One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Bandby Alan Paul
A New York Times Best seller!
One Way Out is the powerful biography of The Allman Brothers Band, an oral history written with the band's participation and filled with original, never-before-published interviews as well as personal letters and correspondence. This is the most in-depth look at a legendary American rock band that has meant so much/i>/p>/i>
A New York Times Best seller!
One Way Out is the powerful biography of The Allman Brothers Band, an oral history written with the band's participation and filled with original, never-before-published interviews as well as personal letters and correspondence. This is the most in-depth look at a legendary American rock band that has meant so much to so many for so long.
For twenty-five years, Alan Paul has covered and written about The Allman Brothers Band, conducting hundreds of interviews, riding the buses with them, attending rehearsals and countless shows. He has interviewed every living band member for this book as well as managers, roadies, and contemporaries, including: Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Jaimoe, Butch Trucks, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Oteil Burbridge, the late Allen Woody, Jimmy Herring, Eric Clapton, Bob Weir, and many others.
Tracking the band's career from their 1969 formation to today, One Way Out is filled with musical and cultural insights, riveting tales of sometimes violent personality conflicts and betrayals, drug and alcohol use, murder allegations and exoneration, tragic early deaths, road stories, and much more, including the most in-depth look at the acrimonious 2000 parting with founding guitarist Dickey Betts and behind-the-scenes information on the recording of At Fillmore East, Layla, Eat A Peach, Brothers and Sisters, and other classic albums.
Music writer Paul catches up with the legendary band in this entertaining, compulsively readable oral history of the Allman Brothers. Through interviews with every member of the band except Duane Allman and original bassist Berry Oakley, their friends and music associates, as well as in sidebars about various aspects of the band’s history and a “highly opinionated” discography, Paul traces the ups and downs of the band and its music from Duane’s and Gregg’s early bands in Jacksonville, Fla., the earliest days of the Allman Brothers as they developed their signature sound with the original members of the band, Duane’s side projects with Derek and the Dominoes and Muscle Shoals, through the deaths of Duane and Berry in the early ’70s to the various incarnations of the Allman Brothers over the past 20 years. In many ways, Duane’s ghost haunts the book. As Gregg recalls of his brother: “He was always up to something… he either had his head in a book, his arm around a woman, or his arm around a guitar and it was singing to him.” According to original drummer Jaimoe Johnson: “After Duane died, a lot changed. Everyone wanted to be Duane, but no one knew how to do shit except play music.” On the mystique and power of the Allman Brothers’ music, Dickey Betts reflects: “We seemed to have the longevity of an elephant.” (Feb.)
"I have viewed everything with the eyes and ears of a journalist but the heart and soul of a fan," writes Guitar World senior writer Paul (Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing, 2011), who spent decades and hundreds of interviews earning the trust of musicians who didn't always trust each other. "The Allman Brothers Band, I believe, has no equal." One need not share the author's belief in the band's supremacy to find its story engrossing. The majority of the book takes the form of oral history, which on other projects might sometimes seem slapdash and lazy but here proves crucial, for there are so many different perspectives--on everything from the band's name to leadership and songwriting credits--that having dozens of different voices serves readers well. Nobody disagrees on the overwhelming talent, inspiration and legacy of guitarist Duane Allman, who formed the band, saw it coalesce into something special, and died recklessly and young before the music reached its popular peak. Explains one fellow musician, "Duane died just on the downstroke of the diving board, as the band was about to launch." The loss of Duane and founding bassist Berry Oakley a year later would have brought an end to a less determined band, but the ABB somehow flourished despite a leadership void and decades of tensions exacerbated by drugs and alcohol. Perhaps the most complex relationship was between Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts, as the former was never considered an equal partner with his brother, and the latter resented the implications of the band's name as he attempted to fill the guitar void and rule more by dictatorship than the universal respect Duane commanded. In the wake of Betts' departure and Gregg's sobriety, the responsibility has largely shifted to a new generation of guitarists, as the band improbably boasts its strongest dynamic since its original leader's death. The author doesn't pull punches, but all involved should find it fair as well as comprehensive.
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One Way Out
The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band
By Alan Paul
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Alan Paul
All rights reserved.
Phil Walden intended Duane's new band to be the centerpiece artists on his new Atlantic-distributed label, Capricorn Records. He also signed Allman to a management contract. Duane now had a record label and a manager wrapped up in one charismatic figure.
The first member of his new band was the drummer born in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, as Johnie Lee Johnson, then calling himself Jai Johanny Johanson and soon to be known by a single name: Jaimoe.
