Hour Glass packed up and headed east, to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and Fame studios, where they taped some of their own material without outside interference. Some of these tracks, including the "B.B. King Medley," appear on Duane Allman/An Anthology. After the sessions, Hour Glass split and Duane and Gregg took the van to Jacksonville, Florida, where their friend and sometimes pickup drummer, Butch Trucks, was preparing to record an album with his band (now called the 31st of February).
The Allmans worked on the LP as sidemen, and were paid as such. At one point in the sessions, Truck's lead singer was not around to do vocals, so Gregg sang through a few of the tracks in rehearsal. An album of those outtakes has recently been released as Duane Allman and Gregg Allman, on Bold Records. A 31st of February album was never released, which is just as well with Trucks, since he now considers his work on those sessions excruciatingly embarrassing.
Meanwhile, the ghost of L.A. and past expenses began looming over the Allmans. Gregg got a call from Liberty "telling me to get my ass back to California, or they'd sue us for $48,000 that Hour Glass still owed them." For the first and only time in their musical careers, Duane and Gregg split. In L.A. Liberty recorded a solo album with Gregg Allman – and, as expected, they did it their way. "They did all the arrangements and all the songs. It was a 26-piece studio band and it was like they said, 'Stay in the corner, out of the way boy. We're cutting you an album.'"
Duane stayed in Jacksonville, hanging out at a club called the Scene and jamming with the Second Coming whose line-up included future Allman Band members: Berry Oakley on bass and lead guitarist Dicky Betts. Betts remembers that the Second Coming did "double lead guitar; the same sort of thing that Duane and I did later. A guy named Larry Rheinhardt and I would do twin guitar runs for 30 bars or so. Fast harmony playing. Which is where Duane and I got the idea for doing that kind of thing, only we did it much better, later."
Back at Muscle Shoals, Fame studios owner-operator Rich Hall was gearing up for an important Wilson Pickett session. Remembering Duane Allman's work with Hour Glass, he sent a telegram to Jacksonville. Duane jumped at the chance for a paying job. He suggested that Pickett record the Beatles tune, "Hey Jude." Wilson refused to sing any song with the refrain "Hey Jew." Eventually enlightened, he cut a track with Duane on lead guitar. It sold a million singles, and Duane was invited to stay in Muscle Shoals and play with some of the finest musicians in the country.
Rick Hall signed Duane to a contract. That paper was purchased by Atlantic VP Jerry Wexler on the strength of Duane's guitar work with Pickett. Wexler then sold the contract to Phil Walden, the young manager of Sam and Dave and Otis Redding. Walden was putting together a roster for his Atlantic custom label, Capricorn Records.
It was at Fame that Duane met Jai Johanny Johanson, a knock-around drummer who had worked behind the late Otis Redding, Percy Sledge and Joe Tex, among others. The two formed a fast friendship and Duane told Jaimo that whatever his next move was, he wanted Jaimo to be his drummer. "People ask me things like, 'Was I in the original band?'" Jaimo says. "Shit, I was with the band when it wasn't no band."
Also at Fame, Duane cut a solo album with Berry Oakley and Sandlin and Hornsby from Hour Glass. The only track Duane ever liked was "Going Down Slow," a haunting blues tune on which he makes a rare vocal appearance. "He wasn't really hot on doing the solo album," Dicky Betts says. "See, Rick Hall wanted him to do a Hendrix power-trio thing. But Duane was too warm and personal for that. He needed a lot of other guys to get that full sound he wanted."
In search of those musicians and with the Capricorn-Walden contract in hand, Duane moved back to Jacksonville with Jaimo. They slept on the floor at Butch Trucks' place and took to jamming Sunday afternoons in the park. It took four or five Sundays to hit the right note; the day of the Legendary Jacksonville Jam, as Trucks calls it. "We set up at Oakley's house. Duane was there, so was Dicky and Jaimo and Berry and myself. We played three or four hours without stopping and when we finished, Duane looked around and said, 'Man, this is it.' He got on the phone and called Gregg in California."
That was March 23rd, 1969. In an introspective mood in the late hours of the night, Gregg once wrote a letter to a friend about his lonely California days. "I had been building up nerve to put a pistol to my head," he said. Depending on his degree of sincerity and Gregg asks that he be taken seriously on that – that call from Jacksonville may have saved his life. Despite his continuing debt to Liberty, Gregg left a note "and caught the first thing smokin' toward Jacksonville."
After nearly five years of squalor and frustration, of roadhouse and studio playing, the final and ultimate Allman Brothers Band had been formed. It was to be marked by a fanatic familial closeness, by talent and determination, and tragedy.
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