Friday, August 5, 2011

A Strange Tale of Tragedy

I have been in The Hamptons for the last week where I played two nights with Great Caesar's Ghost. Great band and had a ball playing with them.

I have been trying to write this story for several days now but, and you will probably understand, it is very difficult.

The only comment I will make about the last blog is I am not going to open business as a psychic. Damn what a fiasco.

This story begins October 30, 1970. We had played a concert at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, coincidentally the birth place of Duane and Gregg. Someone picked up a big piece of  tar (opium) and we were pulling little balls off of it and eating it, We also found a club and jammed after our show at Vandy. We finally made it back to our hotel and everyone scattered for the night. At that time Red Dog was the official driver of the "Windbag", the Winnebego camper in which we were then luxuriously traveling the country. After damn near a year in a Ford Econoline, trust me, it was luxury.  Anyway Augie hadn't participated in the evening's mind altering delicacy and since the next show was in Atlanta, only a few hours drive, he wanted to get everyone in the Windbag and drive while it was night with no traffic.

Those of us still at command central started rounding up everyone and getting them ready to move their butts and baggage into "Winnie" (she had several nicknames). We tried calling Duane's room but no answer. We knocked on his door and no answer. We knew he had gone to his room so the first tingling of anxiety started. Someone got the hotel dude with the master key to open Duane's door and there he lay fast asleep. We tried waking him up but no deal. Then we turned on the lights and the tinglings jumped  through the fuckin roof.  His lips and fingernails had a slight bluish tint to them. An ambulance was called and all hell broke loose. We all jumped into the Windbag and somehow managed to keep up with it to the nearest hospital. Everyone scrambled out when they brought Duane out of the ambulance and their triage dude gave him a once over. I don't know if he was a doctor but he looked at us and said something to the effect of "we'll do what we can but don't hold out too much hope, he's pretty far gone." Then they ran him into the hospital.

I don't really know what was going through my head. It was all a bit surreal. I had eaten some of the tar so my mind wasn't exactly clear. I will never forget, however, Berry looking up and on the verge of tears saying over and over please just give him one more year.

Someone finally came out and informed us that Duane had pulled out of it and that he would be just fine. We even made it to Emory University for the gig that night.
I will not go through the details, but Berry's "prayer" was almost answered. Less than 24 hours shy of exactly one year later a truck pulled in front of Duane on his Sportster and he was killed. I was painting the bedroom of the house I was renting on Wimbish Road in Macon when Red Dog called me and told me I better get to the hospital, Duane had been in a wreck.

When I got to the hospital everyone was either crying, getting news, talking to whoever might give us an update and people were still arriving. I remember one  intern that kept telling us if he had made it this long he would probably be ok. I also remember a doctor telling us not to pay any attention to that idiot intern, Duane was not going to be ok.. After a while nothing was happening and the tension was unbearable. Sometimes crying is just the right thing too do. For most of us we didn't know how, YET.

I think it was Bunky Odum that went with me but I know I was part of a two man crew that went to get everyone some wine. I'll never forget when we arrived at the door to the hospital dropping the wine I had onto the pavement when I was told: Duane had died.

I will not even attempt to relate the next few weeks other than to say it took me about two weeks to really learn how to cry. You simply cannot absorb something that overwhelming all at once. Fuck man, we were invincible. I was listening to Cowboy's "Please Be With Me" with Duane playing slide and the damn finally broke. To this day I can't hear that song without feeling those emotions.

Berry was devastated. I don't think Berry really knew how to exist in a world without Duane. The sparkle that was Berry was simply gone. He drank himself into a stupor almost daily. We continued to tour but Berry's heart just didn't seem be 100% into it any more. He did hit bottom and was talking about putting together a band that would include the "Ole Ladies" when two years and 13 days after asking for Duane's "one more year" he was riding his bike about two blocks from where Duane was killed and side swiped a city bus. He died from a fractured skull.

How do you deal with this? Duane was the leader. Berry was the instigator. I will say though that this time I had learned how to cry. We were no longer invincible and a year without Duane had burned that fact into my soul. God I miss them both.

