Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To 1974!

 March 13 and 14, 1970, was the first time the Allman Brothers played the Warehouse in New Orleans. The place was magic. It was an old cotton warehouse on the docks where they use to store cotton for shipping. It was built of wood and had the best acoustics and the best vibes of just about any venue we played back then. December 31, 1970, was the first time we played The Warehouse on New Year's Eve and this led to us doing the same thing every New Year's Eve until Dec 31, 1972. By this time Eat a Peach had gone multi-platinum and we were selling out places like Madison Square Garden and the Spectrum so playing a 2,000 seat venue, like The Warehouse was something we did because we had a ball playing there and those New Year's Eve gigs became the stuff of legend. We loved playing there for New Years and did for three years until it closed in 1973.

We were facing New Year's 1973, without The Warehouse and management and Bill Graham came up with the idea that we play The Cow Palace in San Francisco for two nights, December 31, 1973 and January 1, 1974. Both shows sold out very quickly and it was decided to put the show up on live, coast to coast radio. This was to be and it actually did turn out to be the largest radio audience since FDR's Fireside Chats. I believe it is still the largest radio audience ever.

Anyway, here we are getting ready to play for 20,000-30,000 people live and millions on the radio and someone tells me that The Dead had showed up to jam. Well I had had an adventure once before when we played with The Dead at The Fillmore East. The Dead had a "roadie' named Owsley Stanley that was the chemist that made the LSD for most of the civilized world. It was his goal to dose every living person, That night at The Fillmore Owsley poured enough pure acid into our garbage can of beer that if you drank a beer you'd get enough LSD from the ice water around the can to get totally loaded. I had more than one beer and by the time we were half way through our show that night I was unable to play.

Upon hearing that he was around that New Year's eve at The Cow Palace I grabbed my bottle of wine, open the lead and held it close and made sure that I drank nothing else. I did not want a repeat of what had happened at The Fillmore. Well...... New Year's came after our first set. Here's a link to the radio broadcast of 1974 arriving.

So far, so good. We then kicked off our second set and about an hour or so into the set, just before Les Brers in A Minor, that was to include Jaimoe and my drum duet, my drums started just drifting off into space. When I could actually hit one it was like hitting a marshmallow. I just went, oh hell, he got me again. I turned around and there stood Bill Kreutzman looking just like Jesus, complete with the halo, and I held out my sticks and asked him if he would play my drums, I couldn't catch them. He did and went on to play what was to be my big time in the sun before an audience of millions. I moved to the side of the stage and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the show which included the following jam with Jerry Garcia and Kreutzman still on my drums.

Years later I ran into Owsley and he told me that he had filled a water gun with LSD and got close enough to my wine bottle that was under one of my floor toms and shot it till he hit it enough to do the trick. Well it certainly did.

Thought it was time to lighten up the conversation.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

You Have To Read This One!

I was reading the op-ed section of the paper this morning with my morning coffee as I usually do and, as usual read both sides (The Palm Beach Post has two op-eds everyday. One from the "left" and one from the "right"). This morning's "from the right" was from Cal Thomas of Fox News fame. It was titled "Ron Paul was right" and was about Ron Paul's answer to Wolf Blitzer's hypothetical question about whether society should just let a young healthy thirty year old that opted out of health insurance and then fell into a coma just die. As most of you probably know this brought a few cheers of "yeah" from the audience. Mr. Thomas mentioned that they probably came from the previous debate where Rick Perry's pride in his lead in executions was wildly applauded. I would say that rather than try and tie that outburst to a simple answer it seems to me to be the prevailing ethic of  the day and for some time now is an "I got mine, screw you" attitude that has become more and more the norm. It is the basis for most of the  "ethical" differences that have brought governance to a screaming halt. (the obvious effect of money we'll just acknowledge as a major part of that ethic and move on.)

Where I had to stop and read what Cal Thomas wrote several times before I could even believe what I was reading was in a section where he was saying that he agreed with Ron Paul: that we should assume responsibility for ourselves and then went on to write about instances of people assuming responsibility for the needy. He said he was "intrigued by a story he read last month in London's Sunday Times. ........The headlines read "Tory Ministers to 'Adopt' Jobless Families. The ministers have pledged to set an example by volunteering to become "family champions" to the unemployed."

He went on to ask why this wouldn't work in the U.S. government? Why can't president Obama and his family, his cabinet members and agency heads each "adopt" an unemployed family and help them find meaningful employment. Then he asked the same about the Republican candidates, of course pointing out Bachman's experience in adoptions. Then he hit me with the WTF? Thus sayeth Cal Thomas of Fox News. "Warren Buffett and Bill Gates say they should pay more taxes. CAN'T THEY BE ASKED TO DO MORE TO HELP OTHERS? THEY WOULD SET A FINE EXAMPLE. " WTF? RIGHT?

