Brothers and Sisters (album)
|Brothers and Sisters|
|Studio album by The Allman Brothers Band|
Capricorn Sound Studios
|The Allman Brothers Band chronology|
|Singles from Brothers and Sisters|
Brothers and Sisters is the fourth studio album by American rock band the Allman Brothers Band. Produced by Johnny Sandlin and the band themselves, the album was released in September 1973 in the United States by Capricorn Records. Following the death of group leader Duane Allman in 1971, the Allman Brothers Band released Eat a Peach (1972), a hybrid studio/live album that became their biggest yet. Afterwards, the group purchased a farm in Juliette, Georgia to become a "group hangout." However, bassist Berry Oakley was visibly suffering from the death of Duane: he excessively drank and consumed drugs. After nearly a year of severe depression, things seemed to be looking up for Oakley before he was killed in a motorcycle accident not dissimilar from his friend's in November 1972.
The band carried on, adding new members Chuck Leavell on piano and Lamar Williams on bass. Brothers and Sisters was largely recorded over a period of three months at Capricorn Sound Studios in Macon, Georgia. Lead guitarist Dickey Betts assumed the role of band leader, and many of his compositions reflected a more country-inspired twang. The band did not replace Duane with another lead guitarist, although session musicians Les Dudek and Tommy Talton sat in to play on several songs. The album was being produced at the same time as vocalist Gregg Allman's solo debut, Laid Back, and features many of the same musicians and engineers. The front album cover features a photograph of Vaylor Trucks, the son of drummer Butch Trucks and his wife Linda. The back cover features a photograph of Brittany Oakley, the daughter of bassist Berry Oakley and his wife Linda.
The album represented the Allman's commercial peak: it was released to high sales, landing it at the top of the Top 200 Pop Albums for five weeks. "Ramblin' Man" became the band's first and only hit single, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973. The commercial success of the record propelled the Allman Brothers Band to the forefront of popular music. The album's extended touring cycle saw the band performing in arenas and stadiums, all while drug use spiraled out of control within the group, in addition to strained friendship and miscommunication.
Shortly following their leader Duane Allman's death in 1971, the Allman Brothers Band released Eat a Peach, a hybrid studio/live album that became their biggest yet; it peaked at number four on the Billboard charts. The band performed nearly 90 shows in the following year, touring as a five-piece. The band also purchased 432 acres of land in Juliette, Georgia for $160,000 and nicknamed it "the Farm"; it soon became a group hangout and fulfilled bassist Berry Oakley's communal dreams. Oakley, however, was visibly suffering from the death of his friend: he excessively drank and consumed drugs, and was losing weight quickly. According to friends and family, he appeared to have lost "all hope, his heart, his drive, his ambition, [and] his direction" following Duane’s death. "Everything Berry had envisioned for everybody—including the crew, the women and children—was shattered on the day Duane died, and he didn’t care after that," said roadie Kim Payne. Oakley repeatedly wished to "get high, be high, and stay high," causing quiet concern from all those around him.
During recording sessions for their upcoming album, vocalist Gregg Allman was also working on his solo album, Laid Back, and the sessions occasionally overlapped. Chuck Leavell was asked to play piano for Allman’s solo album, and gradually found himself contributing to the Allman Brothers as well. Allman and Betts took turns caring for Oakley, taking him outdoors to places like the zoo to keep him from drinking as much. "Time and time again, I have sat and wondered, 'God, what in the hell could I have done, what could have anybody have done, to help him?'" said Allman. Things appeared to be on an upswing for Oakley after Leavell entered the equation; he went out of his way to make their new member comfortable. On November 11, 1972, slightly inebriated and overjoyed at the prospect of leading a jam session later that night, Oakley crashed his motorcycle into the side of a bus, just three blocks from where Duane had been killed in a bike accident. He declined hospital treatment and went home, but gradually grew delirious. He was taken to the hospital shortly thereafter and died of cerebral swelling caused by a fractured skull. Oakley was buried directly beside Duane at Rose Hill Cemetery in Rose Hill, Georgia.
