In 2014 — when the Allman Brothers Band decided the time had come to stop touring — the band briefly discussed a show at New York’s Madison Square Garden. In the end, the group opted for a series of farewell performances at another Manhattan venue, the Beacon Theatre, where they had long done residences.
But on March 10, about six years after the band’s goodbye, that dream of a Garden event will become a reality. To pay tribute to the band’s 50th anniversary year, the surviving members of the last Allmans lineup — drummer Jaimoe Johanson, guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, bassist Oteil Burbridge and percussionist Marc Quinones — will reunite for an evening of all-Allmans music and jams.
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The band, now called the Brothers, will be filled out with drummer Duane Trucks (brother of Derek and nephew of late Allmans founding drummer Butch); and organist Reese Wynans, who played in the pre-Allmans band Second Coming with Dickey Betts and late Allmans bassist Berry Oakley. To further extend the Allmans family vibe, pianist Chuck Leavell — a crucial band member in the Seventies — will also join them for a few numbers.
Technically, the band turned 50 in the spring of 2019, meaning this anniversary show falls roughly within its first year of existence. “It’s a way of honoring 50 years of the band and honoring Duane, Gregg, Berry and Butch and the music they created,” Haynes tells Rolling Stone. “That music deserves a 50th anniversary celebration. Most rock bands never thought they’d even see their 50th anniversary. And, of course, this one didn’t. So in a way, this brings some sort of closure.”
The Allmans camp extended an invitation to Betts, but according to his manager David Spero, Betts (who has had a tempestuous relationship with his former bandmates over the last two decades) “had prior commitments that prevented him from attending.”
Ever since those final 2014 shows, the musicians have moved on to their full-time projects: Haynes with Gov’t Mule (which celebrates its own 25th anniversary this year), Derek Trucks with the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, and Burbridge as the relative newcomer (and new Deadhead fan favorite) in Dead & Co. The Garden show will mark the first time all these musicians have played together since that last Beacon gig — one of several challenges as they prepare for a performance without any Allman brother.
“I think we’re just opened to what it might be,” Haynes says. “Once we started talking about it and once everyone expressed interest in being part of it, and we added Duane, Reese and Chuck, it all started making sense.”
Haynes says they’re still deciding who will handle Allman’s vocals, and they’ve also just begun grappling with paring down the Allmans’ formidable legacy into one evening of music. “There are so many songs that seem necessary for a one-time show, and it’s going to be impossible to play all of them,” he admits. “We’re still in that process. When we would play four nights in one city we could change the set every night to fit in everything.
Haynes last saw Gregg when he and Derek Trucks visited Allman at his Georgia home a few weeks before he succumbed to liver cancer in 2017. By then, Gregg still had a keyboard setup in his house but could barely talk, much less sing. “We did a lot of just sharing stories and keeping it light and talking about good times,” Haynes says with a sigh. “To have a keyboard set up and not be able to sing — for Gregg, that was hell.
“But it was amazing how positive his spirits were,” he adds. “Gregg loved to laugh, and we were telling a lot of fun stories and reminding ourselves of a lot of funny stuff that happened throughout the years. It did us all good to turn that bittersweet moment into thinking about all the wonderful times. It was just, ‘I love you.’”
Asked if he’s come to terms with Butch Trucks’ suicide that same year, Haynes says, “I don’t think so, completely. It’s impossible to wrap my head around it. I had called Butch about joining Gov’t Mule at the Beacon and he had a gig and couldn’t make it, but he was really upbeat and said he couldn’t wait to play together some more. We were talking about something in the future and he was glad we’d reached out to him, which is all the more reason his death came as such a shock.”
At the moment, Haynes says there’s no talk of taking the Allmans salute on the road. Allmans fans will have to make do with the occasional cover during shows by Gov’t Mule, the Tedeschi-Trucks Band or the Allman Betts Band, fronted by Betts’ son Duane and Gregg’s son Devon. At a recent Gov’t Mule show, for instance, Duane Betts joined the band for “Whipping Post” and the crowd exploded.
But Haynes isn’t sure what lies ahead for continuing the legacy of the Allmans with any sort of permanent combo. “People love the fact that we’re pulling those songs out and rightly so,” he says. “The music has reached a point of timelessness and somebody will keep playing it, and it will be kept alive. But I don’t have any predictions about how that will happen.”
For now, Haynes and his bandmates are simply grappling with the thought of reawakening Allmans classics onstage without turning around to see Gregg Allman or Butch Trucks alongside them. “It’s going to be extremely emotional, and hopefully in a similar way to the last Beacon show,” Haynes says. “Hopefully we can conjure up some wonderful music to match the significance of the moment.”
Ticket presales begin on January 7, with public on sale on January 10 via Ticketmaster.
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