REVIEW: POWERPLAY Magazine, UK
The Road goes on Forever:
Fifty Years of The Allman Brothers Band Music
Michael Buffalo Smith is the guy when it comes to southern rock. Smith has written many critically acclaimed books on the genre and back in the early 2000s he started the great Gritz Magazine (one of my favorite magazines ever). In addition to churning out one amazing book after the next, Smith created and oversees the excellent and informative southern rock online zine Kudzoo.
Smith’s latest literary offering is a comprehensive book on The Allman Brothers.Band. It exhaustively chronicles the group’s history that pre-dates The Allmans’ formation through the untimely death of the immortal Gregg Allman. And everything that lies in-between is pure manna from heaven. ‘The Road goes on Forever’ serves as a tell-all history book that starts with the significance of the unforgettable Duane Allman. His importance to southern music is unparalleled, from his time as a session musician at the legendary Muscle Shoals, to recording with Clapton, to his time in The Allmans. It’s still hard to believe that Duane was in The Allman Brothers Band for only two years and was only 24 years old when he died. Other than Hendrix, I can’t think of another rock guitarist who is more influential than Duane.
After Duane’s death, The Allmans carried on. Smith thoroughly examines the transition from ‘Eat a Peach’, Duane’s last recorded music with the band, to ‘Brothers and Sisters’ where the incredible Dickey Betts stepped into more of a leadership role. After the huge success of ‘Brothers and Sisters’, ‘Win, Lose, or Draw (1975) was a failure due to in-house struggles coming to a head. Without Duane’s strong leadership skills guiding the band, it was inevitable, perhaps, that the snags and snarls of being in a successful band would come to the fore. However, I never realized how deep and cutting the internal strife was until I read this book. From 1976-89, there were many peaks and valleys; the platinum sales of ‘Enlightened Rogues’ to a band that was barely hanging on and tenuous at best. From there, the battles and victories continued; the reformation and success of ‘Seven Turns’ right through Betts’ dismissal from the band around 2000. Interspersed throughout the book is Smith’s interviews with several members of the band, with the best being his time with Betts. It certainly contradicts Betts as being a physically and emotionally abusive and bossy individual. Smith’s questions are probing, but comfortable.
Touching on it in the Betts’ interview and more so throughout the book, there is an overlapping dichotomy; on one hand, the band being a true ‘family of brothers’ and the contrasting side that lifts up lawsuits, incessant in-fighting, rampant drug use, felonies, court dates, jail, etc. But, the victories and celebrations, to me, far outweigh the dark underbelly. Stability came when Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks came together and became a formidable team. ‘Hitten’ the Note’, in 2003, through the last string of dates at the renowned Beacon Theatre in New York City, the band ended on a high-note. Smith ties up things thoroughly by highlighting where members went from that point onward.
I thought I was a southern rock aficionado, but I learned so much, not only about The Allman Brothers, but also about how much brotherhood and camaraderie there was within many southern rock bands back in the day. In addition to ‘The Road goes on Forever’ being a vital acquisition for fans of The Allmans and southern rock, I’d also buy Smith’s ‘Capricorn Rising: Conversations in Southern Rock’ and ‘From Macon to Jacksonville: More Conversations in Southern Rock’. All of the above are essential purchases!
- Tony Pijar