The Allman Brothers Band: The Road Goes on Forever
The Allman Brothers band returned to the studio with Dowd and produced 1990’s Seven Turns, a surprisingly strong comeback. They followed it up with Shades of Two Worlds the following year, then showed their mettle on two live releases and 1994’s Where It All Begins.
BETTS Seven Turns was a tough album, because we knew that the critics would use it to determine whether we should be back playing together or should have remained broken up. We were under pressure to show that we belonged back together. We never doubted it, but the album simply had to prove that.
ALLMAN To me, there wasn’t a lot of pressure on Seven Turns. It was more of an adventure: let’s see what a few years away from each other did for us. And it was good. We needed a break from each other and came out swinging.
BETTS There were a variety of reasons that group worked better than some of the others. For one thing, Warren and Allen knew what we were after. They had studied us for years and understood where they fit into the band. And Warren was the first guitarist who came along since Duane who could really stand on his own and play off of me, which is the basis of our whole style. He’s a great player and has his own style, so he was not pulled into constantly trying to sound like Duane, though he was plagued with that comparison from day one.
HAYNES I had listened to the Allman Brothers since I was nine years old, and I studied that music hard. But once I joined the band, some of the things that they were doing became obvious to me in a way that I could never have figured out as a listener.
At the beginning I was constantly drawing the line about how much of Duane’s influence to show. It was always left up to me how much of it to insert. They’ve always said, “Play like you. That’s what we hired you to do.” They definitely allowed me the creative freedom to interject my own personality into the music. Not a lot of bands would do that. The Allman Brothers were very open minded about that from the very beginning, because that music was built on the foundation of two guitar players working equally together. If you don’t have that, the music suffers.
ALLMAN From the start, Woody and Warren were full-on Allman Brothers, much more so than some people in earlier incarnations. And that made a big difference.
The Allman Brothers Band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January 1995. Gregg Allman remembers the event primarily for what he didn’t do—speak coherently—and how it prompted him to sober up.
ALLMAN The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame night is what made me finally clean up. I could barely stand up. I meant to say something about my mother and something about Bill Graham. I meant to say a lot of stuff, and I was too gone to say any of it. All day I tried to be really cool about it, but you just cannot. Later, I watched it on TV, and I was mortified. That’s what it took for me to get serious about cleaning up. I didn’t go into a rehab. I hired a private nurse to come in to my house in Novato, California. It was a real rough year, but I sure needed it.
In 1997, Haynes and Woody left the Allman Brothers Band to pursue their power trio, Gov’t Mule, full time. The band replaced them with bassist Oteil Burbridge and guitarist Jack Pearson and soldiered on with a somewhat quieter, more groove-based sound. In ’99, Pearson departed and was replaced by Derek Trucks, Butch’s then-19-year-old nephew. One year later, Trucks had already begun to establish himself as a dynamic soloist when, after a brief and shaky spring tour, the band members told Dickey Betts that they would no longer perform with him.
BUTCH TRUCKS We did not fire Dickey. We wrote him a letter and said we would not tour with him that summer, but dates were already booked and we were going to honor them with someone else. He responded by hiring a lawyer and suing us, and then we sat there in arbitration for weeks. After all the stuff that was said, there’s no way we can work together again.
BETTS I knew that there was tension that had to snap, but I had no idea that it was all on me. I thought something would snap that I would have to take care of, like I had so many times before. I called Gregg, and he said, ‘I don’t owe you an explanation. Listen to the fucking tapes [of the spring tour],’ and hung up.
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