JAIMOE: I had been playing with rhythm and blues artists like Clarence Carter, Percy Sledge, and Arthur Conley and I was done with that whole scene. The people who became stars treated their musicians just like they were treated—like dogs. I decided that if I'm going to starve to death, at least I'm going to do it playing what I love: jazz music. I was moving to New York City.
I had played on a songwriting demo of songs written by my friend Jackie Avery, and he got them to Duane to consider, having heard he had signed with Phil and was putting together a band.
JACKIE AVERY JR.,songwriter: I went to Muscle Shoals during a Wilson Pickett session and Duane was sitting in Studio B playing a dobro, with his legs crossed, one leg way up on the other kneecap, wearing big cowboy boots. I was struck by how different he was; he was a free spirit who just didn't give a damn. I played him this demo, with Johnny Jenkins singing "Voodoo in You" and two other songs.
He listened to the whole thing, then spit in a cup—I think he had some snuff—and all he asked was, "Who's the drummer?"
I went back to Georgia and Jai was playing at some roadhouse in the woods with [blues guitarist] Eddie Kirkwood and I told him that I thought he should get over to Muscle Shoals, that I thought this guy was going to be something.
JAIMOE: Avery said, "I ain't never heard nobody play guitar the way Duane does" and he had seen Guitar Slim and many other great ones, so that convinced me to go talk to Duane before going to New York and starving to death.
AVERY: Jaimoe packed up his drums and he and I scraped together $28 for a bus ticket and put those drums on a bus and off he went.
JAIMOE: I got to Muscle Shoals and rattling around my head was something my friend Honeyboy Otis had told me: "If you want to make some money, go play with those white boys. They'll pay you." I saw the guys getting ready to go to work. I knew them all from being there with Percy Sledge and I asked, "Hey, where's Skyman?"
"Oh, he's in Studio B getting ready to do a session."
I walk in and see this skinny little white boy hippie with long straight hair, and I said, "Excuse me, you must be the guy they call Skyman." He looked at me and said, "Yep, and you're Jai Johanny Johanson," and we shook hands. He went to do a session and I set up my drums in a little studio, playing along to albums on headphones. When Duane was free he rolled that [Fender] Twin in, cranked that bad boy up, and that was it, man. As soon as we played together I forgot all about moving to New York City. I moved into Duane's place on the Tennessee River and we just played constantly. Then Berry came and joined us.
Berry Oakley was the bassist in the popular Jacksonville band Second Coming, with a unique, melodic style; his wife-to-be Linda had introduced Berry and Duane in a Jacksonville club. The pair quickly became fast friends and musical admirers of each other. Allman invited Oakley to Muscle Shoals to jam with him and Jaimoe and test the chemistry of his potential rhythm section.
JAIMOE: I was excited when I started playing with Duane and more so when Berry joined us. As soon as the three of us played together, it was just, "Shit. This is all over with." It was like I had found the bass player I had been searching for since my friend Lamar [Williams] had joined the Army. We were playing some wild stuff.
JOHN HAMMOND JR.,guitarist/singer: I asked Duane how he got so good and he said, "I took speed every day for three years and played every night all night." I think this was partly true and partly apocryphal but he really couldn't get enough. He was just phenomenal.
JAIMOE: Honestly, at the time, there were only a few white people I thought could play music: guys like Stan Getz and Buddy Rich. The biggest problem white musicians had was they were trying to imitate this or that person instead of letting themselves come out. Berry and Duane were themselves and they had strong voices.
It's been said that Duane was at first going to put together a power trio like Jimi Hendrix or Cream, but I would never have been the right guy for that—I was never a power drummer, and that's not what Duane was thinking. Duane had the idea for a different band right away. He was talking about two guitars and two drummers from the start. It was about finding the right guys. Berry was going back and forth between Muscle Shoals and Jacksonville.
SANDLIN: I didn't understand the two-drummer thing and I didn't want to do it. Jaimoe was there when we recorded those original sides for Rick, but I was playing, probably just because Duane and I had the history together and it was easier at that point to do things quickly, but Duane was talking about Jaimoe being in his band and me possibly as well.
JAIMOE: I was there when Duane cut those solo sides, and the reason Johnny played instead of me was simple: he knew how to make a record and I didn't. Johnny didn't really improvise; he learned parts and songs and he played them really well. I could not keep a straight beat and could not play a song exactly the same multiple times in a row.
