Tuesday, August 20, 2013

40 Year Itch: Rollin' Down Highway Forty-One

“The way the title Brothers And Sisters came about was that even though we have had two great losses, we were still a family. " -Gregg Allman 

 Just a few months after recording the landmark album At Fillmore East, guitar legend Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident. He was only 24. Just a little more than a year later bassist Berry Oakley was killed in similar circumstances. It would be perfectly understandable for the band to take a break...if not break up. Oakley's death happened right in the middle of sessions for a new album, to be called Lightnin' Rod. Instead, with a new bass player (Lamar Williams) and Chuck Leavell on piano, they released the astonishing Brothers and Sisters, released in August of 1973.

In an 1974 interview with Cameron Crowe of Hit Parader, Allman explained how the band kept going: “First of all, we were all friends … if you’ve ever read about wolves, you know they travel in packs. One wolf would die, man. One wolf can’t tackle a moose. He needs the pack to survive. So there you go. Together, we knew that we had something and that no matter how far the bullshit went, we would survive if we hung together. In the early days of the Allman Brothers Band we went out and collected bottles and shit to keep going."

While "Ramblin' Man" peaked at #2 on the pop charts, Brothers and Sisters topped the album chart for five weeks and sold seven million copies. While drummer Butch Trucks's son Vance is on the cover, it's still heartbreaking to realize that Berry Oakley's daughter Brittany is posing on the back cover just months after losing her father. 

                            "Suddenly my dad wasn't here," she told People Magazine in 1996. "It was painful."

Aside from "Ramblin' Man", Brothers and Sisters gave us one of the great road songs, "Southbound", "Wasted Words" and the instrumental "Jessica", all FM mainstays.

Although the inner sleeve pictured a huge multi-racial family, heavy touring, solo albums, drugs and Cher all took their toll on the band. Allman married Cher twice, the first time for just nine days. But as the Allman Brothers faded, they opened the doors for other Southern rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Marshall Tucker Band. 

If they ramble into your neck of the woods, check them out. The Allman Brothers still put on a great show.

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