As usual, my monthly blog post about the Guitar Player magazine from exactly 30 years ago has some cool excerpts and take-aways from the magazine. Besides good interviews with Jeff Healey and John Entwistle, the section on the Allman Brothers Dreams compilation was interesting, especially including the interviews with Betts and Duane: The interview with Dickey Betts is focused largely on the box set, but also discusses the band’s music a bit. Sadly, I think this is the first and last interview with Betts in my entire collection of 20+ years’ worth of Guitar Player issues. Betts seems a little unhappy with the lack of involvement he had in assembling the tracks on the compilation, and also with what he seemed to be “mostly Duane’s and Gregg’s history” and that it “doesn’t quite show you a picture of how the Allman Brothers Band sound came to be”–I guess the public relations people didn’t get the official message to Dickey! Anyway, here are some highlights from the interview: We’re releasing a 1970 Ludlow Garage version of “Statesboro Blues” as our Soundpage. Aw, now that ought to be good! That was one of our favorite roadhouse gigs back then. That was a real dungeon, but it was a great place to play. Just a great crowd, and Ludlow, the manager of the place, was always a great guy….[t]hey had a stage and a good sound system and it was hot and sweaty and people came there to hear. When was the first time you heard “Statesboro Blues”? I think I heard Taj Mahal’s before I heard Blind Willie McTell’s. Jesse Ed Davis played good on that. Duane’s slide figures are almost the same as Jesse Ed’s. Yeah, but that’s not really embarrassing. Jesse Ed Davis was great, and….he was always a hero of ours. All of us talked about his playing a lot, and Duane really liked him. Why was Warren Haynes chosen (for the upcoming reunion tour)? He’s great. I like his slide playing because he’s from that Duane Allman school, with that real spitfire kind of sound–but he don’t copy Duane’s licks. I like that. He’s got his own definite style. What has your experience taught you about getting a great two-guitar sound? We usually try to get the guitars to sound like the same guitar, and then put one of them on a little different pickup setting. We only have better luck getting two Les Pauls. If you don’t have two Les Pauls, make the other guitar sound like a Les Paul. And then change one of them—maybe a little more treble, while the other has a little more bass. I’ve never had much luck trying to blend a Les Paul and a Stratocaster. And I always use a keyboard–usually with the two guitars–and there’s always another guitar playing the third higher than the tonic, which gives it that real pretty sound like “Jessica” and that stuff. And then the keyboard usually plays the fifth lower. That is the formula I use for my stuff. Pretty cool to learn the secrets of Dickey Betts’ trademark harmonized guitars! A few weeks ago I saw an amazing concert by Skydog, an Allman Brothers tribute band based here in Richmond, VA. They absolutely nailed the Allman Brothers sound (you can read about their gear and it seems that they spare no expense to cop the tones). I think they must totally take the approach of getting the guitars to sound the same, and then varying one of them. Anyway, it sounded spectacular. The interviews with Duane Allman were excerpts from radio interviews he did while the band was on tour in 1969 and 1971. He’s interesting, but definitely comes across as a “hippie”. One thing that is important to remember is that Duane died when he was 24, so the person talking is a very young man. I hope you find these highlights interesting: …Some of your music sounds like British Blues… So we’ve all been involved with music, I guess, since our late teens, and stuff just soaks into you. The British approach to the blues certainly was a lot fresher than anything that anybody had any access to back when I was younger, when we were doing the Beatles songs and stuff like that, and it was getting to be pretty tiring. There was all that other slop, like the Searchers–remember all that? So we just got sick of traveling around playing it in bars for so long. So finally we just said “Well, this has been a lot of fun but we’re tired of it.” so we all quit our respective groups. You were working where? All over man! There’s a garbage circuit of the South, man, that you work at and you make about $150 a week and eat pills and drink–it’s a bad trip! It was killing us, so we just all quit about the same time. Berry [Oakley] was staying down in Jacksonville, and we got together and jammed a lot. And none of us were working then, it was just like we needed a reprieve from all that set. I was