The band unanimously decided to carry on and arrange auditions for new bassists, with a renewed fervor and determination. Several bassists auditioned, but the band picked Lamar Williams, an old friend of drummer Jai Johanny Johanson's from Gulfport, Mississippi, two years removed from an Army stint in Vietnam. The band immediately recognized that Williams brought both the best of Oakley's style and his own style to the table, in addition to his easygoing demeanor. The addition of Leavell and Williams to the band brought about renewed passion and uplifted spirits within the group.
Recording and production
The band began recording Brothers and Sisters in the autumn of 1972 at Capricorn Studios in Macon, Georgia. The band had previously started rehearsals for the album in the summer. Allman brought a song he had worked on for a year, titled "Queen of Hearts", but he was drunk and none of the members of the band would listen to him. This was the catalyst that led to Allman beginning work on Laid Back, his debut solo album. After Williams help record the album’s third track, "Come and Go Blues", the rest of the recording process was smooth.
Dickey Betts became the group's de facto leader during the recording process. "It's not like Dickey came in and said, 'I'm taking over. I'm the boss. Do this and that.' It wasn't overt; it was still supposedly a democracy but Dickey started doing more and more of the songwriting," said road manager Willie Perkins. The band first cut "Wasted Words" and "Ramblin' Man," the latter showcasing a more country-infused sound. The entire group were initially reluctant to record "Ramblin' Man" — "We knew it was a good song but it didn’t sound like us," said drummer Butch Trucks — but the band gradually headed in a more country direction, as that was Betts' background. Betts was very serious about his songwriting, sitting down at 3pm sharp each day to write.
The band were adamant about not replacing Duane's position in the band. Les Dudek, the guitarist who eventually record "Jessica" and "Ramblin' Man," had entered the sessions when he was asked to jam with Betts through mutual friends. The band enjoyed how Dudek played and Phil Walden, the band's manager, seemed set on Dudek being in the band. Word of mouth, propagated by Dudek himself, was that he "got the gig" and had become the Allman Brothers' new co-lead guitarist. "We went looking for this dude to kick his ass. Nobody was going to replace Duane and the very thought of it was infuriating to us," said Trucks. After recording completed, Dudek went on the road with Boz Scaggs and the Steve Miller Band. He wanted out of his contract with Phil Walden at Capricorn, and part of his release granted him no part of the publishing deal for Brothers and Sisters, including a songwriting credit for "Jessica", as he had no written contract.
"Ramblin' Man" pre-dates the album considerably, and was first created during songwriting sessions for Eat a Peach. An embryonic version, referring to a "ramblin' country man," can be heard on the bootleg The Gatlinburg Tapes, featuring the band jamming on an off-day in April 1971 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
"Jessica" was co-written by Betts and Dudek, although only Betts receives credit. Betts first created the song as an experiment, to test whether or not he could write a song that could be played with just two fingers, in honor Gypsy jazz guitar virtuoso Django Reinhardt, who played with two left fingers due to severe burns. When his baby daughter Jessica entered the room and began bouncing around to the melody, Betts attempted to capture her mood with the song. Dudek created the song's bridge when Betts became frustrated with the piece. Dudek was disappointed when he was told he would only be recording the acoustic guitar opening, as Betts felt Dudek performing the harmonies to both "Ramblin' Man" and "Jessica" would lead critics to assume he was a member of the band. Leavell also contributed heavily to "Jessica", mostly on the arrangement.
"Jelly Jelly" was the final song recorded for Brothers and Sisters, credited to Gregg Allman. The song actually contained lyrics from Bobby Bland's song of the same name, albeit with a very different melody and arrangement. Brothers and Sisters concludes with another country-inspired track, "Pony Boy," which showcases Betts' acoustic slide playing. The song was heavily inspired by Robert Johnson in its building rhythm, and Blind Willie McTell influenced its humor. The song was based on a true story involving his uncle, who would take his horse out to avoid DUI charges, as the horse knew the direction home. Williams plays upright bass on the track to keep it an all-acoustic affair, and Trucks played percussion by banging a piece of plywood on the floor.