It's really weird how we went on anyway and then the worst of all possible things that could happen happened. Success. On a level no one ever dreamed of and  we sure were not ready for. Without Duane and Berry and with the world treating us like gods the whole thing just imploded.

You know, when I think back on those times March 1969 - October 1971, it's hard to believe all that happened in such a short time. We did more living in those two and a half years than most people could do in 10 life times.


  1. Thanks for opening up your heart there Butch.

    janine/long island ny

  2. butch, i've been a fan since the beginning and i'm sittin here cryin like a baby. i can tell you that there has never been or will never be a band that took hold of me like you all did and to this day it hasn't let go. i remember the morning i first heard the strains of "Stormy Monday" comin through my FM radio. i literally jumped out of bed, i could not believe the rich full round thumping, soul grabbing sound that was the original lineup. that reaction has never been equaled and, i believe it never will. your music was like my religion, pure, honest and brillant. i spent hours with headphones listening to every note until it made pathways in my brain. thank you for sharing this personal account of your devastating loss and ours. and thank you for the music.

  3. Thanks Butch. I simply enjoyed reading the post.

  4. Obama has driven America into the ground with his spending Lord help us he has zero leadership

    1. What the? What an unbelievably idiotic thing to post as a comment on this blog entry. Get your head out of your ass (you might learn something)!

  5. Butch,
    Only the man upstairs knows the resons "why?".
    It's said that God only let's us go through things we can handle.
    You and the rest of the band have touched so many lives with your music and humanity.
    And Duanes's infulance guided you all never to give up and that's what matters. Dyeing is so easy for all of us. It's living that's the challange !
    God Bless!

  6. Since I could not get my post posted for some reason I have emailed it but to Please read it, Mr. Trucks. If only for my selfishness that I did not waste my words which I chose very carefully for more than half an hour.

    Stay safe.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Please be with song ever. Tell the story to the folks here about the drums floating

  9. Its funny how in life there are things that interconnect with the world around you. Mostly they mean nothing or can simply be what we call coincidence, but they can mean so much to the person it involves. I've been at it for three weeks and just this past week before this new blog I finally mastered (guitar) the beautiful sound of "Please Be With Me". And then I read this. Just sent chills.

    "...this young, beautiful man who we love so dearly, but who is not lost to us, because we have his music. And the music is IMPERISHABLE."

    Same to you B.O.

    Thanks Butch.

    Peace and Allman Brothers

  10. Nice story Butch.

  11. Dear Butch,
    This is the same story that you told us at rehearsal on 7/29. It gave me the chills then, and again now as I read it. Truly an incredible tale.
    I just want to thank you for such a fantastic and uplifting experience. I never thought in all my years that I would be behind my drum kit and looking to my left, see you behind the other drum kit. What a great time I had. You are a fine gentleman and still one of the greatest to ever sit behind the kit. I shall take the liberty to speak for the band when I say it was an honor and absolute privilege to have done those two nights with you at Guild Hall.
    Thanks again and wishing only the best to you and your family always.
    Ed DiCapua (Great Caesar’s Ghost)

  12. I can't understand how the original ABB sounded as good and creative as it did and be so stoned and high. I saw the original band many times up and down the eastcoast and the band was always playing wide open but as real musicans and not as punk rockers just making loud noise that may or may not be music. Maybe I was high and didn't know the difference. But wait, when I listen to the Atlanta Pop Festival CD or Fillmore East or the live cuts off Eat a Peach, the musicianship is sharp and strong. Statesboro Blues, Must Have Done Somebody Wrong, Trouble No More and One Way Out on Eat a Peach sound like the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson band playing. It swings like a big band from the 40's and everybody is right on the money. As if one brain is in control of the entire band. Also the band seemed to be a band of equals. Dickey as good as Duane just different and Jaimoe as good as you but different. Which is a big reason it made it so good.

