When you're the son of an Allman Brothers founder, music doors can open easier ... but expectations are higher.
Devon Allman and Duane Betts know this firsthand.
The sons of Gregg Allman and Dickie Betts recently joined forces with Berry Oakley Jr., himself the son of another Allman Brothers founder, to form the Allman Betts Band. The trio is joined by three other members that play original music from each's solo career, as well as nuggets from the Allman Brothers songbook.
Allman says despite the shared history, the band's founding was organic.
“There were a lot of years I was busy with my career, and Duane was pretty busy in Dickie Betts’ band and the band Dawes, and Berry’s busy having five damn kids,” said Allman, sharing a hearty chuckle with Betts.
“We all needed to be on the same page and go through some things. It truly was a matter of timing for everyone involved. But that also corresponded with real organic chemistry,” added Allman.
“We came together after being out on tour for a month and a half,” said Betts about the time span where he opened as a special guest for Devon.
“And then we started writing. That was a fun, effortless process … and we called up a good friend of ours who is a songwriter and brought him aboard. The three of us had a lot of fun with it and the rest took care of itself,” said Betts.
In addition to his time with Dawes and his father’s band, Betts also played in a group that included Roy Orbison’s son Alex. Allman was part of Royal Southern Brotherhood that included Cyril Neville. Despite the connection to those famous musicians, Betts said those outfits were more a function of familiarity than comfort level.
“I’ve never been in a band that’s put together in a contrived way. Yeah I’ve been in a couple of bands that has that lineage like that, but they were all organic. I’ve never been in a band put together by a manager or record company,” said Betts.
Allman actually has. A month into a new manager for the band with his name on the marquee, it was suggested he join forces with Cyril Neville. He was initially “pissed" at his new manager’s suggestion, but after he cooled the thought of an Allman and Neville in the same band intrigued him.
“But the same thing applied there that applied here. I said, ‘Let’s get us together and see if it works.’ But I don’t think it matters who your dad is. At the end of the day … do we have a longer history because of it (the family connection)? Well yeah. Can we relate to each other a little more? Well yeah. But when it comes to your fingers hitting the neck of that guitar or you stepping up to the microphone to take a lead vocal, man you better be ready to throw it down,” said Allman.
Despite being road veterans and kin to music legends, Betts and Allman said they still get fan feedback that surprises and moves them.
“Seeing grown-ass men burst into tears when they hear a song from their youth is pretty moving,” said Allman. “If you’re a cancer patient and say the concert gave her more relief than her medication … these are real deal things from real deal people that we get the privilege of hearing most every night.”
Allman added that he would love to be a fly on the wall in the year 2100.
“I’d like to know there was a kid in his bedroom picking up his Strat trying to learn some Hendrix or maybe a Stones tune or Allman Brothers tune. If we were one brick in the bridge that got us from here to there, then we’ve done our part,” said Allman.
The Allman Betts Band plays the Castle Theatre in Bloomington on Wednesday night.
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