Today’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Storytime is a rare double feature in honor of the Allman Brothers Band famous 1971 double live album, At Fillmore East. But before we get to the album let’s start with some good ol’ fashioned murder.
It’s the spring of 1970. The Allman Brothers Band had just started touring after the release of their self-titled debut album, 50,000 US and South Vietnamese troops had just invaded Cambodia, and civil unrest in IRA controlled Northern Ireland had recently become….ya know what, you weren’t even born yet so let’s just make it easy and say it was around the time that Jenny from Forrest Gump was in her hot prostitute phase ready to jump from a 10th story hotel balcony. There. That was 1970.
So the Allman Brothers Band had just finished two sets at a club in Buffalo when bassist Berry Oakley went to go settle up with the club owner. The agreed band fee was $1,000 but the owner would only give Berry $500 because they had started late. When the Allman Brothers road manager, Twiggs Lyndon, Jr, found out about this back at the hotel he did what any loyal road manager would do- he grabbed a 10-inch fishing knife, went back to the club and promptly stabbed the club owner to death.
With Lyndon looking at life behind bars, Allman Brothers defense attorney, John Condon, Jr, tried to plead temporary insanity, stating that working for the hard partying rock band literally drove Lyndon crazy with “amphetamine psychosis.” He drove the point home by putting bassist Berry Oakley on the stand where, I kid you not, this exchange happened in a court of law:
CONDON: Mr. Oakley, have you taken any dope in the last month?
CONDON: Have you had dope in the last week?
OAKLEY: Oh yeah.
CONDON: What about in the last hour?
OAKLEY: You bet.
CONDON: The defense rests, your Honor.
AND IT FUCKING WORKED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Lyndon was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent roughly 6 months in a psyche ward before being released.
That brings us to the Fillmore East, aka Bill Graham’s “Church of Rock and Roll.” Between 1968 and 1971, the Fillmore East had such great acoustics that acts such as Myles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Jefferson Airplane, King Crimson, Derek and the Dominos, Johnny Winter, and Frank Zappa all eventually released live albums recorded at the venue. However, it was the Allman Brothers Band that played there so often that they soon got the moniker of “Bill Graham’s House Band.” During their three night run in March of 1971 they famously did the photo shoot that would become their iconic album cover…except for one thing…they didn’t.
Yeah, you heard me. If the heart of rock and roll resides in New York City then the base of its long dangly boner begins in Macon, Georgia and slaps its tumescence right on the aptly named Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Therefore the greatest southern rock band of all time actually shot the cover of their greatest album in what can only be considered “The Taint of Rock.”
See, originally the band took a couple of photos under the Fillmore East marquee for the album cover but once the photos were developed no one in the band liked the results. Unfortunately, by this time they were also 900 miles away back in Macon so the reshoot had to be done in the alleyway on the side of Capricorn Studios with the photographer cleverly stenciling “THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND AT FILLMORE EAST” on some of the road cases. Only prob was that the band was particularly ornery (hungover) this day for the shoot and wasn’t really cooperating with photographer Jim Marshall. When Marshall tried to get them in check and follow his direction Duane responded, “Nobody is going to get dressed up real fine like to satisfy someone’s vicarious needs to be a rock star.”
But then all of a sudden Duane ran out of Marshall’s frame across the street and chatted with a neighborhood buddy…who also happened to deal drugs. With a fistful of dope cupped in his left hand, Duane sauntered back into frame, sat down and the rest of the band started laughing. The camera clicked and boom. History. Scroll back up and take a look at the joy on everyone’s faces. That’s just another countless example of how recreational drugs have only fixed situations and have never had any negative consequences ever. You keep doin you, drugs.
Staunchly loyal to his rock n’ roll family, Duane was also very instrumental in making sure the road crew was featured on the back cover of the album. There was only one small problem- our ol’ buddy Twiggs Lyndon, Jr hadn’t quite beat the system and at the time was still in the hoosegow. To honor him they superimposed his photo into the shot.
The album released in July ’71 and I won’t get into what happened in October of that year nor will I get into what happened in November of the subsequent year because it makes me sad so I’ll end by revisiting Duane’s quote during the cover shoot:
“Nobody is going to get dressed up real fine like to satisfy someone’s vicarious needs to be a rock star.”
Every single word of this quote works so perfectly together in Duane’s southern drawl that it only helps feed into why Duane Allman is my favorite guitarist ever. It wasn’t just his musical talent but what he transcended as a person. Being the heart and soul of the Allman Brothers Band, he personified the idea that it wasn’t about the fame, the money or even the women. It was only about these six enlightened rogues coming together as kindred spirits to make music that….
…oh goddammit, Gregg. Why didn’t you ever get into motorcycles?
This has been Rock ‘N’ Roll Storytime. – JH
PS- Remember when I was talking about all the great bands that released recordings from Fillmore East? Well check out this FILLMORE FEAST…of music…for your ears. See, it’s a feast but…aww, never mind.
And a big thanks to UltimateClassicRock.com for the classic story! http://ultimateclassicrock.com/allman-brothers-band-manager-murder/