    With all due respect to the current ABB, I don't hear anything now, as good as it is, that actually compares with the original band. But that spark that made the original band better than later lineups probably died with Duane. One of the hottest shows I saw after Duane died was in 1973 in Nashville, Tenn. It was the Chuck Leavell/Larmar Williams lineup. It wasn't as creative as the original as Chuck, Dickey and Larmar didn't do a lot of the things Duane,Dickey and Oakely did with you, Jaimoe and Gregg right there with them that made you think you all were mind readers, but that 73 Nashville show really was smokin' hot. Wasted Words, One Way Out, Stormy Monday, Ramblin' Man, Liz Reed, Blue Sky, You Don't Love me, Trouble No More, Whipping Post with Chuck AND Gregg doing solos back to back where Duane use to play and Dickey doing all that real cool, spacy stuff when you all broke it down and got slow and Dickey using the volume knob so effectively. And you and Jaimoe were on fire. And right on top of what Gregg, Chuck and Dickey were doing. If Dickey or Chuck did something fresh and unexpected, you or Jaimoe would play it with them on your drums and I knew there was no way that was rehearsed and you and Jaimoe were mind reading. Amazing night of music for that lineup. But sad to say Butch, I saw the same lineup in Atlanta the next year at the Atlanta Braves Baseball park and it sucked. Larmar Williams had to leave the stage and some other bass player came out after a delay. Dickey was behind his amp most of the time playing with a wet towel over his head. Gregg was just awful. His organ playing wasn't even the same song the rest of the band was playing and he couldn't remember the lyrics to the songs. What in the hell was wrong that night in 1974 in Atlanta at the baseball stadium? Do you remember? What a low point for the ABB. Bet Duane would have kicked some ass over that show.

    1. "the Tonight Show band" as a reference point for the ABB? Wow...! I'll guess you meant 'big band polished' sound - otherwise you are WAY out there!

      ABB has seen many lineups and while I never saw them with Duane (have heard many 'bootlegs', etc from the era)...Derek and Warren are pretty damn tight up front! Have been to all the Wanee Festivals, Beacon, etc, etc to the tune of about 80 shows over the years and the current lineup beats the "tonight show" orchestra....

  13. It was hard reading that. But I liked it anyway. It put me in moment as it was happening.

    I didn't discover the ABB until my older brother bought the AFE album. I remember it encouraging me to study guitar. I first saw ABB in concert just after B&S was released. But when I listen to Duane's guitar playing, I feel like I've really missed out on not seeing him in person.

    The ABB music is incredibly timeless. IMHO, I see nothing since coming close to it's beauty and pureness. I feel the need to rank my favorite 10 songs (This is likely to spur debate):

    1. Mountain Jam
    2. Dreams
    3. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed
    4. Whipping Post
    5. Blue Sky
    6. Don't Want You No More/Not My Cross ...
    7. Statesboro Blues
    8. Stormy Monday
    9. Jessica
    10. Little Martha

    1. 1. One Way Out
      2. Stormy Monday
      3. Statesboro Blues
      4. Whipping Post
      5. Revival
      6. Dreams
      7. Don't Want You No More
      8. Midnight Rider
      9. Jessica
      10. Blue Sky

    2. 1. You don't love me
      2.One way out
      3 Dreams
      4 In Memory of Elizabeth Reed
      5 Statesboro Blues
      6 Stormy Monday
      7 Mountain Jam
      8 Whipping Post
      9 Lil' Martha
      10 Blue Sky

  14. Thanks Butch. Eloquently and heart-touching as always

  15. Butch thanks to Obama, Pelosi and Reid you should lose bout 5% more of your wealth tomorow.

    1. You sound like you're down to five percent of your brain cells

  16. to anonymous said,,,,
    You sir is exactly why the term (sophomoric imbecile)was invented, here Butch talks of a gut wrenching moment losing someone he was so close and influenced by, and you have nothing better to do but spit out some idiotic right wing tea party talking points that if you were really questioned about would be clueless to really explain them.

    What a truly sad life you must have, hating fictional straw men and causes while the super rich who pull the GOP strings are eating your lunch and dooming your kids future. Freaking pathetic.

