The Allman Brothers at the Fillmore East
The Allmans were still young, hungry Georgia rockers when they booked three nights at Bill Graham's Fillmore East in New York in early 1971 with the idea of recording a live album. "My brother always believed a live album was what the Brothers needed to do, and the record company finally agreed," Gregg Allman recalled. "The Fillmore was just the logical choice. I don't think we even discussed another venue." The LP they made there, At Fillmore East, became their defining statement.
Allmans were initially slotted into a bill headlined by Johnny Winter. But they
came out guns blazing the first night, and when the hall emptied out after
their set, they were promoted to headliner. With the band order duly shuffled,
the Allmans had time to stretch out on spectacular journeys – "On those
long jams, you climbed in and there was no tomorrow, no yesterday," said
drummer Butch Trucks. The gigs were hardly trouble-free. On the last night, a
bomb scare delayed the start of the second show until the wee hours ("Good
mornin', everybody!" someone announced before "Statesboro Blues").
That early-a.m. set ended up becoming the keeper: "Whipping Post"
sprawled over gorgeous melodic terrain for 23 minutes; "Mountain Jam"
ascended for more than a half-hour. Atlantic Records engineer Tom Dowd oversaw
the taping; unlike most live albums, nothing needed to be redone in the studio
besides a few vocal overdubs. The LP went gold on October 25th, four days
before guitarist Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident. "It's the
best-sounding live album ever," said the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach. "It's
just fuckin' awesome." W.H.