One day, Duane said to me, "We're leaving. I'm sick of this. Pack up your stuff." We went to St. Louis for a few days so he could see his girlfriend. [Donna Roosmann, who was soon to be the mother of Duane's daughter, Galadrielle.] Then we made a beeline to Jacksonville. Duane drove straight through. We got there at two or three in the morning and Duane went around waking people up. People just had to hear that Duane was in town and they started coming around like termites in the spring.CHAPTER 2
Playing in the Band
Duane's vision quickly began to be realized after he and Jaimoe arrived in Jacksonville during the first week of March 1969. The next two additions to his band were guitarist Dickey Betts, who played with Oakley in Second Coming, and Butch Trucks, the drummer whose group Duane and Gregg had recorded demos with less than a year earlier. With Gregg still in Los Angeles, the Second Coming's Reese Wynans, who would eventually join Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble, played keyboards. Duane, Oakley, and Betts handled most of the vocals.
JAIMOE: Duane had been telling me about a lot of people he knew and thought would be good for the band and most of them were there, except Gregory. The whole thing was just about playing music—no agenda, no egos—and it was good.
DICKEY BETTS: It was fun and exciting, and the band just sort of happened. It was supposed to be a three-piece with Duane, Berry, and Jaimoe. Duane had no idea that he would end up with this very different thing, but he was open to seeing what happened. I was playing with Berry, and Duane and Jaimoe kept coming and sitting in with us and exciting stuff started happening really quickly and naturally. We all felt like we had discovered the very thing that we'd been looking for, even if we didn't know it beforehand. We all knew that something very, very good was happening.
REESE WYNANS,Second Coming keyboardist: I had never heard anything like Duane Allman and his slide guitar. He played it like a violin or saxophone. It was just the weirdest instrument and most unbelievable sound and his phrasing was impeccable and his ideas were over the top. When he sat in with us it lifted the whole thing up and I had an immediate, extremely positive reaction, as did everyone else.
JAIMOE: He was always on and up and pulling everyone along.
WYNANS: Sometimes when someone comes and sits in and they're hot shit, they get an attitude. Duane didn't have any of that; there was none of that diva attitude. He was one of us immediately. It became obvious in the jam sessions that something special was going on. We would play for hours and it was incredible. He was a really positive guy—outgoing, giving, and always handing out a lot of really positive thoughts and comments. Just hanging around him was exciting.
HALL: Duane always was an upper. He never had anything but praise for everybody. He was totally confident, but he also always had that little boy, down-home modesty about him. He was a good, good guy, which is why in time the musicians down here all fell in love with him, despite being leery at first.
HAMMOND: Duane was a phenomenal player, but the opposite of a headcutter. He wanted to include everyone and make him sound better. He had supreme confidence but he loved the music more than anything and was not on any kind of ego trip.
THOM DOUCETTE,harmonica player, Duane confidant, and unofficial member of the ABB: Duane had his arms wide open, and he was so fucking magnetic. This was a connected guy—connected to the higher order of the world. Just incredibly tuned in, and with absolute self-confidence but no ego. None. It was never about "me." That combination of total self-confidence and lack of ego with that kind of talent and fire is unheard of.
JAIMOE: The day after we got to Jacksonville, Duane took me over to meet Butch and said, "Butch, this is my new drummer, Jai Johanny Johanson. We're gonna jam tonight. Anyone who can be here, be there."
BUTCH TRUCKS: Duane called me when he came back to Jacksonville and was jamming with lots of different people. We played and it just worked and Jaimoe told Duane I was the guy they needed, because he wanted two drummers like James Brown had.
JAIMOE: I asked Duane why he wanted two drummers and he said, "Because Otis Redding and James Brown have two," and I never asked again.
BETTS: Jaimoe was a real good drummer, but more of a pocket guy, and once we all got in there, it was bigger and he wasn't really able to handle the power. It just wasn't his style and the drummer from Second Coming wasn't right. His name was "Nasty Lord John" [Meeks] and he played like Ginger Baker, hardly ever playing a straight beat. We needed Butch, who had that drive and strength, freight train, meat-and-potatoes thing. It set Jaimoe up perfectly.
RICHARD PRICE,Florida bassist; played with Betts and Oakley and was there for the Jacksonville jams that birthed the Allman Brothers Band: Jaimoe was always a great drummer in Duane's mind and that was clear from the minute they arrived together in Jacksonville. Butch was well known as a strong in-the-pocket player, while Jaimoe was more of an embellisher. He had great stick control and jazz chops and could do outside-the-box tempos up against the pocket.
AVERY: Duane loved Jai and Jai loved Duane. They were brothers first and more than anyone else.
PRICE: We had these big jams with a lot of drummers coming and going, but things started happening with Jaimoe and Butch as soon as they played together. Butch was doing the really strong foot/snare thing driving the beat and Jaimoe would do all these strange swells and fills in the open spaces that Butch left. They're not that similar and they could hear where to complement one another, which is what made them a great rhythm section. Right out of the box they listened really close to each other and tried to stay out of each other's way. They formed this strange symbiotic thing and melded into a terrific unit. Over a series of nights you could see something very substantial developing there.
