Photos by Anthony Ennis
The Big House is… Too cool. Walking room to room, wooden floors echoing, it’s not hard to see phantoms in the form of Duane, Berry, Butch, and Gregg jammin’ out with Dickey and Jaimoe. Even fifty years later, the walls still reverberate with their music and brotherhood. The Allman Brothers Band made one of the most definable and indelible marks in all of music, and The Big House stands as a living, breathing monument filled with legendary instruments, iconic clothes and images, stories that never cease to amaze even the most casual visitor, and the precious odds and ends that remind us that these Southern Rock gods were all too human. Richard Brent’s love of the ABB led him first as a fan then volunteer at the museum but for the last three years, he’s been the Director of the Big House. As such, he’s the proverbial keeper of the flame and all lore sacred and profane surrounding the Allman Brothers Band. We asked Richard to personally select a few items from the ABB collection to share with readers. Some you can see on display in person, some you can only see here– but they’re all a part of the legacy and history that is the Allman Brothers Band.
1- Duane Allman’s Fillmore East Amp
Currently residing at the Big House– on loan from the one and only Derek Trucks– is Duane Allman’s actual stage amp from his legendary ‘71 performance at the Fillmore East. The amp has a Marshall Plexi head, and a custom cabinet built by Trucks– but it’s what’s inside that makes it sing: The original JBL 120s. Or as Richard Brent refers to them, “The greatest speakers ever made!”
2- The Layla Guitar
Used on the ABB’s first two studio albums as well as on the Derek & The Dominos sessions that produced “Layla”– hence, the nickname– Duane Allman’s ‘57 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop is one of the most famous guitars on the planet. It’s been “borrowed” (but always under the keen watch of Richard Brent) by a who’s who of monster ABB fans over the years– Charlie Daniels, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Chris Stapleton, Anderson East, Charlie Starr, Marcus King, and soooo many more– with Metallica’s James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett being the latest icons to contribute to the guitar’s pedigree.
3- Berry Oakley Starfire Replica
This exact replica of B.O.’s Guild Starfire was a gift from Gregg Allman to his best friend Chank Middleton. Fun fact, Berry removed the Starfire’s neck pickup and installed it in his Fender Jazz Bass to create the signature rumble and thunder of his “Tractor” bass.
4- Kathy Hurley’s Leather Fringe Jacket
Photographer Kathy Hurley was on hand to shoot the Allman Brothers Band at a Skidmore College show in 1971. She was dressed in this fringed leather jacket that impressed one particular band member– Duane Allman wanted it, so Kathy gave it to him! Duane “confiscated” the jacket for a time but eventually, it made its way back to Kathy who donated it to the Big House.
5- Autographed Harmony Guitar
This Harmony guitar was a gift to producer Tom Dowd for his amazing work on Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. It’s signed by Duane Allman and Eric Clapton who dedicated the guitar “To Tom”.
6- The Closing of The Fillmore East Concert Poster
According to Richard Brent, this poster from the Closing of The Filmore East from 1971 once hung in a local Macon bar until a fan purchased it for a measly $15. It features the signatures of Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Berry Oakley, Jaimoe, Dickey Betts, Butch Trucks, Red Dog, and Clarence Carter… Over the years, the autographs have faded and are in danger of disappearing altogether.
7- A Letter from Cher
In 1974, Gregg Allman brought Cher to Macon for the first time– and he decided not to leave! Cher left this note for Chank when she eventually had to depart. While we were perusing this letter in a fair amount of awe, Richard actually called Chank to confirm the year of Cher’s visit. Afterward, he suggested we check out this next item…
8- Gregg Allman’s Notebook
Chank Middleton found this notebook in a box that was very nearly disposed of at the old Brothers Property office. Inside are handwritten classic lyrics and some that never made it into the studio. Richard Brent keeps the notebook on display downstairs at the Big House with the pages open to his favorite Allman Brothers song, “Don’t Keep Me Wondering.”
9- Col. Bruce Hampton’s Letter to the Love Valley Rock Festival… And They’re Response
The Hampton Grease Band was scheduled to perform at the Love Valley Rock Festival in July of 1970. Much to the Colonel’s dismay, security refused to let him into the event based on the fact that they didn’t believe he was part of the show– so he bought a ticket! Hoping to get his money refunded for the trouble, Col. Bruce wrote a letter to the promoter– who responded that the ticket he’d purchased was actually counterfeit! No refund was issued.
10- Berry Oakley’s Phone Book
A true slice of one man’s personal as well as musical history, Berry Oakley’s little red book holds contact info from around the country– all the family, folks, and friends B.O. wanted to keep in touch with– but don’t go lookin’ for it on display at the Big House!
11- Vintage Concert T-Shirts
Willie Perkins is credited with enlisting promoters to create t-shirts for every event or concert featuring the Allman Brothers Band. The shirts in this box range from 1970 to ‘76 with vary degrees of print quality– but some of them could’ve come off the rack yesterday. Outside of a discography, is there a better chronicle of a bands history than their shirts?