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The Allman Brothers Band

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The Allman Brothers Band lived out the myth of the road while it lasted — with all consequences, and with their aspirations unfulfilled in the end. They turned to their specifically Southern roots in blues and country music, blending R & B, boogie, country, rock & roll, blues, and, on occasion, jazz. Their debut in 1969, the album The Allman Brothers Band, was hailed by critics while the band were still working on, developing, their dense rhythmic and melodic patterns. The promise was almost fulfilled with the next records, Idlewild South (named after the farm the band lived on near Macon GA) and Live at the Filmore East.

The efforts were cut short. Two of the original members, Duane Allman and Barry Oakley, perished in motorcycle accidents, within a year of each other, just as the band was beginning to mature and live out the promise. A guitar legend died, or was born, when on October 29, 1971, Duane Allman crashed with his motorcycle as he tried to avoid a collision truck (that is the official version rendered in Microsoft’s Music Central 97). Oakley died, almost to the day a year later, in similar circumstances and almost on the same spot as Duane.

What it was to be all about, is recalled in “Ramblin’ Man,” the Allman Brothers Band's surprise long-time hit single of 1973 written by Richard "Dicky" Betts, the remaining lead guitarist.

My father was a gambler down in Georgia
And he wound up out in the wrong in Alabam’
I was born in the back seat of a Greyhound bus
Rollin’ down Highway 41.

Lord I was born a ramblin’ man
Tryin to make a livin’ and doin’ the best I can
When it’s time for leavin’ I hope you’ll understand
That I was born a ramblin’ man.

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With Betts, it’s clearly not lyrics, but the guitar, that is the artist’s means of expression. His fingers worked magic, best and sweetest when he reminisced about women and avoided the fetters of language altogether, as in "Jessica" and "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," the two instrumentals that are among Betts’s most remarkable performances.

The road is frequently and centrally evoked in Allman Brothers publications, on the cover of Eat a Peach (the tribute to Duane Allman)

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and in such album titles as Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, and a Dollar Gas, which contains, besides "Ramblin' Man," tunes like "Southbound" and "Come and Go Blues," the 1975 sampler, an official release named The Road Goes on Forever, or Richard Betts's solo album Highway Call.

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