Sunday, August 21, 2011

Piedmont Park



We pick up the story after the move from Jacksonville, where it all began. We played exactly one show in Jacksonville with the line up that was to become known as The Allman Brothers Band. And trust me back then no one in the band tolerated being called The Allman Brothers. When we played that show in Jacksonville Beach Duane used the name Beelzebub as our name. I'll finish the naming process by just stating that we kinda all knew that Beelzebub wasn't it, but we were at a loss as to what was IT. Phil Walden came up with The Allman Brothers due to the fact that Duane was the driving force that built it and drove it. Once Gregg joined the band and Duane absolutely would not allow it to be called The Duane Allman Band, Phil went to work selling The Brothers concept. Duane was at first very much against it. He felt that this was a band of equals and he did not want himself and his brother to become the focus of attention. However, we were still unable to come up with anything that made any sense so Duane finally relented, but the only with the caveat that there were to be no pictures of just Duane and Gregg separate from the rest of us. Of course, you have all seen the picture of Duane and Gregg on the Allman Brothers Band Album. Duane went nuclear.


Forging on: we settled into The Hippy Crash Pad on our arrival from Jacksonville either at the end of March or the first of April, 1969 and started a daily routine of spending most of the day in an old warehouse behind a barber shop on Broadway, next to the building that later became Capricorn Studios. We would spend long hours refining our skills playing together and playing all of the material that wound up on that first album. When we tired of those tunes we would simply jam, sometimes for hours on end.


When we finally reached our limit for the day we would usually head back to the pad and drop some psilocybin. I don't know where they came from but shortly after landing in the pad someone gave us  a zip lock bag with hundreds of hits in it. Most likely this is the origin of the mushroom we all have tattooed on our right calves and the logo we use. Anywho, after the 'shrooms would kick in this usually, around 3-4am, it would lead to corkball games in the big room of the pad (with our beloved beer-filled Coke machine as third base). It also led to visits to an antebellum mansion (see the pictures on the Allman Brothers Band album) and trust me when I say that in that state of consciousness spirits do exist. We and they visited each other quite often. 


After several weeks of work learning this new material we were busting to get out of that warehouse and play it for people. So..... we loaded ourselves and our equipment into our Econoline and what other rides we could glom and headed to Atlanta (later to be renamed Hotlanta, I believe we coined this term but can't prove it). We went straight to Piedmont Park and found a perfect spot to set up. It was a rather large flat space at the top of some stair with some electrical outlets within reach. We didn't ask permission, we just set up and started pouring out all of this music we had only played for ourselves up to that time.




There were a few hundred people within earshot of that spot and they all came runnin. Apparently many of them also went runnin to get friends and before long those few hundred turned into a few thousand. We played and we played and goddamn it was amazing. All of those hour of playing this stuff that we knew was going to raise the bar of the musical canon came pouring out. It was church, it was electrifying, it was inspiring, it was so fucking much fun that, if we hadn't formed that brotherhood of music before that time that day galvanized it. Here's a quote from The Great Speckled Bird about that day:


The Allman Brothers Band from Macon, Georgia, are a fantastically together group of young rock and roll musicians whose music draws as heavily from the blues as the experience of young white tribesmen can without exploiting its source--a few steps farther and you get a merely talented farce like Johnny Winter. Since our generation is tribal, totally unlike our parents and grandparents and their parents, it is only natural that we would turn to the black man, whose tribal roots go so much deeper and do not have thousands of years of bullshit "civilization" to cut them off from these roots, for forms with which to relate to the new world. The history of the black man in America is the history of tribal man in an alienated, fragmented, capitalistic, literate, industrial, "I"-oriented culture; young people are simply showing good sense when they attempt to co-opt black culture (just as the dying order desperately attempts to put its stamp on the culture of its youth)--but creating and redefining our own culture in terms of the new space-age tribalism is the crucial struggle and follows as naturally from where we are at now as Grace Slick follows Patti Page. The blues, the entire complex of music which has come out of the experience of the black man in America, belongs to forms and patterns and relationships to experience of which we now have only the tiniest fraction of an inkling (even that is a hell of a lot). The black man's blues (whether manifested in Lightnin' Hopkins or Smokey Robinson and the Miracles) flows out of him, while our "blues" is wrenched out bloody like a prematurely pulled tooth. Contrast the shouting subtleties and the rock-like soul of a Mahalia Jackson with the strained histrionics of a Janis Joplin (who, somewhere down under her package, probably does have some soul of her own). Art is not a product, it is a process: the blues--whether country or urban, acoustic or electric, raw or commercial--cannot be copied from records or concerts or books on black culture. The musical language of the black man cannot be co-opted simply because it happens to be powerful and sings of things we are just now recognizing as more valid than what we have been hung up in for centuries. Our music must develop its own power, its own forms, its own patterns of relationship with our tribal roots and our space-age technology in an unbroken line all the way down into our preliterate origins and all the way out into unknown galaxies.