doing some sessions in Muscle Shoals–well, I was in California before that, but we won’t even talk about that. But it was essentially the same thing–I was tired of it man, because it gets really old. So we were all getting together and jamming, and saying “Well, before we start anything, let’s just say the hell with it, man! Let’s don’t get that same **** started up.” The more we jammed, it got a little bit better. I knew these people at Atlantic Records, and I talked to them about trying to get something for real, something that we could do that would just sound like us….We’re proud of this [The Allman Brother Band album]–it’s probably the best thing that ever happened to us. Compare this to working in studios. Oh man! Studios–that’s a terrible thing! You just lay around and you get your money, man. All those studio cats that I know, like, one of them gets a color TV see, and then the next day, man, they’re all down to Sears or wherever–“Hey man, I’d like to look at some color TVs”, you know. And this one place I know, man, all these cats–five cats at one time–had Oldsmobile 442s. One of them traded on a Toronado, see, and so all of them traded on a Toronado. And now one of them’s got a Toronado and a Corvette, and now they’re all looking at new ‘Vettes! It’s sickening. They’re just keeping up with the Joneses and not playing their music. Their stuff sounds like crap now. I was down there working with them for about half a year, and I got sick of it man. Do you feel restricted playing in a ballroom as opposed to, say, free concerts in the park? Well, anytime you’re getting paid for something, you feel like you’re obligated to do so much. That’s why playing the park’s such a good thing, because people don’t even expect you to be there. And if you’re there to play, that’s really groovy, and so playing in the park’s really a nice thing. And the nicest way you can play is just for nothing, you know. And it’s not really for nothing–it’s for your own personal satisfaction and other people’s, rather than for any financial thing. That hangs a lot of people–a lot of bread and you try too hard. Bread’ll stop you, too. It’ll keep you there to make more… Oh sure! Yeah! I quit doing sessions because of that. I was getting to like it too much. Interesting, though I take these statements about Muscle Shoals with a grain of salt. Those musicians made so many great records, in so many different styles. It might not have been “their sound”, but it reflects amazing versatility and creativity. And Duane saying he quit sessions because he liked the money too much is not as moving a statement as Miles Davis saying he stopped playing ballads because he loved them too much. But again, maybe I’m expecting too much from a 22 year-old kid hopped up on who knows what illicit substances. Moving to the 1971 interview, which was recorded shortly before the Live at Fillmore East concert but after Duane had worked with Eric Clapton on “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs”, Duane is full of praise for Clapton and has some interesting insights about my favorite album: ….Eric Clapton, man–let’s talk about him. He’s a gas. He’s a real fine cat, and I consider it a privilege and an honor to play on his Derek & the Dominos album. He’s a true professional in his field. He has some nice things to say about you in Rolling Stone. Oh yeah. Man, it just tickles me to death to hear him say anything about me ever, man! He wrote the book, you know. Just Contemporary White Blues Guitar, Volume 1. But his style and his technique is what’s really amazing—he’s got a lot to say, too, but man, the way he says it just knocks me out. He does so well. “Layla”–the title tune from that album–real proud of that one, I am, for sure! I went down there to listen to them cut, and Eric had heard my playing and stuff, and he just greeted me like an old partner or something. He says, “Yeah man, get out your guitar, man! We got to play.” So I was just going to play on one or two, and then we kept on going, it kept developing. Incidentally, sides 1,2,3 and 4–all the songs are right in the order they were cut from the first day through to “Layla” and then “Thorn Tree” was last on the album. I’m as proud of that as I am of any albums that I’ve ever been on, man–I’m as satisfied with my work on that as I could possibly be. I was glad to have the opportunity to work with people of that magnitude, with that much brilliance and talent. Eric is just a real fine cat, an awful nice dude. It’s hard for me to talk about him, because I admire him so much, you know. It’s hard for me to put him in a street context, but he surely is a man of the street, a gypsy–just like everybody else these days.