What would The Allman Brothers Band have accomplished had Duane Allman not been killed in a tragic motorcycle accident, only two-and-a-half years after the band was formed? In that short period, the Band recorded what is arguably the best live album ever recorded — At Fillmore East. The Band invented southern rock, helped to reintroduce the blues to a mainstream audience, and was one of the best jam bands of the era. (And, to top things off, Duane Allman collaborated with Eric Clapton as part of Derek and the Dominos on the classic double album Layla and Other Love Songs, which includes the fabulous guitar duel Key to the Highway, one of my all-time favorite songs.)
Listening to their music now, it’s not hard to see why the Band was exceptional. Duane Allman is one of the few artists in rock history who had a uniquely identifiable sound, with a rich, boozy slide guitar full of timeless American blues influences. Gregg Allman added the organ and raspy, throaty, angst-filled vocals that were perfectly suited to the Band’s blues-oriented repertoire. (Listen to Whipping Post or Dreams if you don’t believe me.) Add to that formidable twosome Dickey Betts — one of the best rock guitarists in his own right — and an excellent rhythm section, and you had a Band that was stunningly tight. The Fillmore album is filled with great songs, like Stormy Monday, One Way Out, Trouble No More, and Statesboro Blues, and all of those songs were recorded in only two days of performances! As I said, who knows what the Band could have accomplished given where it was after only a short time together? Consider, for example, how long the Beatles had played together, in Liverpool and Hamburg and elsewhere, before they recorded Rubber Soul and Revolver and Abbey Road.
I think the Allman Brothers Band presents a very strong case to be considered the best American rock ‘n’ roll band, ever. The trustworthy Ipod is filled with many of their songs, including such classics as Ramblin’ Man, Midnight Rider, Jessica, One Way Out, Dreams, Whipping Post, Little Martha, Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More, Statesboro Blues, and Trouble No More.
Edited to add: Time to Vote for your choice for Best American Band!