The Allman Brothers Band released most of its better-known songs over the course of less than a decade, but in that short amount of time, the group made a permanent mark on the landscape of not just classic rock radio but also jam band culture and Southern music at large. Founded in Macon, Ga., the band — originally comprised of Dickey Betts, Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Jaimoe Johanson, Berry Oakley and Butch Trucks — worked up the ranks to rock superstardom.
The Allman Brothers Band's journey was also one marked by tragedy, starting with the 1971 death of founder and lead guitarist Duane Allman following a motorcycle accident. The group then lost original bassist Berry Oakley in another motorcycle crash the next year. However, the band withstood these tragedies, becoming one of the most impactful acts of its time period.
The group released a variety of songs that range in influence from jazz to country to Southern rock, and many of its songs feature a breezy, feel-good vibe. It's hard to rifle through such a deep and varied catalog and simply choose a few songs that fit the bill, but here are our picks for the 10 Best Allman Brothers Band songs.
10. "Come and Go Blues"
Gregg Allman penned this bluesy, proto-jam band gem, which debuted on the band's 1973 album Brothers and Sisters. A scorching-hot electric piano opening by Chuck Leavell settles into a gentle stream of sound on the Allman Brothers version, making it one of the future Rolling Stones touring member's signature studio performances.
The Gregg Allman Band revisited the song on 1977's Playin' Up a Storm. It also got covered by Hank Williams Jr. for his 1979 album Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound and has been covered live by Travis Tritt.
One of the most somber vocal performances of Gregg Allman's career immortalized "Dreams," a selection off the band's self-titled 1969 debut. The seven-plus minute jam set the blueprint for bands taking live crowds and the record-buying public on long, strange rides.
The Allman Brothers Band's best blues original takes full advantage of Leavell's versatility as a pianist. In addition, it's one of Betts' finest hours as a songwriter, guitar shredder and band leader.
7. "Blue Sky"
"Blue Sky" was written by Betts about his then-girlfriend, Sandy "Bluesky" Wabegijig, and appeared on the 1972 double album Eat a Peach. The tune was the final one Duane Allman recorded with the group prior to his death. Peppy electric guitar pairs with acoustic guitar throughout the song as Betts sings about his love interest being his "blue sky" and his "sunny day." Betts only sings through about one minute of the tune, and the rest of the song features a long, melodic guitar solo.
"Melissa" was written by Gregg Allman in 1967, a couple of years before the group formed. According to Gregg, it was the first song he wrote that he felt was good enough to record. He was originally writing the song with the name "Delilah," but after seeing a lively young girl named Melissa at the grocery story, he changed it. Gregg's brother Duane Allman wasn't completely sold on the song at first, and reportedly told Gregg, "It's pretty good—for a love song. It ain't rock 'n' roll that makes me move my ass."
Duane eventually considered "Melissa" as one of Gregg's best songs. Unfortunately, Duane passed away before the song was recorded. Two demo versions of the song exist — one by the band The 31st of February, which featured future Allman Brothers Band member Butch Trucks.
The Allman Brothers Band released "Jessica" in 1973 following their hugely successful single, "Ramblin' Man." The all-instrumental tune features an energetic electric guitar melody along with acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment. It was written by Betts and served as a tribute to jazz guitarist and Willie Nelson hero Django Reinhardt. The tune was also inspired by Betts' infant daughter, Jessica Betts, as the guitarist set out to encapsulate his daughter's energy with the track.
4. "Statesboro Blues"
The Allman Brothers Band struggled a bit to find commercial success with the release of its self-titled debut album and its follow-up, Idlewild South. That all changed with live album At Fillmore East. The double album featured tracks such as "Hot 'Lanta," "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and "You Don't Love Me," but its standout moment has to be a version of Georgia blues icon Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues."
The Piedmont blues standard was modernized by Taj Mahal in 1968 and then later by the Allman Brothers Band.
The Allman Brothers' version stands out in large part because of Duane Allman's slide guitar picking.
3. "Whipping Post"
"Whipping Post" originally appeared on the band's self-titled first album and was written by Gregg Allman soon after he joined the band. Gregg brought along a batch of songs he'd written, and when only "Dreams" and "It's Not My Cross to Bear" made the cut, he set out to write more. That's when "Whipping Post" was born.
The song was inspired by Allman's ups and downs in the music industry, and its lyrics came so quickly to him that he had to write them down on an ironing board cover. "Whipping Post" didn't receive much attention when it was first released, but the song got a new life thanks to the 23-minute live version on At Fillmore East. Despite the song's length, it received radio airplay and landed on both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list and Rolling Stone's The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.
2. "Midnight Rider"
The Allman Brothers Band's second album, Idlewild South, did better than its debut, but it still didn't land the act in superstar territory. However, the album includes tunes that went on to become some of the band's essential tracks, such as "Midnight Rider."
Written by Gregg Allman and roadie Robert Kim Payne, "Midnight Rider" has become one of the band's most memorable songs and has lived on through cover versions. Gregg Allman released his solo version in 1973, which became a Top 20 song in the US and Canada. The song was also recorded by Willie Nelson, with a bluegrass version of the tune featured on Alison Krauss & Union Station's Two Highways album. Eric Church also included a live performance of his rendition of the song on his 61 Days In Church Volume 4 project.
1. "Ramblin' Man"
The most memorable Allman Brothers song debuted on the band's Brothers and Sisters album. It was inspired by the classic Hank Williams tune of the same name. Indeed, "Ramblin' Man" could easily be confused for a country song, which the group was initially hesitant about. The song was the band's only Top 10 hit on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100, landing at No. 2.
While many of these hits are from the band's early LPs, the rockers went on to release numerous other live and studio albums, including Enlightened Rogues, Brothers of the Road, Seven Turns, One Way Out, Shades of Two Worlds, Hittin' the Note and more. Honorable mention songs include "Black Hearted Woman," "Don't Keep Me Wonderin'," "Nobody Knows," "Every Hungry Woman," "Revival," "Les Brers in a Minor," "Seven Turns," "Ain't Wastin' Time No More," "Little Martha," "'Just Ain't Easy," "Straight From The Heart," "Good Clean Fun," "No One To Run With," "Back Where It All Begins" and "Soulshine." Other cover songs band recorded include "Stormy Monday," "Trouble No More" and "Mountain Jam."
This story was previously published on April 25, 2021.
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