Monday, October 12, 2020
Duane Allman's Bittersweet Final Notes Surface After Nearly 50 Years
When Duane Allman and his band took the stage that Sunday night to close out what was a country-crossing fall tour, no one in the room could have imagined that in just twelve days, the 24-year old slide guitar master would be gone. Luckily, a young radio station employee, Sam Idas, who was in the house that night to interview Gregg Allman, chose that moment in time to test his new tape recorder. And the 49 minutes he captured provides a definitive and bittersweet period to the 'Duane Era' of the Allman Brothers.
If the Allman Brothers Band were at all tired after their country-crossing fall tour, it would be near impossible to tell. The elder Allman is upbeat and jovial, 'promoting' roadie Tuffy Phillips' 'new album' and teasing the audience for being sleepy due to 'too many quaaludes' prior to 'Don't Keep Me Wonderin'', while he and his bandmates are as sharp as ever. The energetic 8-song recording features the band's customary set for the period, driven predominantly by the Brother's Allman, with Gregg and Duane taking the lead through a romping Statesboro Blues, to 'limber up', before rolling into Muddy Waters' thumping Trouble No More.
The band's energy reaches a peak with a particularly up-tempo and bouncy version of Sonny Boy Williamson's One Way Out, pushed along by Berry Oakley's thumping bass lines, that all but demand that the listener tap along with Oakley's booted heel. Long time friend of the band, saxophonist Juicy Carter, joins in next for a jazzy take on Dickey Betts' trademark instrumental In Memory of Elizabeth Reed. Unfortunately, most of this final take on Elizabeth Reed, is left to the imagination, lost to an inevitable tape flip.
What we're left with however, is but a taste of what was undoubtedly a brilliant interpretation in it's entirety, (and vastly improved over Carter's previously captured appearances on the tune, documented seven months earlier and released on 2014's expanded edition of The Fillmore East Recordings). Unlike each of the earlier versions, the six minutes captured on The Final Note offer a glimpse of the real potential of the song with the addition of a saxophone; Carter, Allman and Betts are playing much more in sync with the instrumental's themes, before the tape fades out just as Gregg Allman begins his organ solo.
A roaring Whipping Post closes out the night, introduced with foreboding words from Duane Allman, 'Some things you just have no control over'. Soaring over the rest of the band's foundation, Allman and Betts grab the reins and put the pedal down, delivering one final six-string duel, matching each other lick for lick for nearly 13 minutes before touching gently down to bring the Duane Era of The Allman Brothers Band to a triumphant and bittersweet end, punctuated with Duane's final recorded words on tape 'Thank you so much'.
In just twelve days, Allman would be gone, leaving the band that bore his name to find their way without him. The Final Note captures simultaneously the last performance of one of rock's greatest guitar players, and highlights just how much music he had left to give.