The Allman Brothers Band: Not Beethoven but pretty damned close

This afternoon I was thinking about instrumentals. Songs with mostly no vocals lost popularity, I don’t know, maybe in the ’80s. Maybe it was before. Maybe it was after. Maybe it was for good reason. Then I thought: “Jessica.”

The Allman Brothers Band selection released in 1973 is a classic that is mostly Dickey Betts leading the upbeat Southern rock tune on guitar along with Chuck Leavell on the piano and Gregg Allman on the Hammond organ. This was with the rest of the band, of course, which by that time featured only one Allman after Duane Allman’s death in 1971.

Gregg Allman wide awake and not in a bowl of soup while out with Cher.

Well, you know how the Internet is. You start with one topic and you are off to another. However, I stuck with the Allman Brothers even though I had originally thought about instrumentals. If you know the Allman Brothers Band then you probably know more about them than I do.

I was not a great Allman Brothers fan during their 1970s heyday. I look back today and don’t know why. They were and remain a fantastic band. I mean I liked their songs that I heard back in the day. “Ramblin’ Man” was a favorite. Another song written and with lead vocals by Richard Betts, the “All right!” voiced at the end of the tune’s guitar solo used to make my old Seabee buddy Buffalo Bob chuckle because that was the feeling he got listening. “Jessica” was great, of course, as was what is my favorite by the Allman Brothers “Melissa.” It is a great ballad in the “Southern” style that set the Allman Brothers apart from so many other rock and blues bands of the time. The song itself is such a great poem for the young man that travels with his home, all that he ever knew, not far away in his mind. As well, spending the first years away from home in the heart of the South during that time, well, it just seemed I was in the midst of what might now be a Southern version of a bunch of Navy people in a movie like “Dazed and Confused” while “Melissa” could have served as a melancholy anthem.

The other of the Brothers songs I knew I would hear in a road ride on a car stereo or on juke boxes at the Mississippi Gulf Coast taverns where we hung out, talking about life while waiting for some girl to come along and break our hearts.

Only 28 days after the then-Louisiana Superdome — now the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, go figure — opened in 1975 was I there to see the monster dome’s first rock concert. None other than the Allman Brothers Band headlined a show that also featured Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels Band and Wet Willie. Remember Wet Willie? Then “Keep on Smilin.’ “ I remember the show probably a lot better than some of my fellow attendees. It was a long but great concert. It was the kind of show an edifice like the Superdome should have had to welcome it into history.

The Allman Brothers, through the whole Gregg-Cher era and on into more recent times, remain relevant and still tour with shows I am sure I could never afford today. That’s just a dig at the times and economics and not the band.

These days, I figure that it can’t be only the old, hard-core Allman Brothers Band fans that see them touring in places like tonight at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., or Friday at the Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Performing Arts Center. I can’t even find tickets for those shows — not that I could go anyway — but seats are still available at the Chastain Park Ampitheater in Atlanta. That’s practically homecoming for the Brothers and a seat in the Orchestra or Terrace levels is only $106.20. That could feed me for about a week. I can’t remember what the Superdome concert cost back in ’75. I bet I could find the price somewhere on the Web or perhaps track down Junior, with whom I went to the concert. But, it doesn’t mean a thing. That’s just the way “times” are. Wouldn’t that be a great name for a blues song, “That’s Just The Way Times Are?” Maybe a song of that name already exists.

As I pick through various You Tube selections of Allman Brothers Band songs I find that I pretty much like them all which is rare when it comes to my music appreciation. Yet, I don’t feel as if I missed out on anything way back when. I heard many of the Allman’s songs and like them even more today. One can’t beat music that stands the test of time. Just ask fans of Beethoven or Bach. Maybe Melissa isn’t a Beethoven composition. It sure satisfied my love for music and for the love in my heart at the time as well as for the many years past. I don’t think one can ask more of a song.


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