In today’s fickle industry where music acts are treated like commodities and afforded little time to find an audience and achieve success before being spit out by the machine, the Allman Brothers Band more than likely would have been another victim unceremoniously tossed onto the has-been musical scrapheap.
But back in ’69 when the Allman Brothers first emerged on the scene it was a different story altogether. Acts were nurtured by record companies and provided with the time to grow and build a fan base without fear of being dropped out of the gate.
Case in point: The Allman Brothers, whose first two albums, The Allman Brothers Band and Idlewild South, met with moderate success…yet the band wasn’t in trouble during that span.
1971’s At Fillmore East delivered on promise unfulfilled and put the Georgia-bred Southern rockers on the musical map. A new 6-CD collection, The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings, presents for the very first time the complete performance of the band’s SRO three-night stand at the New York institution in March of ’71.
The set is also bookended by the addition of the group’s closing show at the Fillmore East on June 27, 1971. At Fillmore East is duly recognized as one of the greatest live albums of all-time and this new multi-CD configuration offers further unassailable proof of their mastery on the concert stage. With news of The Allman Brothers Band calling it quits by year’s end, Rock Cellar Magazine spoke to Jaimoe about the beginning and the end.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Characterize what makes the Allman Brothers-Live at the Fillmore such a classic record?
Jaimoe: As for the reason that album still holds up? I’d put it all down to a few things, it’s all about a good quality recording, a better quality in the taste and even better quality in the musicianship of the band. That’s what makes the Live at the Fillmore record still stand up so many years after we recorded.
It’s like that saying (recites “The Serenity Prayer”), “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. (laughs) That’s what it’s all about to me. We knew those shows were special but when you’re doing it and you’re in the middle of it, you’re not thinking like that. Great stuff was going on. I didn’t want to get hung up over knowing the shows were being recorded.
That would not be good, you need to get your mind off of that so you can you don’t get hung up and forget what you’re supposed to be doing, which is playing music and connecting with an audience.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Where was the band in its career at the time of those shows?
Jaimoe: Our first two albums had done okay. I think those first two studio albums are great. But there’s a difference between studio album and playing to a live audience. When you play to a live audience and you don’t do any better than what the first two albums did, then there’s something wrong with the audience or there’s something wrong with the music.
I don’t put a lot of emphasis on what people say and think about the music ‘cause a lot of them don’t know.
They really don’t know the depth of it. That doesn’t go for all people listening to music but a hell of a lot of them don’t have any idea of the depth of the music and what goes on in recording it, the whole bit.
It’s the same thing with a great lawyer or a great doctor or a great football player, there’s a lot more that what goes into all of that than people realize. The way I see it is the only difference in studio versus playing live is naturally playing live is like live anything, watching a football game on TV versus watching a football game in a stadium. There’s definitely gonna be a difference with the energy and being there in the moment.
To me, our songs were stretched out in the studio and we were able to do more of that when playing live. You think about the records that King Curtis did or maybe back to the Woody Herman Band or Duke Ellington’s band; in those bands, various people took solos and the energy directed them to do so; it’s the same way with us in a live setting.
You went by what the song was dictating as opposed to thinking it out, “we’re gonna do two verses of this and then we’re gonna do an eight-bar or 16-bar solo”…most of those records is what those records were comprised of.
They were great records and did so within the space they were given. I’ll tell you a story…John Coltrane did an interview with a writer who asked, “You just did a television show and you played three songs in 15 minutes. On your albums one of your solos is three times that long, some of your solos can take up a whole side of a record. How was it possible for you to do that?”
And he said, “With whatever amount of space you have to do something, that’s what you have and the ability to do that just shows the mastery of knowing what you’re doing, how to develop it and how to play a song.”
Rock Cellar Magazine: What did it mean to the band to be headlining the Fillmore East for three nights at that time in your career?
Jaimoe: It was the greatest thing in the world. (laughs) To me it was the Newport Jazz Festival and Carnegie Hall all wrapped up in one. We could sense the importance of it because of being able to share the same stage of all the great people who played the Fillmore.
When we came on to play I passed a little guy in the alley pushing the drums out.
It was kind of dark and I couldn’t really see who it was. I got inside and someone told me, “Did you see Charli Persip?” And I said, “Charli Persip!” He was a very famous jazz drummer from Newark. When I got hip to him he was in Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band. I went out in the alley to try and find him but he was gone.
Getting to play the Fillmore made us feel like we were now in the mix and things were on an upswing. When you start playing alongside such company, you’re in there; you’re on your way.