One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band by Alan Paul
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
People are a little surprised that I like reading books about rock stars. I am largely into classical literature and biography, but I also am very interested in the entertainment industry. Not so much as a screaming fan, although I'm not above that, but because I like to get inside what makes a musician tick, how do they write their music, how did they arrive at national, international success.
I think people, or maybe just me, think of rock musicians as uneducated people that got discovered at a bar. That has not really turned out to be true with most of the biographies I've read, so far, maybe with the exception of the Sex Pistols, who literally were taken off the streets of East London. They didn't last long either, except Johnny Rotten, who showed himself to be both intelligent and creative.
The Allman brothers could easily be dismissed the same way: just a bunch of good ol'boys from the South. Actually these were a group of highly intelligent, highly creative young men who worked their rear ends off. They practiced countless hours every day, honing their craft. They knew their cultural history, the history of the blues.
They were also progressive for their time. They played what back then was considered "black" music and had black members in their band.
It was very interesting to me to read how they wrote their music and put the sounds together on their instruments, how they learned to play off of each other, take turns with the solos.
It is also interesting, though tragic, how drugs were such an ingrained part of the group's culture. The mastermind behind the group was Duane Allman. Success was short for him, dying from a motorcycle wreck at the age of 24. The next year the bassist also died in a motorcycle wreck.
We read about the struggle Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts had with drugs and alcohol. Dickey was eventually booted from the band. Gregg struggled with his demons until after several rehabs, a liver transplant, and finally a live in nurse later, he seemed to conquer them for a few years before he finally died in 2017 of liver cancer. But he was still giving concerts until shortly before his death.
Maybe he couldn't imagine doing anything else. Rock on till you can't.
The band forged on. They had their peaks, their declines, but still they marched on. I cannot believe how much energy these guys had, performing even into their sixties, not only with each other, but they had their own side bands they also toured with. It made me tired just to read about it.
This book is largely based on first hand interviews and reports, each member and others associated with the band, telling their life and history of the Allman Brothers from their own personal experience and perspective.
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