Jacksonville, Florida, March 1969, The Allman Brothers became a group, Duane Allman and Dickey Bets on guitar, Greg Allman performed vocals, Berry Oakley on Bass, and Butch Trucks and Jamimoe supplied drums. They influenced 70s rock bands like The Marshall Tucker Band and Lynyrd Skynard. According to Allmusic.com, “They directly influenced virtually all ’70s rock acts south of the Mason-Dixon Line,” much like The Beatles changed the face of music in the 1960s. As the group evolved, embracing the quintessential rock and roll lifestyle, the band began to disintegrate. The band performed a series of gigs at the Fillmore East in March 1971, filmed and later turned into their third album, At Fillmore East. On October 15, 1971, At Fillmore East was certified gold but never reaching the Top Ten. Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident 14 days later. The band was in the middle of recording Eat a Peach, their second album, which they completed as a five-piece, with Dickey Betts performing all lead and slide guitar parts. Before they could resume Eat a Peach, Berry Oakley died in a motorcycle accident in November of 1972. It was only a few blocks from the Allman’s accident site. Here’s the story of the Allman Brothers.
The Beginning of the End
The band started to disintegrate in 1974. Greg Allman and Dickey Betts attempted solo careers. Additionally, Allman married Cher. They might have made it through if it hadn’t been for the members’ other lifestyle drugs and alcohol which was always a part of their lives but became increasingly out of control. Perhaps it was the pressure and stress of traveling and the drive to make new music. In 1973, Allman met Herring in a Macon bar, and the two became great friends. Herring quickly joined the band on tour and quickly ascended to the role of the dope dealer as well as Allman’s bodyguard. Herring’s supplier was Joey Fuchs, a Dixie Mafia connection that provided Herring with large amounts of cocaine, Heroin, and Demerol, which he gave to the bands he handled.
Fuchs, a licensed pharmacist who frequently partied with and sometimes sold directly to Allman, was compelled to stage a phony burglary of the pharmacy he operated to account for all of his missing inventory. DEA data confirms Fuchs was indeed the leading narcotics distributor to J.C. Hawkins and his Peach State Dixie Mafia faction. A two-year-old investigation of police corruption in Georgia culminated in the group’s demise. J.C. Hawkins, a local mob boss, suspected of bribing officials and running a narcotics operation with the Allmans as one of its largest clients, was the ultimate target. The FBI and DEA concentrated their investigations on two middlemen: Joey Fuchs, accused of working as Hawkins’ distributor, and John “Scooter” Herring. Investigators believe Fuchs sold Hawkins’ drugs to Herring, then sold them to Allman. They decided to arrest them first, hoping to capture J.C. Hawkins eventually.
As the drugs trail came to an end at Gregg’s door, he realized he was in a challenging situation, facing a prison sentence unless he testified against Scooter, who had twice saved Gregg’s life after he’d overdosed. Allman testified against JC Hawkins. Truthfully, he didn’t have a choice. Scooter was convicted to 75 years in jail in July 1976 for failing to do the same to the Hawkins Gang. And also, because the Hawkins Group methodically skirted in court, the whole story didn’t emerge until they were apprehended. The others called Gregg a traitor and pronounced the band dead. Dickey Betts and Butch Trucks were dangerously out of control, while Gregg found solace in a baby with Cher and recording the appropriately titled Two The Hard Way album with her. He even gave up Heroin. Unfortunately, he switched habits to Methadone. Butch smashed his Mercedes against the entrance and kept his foot down until the rubber burned off the tires after being refused entry to a club one night; Dickey released his rage in a more personal manner.
Their Own Thing
For a while, Gregg and Dickey ran their bands. Butch got sober. The other members formed the group Sea Level. None of these bands matched the success of the Allman Brothers. Scooter released on appeal, and the band adequately detoxed, understanding what had happened, so they started talking about getting back together. They brought in a second guitarist, Dan Toler, who had previously worked with Dickey Betts. By 1981 the group didn’t care to be together. The only time they reunited was when a personal tragedy happened. Former bassist Lamar Williams died of Cancer. Twiggs died in a parachuting accident, and Allman drifted in and out of addiction. Although they released several albums, the members had too many scars they couldn’t hide. Gregg Allman couldn’t stay sober. Dickey went to rehab in 1993 after a fight with his wife; the group tried to tour with a rotating group of stand-in guitarists but couldn’t find the fame they craved.
The band was never able to recapture the fame they enjoyed in the 70s. Many critics felt they just repeated their old hits. Undoubtedly, this was a futile attempt to recapture the days before their group fell apart. Their heart wasn’t in the music and the fan base was moving on. Yet in 1995, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. According to their website, “The Allman Brothers Band arrived at a point in history when rock, jazz, country and blues were colliding in a volatile fusion. In 1969, when The Allman Brothers Band was recorded, no major group marshaled all those musical elements more effectively. ” Scooter Herring passed away on November 9, 2017. His daughter Kellye Ivey Brown said, “He’s a granddaddy, a great-grandfather, a lot different from the hippie persona. He was all of that for sure,” Brown said.” Six months before Greg Allman died on May 28, 2017. According to AP News, “Allman died peacefully and surrounded by loved ones at his home near Savannah, Georgia.”