Why does Jacksonville continue to keep one of our greatest musical exports off the map? Until there’s a large bronze statue of Duane Allman standing smack dab in the middle of Five Points, we’ll never rest. At the very least, until we—as a city—finally acknowledge that one of the most innovative groups of the 20th century formed here in Jacksonville, we won’t shut the hell up about it.
Many still consider the Allman Brothers Band a “Georgia band.” Yet the band once lived and had their first jam session right here, in the Riverside neighborhood of Jax.
Like most groups, the ABB were a hybrid of sorts. Their lineage is a serpentine trail of foggy jam sessions and shifting membership of quasi-biblical proportions. In short: The Second Coming were a well-respected psych-blues group that gigged heavily in Jacksonville, and featured future ABB players Dickey Betts (guitar-vocals) and Berry Oakley (bass-vocals). Folk rockers, The 31st of February, included Jacksonville native Butch Trucks on drums. Brothers Gregg (keyboards-vocals) and Duane (guitar) regularly performed in town as the Allman Joys. Add second drummer Jai “Jaimoe” Johanny Johanson, a collaborator of Duane’s at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals into the mix, and you have the incendiary sextet: The Allman Brothers Band.
The band created a still-unrivaled musical force that could merge Sonny Boy Williamson and John Coltrane into a unified whole, at times in the same riff. Along with the Grateful Dead, the Brothers would turn the late ‘60s music scene on its ear; both bands were masters at morphing original songs and covers into flowing, improvisational pieces.
Performances could last for an exhausting-yet-exhilarating three to four hours, while one set might be a 45-minute, one-song excursion or psychedelia, blues, and beyond. Decades later, those excursions inspired what is now known as the jam band scene. Keeping with the ABB’s family vibe, decades after the band’s inception, the band would hire on a stellar guitarist in his own right; one who is also the nephew of Butch: Jacksonville native and resident, Derek Trucks.
In the grand scheme of classic rock, Jacksonville is still known as a Southern Rock mecca; and rightfully so. Inspired by the ABB’s creative fire and work ethic, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot, and .38 Special are also locally-formed groups. All of those bands have their certain merits. But none of them had their predecessor’s supernatural-like skills at capturing lightning in a bottle, particularly in the live setting.
When it comes to a creative, cultural identity the City of Jacksonville continues to aim its sights and funds toward ornamental, square endeavors. In lieu of building a museum or monument to the Allman Brothers Band and the bands they inspired, we approved a $350 million budget for the courthouse Downtown. Eat a peach, indeed.
That rant aside, Void Magazine bows at the altar of the Allman Brothers Band. Hoping to push our agenda, we’ve provided this brief map of the band’s local geographic history. We’d call this a “self-guided tour,” but as everything in this city is a half-hour a way by car, fill up the tank and take a reverent ride while blasting, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”; preferably the Live at the Fillmore East version.
PLEASE CALL HOME
What was originally a home for members of Betts, Oakley, and their families, the Green House, is a 1905-built Victorian located at 2799 Riverside Ave. This mammoth 3,084-square-foot home was surely the ideal hippie hang.
It was here where the band had their first jam session. During the band’s last-ever performance on Oct. 28, 2014, Gregg Allman said the jam occurred at roughly 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 26, 1969. Possibly hoping for a musical contact high, members of Skynyrd later rented the Green House. The band members and their families eventually vacated the Green House, then moving to what would be known as the Gray House (2844 Riverside Ave.) Built in 1915, the six-bedroom home boasts 4,022-square feet and was the final Jacksonville HQ for the ABB. As both of these homes are privately owned, Void encourages you to respectfully drive by and check out these landmarks of music history, but stay off the grass: don’t trespass and give us other fans a bad name.
PARKS & RECREATION
Researching historically-accurate sites of where the ABB played in Jacksonville can be mired in mystery and riddled with apocryphal accounts. Conflicting stories, (understandably) “compromised” memories, and the classic, “I was there so I should know” boasts, make it difficult to drop a definitive pin on confirmed performance locations. Cross-checking band bios, bootlegs, forums, and concert lists, we culled together what feels like a pretty consistent guide. Prior to the Allman Brothers, bassist Oakley initiated hours-long jam sessions at Willowbranch Park (2870 Sydney St.) that soon included Duane and various psychedelicized company.
These loose jams would also happen on the outside patio at the Forest Inn; (1435 Lake Shore Blvd.; don’t look for it today—the place closed down in 1972 and is now an actual forest).
Recorded in early 1969, a heavily-bootlegged recording featuring the Second Coming and a nascent version of the ABB, is at-times purportedly taped at two locations: the Cedar Hills National Guard Armory (9900 Normandy Blvd.), and the “Jacksonville Beaches Coliseum” aka the Jacksonville Beach Flag Pavilion (101 2nd St. N.) many believe entirety of the music was in fact recorded at the beaches venue.
On June 19, 1970 the fully-formed ABB would return to that long-since-demolished hall for another concert. On March 30, 1969, four days after forming, the fully-realized band played at the Jacksonville Armory (851 N. Market St.). Along with their March 26 date of actual formation, the Armory gig is considered the most “verifiable” of the band’s local gigs.
This whole Allman Brothers Band cartography, of picking through anecdotal fable and verified history, can be a real devil of a time – fitting for a group that originally kicked around the band name, “Beelzebub.”
Yet the time spent here in town for the classic line up of the band was short and sweet. Unsurprisingly, late 1960s Jacksonville, a place not receptive to long-haired freaks blasting acid rock in their parks, was unconducive to what the forward-thinking band had in mind. By May 1, 1969, the band headed to Macon, Georgia, for greener climes, The Big House, an even larger band house, and their imminent, much-deserved legacy.
As we surely qualify as full-blown Allman Brothers Band addicts, we at Void Magazine highly encourage our readers to confirm, dispute, or debunk this historical haze of the band’s history. Thanks to Sarah Jackson, archives & collections manager of Beaches Museum & History Park, for help in gathering information for this article.
This feature originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Void Magazine.