Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Road Goes On Forever

They're turning the Big House, the Allman Brothers' residence from the 1970's, into a museum.

Located on Vineville Avenue in Macon, it looks like a model for a Steak and Ale restaurant. I first went there in the fall of 1975, after visiting Duane Allman's and Berry Oakley's graves at Rose Hill Cemetery for inspiration. Those were the days.

I was sitting in daddy's Amoco station in Barnesville one afternoon earlier that year playing my Les Paul when a bright red Cadillac Eldorado convertible with white leather interior pulled in, occupied by a ragged-looking guy in a beat-up cowboy hat and two girls. The guy got out, said "fill 'er up", and walked into the office.

I'd played in various bands since I was twelve years old, and this fellow looked awfully familiar. I finished the gas, walked into the station to take his money, and noticed him looking at my guitar.

"Anybody ever tell you that you look a lot like Dickey Betts?" I asked him.

He smiled. "All the time, brother." Then he picked up my guitar and wailed out the beginning notes of "Ramblin' Man".

That was the day I got hooked up with the Allman Brothers "family".

"You play in a band?" he asked.

"For a long time", I replied.

"Y'all come down to the farm sometime and let's jam."

Oh yeah.

My buddy and I went down to the "farm" a lot after that. I didn't know it was known as "Idlewild South" then. I just knew we played with the guys, got to know them, and had a wild ride.

Butch Trucks was probably the most down-home person you'd ever want to meet. He was from Jacksonville but loved Tallahassee and the Seminoles and was planning to move there someday. He did, and opened a recording studio. His son Derek plays with the Allmans today.

Jaimoe "Johnny J" Johnson was aloof but personable. A tremendous drummer.

Gregg Allman was quiet but came alive when the music started. He was great, right up to the time he hooked up with Cher. Go figure. After her, what was starting to ravel finally fell apart and everybody went their separate ways.

Richard (he hated being called "Dickey") and I went down to the Big House one night (after visiting Rose Hill) and sat on the front porch of the vacant house. I could only imagine what had happened on that porch but didn't ask. He just sat there, silent. After a while, he simply said, "Time to go."

Within a few months, the Allman Brothers as I knew them would be no more. Leaving the Big House was the beginning of the end of the band.

A few blocks from where Duane, then a year later Berry, had both died years earlier after motorcycle accidents, I sat on a front porch that night with a legend. I realize now that when the Brothers left the Big House, the soul of their music went with them.


Michael Ruffin said...

Well, brother, not many people can tell that tale.

As for me, I am royally p.o.ed that you never took me with you to Idlewilde South. I mean, I didn't play in a band and I was square and all that, but still...I was your friend, man.

The best I did with you was The Cove Baptist Church. Oh well.

Michael Ruffin said...

Still p.o.ed.

Just so you know.

Michael Ruffin said...

Still. I mean it.

Michael Ruffin said...

The more I think about it the more p.o.ed I get. I could have been on the cover of "Brothers and Sisters."