The Allman Brothers Band
Boston Common - Boston, MA

by John Lynskey

      In the history of rock music, certain bands and certain cities are forever linked. With the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, it was London; for the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, it was San Francisco. With the Allman Brothers Band, Macon, Georgia usually comes to mind first, but there is another metropolis that the ABB has been associated with from the group’s onset: Boston, Massachusetts. 37 years ago, a visceral connection was made between band and city that has remained strong and vibrant to this very day.
       Formed in Jacksonville, Florida in late-March 1969, the Allman Brothers Band – guitarists Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, Gregg Allman on vocals and keyboards, Berry Oakley on bass, and drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks – eventually would revolutionize the American music scene with their wicked and volatile blend of improvised rock, blues, country and jazz, and their live performances would soon become the stuff of legend. After re-locating to Macon, the band played a handful of shows in Florida and Georgia before journeying up the coast for their first-ever gig in the Northeast, which would be at a club called the Boston Tea Party, in May 1969.
       The Boston Tea Party was a squat, brick building with white trim and two flights of stairs, which made the load-in of Gregg’s Hammond B-3 organ a major challenge. The ABB opened two shows for the Velvet Underground over Memorial Day weekend, and so impressed Don Law, the owner of the Tea Party, that he asked them back three weeks later to open for Dr. John. Without enough money to travel home to Macon and back again to Boston, or rent hotel rooms, the band crashed at an abandoned tenement building in a rough neighborhood on Kempton Street, and during this stay Dickey came down with a severe case of hepatitis. Itching to play anywhere, the group loaded up their gear and headed over to Boston Common for a free jam on Saturday, June 7th. The oldest public park in the nation, Boston Common’s rambling 50 acres was an idyllic setting for the ABB’s free-flowing music, and they were warmly received. After returning to the Tea Party for their three-show stand with Dr. John, the word was out in Boston – the Allman Brothers Band was the real deal.
       The ABB began the arduous task of building their reputation one show at a time, city by city, and Boston became a favorite and frequent stop. They would appear at the Tea Party five more times in 1969, and played several more free shows in Boston Common, where they forged a mutual admiration with the J. Geils Band, a local favorite of the Boston music crowd. In 1970, they hit Boston Common on August 14th, played three shows at the Tea Party just before Thanksgiving, and had their first gig at the city’s Hynes Auditorium on December 14th.
       1971 was a watershed year for the Allman Brothers Band – they recorded their seminal live album, At Fillmore East, in March, and continued to tour relentlessly. By this point, their performances had reached a level of musicianship and intensity of which other groups could only dream. At Fillmore East was released in July to massive critical acclaim, and a month later, they rolled back into Boston to once again jam in the Common, playing two shows on August 17th. Boston Common 8/17/71 manages to capture the loose and easy first set, with the band clearly enjoying themselves – Berry’s stage banter is particularly engaging as he comments on the group’s relationship with Boston and their friendship with the J. Geils Band. As for the music, Duane’s slide guitar is blistering on "Statesboro Blues" and "Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’"; his interplay with Dickey on "You Don’t Love Me" is a complex masterpiece, and their dual melody line on "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" is flawless. Gregg’s vocal work is stellar throughout, and his growl on "Trouble No More" clearly justifies his reputation as one of the best blues singers of all time. Berry, Butch and Jaimoe lay down a rhythm foundation that is a mile wide – the thumping bass line and syncopated drum patterns turn the "Whipping Post" finale into a musical maelstrom.
       Sadly, a little over two months after the magic of this show, the Allman Brothers Band lost their founder and leader when Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle crash in Macon on October 29th. A year later, Berry Oakley died in another motorcycle accident, only three bocks from Duane’s crash site. Despite these devastating tragedies, the ABB has persevered, and continues to play their unique style of music. One constant in their history has been the city of Boston; almost four decades after a group of starving musicians huddled in a rat-infested hovel on Kempton Street, the Allman Brothers Band returns summer after summer, like a rite of passage, to appear at the venerable Tweeter Center at Great Woods, where 20,000 of their most loyal fans gather to hear the greatest live performance band of all time. Boston Common 8/17/71 allows one to journey back to those halcyon days of Duane and Berry, when the ABB was hittin’ the note like no one else.

John Lynskey
Hittin’ the Note Magazine

Allman Brothers Band
Nassau Coliseum - Uniondale, NY - 5/1/73

Disc #1
  1. Tuning - 2:01
  2. Statesboro Blues - 4:43
  3. Trouble No More - 4:53
  4. Don't Keep Me Wonderin' - 4:14
  5. You Don't Love Me - 26:08
  6. Hoochie Coochie Man - 5:36
  7. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed - 13:02
  8. Whipping Post - 18:48

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