The cover art features Trucks' son Vaylor, while the back cover featured Oakley's daughter Brittany. The gatefold spread reveals a photo of the band and their extended families, taken at "the Farm."
Brothers and Sisters was an enormous success, peaking at number one, resulting in the band becoming "the most popular band in the country." "Ramblin' Man" received interest from radio stations immediately, and it rose to number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
After completing Brothers and Sisters, the Allman Brothers Band returned to touring, playing larger venues, receiving more profit and dealing with less friendship, miscommunication and spiraling drug problems. This culminated in a backstage brawl when the band played with the Grateful Dead at Washington's RFK Stadium in June 1973. The roadies of the Dead dosed the food and drinks of as many people as possible with LSD, holding no compunction about the practice as they felt "evangelical" about the substance. The stage was very crowded with the Dead's entourage, and roadie Kim Payne instructed driver Tuffy Phillips to let no one onstage. When Capricorn promotional chief Dick Wooley attempted to get onstage, Phillips punched Wooley in the nose. Wooley competed in martial arts and began punching back. When all three roadies engaged in the fight, the Dead's security (the Hell's Angels) assumed Wooley a "bad guy" and they joined. Soon, the Grateful Dead's roadies realized the situation at hand and they pulled Wooley from the pile.
Walden demanded that whoever was responsible be terminated; as a result, Kim Payne, Mike Callahan, and Tuffy Phillips all were fired. "That was a culmination of everything falling apart. […] They were a symptom of the problem—not the problem itself," said Perkins. Payne had saved Allman's life the night before from an overdose. The band again joined the Grateful Dead and the Band in July at Watkins Glen Speedway in New York's Finger Lakes region, for what was then deemed the largest rock concert ever. 150,000 tickets were sold, but the crowd expanded to nearly 600,000, causing it to be declared a disaster area. People abandoned their cars and walked up to ten miles to attend the concert. The jam between the three bands was later called "garbage" by Trucks, as all involved were under the influence of various substances, including alcohol, cocaine, and acid. To promote the release of the album, Don Kirshner's Rock Concert program staged an episode set in Macon, taping performances from the ABB and the Marshall Tucker Band. Betts was dosed beforehand and walked offstage midway through the performance, with Walden chasing him down the street and urging him to return. "Walking off the stage was a first for me. It was like, 'Dude, what are you doing? We're all brothers here. If there’s a problem, let’s talk about it,'" said Leavell. 
The band played arenas and stadiums almost solely as their drug use escalated. In 1974, the band were regularly making $100,000 per show, and were renting the Starship, a customized Boeing 720B used by Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.
All songs written by Dickey Betts, except where noted.
- "Wasted Words" (Gregg Allman) - 4:20
- "Ramblin' Man" - 4:48
- "Come and Go Blues" (Allman) - 4:54
- "Jelly Jelly" (Billy Eckstine, Earl Hines) - 5:46
- "Southbound" - 5:11
- "Jessica" - 7:31
- "Pony Boy" - 5:51
All credits adapted from liner notes.
|US Top 200 Pop Albums||1|
A Passion Play by Jethro Tull
|Billboard 200 number one album
September 8, 1973 - October 12, 1973
Goats Head Soup by The Rolling Stones
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- Brothers and Sisters (liner notes). The Allman Brothers Band. US: Capricorn. 1973. CP 0111.
- Paul, Alan (2014). One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1250040497.
- Freeman, Scott (1996). Midnight Riders: The Story of the Allman Brothers Band. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0316294522.
- Poe, Randy (2008). Skydog: The Duane Allman Story. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0879309398.
- Allman, Gregg; Light, Alan (2012). My Cross to Bear. William Morrow. ISBN 978-0062112033.