The Allman Brothers know all this, and a lot more.


After that first Sunday, and amazingly we had no problems with police, or any other of Atlanta's power elite. Everyone was so happy and peaceful they felt like this was a good way to try and bridge the gap that would occasionally flare up into violence. When we finished some people were so transfixed they simply laid down and spent the night there. Others made sure that the place was cleaned up. Of course the next Sunday we went back and there was a shit load more folks than were there the week before as well as a couple of other Atlanta bands that wanted to play. This grew into a weekly event that went from that little place to a big flatbed stage set up on the end of a very large field that someone provided complete with a massive generator.  Plus many more bands. The crowd grew to the level of around 10,000 after a few weeks and I don't recall a single incident of violence in all the months that this magical thing continued. 








This is a picture of the very last Piedmont Park free concert in September 1970. By this time we had started touring and we weren't there every Sunday, but the show went on with The Hampton Grease Band and a ton of other groups keeping the vibe alive. These were magical days. They set the tone for who and what we were to be until Duane's death. We averaged in excess of  250 shows per year for the next two years and if we had a Sunday with nothing to do we would go find a park and do exactly what we did that day in May, 1969, in Piedmont Park. We did this all over the USA.

It is truly a sad fact that this can not happen again. At least it cannot happen now. Before we could play the show there with Dave Matthews two years ago a fortune was spent in permits, insurance, security, port-o-potties, you name it. I am just so very very glad that at one time, for a magical moment,  it did happen and I was a part of it. For all of you that were also a part of it you know exactly what I mean. This would be a far better place to live if events like this were still a part of who we are. Maybe one day it will. We can hope.

     




PEACE.



39 comments:

  1. Thanks for continuing to share the back story of the ABB from a first person perspective. For us long time fans, this is a treat. I wish I was around in that era where you could simply go set up and play. The innocence and freedom of it. Also, I personally love learning how bands develop/learn/grow/fail/etc. You mention that you played exactly one show in Jacksonville with the line up that was to become known as The Allman Brothers Band. Do you know if this the Jacksonville Amory or Jacksonville Beach Auditorium show that has shown up on bootlegs called "The Second Coming"? I was always confused when I saw those recordings in trading circles as to whether they were of the early ABB, or were of the Second Coming. Regardless, I appreciate your blog and your sharing of your thoughts with us fans.

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  2. Butch: Thanx for taking us back to these times and sharing your perspective.

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  3. Butch, by sharing your insights with us, the memory of Peidmont Park will live on forever. I am thankful for at least being part of the living memory that you share. Rock On Brother!

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  4. Awesome!!!
    something similar went on in my town Lynn in the early seventies (with the exception that it was an organized thing)I think it was called summer in the city. like twice or three times a week all local bands playing all over at the various parks around the city. I was 13 maybe 14,I loved going to them free concerts me and my friends. lots of great music and bands like hot to trot The Dawgs, Revolver, can't even remember half their names, I I think (not sure) a couple of the musicians in one of them (Hot to Trot maybe I forget) went on to become or form "Boston" so I understand anyway, but I am not sure... Revolver stayed together for thirty years but never made it (they did a lot of the ABB's stuff. you guys are with out a doubt legends.
    Awesome post Butch!!! Thanks for the walk down memory lane...
    One of my biggest regrets is never learning to play (riddled with fear doubt and insecurity thing)

    Wired...

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    1. Yeah!!!! Hot to Trot!!! Wish I had a recording of Dick Hudson's singing!

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  5. keep 'em comin butch! i'm riveted!

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  6. Beautiful story, beautiful sentiments, Butch. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. I always wondered what that mushroom logo was all about... ;)

    Brian

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  8. Very nice story Butch.I think when the Allman Brothers band does call it an end they should play their last 2 shows at piedmont park,it would draw a HUGE crowd.

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  9. I will never again leave out the word band when referring to The Allman Brothers Band!

    Janine/Long Island

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  10. Dear Butch,

    First of all, thank you really so much to share your memories with us. Love to read your wonderful posts about ABB Duane era.

    I'm Japanese ABB fan and a member of allmanbrothersband.com. I think your blog is really awesome not only to me but also to many other Japanese ABB fans, but some of them are hard to read this blog because all the posts are written in English. May I translate some of your posts into Japanese and repost them to my blog?

