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The Allman Brothers: Ramblin’ Man

The group breaks through with its latest single

Allman Brothers

Southern rock band the 'Allman Brothers' pose for a portrait in circa 1973.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

“Ramblin’ Man”
Allman Brothers Band
(Johnny Sandlin and the Allman Brothers Band), Richard Betts, Capricorn 0027 (Warner Brothers)

“Black Hearted Woman” fell flat; “Revival” went overlooked; “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” came close and “Blue Sky” came even closer. But at long last the Allman Brothers Band have broken through with their first major hit single in lead guitarist Richard Betts’ “Ramblin’ Man.”

Recorded a year ago, “Ramblin’ Man” and Gregg Allman’s “Wasted Words” were the only two tracks completed for Brothers And Sisters before bassist Berry Oakley’s death last fall. The two cuts, along with a studio jam called “Berry’s Tune,” originally were planned to comprise an entire side of the LP. Plans changed during the group’s lengthy stay in the studio, and the jam eventually was scratched from the album. “We have the cut stored away,” said producer Johnny Sandlin. “We still might release it someday. In the meantime, however, ‘Ramblin’ Man’ stands as the last tune Berry recorded with the Brothers.”

Richard (formerly Dicky) Betts is proud of the song. “I think my initial inspiration for it was the Hank Williams tune called ‘When the Lord Made Me, He Made a Ramblin’ Man.’ That tune’s always been my favorite of all the Hank Williams songs. His is a completely different kind of a tune, but the idea is the same between the two.

“I guess the song is more or less autobiographical. Not right down to the point, but overall it’s a pretty true song. There’s a lot of things I wish I could say in my songs that I can’t. I suppose every writer’s like that, but ‘Ramblin’ Man’ is a tune I consider pretty successful for me.

“We also really got into utilizing the studio on that song. I never could get used to recording in the studio when we first started out. We’d always try our best to play in there just like we played onstage. Slowly, but surely, we’ve begun to realize that the two are completely different entities. I got into some over-dubbing on the end of ‘Ramblin’ Man’ with another guitar player here in town Les Dudek. He’s playing with B Scaggs now. Together, the two of us put on about eight guitar parts. It was a lot of fun.”

“Ramblin’ Man” follows loosely in the same fluid, C&W tradition of Betts’ previous “Blue Sky,” his first vocal performance with the Brothers. “I was very happy with that song too,” he said. “It was originally recorded with Duane as a basic instrumental track. No vocal. I hadn’t been doing any singing, so when we tried to put the vocal on it, we found it was in too low a key. It didn’t really matter though, it came off good. It just sounded funny when I first heard myself singing on the radio.

“I’ll tell you what was even funnier was when we watched ourselves on In Concert.” The Allman Brothers Band’s segment of the show, which ran last December, unveiled “Ramblin’ Man” for the first time. “We looked so nervous. We looked scared . . . I guess that’s because we were.”

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