How in the world could a person that writes for the public, works for the countries leading "news" organization not know about The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation? There has never been a better example in the history of the world than Bill Gates and Warren Buffett when it comes to "setting an example for helping others." You can ( and so can Cal Thomas) find out in all of thirty seconds by a fast Google search that so far they have donated over thirty billion with a B each to this foundation. They both have committed to adding greatly to that sum and eventually have pledged to give over 90% of their wealth to trying to help those that need it. They have also gotten a long list of very wealthy people to agree to join in. As Cal Thomas wrote, they also both agree that they should pay a greater share of the tax burden. Warren Buffett says he feels it is a sorry state of affairs when his secretary pays a larger percent of her income in taxes than he does.  Taxes in the USA are at an all time low. Especially for the wealthy. I'll repeat that: an all time low. When we are in a recession and so deep in debt I submit that this is not the time to have historically low taxes. Let's get the economy moving, pay down some debt and then have the debate on where taxes should be. I digress.

You have to wonder what makes it through the Fox News filters to have something this wrong come out of one of their guys. You also need to ask yourselves which side do you consider yourself to be on in the battle for America that is going on right now. Warren Buffett and Bill Gates or The Koch Brothers? It wasn't that long ago that there was no reason to even ask this question. What happened?

Again, thanks to my wife for the painting. In case you can't tell it's of me. :-)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

TOM DOWD: The Greatest Record Producer Who Ever Lived

I have written about the man that had the biggest impact on my life, Duane Allman. Today I want to talk about the man that ranks right up with Duane. Tom Dowd was as exceptional a human being as you could ever know. Tom became a part of the Allman Brothers Band very near the beginning and stayed a part of it until his death,  October 27, 2002. He was the greatest record producer that ever lived, in my book. There are many very successful musicians out there that will tell you the same, starting with Eric Clapton, Ray Charles and a list far to long to put here.

Tom grew up on the upper west side of Manhattan. He was so smart that he was going to Columbia and studying physics by the age of 16. When WWII broke out he was enlisted into a program known as The Manhattan Project. For any of you that aren't familiar with that title it is the program that developed the first nuclear reactor (Tom was there under Soldier Field in Chicago the night they removed the rods and produced the world's first nuclear reaction) and then created the bombs that ended WWII. Tom told me that the devastation of those things never really hit him until he saw the first underwater test. That's when he left the Army and thought he would head back to Columbia and finish his physics degree. Trouble was the physics that was used to develop the bomb was still classified, so Columbia was still teaching an outdated course and Tom just couldn't see himself studying a subject where he knew more than his professors. So, lucky for the world, Tom decided to go to work as a recording engineer. His first recording was done straight from a mic onto a disk. It was "If I Knew You Were Comin I'da Baked a Cake", by Eileen Barton in 1949. The list of people he went on to work with as an engineer and later as a producer is amazing:

Blow your mind and look carefully at this list

For those of you that don't have the time to read that very long discography I'll just give you some high points, The Drifters, The Coasters, Lavern Baker, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Cream, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton, Derek and the Dominos, Joe Bonamassa, just a small sampling.

Tom was a genius. He had the musician's touch but he had a way of working with musicians that was more like a psychiatrist. He could pull the very best out of any musician. Most producers have a sound that they bring with them to the studio. Tom's genius was that you could never tell that one of his works was done by him.  He was simply the guy that showed us how to play the best music that we were capable of playing. 

There was a time in 1970, Tom was at Criteria studios in Miami, with Eric Clapton and a group of players that either already were or were soon to become The Dominos.  There was all of this talent and some incredible material but Tom just didn't seem to be able to get things rolling as well as he knew they could. The Allman Brothers had recently finished our second album (our first one with Tom), Idlewild South, and it just so happened that we were playing a concert on a field in Miami Beach. Tom asked Clapton if he had heard of Duane Allman and after a few minutes of "you mean that chap that played slide guitar on Wilson Pickett's, Hey Jude......." it was obvious he had so Tom mentioned that we were in town. Well that night may be the only time I ever saw Duane nervous. We walked onto the stage and sitting right across the front of the crowd was Clapton, the rest of the Dominos and Tom Dowd. We proceeded to blow the roof off of the place and after we finished they all came back stage and we got acquainted. We decided to head over to the studio where we spent most of the rest of that night jamming on a lot of old blues stuff in various configurations. Duane and Eric spent the time between jams talking about things like Robert Johnson, Willie McTell, etc and by night's end you could see a bond forming. 

Eric asked Duane if he would like to come play on their record and, as they say, the rest is history. From that collaboration came one of, if not the best album of the '70's:  Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. This was how Tom worked. He saw what needed to be done and then set about getting you to do it, he never told you to do it. If we got bogged down on a song Tom would do something like "remember that lick you played earlier?" and more often than not the suggestion would get you unstuck and, although that lick was almost never used, it would be the impetus to get the song finally finished the right way. 
I could write a book and I may one day about this great man. You can see the kind of man he was by getting a very good film made about him that was completed shortly before his death. The film is called Tom Dowd and the Language of Music and I'm sure you can get it from or some place like it. Trust me it is a film well worth having. Many special guests in it including Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, myself and many more.
Tom had an amazing zest for life. He loved people and music and wallowed in the fact that he was able to live his life being with people he liked (for the most part) and respected and make music with them. In all my years of being his very close friend (I was fortunate enough to live a one hour drive from him so we spent many nights together at dinner or some social affair) I never saw Tom unhappy nor ever heard him utter a single derogatory remark about anyone. Tom was my friend and my mentor. I loved him deeply and I will miss him for as long as I live.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where Do We Want To Live!

