Monday, May 21, 2012

MIDNIGHT RIDER RIDES ON BY

I think that a little background needs to be explained here before I get into the story so that you can appreciate what I was feeling at the time.  It involves a band that made a new sound and became a band like no other.

Duane and Gregg Allman were raised in Florida eventually moving to Tennessee and landing finally in Macon, Georgia.  Their father had been murdered when they were very young so the boys were left to fend for themselves.  They picked up on music and older brother Duane became one of the best known studio guitarists around.  He would hang around the recording studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama playing for anyone he could.  You can find his sounds on albums by Wilson Pickett, Eric Clapton and just about anyone else who came to Muscale Shoals to record and that was a lot of musicians that came through there.

Meanwhile, Gregg was learning how to play the guitar himself and wasn't too bad.  He didn't compare to his brother but he could hold his own.  In the mid sixties, the brothers began trying to put a band together themselves.  They went through a lot of names with a lot of different personnel before settling into The Allman Brothers Band.  It was a big band.  Two lead guitarists, Duane being joined by Dicky Betts, Gregg had learned to play the organ, they had jazz pianist Chuck Levell , two full trap drummers, a percussionist and a few horns.

They began playing the clubs in the southeastern part of the country and developed a sound that no one had heard before.  It was a mix, a true mix of blues, country, jazz, soul, and rock.  Each song had elements of each of these sounds.  Before long the Allman Brothers Band was a staple in the south selling out halls and clubs everywhere they went.  They weren't well known in the rest of the country though and so they recorded their first two albums.  The albums sold hot in the south but was basically ignored everywhere else.

Then they came across an idea.  People were coming out in droves to hear them play live.  Could it be that they were better live than in studio?  ordinarily this would be a definite no.  You can do things in the studio that you can't do live, but it seemed that this band did not have the energy in the studio that they could bring up live on stage.  They decided to release a live album and see what happened.

"The Allman Brothers Band - Live At The Fillmore East was released in 1971.  It became a best seller almost over night and worked it's way out of the southeast and into other parts of the country.  It was a live album that would soar to the top ten within weeks.  They had found their niche.

Then tragedy happened.  A few weeks after they released the Filmore  album, Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident.  The band took a little time off then made a small tour off of the Filmore album.  They were starting to get known and arenas and clubs outside the south were starting to fill up to see this great live band.  They followed up the Fillmore album with an double album called "Eat A Peach"  They included a lot of the Filmore recordings that weren't on the Filmore album plus a few new studio recording.  While Eat a Peach did not get the success that the Filmore album did, it did make it to the top ten as well.  The Allman Brothers Band had established themselves as one of the best live acts around.  Today, forty years after the Release of "Live At the Filmore East" it is still considered one of the best live albums ever released and is the cornerstone of the Allman Brothers Library.

They went back into the studio in 1973 and recorded what I think is their studio masterpiece entitled "Brothers and Sisters"  At the same time Gregg Allman recorded a solo Album called "Laid Back" which is still regarded as his best solo effort.  He re-recorded some songs from the first two albums along with some standards.  And that brings us to the story.

I had become acquainted with the Allman Brothers when I purchased "Brothers and Sisters".  This album was full of great songs, all having that country, rock, bluesy soul sound to it.  It had become such a unique sound that it had acquired it's own genre.  .They called it Southern Rock and in the years to come many many bands would come out of the south influenced by the Allman Brothers Sound.  After hearing and loving Brothers and Sisters, I went out and got a copy of Laid Back.  I was totally in love with the music of this band.

One song in particular caught my ear on the Laid Back album.  Midnight Rider was a tune from  the second studio album that they had recorded.  Gregg re arranged it and recorded it and it was perfect.  Gregg had a rough gravelly slow blues type of voice and Midnight Rider was meant just for that kind of voice.  Dicky Betts had a twangy country type voice and his big hit that came from these two studio albums was a song called Ramblin' Man.

One day I was reading my copy of Rolling Stone when they reviewed both albums.  They got good reviews but the reviewer ended up by saying something to the effect that if you REALLY want to hear how good this band is, get the Filmore East album or better yet, go see the band live.  They would blow your socks off.  And so that is what I did.

The Allman Brothers came to Kansas City with the Marshall Tucker Band in the spring of 1974.  They were going to be playing at Royals stadium and I immediately told Barb that we were going.  One of my best friends, Larry, had grown to love the southern rock sound and he wanted to go as well.  No problem.  He would probably enjoy it more than Barb would anyway.