  17. Butch, Thanks for sharing.

  18. Butch when I was 8 years old my sister went over an embankment in a car and rolled down hill as they were plowed into by oncoming traffic on an icy mountain road. They didn't think she was going to make it and everyone was sufficiently subdued and shook.

    I prayed like I didn't know how that night and claimed to god I didn't even really get a chance to know her. She was 6 years older and that if god could let her live until I was 21 - an old, old man to a kid - I could at least get to know her and have a lifetime of memories.

    Well she made it and we had a great relationship, and tons of memories as she blazed to adulthood me right behind her. She really looked out for her little bro sending little sisters my way (if they met her high standards) and including me as I got older in some of her fun. Six years is quite a bridge to gap for teenagers. A great, great big sister and then when I turned 21 she died.

    This is a great and mysterious world full of wonder and amazement and I'm thankful beyond words my prayers were answered. Had I only known then that 21 was so very young and 26 even younger to pass away. I would have prayed for 90.

    We are all fortunate to be a part of this mystery that is Earth, and this world that is so tantalizingly close to heaven. If only we could all enter a state of awareness that would carry that recognition 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It would wash away the petty and maybe we could realize a utopia where we really helped and cared for one another, and kept the violence, hatred and ignorance at bay.

    To really live like a family of man completely cognizant of our fragile place on the Earth and in the universe would color our actions in a much more profound way. You Gregg and the boys and the music that has gone on through you have helped to make it a better world. And that brother is why you have so many loyal fans.

    Journey Home

  19. Everytime Obama opens his mouth the markets go south just like the day he was elected. He is horrible for business.

  20. Butch, that was a sad story. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories.

  21. Thanks for the touching story.

  22. This was a difficult story to write. I thank all of you that read it and understood why I did it. At some time in the not too distant future, when I've stopped touring, I will write at least one and probably more books about my experiences. I will write the first one about Duane as I knew him personally. He was a very intellectual man that read constantly and thought deeply about the universe and his place in it. I loved him and Berry and connected with them on a level that few are lucky enough experience. I tried to pass on a piece of them and that "brotherhood" and I will continue to do so. It is we that knew them telling their stories and the music that they left behind that gets them as close to immortality as one can get. Again, thank you to those of you that read the piece and showed the respect they deserve. To the anonymous that can do nothing but spout inanities in this section, would you please not come back here. You sir, are not welcome in my house. I don't expect reverence, but I demand respect.

    1. Greydog from Black Cat BoneFebruary 24, 2012 at 10:14 PM

      Thanks Butch - anything you can share about the times when absolute magic was being performed by you and the other Magicians is beyond appreciated .... rock on sir

  23. It is only the ones who personally knew them (Duane, Berry, Twiggs) who can tell to the best of their abilities, will, love, grasp of the circumstances, grasp of their personalities, feel of how it was within the group, feel of the times then, honesty and respect which no outside author could ever be plain able to muster, to write all of it down. Looking forward to your books.

  24. Through Duane and Berry, Gregg and Scooter, Butch and Dickey, Warren and Woody, acrimonious break ups with lawsuits and horrible financial set backs, it's amazing the Allman Brothers Band even still exists.


  25. Thank you for posting Butch, when you write your books I'll be the first guy in line to buy them.

  26. Indeed, thank you for posting this story. I can't imagine how sad you must have been at losing such a great friend.

  27. a great quote from napolean hill: "Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit."

    i think that this is personified in the the ABB post Duane and Berry. While some argue that the ABB never reached their peak again after these tragedies, i would argue that many more lives were touched and continue to be touched by ever era of the band.

    great post Butch. i'm sure it is therapeutic to get this out. while the musicianship of these guys was great, the brotherhood of it all is what is truly inspiring. rock on.