I have been working this week trying to write a post about a very special person. It has turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated so I have decided to wait for some inspiration on that piece and write about an issue that has been nagging at me since I first read it. It was a part of the first post I put up from Oteil and it really disturbs me. I feel sentiments like this are the driving force behind what I am afraid may the death knell of the USA as a democracy. Oteil said: "The liberal notion that the Federal gov’t is supposed to give out money freely is wrong to me because it first depends on the theft of my money by the IRS. I am all for giving liberally individually but not federally. If I am allowed to keep more of my money I can guarantee it will get to the local homeless shelter, food bank, school, etc... when it is stolen from me by the IRS and given to the Federal gov’t it disappears into thin air." 

Let's think about this statement.  First a few hundred years ago our ancestors decided to form a society. One based on a here-to-fore untested system using a tripartite government. This government contained a system of checks and balances with the idea that this would keep any branch from gaining too much power and insuring that the people in this society could always have the final power using one man - one vote to replace any government that might abuse its power. This is a very simple definition of who we are and how we got here. That is the USA. The concept of "society" (groups of people forming unions) is as old as mankind himself. The concept that in all societies that members of these groups contribute to the common good is also as old as "society" itself. 

Let's take a group of very early humans that have formed a tribe for their mutual benefit. How can they benefit from this association?  It's simple enough, the men form hunting parties and provide the food. Women farm, take care of the young and keep the homes together. Each contributes to the common good. I doubt if one healthy young man would have simply said "you guys are just stealing my time and labor. I think I'll just hang here while you go get the food" and lasted very long. As humans evolved and societies became larger and more sophisticated then that labor became something else. Eventually it became taxes. Once societies formed into more complex entities then maybe some became the warriors, some the farmers, some the tradesmen, whatever but, along with their skills most societies for thousands of years have built projects on a societal scale and it took taxes to pay for them. 

After stating the obvious let's ask ourselves, given that we all know that the transcontinental railway system could have never been built by allowing the population to operate under the "If I am allowed to keep more of my money I can guarantee it will get to the local homeless shelter, food bank, school, etc... when it is stolen from me by the IRS and given to the Federal gov’t it disappears into thin air." way of thinking.  Really, do you think it remotely possible that the railways, the interstate system, the air traffic control system, our public school system (surely you can't believe that public education should not be provided), our Armed Forces (whether you agree with what they are doing that they are needed I am sure we can all agree upon), The Hoover Damn, etc. would have been built if we just left it up to the goodness of the average person to pay their share, or not? Do you think that we would have had any chance in hell of winning WWII without some very serious taxation that turned into most every American giving all that they could for the war effort, over and above those taxes? Do you have any illusions that this country with it's national electrical grid that was built with tax dollars and was the backbone for the industrial boom here in post WWII America could have ever happened? Really? Theft? Otiel, imagine a tour without the transportation infrastructure created by tax dollars. Think about all of the public services we use and just take for granted. There is little doubt that a lot of our tax dollars have been used for many corrupt purposes and that there is, has and always will be the need to monitor where those dollars go. I know of one story in Iraq where several truckloads of dollars, amounting to several b with a billion dollars just vanished. Shit like this goes on far too often, but to call paying taxes federal theft? Really? It all just disappeared into thin air? Really? The lack of those taxes are putting school teachers, fireman, policemen and public workers of every stripe out of work. Is this really what we want?

For the last couple of decades we have been headed (ostensibly) toward the conservative version of what the government should be (although the massive increases in our deficit happened under the three Republican Presidents, Reagan being the worst) . Taxes are at an all time low. Regulations on business are almost non-existent.  We are in the middle of a recession brought on, in a large part, by these policies. In the past when this happened the electorate usually went oops and the pendulum swung back the other way keeping us away from the radical right or radical left. What scares hell out of me right now is that we know that we are in a recession brought on for the most part by these conservative views. We see the evidence everywhere. The Bush tax cuts and unregulated corporations and Wall Street Companies were the major causes of this mess. We should be headed back the other way. It doesn't seem to me that we are. 
We now sit having blown trillions on idiotic wars and for the first time in the history of this country, while a few fought and died, the rest of us sat on our butts got very nice tax cuts and went to the mall. Now here we are facing what may be the defining election in our history. Where are we going? Where do you want to go? Do you really want to turn things over to people that are telling you that paying your taxes is nothing more than a rip-off? Really? If so, what will the society that replaces the one that requires you to pay taxes and the institutions that run it look like? It won't have any money, unless you feel like giving  it some. Really think that system has much of a chance? Good luck.