    Best regards,
    Masahiko

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  11. SERIOUS QUESTION(s) -

    Do you ever wish? Do you (and/or ABB) really want to do it??? I believe this CAN still happen and we will make it happen. Now its not Atl and its not Piedmont Park. Its not even in a city limit. But, I do have lots of land in S. Georgia (1 hr south of Macon) with hills that I've always pictured as a natural amphitheater. No promotions, no reservations, no money guaranteed, no business aspects, no "permits, insurance, security". Just let the word of mouth make the crowd. Could be 100 people. Could be 20000 people. My land, all responsibility falls on me. We'll prove that life is still peaceful and beautiful. Good things can still happen. Just show up, plug up, and jam.

    I understand and hear everyone smirking or laughing at my suggestion. Probably saying, "HA, yeah right", but that is exactly why things like this don't happen anymore. I'm dead serious Butch. I (we) could make this happen.

    Peace and Allman Brothers

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  12. Thanks Butch for sharing some of your personal memories with us The Fans.. Love reading about it.

    What a lovely post by MrElDuderino85 ... The heart and meaning of what he would like to do is very 1969 "ish" and I wish it could happen, but realistically the responsibilities are enormous with any size crowd... Butch will tell you the draw backs in todays world.. If it could happen, count me in, I'd make the trip... It's all different for the older fans nowadays, thou... I would love to be the free spirit we all once were in 69' it's not that easy.. when you have no responsibilities and are carefree that lifestyle and moment in time , is well magical.. I guess thats why we have DREAMS..

    Keep the blogs coming Butch... all of them, I may not agree totally , but how boring and humdrum would life be if we did.. Governmental issues are so deeply complex and not straight, perhaps the Government should all be fired.. all 563( is it 563 ?, I forget ) of them and lets start all over... hmmmm

    Thats about unfortunately as unrealistic as plugging in on the land in South Georgia :(

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  13. Dude, wonderful concept and thank you for the offer. Off the top of my head I would say it is very unlikely, but not completely out of the question. I will pass this on to powers that be (our guys) and maybe they'll be in touch. As far as the government goes. It has been my contention since Nixon that anyone who actually wants to run for office should be automatically disqualified cause they are certifiably NUTS. We should have each state send the same number of representatives that they now have in congress to a national convention where they will select the single most qualified person in the country to serve as our leader. We will haul him/her screaming and kicking into the White House and they will serve a six year term and then they get to go back to their lives and we do it again. No fucking politics. No big money to buy anyone. Simply someone qualified to do the job and doing it without any thoughts of running for reelection. Think that will fly? After Citizens United got as much chance as a one legged person in a butt kickin competition. Too Utopian and would take away power. that is something that only happens when situations like what is happening in Lybia occur. How bout those guys? A few weeks ago they couldn't shoot in the right direction. Now they own Tripoli.

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  14. Butch, I love hearing these stories.

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  15. MrElDuderino85 said...

    "But, I do have lots of land in S. Georgia (1 hr south of Macon) with hills that I've always pictured as a natural amphitheater. No promotions, no reservations, no money guaranteed, no business aspects, no "permits, insurance, security".

    In this day and age, that's about as nuts as running for public office!!....It'd be a liability disaster waiting to happen....

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  16. Whaaa Hoooo!!!

    There is a god!!!
    Butch we found something we actually agree on...
    "cause they are certifiably NUTS."
    Urmmm I think anyway...(that is the same as "Not Being Right In The Head Right??...LMFAO {Too Funny})

    one more thing...Please don't make me go into hiding....LOL..."We will haul him/her screaming and kicking into the White House"

    Love the concept of the gathering but unless it was an underground private party don't think the authorities would ever allow it...but if it does should I bring an umbrella? I understand it didn't go over well for the Woodstock'ers who forgot their rain gear...

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  17. A lot of people still play for free I hope - personally I play parks, parties, open spaces, boardwalks, fund raisers and coffee shops - for free - most people think I'm a loony. :)

    Franken & Davis got their comedic start playing for free at comedy clubs. Al's a senator now.

    Playing free I suppose after the fame becomes an impossibility or highly impractical. Its up to us - the not "almost" famous - to blaze new trails. When its a labor of love anything can happen and even if it doesn't mushroom (so to speak) in the moment is where it's at.

    I learn something new every time I play and if I turn on one person, spread the news about a new song or remind someone of an old song, help one child smile, ease the burden of the moment for a passerby or parent, bring a smile to anyone's face, or lighten a heart - then I'm repaid a million times over in an intangible way I have come to value much more than money.