  28. Sure appreciate the insight Butch. Looking forward to your longform writing and the books down the road. We are rootin' for Gregory, Sturgis seems risky, and Dangerous Dan needs our help Florida rockers. The Bradenton Benefit is Aug.13th. click the link:

    Andy Preston

  29. Butch, its great to read your thoughts, your stories. Feels like we are having a conversation. Regards from Brazil!

  30. Thanks so much for opening up, Butch.

    You & ABB have endured much pain & success. I caught ABB a couple of times('93 (Stowe, VT) & '94 (Mansfield, MA) Horde tours) w/ Allen Woody on bass & not long after catching a '00 Govt Mule gig @ VT's Pico MT, Allen was gone. I have met Jen Robinson (Woody) & her family (my family has done business w/ Jen's dad) as we've all resided in the Lake Sunapee (NH) area & such a tragedy is difficult to swallow.

    Fortunately you guys have many amazing memories to recall from the beginnings of ABB & your nephew is a wonderful example of the talented younger generation to carry the torch. Your new blog is very cool & a pleasure to experience.

    Thank you.

    Mike / Plochmann Lane blog

  31. As was reading your story, the memory of that day came flooding back. My cousin, who first turned me on to you guys, pulled up to me on a rainy late October day in his VW van and yelled for me to get in. When I shut the door I realized he had been crying. He looked at me and said, and I'll never forget his words, "Duane was killed today." Like a shot in the gut, those words just cut me down. "How?" I asked. And he told me what he heard on the radio. "Jesus..." I muttered, barely believing what I had just heard, like it was a dream, a bad dream. We remained silent for what seem like hours just riding around town and listening to Idlewild South on his 8-track. I don't remember going home that day and the shock stayed with me for days after that. When you mentioned "Please Be With Me" being a song you can't hear without an emotional tug at your heart, I can't listen to that whole album without getting that sinking feeling. Thanks for sharing that with us Butch. It couldn't have been easy to relate.

  32. Had the grand pleasure of getting to know everyone back in the days of Melbourne Auditorium, The Big House in Melbourne, Orlando Sports Stadium, The Winnie, the road and Winters End in Bithlo Easter weekend. Heady days, amazing conversations. Beautiful memories. You were a part of my youth, and continue to be a part of my soul. Thank you for providing the soundtrack to my life. I am blessed to have been in the presence of greatness.

  33. Butch, thanks so much for sharing these insights. I had the privilege of seeing the original band perform twice; performances that have influenced me to this day. Sharing those memories only reinforced the respect and admiration and inspiration that was sparked by those performances. Please keep writing!

  34. Dear Butch,

    Thank you for this story. I think it is very brave of you to write this down, especially when you tell you learned how to cry. Boys are not supposed to cry, are they? In fact it is told that every tear not cried is one day less in one's life.
    Being born in 1958 I was a teenager when these tragic events took place, and I was knocked out. I kept thinking about Duane and Berry for years, and as time went by these thoughts became less, until the whole story came back to me a few weeks ago. I started searching the internet and ended up with your blog. I was really flabbergasted when I read it. I think it is shocking to realise that Berry predicted his own karma by asking for one more year for Duane when he was in hospital after the tar-incident. Duane was almost 24 years old at that time. Why asked Berry for one more year, not for fifty more years or seventy?
    Watch out with the things you say, as words sometimes come true. I am sure Berry did not do this on purpose, as life for him without Duane was almost impossible. Maybe if he would have had more time to live, he would have found out a way to live without Duane.
    I hope you understand what I mean, as writing in English is not usual to me; I live in Holland, which is almost at the other side of the globe.
    Being born near the sea I am very fond of this environment. When I listen to the waves, sometimes I can still hear them play. It is a pity that these guys did have so little time to make beautiful music.
    God bless you Buck. Dreams never end!
    With love, Marjo

  35. Butch,

    I too learned how to cry after the loss of a beautiful soul. And the tears stream down my face once again after reading this. One of my best poems was a dedication to the love of my life who is no longer with us. The other is about my daughter. I am a dedicated ABB fan since I was a kid. I'm 42 now. I have enjoyed reading your blogs so far and look forward to reading the rest. And would definitely read any books you ever write. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I commented one of the prior blogs I read but it is anonymouse. I dont have any of the profiles listed is why. I am Roger Robertson from Martinsville Virginia on facebook. I am also known as Silk Diamond on the internet. Feel free to add me if you find me anywhere. Sorry for your loss bro but keep the tunes acomin & the thoughts. Reading and music are what gets me thru this thing we call life!