Barb found herself facing the fact that she was going to be going to a concert of a band that she did not know that much about and she would be alone with Larry and myself.  I guess she decided she wanted some company as well because before we knew it, she had set Larry up with a blind date to go see the Allman Brothers live at the stadium.  Larry agreed to take this blind date and so we set out on a lovely evening to see one of the best live shows ever.

The Stadium was pretty full as The Allman Brothers took the stage and opened with Statesboro Blues.  Now rock concerts in the seventies pretty much served as a full out smoking pot party.  I had been to them before and they never seemed to bother me.  It wasn't bothering me on this night either nor was it bothering Larry.

Now I'll admit that the haze of smoke that hung over the stadium that night was pretty heavy.  There wasn't any wind to blow it away so it just hung there over the crowd.  I will concede that point.  It ended up being too much for Larry's blind date to handle though.  To the shock of me and Larry, this blind date wanted to go walk around the concourse for some "fresh air".  Some fresh air at an outdoor concert????  Not only that but right in the middle of the Allman Brothers set?  I was stunned and Larry was shocked but the date insisted she needed to get out an get some air.

And so the four of us got up and walked outside the stadium.  The sound was muffled out there and you could barely tell which song was being played .... until the opening strains of Midnight Rider began.  I looked at Barb and she hadn't noticed.  I looked at Larry and he HAD noticed but what were we to do?  We had this girl who obviously did not appreciate southern rock and we were just walking around the outside of the stadium while THE song was being sang by Gregg Allman.  I could here his bluesy voice off in the distance.

We continued to walk and then well after Midnight Rider had come and gone we returned to our seats.  It wasn't the same though.  I had missed my opportunity to see Gregg Allman at his peak sing his best song.  To say I was disappointed is understating it.  To say I was a little ticked is more like it.  Well maybe a little more than a little ticked.

I survived it though.  I did get to see the greatest live band of its time perform and really just missed a few songs, one of which happened to be Midnight Rider.  As Barb and I went through life and we got our son, I began to teach him appreciation of music.  Of course one of the groups he learned to appreciate was The Allman Brothers Band.  It became a habit with me each time that Midnight Rider came on the radio or on my tape deck or wherever, I would ask Brett "Did I ever tell you about the time I missed the Midnight Rider?"  After a few years of this Barb would sigh every time the song came on because she knew what was coming next. "Hey Brett, did I ever tell you about the time I missed the Midnight Rider." and even though he would answer in the affirmative after several years of hearing the story I would tell it to him again.  I still do as a matter of fact.  He finds humor in it now and so does Barb.  Well she sees a little humor in it, not as much as Brett and myself do though.

So that was the one and only time I saw the Allman Brothers.  That was the one and only time I heard the distant strains of the Midnight Rider.  But I will never quit telling my son about the night the Midnight Rider rode on by.

Midnight Rider - Gregg Allman

Well, I've got to run to keep from hiding,
And I'm bound to keep on riding.
And I've got one more silver dollar,
But I'm not gonna let them catch me, no,
Not gonna let 'em catch the Midnight Rider.

And I don't own the clothes I'm wearing,
And the road goes on forever,
And I've got one more silver dollar,
But I'm not gonna let them catch me, no
Not gonna let 'em catch the Midnight Rider.

And I've gone by the point of caring,
Some old bed I'll soon be sharing,
And I've got one more silver dollar,

But I'm not gonna let 'em catch me, no
Not gonna let them catch the Midnight Rider.

2 comments:

  1. And did I ever tell you how much I enjoyed talking to the girl next to me (not the blind date) but the girl who I just met at the concert. I will leave out the track meet trying to catch my blind date as I was attempting to be a gentleman and walk her to the door after the concert. But as I remember the drummer from Tucker had fallen and broke a leg and we were robbed of seeing Marshal Tucker, wasn't the replacement a 1 Man Band with a cazoo?? It was a great evening with friends.

    Larry

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  2. Mea culpa, mea culpa to you both. I will never hear the end of the story...will I? What can I say, I worked with the girl, that she was nice and that she was cute. I did not think to ask her if she had an aversion to pot smoke nor did I think to ask her about any apathy in regard the Allman Brothers music.

    Sigh.

    Barb

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