    Maybe that's the definition of a life well spent - I wouldn't assume to go that far in a self proclamation but it sure feels good to me and I enjoy the hell out of it before, during and after. The rest of it is frippery - interesting, fun exuberant and lucrative frippery, but also dangerous, potentially self deluding and destructive.

    The power is in the moment. Make your little corner of the world better any way you can. If we all did that everything would be fine. Find something you love and do it - damn convention, protocol, and expectations. Break out of the malaise and turn the freakin' television off - go to a sierra club meeting, PTA, or pick up a guitar and head for the park! Do what you love!

    Look what it did for Butch - well done amigo- keep up the good work.

    Played whipping post on a patio the other day and made some people smile - "who did that song" - they asked - and that made me smile....

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    1. I remember Al Franken goofing on the deadhead crowd in line to see the Dead play outdoors at Stanford Univ. He was panhandling for $20 bills.

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  18. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQ0IjvLe-r4 Check this one out. Nathalie Cole doin Whippin Post with us. What a night. Check out her sinin Sam Cooke's A Change is Gonna Come too. Gae me serious goose bumps. May be time for the brothers to have a sister. :-)

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  19. Up for work. Shoulda been an Allman Brother. I'd be shroomin' and legging out a triple to the coke machine right now instead of doing this real world thing.

    Thought I'd check to see the responses (if any) to my suggestion. First, I'd like to say what a great honor and thank you to Butch for responding to me. How many people can say a Brother personally talked (typed) to them? Thousands probably but I hold it as a honor anyway. Pass it on Butch. It can happen. I have bands (for free) come out to the old barn out there. Ain't no ABB-ish yet but keep thinking one day that place might in up in a book from some fortunate band. That'd be cool. But I'm not stupid. I understand it is, I'll call it less than 50% chance that it'll happen. BUT, offer is always on the table.

    Second, Anonymous. You can't come. Nuts??? You just stay at home with your legal books and keep worrying about all the things you can't do cause some man in a suit fancier than yours says you can't. Me? I'll just keep living the dream. Land of the free and all.

    Thanks again Butch. Keep em coming.

    Peace and Allman Brothers

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  20. MrElDuderino85....Trust me, I wasn't plannin' on bein' there...Not into large crowds with no security present...And the closest thing I own to a "legal book" is an old Perry Mason novel....Hope your dream comes true anyway, Good Luck....

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  21. MrElDuderino85, this sounds like a wonderful idea and I hope this can happen. There are some things that you might want to consider though. First off you will be responsible for making sure that there are adequate toilet facilities and access to water. You may be looking at 100,000 people showing up at this, so you might want to check county ordinance about crowd size at private events. You also might want to check your local noise laws as well. You will need to provide electricity so you will need to have an electrical source handy capable of providing commercial level voltages. The adjoining property owners will probably need to approve this as well. You will need to provide professional security and you might want to make sure the local roads can handle the traffic. Most jurisdictions will require a permit and that might be expensive. You may also be responsible for taxes and there is also the matter of paying the band as well, as I'm rather doubtful they will be willing to do this for free. These measures will help keep your Woodstock into becoming an Altamont. I'll be keeping an ear out and I hope to hear that this event will actually be occuring, you bet I'll be there if it does.

    Brian

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  22. Butch,
    Thanks for the flashback, but would you go back a little farther? I first came across you guys at the Kaleidoscope (Changes Unlimited) in Louisville as 31st of February and Tiffany System. It was a great club. I spent my last night as a civilian there before getting drafted and somehow ended up in a stolen boat in the middle of the Ohio River. I barely made it back to the induction center.

    Then, when I got back from Vietnam, I just happened to be in Piedmont Park for an ABB concert. More recently, we caught the show at Constitution Hall in DC. How weird was it playing across the street from the White House?

    Anyway, do you have any memories of the Kaleidoscope/Changes in Louisville? You played there often as I recall. It was a great place until the cops burnt it down

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    1. Ah, man. I miss your ass. Got to see you with the Freight Train several times. RIP, Brother.

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  23. Greedy lawyers, judges, etc. have screwed these events however, on a much smaller scale the street musicians can still perform though not on the same level. I am with you, my friend, we can only hope.

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  24. Anonymous,

    Read "Barefoot in Babylon: The Creation of the Woodstock Music Festival, 1969"

    Here's one of the reviews on Amazon.com. I read it many years ago...amazing!

    "This telling of Woodstock draws you into it and makes you feel like you are in the room planning it all with the promoters and at the event itself."