  36. Thanks for sharing that, Butch. I've never really heard your side of it, and I know that even 40 years later it ain't easy, but thanks again. Had no idea you lived on Wimbish - I was growing up (though 7 at the time) right around the corner from you...

  37. TommyBoy27@juno.comMarch 18, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    The first time I saw the Bros was March 11, 1972 at the San Diego Community Concourse. After the show my friend and I went around to the back where the parking garage was hoping to get a glimpse of the band. We saw Berry sitting alone in the back seat of a black limosine drinking a gallon of gallo wine. He looked straight at us but we were too intimadated to walk over and talk to him. I wish we would have...I wanted to let him know how good I thought the band sounded and to give him some encouragment. That was a great show but when we saw them later that year in August 1972 it was clear something was wrong. Now I know it was Berry...that thundering commanding bass just wasn't there anymore. It's so sad...those 2 guys who did so much never lived to see the band make it big. I can't even imagine what it would be like to be the surviving four and have all kinds of people in your face telling you how good you are and can't even sleep at night.......

  38. I found this post to be the saddest and most touching piece of writing I've ever read... until the comment above. Utterly heartbreaking.

  39. I would be flattened if all websites gave articles like that.
    telescopic cranes

  40. Beautiful post. Thanks for writing it and thanks for helping to make some damn incredible music over the years.

  41. roundbadge gretsch drums walnut finish ludwig supraphonic chrome over brass snoredrum, a- zildgian cyms, camco pedal and rogers hi-hat stand. Thought you could use a 'touch stone' after that. Peace; okie jack country drummer nashville tn.

  42. Butch, Can only imagine how hard this was. I was lucky enough to see you all twice at Stonybrook and the chemistry was amazing. Having your heart broken twice ain't right. Thanks for telling it like it was and you will all be reconnected on the spiritual plane. Your music has given many people great joy.

  43. A very sad tale indeed. It´s so hard to realize how shit can really happen. And sometimes all that´s left is crying your heart off.

  44. Hey, Butch. I'm late the party as usual. I was only15 or 16 when Duane and Berry died. Thank you so much for telling us what happened. I became an Allman Brothers fan in 1974. I've always felt the loss of Duane and Berry deeply, as if I knew them personally through their music. I was orphaned in some way, too. God bless, Butch. The road does go on forever. -- Sue

  45. Hurts the whole country

  46. Thanks for the insights and personal experiences you've shared. I love the ABB Music and always have. I was a fan since the beginning and still am. I got to visit the Big House Museum in Macon. What an experience that was. Also visited the grave sites where Duane and Berry are laid to rest. Very sad to see such brilliant and gifted musicians have their lives cut so short. Wish there were a magic way to make the past different, but that does not exist. You son is a great musician and like you, is gifted. He is the living legacy of your best efforts and the extension of the Brothers and Sister who carry that living history in them. God bless and take care. Bobby G.

  47. John from ColoradoJuly 20, 2015 at 5:37 PM

    That stuff never leaves you. Lost my brother from another mother in "94 at the age of 24. The last thing we played together was City of New Orleans. Can't get through 30 seconds of that song anymore and my life was never the same. And yes, we caught several ABB shows and they were flawless and a damn good time. Thanks Butch, its no small thing to share that with us.

  48. BUTCH, again I'm inspired by the words of the Allman Bro's , I lost my singer, at the beginning of October, after 3 yrs of hard work and one disappointment after another, I think the pain will always be in my heart ,every time I pick up my guitar now the tears start. It's tough to lose a " partner", brother, or in my case a sister who has become part of you're life. But life does go on and like the old blues song says' "when things go wrong, go wrong for you ,it hurts me to "....we love ya Bro'