BETTS: All of a sudden the trio had five pieces. We all were smart enough to say, "This guy's special" about one another.
AVERY: I'm agnostic, so I don't think I can call it the hand of God, but these people were meant to be together. I don't know how that all happened, but it had to happen.
DOUCETTE: You take any one of the guys out and the whole thing doesn't exist.
TRUCKS: I don't think Duane wanted me in the band. I fit musically but I was a bundle of insecurity and he didn't want that. He was such a strong person—very confident and totally sure of himself—and that's the kind of people he wanted around him.
BETTS: It says a lot that Duane's hero was Muhammad Ali. He had Ali's type of supreme confidence. If you weren't involved in what he thought was the big picture, he didn't have time for you. A lot of people really didn't like him for that. It's not that he was aggressive; it was more a super-positive, straight-ahead, I've-got-work-to-do kind of thing. If you didn't get it, see you later. He always seemed like he was charging ahead and it took a lot of energy to be with him.
DOUCETTE: I couldn't get enough of that Duane energy. If Duane put out his hand, you had a hand. There was no bullshit about him at all. None.
GREGG ALLMAN: My brother was a real pistol. He was a hell of a person ... a firecracker. He knew how to push people's buttons and bring out the best.
SANDLIN: He was a personality you only see once in a lifetime. He could inspire you and challenge you, with eye contact, smiles ... little things. It would just make you better and I think anyone who ever played with him would tell you the same thing. You knew he had your back, and that was the best feeling in the world.
TRUCKS: One day we were jamming on a shuffle going nowhere so I started pulling back and Duane whipped around, looked me in the eyes, and played this lick way up the neck like a challenge. My first reaction was to back up, but he kept doing it, which had everyone looking at me like the whole flaccid nature of this jam was my fault. The third time I got really angry and started pounding the drums like I was hitting him upside his head and the jam took off and I forgot about being self-conscious and started playing music, and he smiled at me, as if to say, "Now that's more like it."
It was like he reached inside me and flipped a switch and I've never been insecure about my drumming again. It was an absolute epiphany; it hit me like a ton of bricks. I swear if that moment had not happened I would probably have spent the past thirty years as a teacher. Duane was capable of reaching inside people and pulling out the best. He made us all realize that music will never be great if everyone doesn't give it all they have, and we all took on that attitude: Why bother to play if you're not going all in?
WYNANS: Dickey was the hottest guitar player in the area, the guy that everyone looked up to and wanted to emulate. Then Duane came and started sitting in with us and he was more mature and more fully formed, with total confidence, an incredible tone and that unearthly slide playing. But he and Dickey complemented each other—they didn't try to outgun one another—and the chemistry was obvious right away. It was just amazing that the two best lead guitarists around were teaming up. They were both willing to take chances rather than returning to parts they knew they could nail, and everything they tried worked.
PRICE: Dickey was already considered one of the hottest guitar players in the state of Florida. He was smoking in the Second Coming and always had a great ability to arrange.
WYNANS: I remember one time Duane came up to me with this sense of wonder and said, "Reese, I just learned how to play the highest note in the world. You put the slide on the harmonic and slide it up and all of a sudden it's birds chirping." And, of course, that became his famous "bird call." He was always playing and pushing and sharing his ideas and passions.
JAIMOE: Duane had talked about a lot of guitar players and when I heard some of them I said, "That dude can't tote your guitar case" and he was surprised. He loved jamming with everyone.
Excerpted from One Way Out by Alan Paul. Copyright © 2014 Alan Paul. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
ALAN PAUL is a senior writer for Guitar World magazine and has interviewed the Allman Brothers Band hundreds of times. No one has written more frequently about the band, and his work has earned the praise of Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes, Butch Trucks, and other band members. He is the author of Big in China, and his work has also appeared in The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, the Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, People, and ESPN.com among others.
ALAN PAUL is a senior writer for Guitar World magazine and has interviewed the members of the Allman Brothers Band hundreds of times. No one has written more frequently about the band, and his work has earned the praise of Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes, Butch Trucks, and other band members.
He is the author of Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing (Harper), which is currently being developed as a film by Ivan Reitman’s Montecito Pictures.
Big in China chronicles Paul’s three and a half years living in Beijing with his American family. There, he formed the blues band Woodie Alan with three Chinese musicians. While in China, Paul also wrote "The Expat Life" column for the Wall Street Journal Online, and was named Online Columnist of the Year by the National Society of Newspaper columnists.
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