On Nov. 4, 1969, a new band entered the markets with their self-titled debut LP. The record included unknown songs like “Dreams” and “Whipping Post.” As you can tell by now, that band was The Allman Brothers.
They were formed in March 1969, during large jam sessions with various musicians in Jacksonville, Florida. Duane Allman and Jai Johanny Johanson (Jaimoe) had recently moved from Muscle Shoals, where Duane participated in session work at FAME Studios for artists such as Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, and Wilson Pickett, with whom he recorded a cover of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” that went to number 23 on the national charts. Duane began to put together a new band and invited bassist Berry Oakley to jam with the new group; the pair had met in a Jacksonville, club some time earlier, and became quick friends. Oakley brought the guitarist / singer of his former band with him to jam, Richard Betts. They invited another drummer, Butch trucks, to jam with them. The group had immediate chemistry, and Duane’s vision for a “different” band — one with two lead guitarists and two drummers began evolving. Then Duane’s brother, Gregg, returned from California, where the brothers as a band named Hour Glass, had recorded two unsuccessful albums.
Most of the songs on their first album were created during their long, impromptu jam sessions and the band’s style evolved from a mix of jazz, country music, blues and rock, as a result of each individual member turning the others onto their particular interests. Trucks introduced fellow drummer Johanson to the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones; Johanson likewise introduced the group to jazz musicians such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and Betts did the same with country music and Chuck Berry. Duane Allman had previously listened to Davis and Coltraneand his two favorite songs — Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things” and Miles Davis’ “All Blues” — were the basis for the majority of the band’s modal jamming, “without a lot of chord changes.”
The new Allman Brothers Band relocated to Macon, Georgia and within a couple of months, they became an explosive live band. They recorded their debut album for Epic/Capricorn Records, THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND, at Atlantic Records studio in New York City. According to biographer Alan Paul, “virtually no outtakes exist from the sessions.” The band had performed their songs countless times in the preceding months and “[had] them down cold. The two-week booking was initially designed for laying down basic tracks, with overdubs following later but the group ended up cutting the entire record in six non-consecutive days.
Alan Paul, author of ONE WAY OUT: THE INSIDE HISTORY OF THE ALLMAN BROTHERS, stated that Gregg Allman’s lyrics were “remarkably mature lyrical conceptions for such a young man, expertly executed in a minimalist, almost haiku style.” Allman claimed his lyrical inspiration for “Whipping Post” came from his time in Los Angeles as a part of Hour Glass, “getting fucked by different land sharks in the business,” experiencing great frustration among fierce competition. “I wrote most of that whole first record in that one week. I had total peace of mind. L.A. and all its changes didn’t even cross my mind. I felt like I was starting all over, which I was.”
Upon release, THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND album received a poor commercial response, selling fewer than 35,000 copies upon initial release and only reaching No 188 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart. Executives urged Walden to relocate the band to New York or Los Angeles to “acclimate” them to the industry. “They wanted us to act ‘like a rock band’ and we just told them to fuck themselves,” remembered Trucks. For their part, the members of the band remained optimistic, electing to stay in the South.
Despite the poor sales, the album was well liked by reviewers. Rolling Stone‘s Lester Bangs called the album “consistently subtle, and honest, and moving,” describing the band as “a white group who’ve transcended their schooling to produce a volatile blues-rock sound of pure energy, inspiration and love.” A retrospective review from Bruce Eder at AllMusic stated it “might be the best debut album ever delivered by an American blues band, a bold, powerful, hard-edged, soulful essay in electric blues with a native Southern ambience.”
- Don’t Want You Know More (Spencer Davis, Edward Hardin)
- It’s Not My Cross To Bear (G. Allman)
- Black Hearted Woman (G. Allman)
- Trouble No More (Muddy Waters)
- Every Hungry Woman (G. Allman)
- Dreams (G. Allman)
- Whipping Post (G. Allman)
Gregg Allman: organ, lead vocals
Duane Allman: slide and lead guitars
Dickie Betts: lead guitar
Berry Oakley: bass guitar, backing vocals
Jai Johanny Johanson: drums, congas
Butch Trucks: drums, percussion