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  25. oops, i meant that last post for MrElDuderino85

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  26. Wow. I feel so lucky to have been introduced to your blog. This is fantastic stuff. Helps me remember how to dream.
    ~ Patti

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  27. Butch... thank you so much for sharing your own personal memories of the early days with ABB. It certainly adds an awesome perspective and credibility to hear it from someone who not only was there, but was right in the thick of it.

    When I was 12 years old, growing up in Stone Mountain, my mother finally relented and allowed me to attend my very first rock concert.

    It was the summer of 1979, the album was Enlightened Rogues and the venue was the old Omni coliseum in Atlanta. I had to have a chaperon, a friend of my mother who turned out to be a 27 year old former hippy who told me all about Piedmont Park and the Allmans. I might be wrong on this, but I believe J.J. Cale opened up the festivities that night in Hotlanta.

    I liked the ABB before that night, but afterward I was a lifelong fan. I bought every record and kept going back. The two following years brought y'all to the Fox and then the 80s came along and the Brothers were sidelined for the rest of the decade.

    I can say with all honesty that I have seen the Brothers on your 10th, 20th, 30th and 40th anniversary tours and all years in between. And I can also say, with just as much honesty, that I have one small bone to pick these days with the ABB.

    It used to be that the Allman Brothers Band had a special relationship with Atlanta. From 1989 up to about 1996 we could always count on a show somewhere around the 4th of July at Lakewood. It was a tradition that me and all my friends looked forward to every summer.

    But over the past 10 years or so, it seems as if we're lucky to have the Brothers play at all. Some years we get skipped altogether.

    I realize that New York has a very, very special place in Allman Brothers history, and I certainly wouldn't ever suggest that Atlanta could ever possibly match the Beacon run, but dammit it sure would be nice if we had a little ABB tradition once again.

    If you kick every year off at the Beacon, how about ending it at the Fox or the Tabernacle for a few nights?? Hell I don't really care where, but it would sure be nice to be able to count on some shows and not wonder whether or not you're even going to play here at all.

    Don't ever forget us here in Atlanta, Butch... we were Allman Brothers fans before the rest of the world caught on.

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  28. actually the allmans were not the first group to play the sunday love-ins a piedmont park. i remember seeing hampton grease band, little phil and the night shadows and other groups there every sunday from spring 1968 on. the day the allmans first played there did totally solidify the vibe. they brought the music to a whole 'nother level of collective improvisation. i was there! (little known fact: a black guy playing soprano sax sat in with them that day- at that time i had not yet heard john coltrane but when i was finally introduced to hos music via my favorite things i KNEW where i had heard that sound before!).
    peace.

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    1. I, too, was at almost all of those Piedmont Park Sundays. It was a very special time. Weekdays that summer, a lot of band members hung out at our 'underground' newspaper, The Great Speckled Bird.

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  29. Mr. Dude: there are also living examples you can study and learn from - the music fest Bonnaroo and the biker fest Hog Rock are both held on private land. There are probably others. If you don't already have a lawyer friend, get one. You'll need to know how state and local laws may affect you and whether it's even possible. Good luck - I hope to come jam someday... ---JT

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  30. Can't tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. I've been an admirer of ABB since my Brother introduced me to your music when he spent a year in Georgia after his stint in Vietnam.

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  31. It's fascinating to read your recollection, Butch, of the ABB's first free gig in Piedmont Park. I was one of the lucky who were ambushed with no warning that day, and have been grateful ever since. My own recollection of that day is not-quite buried in an article I published earlier this year at:
    http://likethedew.com/2012/03/04/we-can-all-join-in-how-rock-festivals-helped-change-america/

    It was a magical time.

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  32. Thanks for sharing your story. I was fortunate enough to be at the first Piedmont gig and wrote about it for The Strip project. We'd like to link to this page
    http://www.thestripproject.com//Hippies_Stories/Entries/2007/9/25_May_11_Be-In_in_PiedmontMeet_The_Allman_Brothers_Atlanta!.html

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  33. I remember that frist day in the park it was a beautiful day I couldn't have dreamed a more perfect day the power of that band of brothers that music the peace and love in the air would make people weep today love you guys peace brother and the keep rocking p.s.remember the music at Lake spivey.

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  34. I remember that frist day in the park it was a beautiful day I couldn't have dreamed a more perfect day the power of that band of brothers that music the peace and love in the air would make people weep today love you guys peace brother and the keep rocking p.s.remember the music at Lake spivey.

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  35. I loved you guys butch I was there that day one of the best memories of my life that Era then the music at Lake spivey in Jonesboro ga the Byron music festival they don't make it like that anymore I still play those old LPS eat a peach I still have them all I love them even tho I have them on cd a name I bet you've not heard for a while grinderswitch love you man keep rockin.

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