The Allman Brothers' Still-Unfolding Saga Ain't Got But One Way Out

Categories: Get Lit

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Ultimate Classic Rock/Polydor Records
The Allman Brothers Band outside the Fillmore East in 1971. From left to right: Dickey Betts, Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Jaimoe Johanson, Berry Oakley, and Butch Trucks
One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band
By Alan Paul
St. Martin's Press, 464 pp., $29.99

Make no mistake. While only two of the six original members of the Allman Brothers Band were actual biological siblings, the fraternal ties of Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks, and Jaimoe Johanson, went deep. Real deep.

Through their music, their joys, their tragedies, and enough infighting, drugs, boozing, breakups and reunions, and enough creative differences to do in most lesser bands, the Allmans have somehow kept going. Incredibly, for a group that lost its admitted leader and soul -- Duane -- in a motorcycle accident three albums into their career and then Oakley, almost a year later in nearly the same spot and also on a bike.

Alan Paul is a music journalist and longtime friend of the band, and conducted more than 60 interviews with current and former band members, musical friends, roadies, ex-wives and girlfriends, promoters, and other writers. He had the Allmans' authorization, but lets everyone get his or her say (and sometimes contradict each other) in this oral history.

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And while they are revered today as one of classic rock's greatest bands and forefathers of the jam-band genre, it's interesting to note that it wasn't until their third record, 1971's epochal double LP Live at Fillmore East, that the band found any sort of popular success.

Their extensive use of blues and jazz mixed in with rock wasn't the Grateful Dead and it wasn't Lynyrd Skynyrd, but their improvisation and willingness to spread out the music as the muse led them attracted plenty of new fans.

One Way Out, of course, covers the group's '60/'70s prime, the tragedies and the headline-grabbing events. For example, there was the roadie who murdered a promoter over a $500 fee, and Gregg's testifying against another one in a drug trial that almost split the band for good. Fortunately, his marriage to Cher receives little play.

On a side note, when I interviewed Allman years ago, manager Bert Holman warned me that any questions about Cher would result in Gregg hanging up the phone immediately. I assured him that, if I could ask Gregg Allman 100 questions, not one would be about Cher...

But it's the later, less-documented years that really get some much-needed light here. This includes the yin-and-yang relationship between Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts -- the guitarist who took over the leadership role after Duane's death, but whose own issues with booze, anger and songwriting credits often made things tense.

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