New Year’s Eve in Macon, GA is poised to be a memorable one when The Allman Betts Band descends upon The Grand Opera House. You know there will be classic songs, definitely some new material from Devon Allman, Duane Betts, and Berry Oakley Jr, and I’d wager money on a guest appearance or two (I tried to get him to spill, kids, but Devon’s too cool). With an album scheduled to drop just in time for the 50th Anniversary of the Allman Brothers Band, expect ‘19 to be a new era for one of rock n’ rolls most celebrated legacies.
AI: You’ve had Duane Betts out with your band for a while now. What was the point where you guys decided, “Okay, it’s time to make this official.” And when did Berry Oakley Jr get involved?
DA: Duane and I have known each other since the Dreams tour in ’89, and it just made sense, you know? I think with his father retired, and my father passed away, we’d seen each other quite a bit lately– and it’s like, “Man, let’s go tour together.” He has a great new EP out, and it gave him a chance to kind of get in front of my audience and play. And then we got to play together and play some of your dad’s songs. The timing was perfect, and then once we were out on the road a few months, we were like, “Well, let’s see if we can write some tunes together!” We wrote some really great tunes, and it’s the 50th Anniversary of the Allman Brothers next year– so it made sense to bring Brother Barry along, you know? We’ve known him forever too.
You are planning a new album in 2019. Have you started that production yet?
It’s done. It’s in the can. We’re really excited about it. We just did it at Muscle Shoals. We were the first band to make a record there since the Black Keys did it– like six years ago? They’re mostly a museum, but it’s still a functioning studio. We did it all to two-inch analog tape instead of any kind of digital recording. So it’s going to sound old, man, in a good way.
You did the majority of the writing together with Duane on that one?
Yes, and a cat out of LA by the name of Stoll Vaughan. He wrote with Mellencamp and stuff. He was kind of a mediator for us. Proved to be really cool. It was a really good partnership.
You’ve got the big New Year’s Eve concert at the Grand Opera House coming up here. Have you got any special guests coming with you or any secrets you can share at this point?
Oh, I would never give that up! But there’s some major… A good magician never gives away his tricks. You’re not gettin’ ’em out of me, but I will tell you, there’s going to be some major guests that night. Absolutely.
You’ve been performing in Macon a long time. Has this city changed for you or does it feel different since your father’s passing?
No. Macon will always have that special spot for my family. Always.
I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up with the progress, but big things are coming with the renovation and expansion of Capricorn Studios in Macon.
Can we expect to see the Allman Betts take up residence for a project there? Is that something you would want to do?
You never know. I would keep that in mind for sure.
Anybody, in particular, you’d like to work with? If you could put that together?
Oh man, that list is probably… You got about a week here, bro? There’s a lot, a lot of cats. We have a lot of friends. We just got done doing a big show at The Fillmore in San Francisco. That was Samantha Fish, and G. Love, and Robert Randolph, and Cody and Luther Dickinson, and Jimmy Hall… There’s a lot of friends in the biz. But I don’t know, man. I’m really having fun making music with Duane and Berry right now. We’ll see where it goes.
I know that you’ve been doing this a long time, but I got to ask you– does all of that ever feel just a little bit surreal?
Sometimes it is surreal for sure. Yeah. Because, you know, I grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas with not a lot, and I fell in love with music at a very, very young age. I really never thought I’d be living my dreams like this. It’s pretty amazing.