our time deserves that. If I sound too negative my only excuse is - since I am a very positive person - that I am truly exhausted for lack of sleep. Believe me when I write I do not wish to snub people.

  33. Very cool post. Duane was the kinda guy that you didn't even have to meet to have an impact on you. My wife and I and a bunch of high school friends saw you guys close out the Fillmore East at the Saturday late show. I was playing bass at the time but I walked out of there and as the sun was starting to rise, resolved that I had to become a guitar player…which I did. Y'all played some kinda jaw droppin’ shit that night and Duane's playing in particular was very inspirational to me and had an impact on my life. The only bump in the road was the shit storm it caused with my future father in-law when my wife and I rolled in @ 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning. The memory of you folks just standing there on stage…no show, just go…churning out wave after wave of music that resonated deeply within me is still vivid. Thanks for that.

  34. The first time I heard the ABB was 1970 somewhere in Florida. I was a hippy chick living in a commune in Gainesville. We got up in the dark of the morning, I think it was Easter, and drove to a beach where I heard this incredible band. Allman Brothers, local band I was told even though they lived in Macon. I never heard or felt anything like it. Maybe it was enhanced by the drugs but the guitars hit me in the heart. That summer I went back home to Jersey . This was the beginning of a very dark period for me but music was a lightener, a reason to be around. I began to see ABB playing all around me. So I went to hear them, I bought the discs. FM radio in NY at that time was special. I heard live concerts and interviews with DUANE ALLMAN who had become the closest thing to a spiritual leader I had. I was too shy to be a groupie but I hung around after the shows to catch a glimpse of Duane. I adored him because he did something to me with that guitar. ....One Sunday morning, there was a story on the front page of the paper..."musician dies in motorcycle crash." I've never gotten over it. I never went back to hear the 5 man group. I never bought a disc after EAP. but I kept playing what I had over and over. Life got darker and stranger for me and found myself alone in LA, then married in Phoenix, then divorced and back in LA. The only constant was Duane and the Brothers. they were my anchor when everything else was swirling out of control. May 13, 1980, I got sober. It took a long while to get my life on track and become a fully functioning member of society. In 1991, I married the love of my life. He didn't know the ABB and even said he didn't care for it. I loved him so much I stayed married to him. My life was full and music became secondary. I lost touch with new ABB but heard of their trials and tribulations. I still had Duane. Then I heard Derek Trucks. His guitar got my full attention. Suddenly I was aware that the ABB existed still. there was a whole new set of discs with great musicians and they toured. Hooked again! The love of my life was very tolerant as I immersed myself in new found love. I flew to Atlanta to see the band. went to the Big House. Saw Derek wherever he was in a 100 mile radius of me. Bought scores of instant lives to get caught up. Read the books. Scoured the internet for news. Listened to the music every day. Fell asleep to different versions of Mountain Jam on the Ipod. This year I took my brothers and sisters to the Beacon. TLOML opted not to go but he understands. The Allman Brothers band is more than music for me. I have had 2 dreams over the last 10 years where Duane puts his arms around me. He is glowing and young. He is happy. He gave me so much. i can never thank the ABB for what I have been given in the way of peace, pleasure and joy. Butch, if you read this, please know that you have been a mainstay of my life and it is an honor to be able to share with you. I don't care if this sounds foolish but the ABB kept me alive. I am so grateful.


    Go check this out, people. Apparently one of the poems Duane has read a.o.

  36. Great story Butch, Ive been waiting to hear a story like that for a while now, so glad I found you're blog. The ABB is one of the greatest bands to ever play (greatest in my book). The way all 6 of you came together is unreal, seriously breathtaking at times. I just recently saw a video on Youtube (Love Valley 7-70) where you guys played one of the best mountain jams out there, I couldn't believe what I was seeing/hearing. Thanks for writing and creating the best music Ive ever heard. I'm glad you're sharing Duane stories with us, I'm ever so grateful because when it came to guitarists, he was/is it. Nobody compares to Duane...that's how I feel at least.

  37. Thanks Butch.

    Any and all anecdotes about Duane are appreciated. I'm curious what your mom thought of Duane.

  38. Wanee !!! what a killer line up !!!

    The Allman Brothers
    Gov't Mule
    Tedeschi Trucks Band,
    Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band,
    Buddy Guy
    Bruce Hornsby
    Mickey Hart Band,
    Hot Tuna Electric
    Ray Manzarek & Roy Rogers Band
    Leftover Salmon
    North Mississippi Allstars,
    Trigger Hippy (Joan Osborne, Jackie Greene, Steve Gorman, Audley Freed, Nick Govrik),
    Soja ,
    Conspirator ,
    Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk ,
    Devon Allman's Honeytribe ,
    Zach Deputy,
    Matt Schofield ,
    Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio,
    Big Sams Funky Nation ,
    Charles Bradley,
    Jacob Jeffries Band,
    The Yeti Trio,
    Bonnie Blue

  39. I know you're up there jamming with Duane, Gregg, & Berry. I just want to say thank you, Butch. Thank you for sharing this with us and leaving us your words to read and remember you and Duane both by. I'm sure no one monitors this page anymore but I don't care.

    I love you all, Allman Brothers. Every one of you. Thank you for your contributions to music. Thank you for leaving your mark on history. You will not be forgotten.