THE LEGACY of the Allman Brothers Band cannot be overstated; they were a trailblazing Georgia band that fused blues, rock, country and jazz in a way that became the blueprint for country rock and the jam band scene. Gregg and Duane Allman formed the band in Macon in the late 60s and soon found critical and commercial acclaim—cementing a legacy that has continued well past the brothers’ deaths.
Part of what allows the band to live on, aside from its various offshoots and the projects of various members over the years that have achieved considerable success, is the genuine passion fans have for their music. That’s where Tribute comes in. The Atlanta-based Allman Brothers tribute plays regularly throughout the Southeast, celebrating the Allman catalog and garnering critical praise in the process.
The band is set to swing through Savannah on Fri., July 5 for a show at Coach’s Corner, and we spoke to guitarist Rod Gunther ahead of the gig.
The Allman Brothers Band is quite possibly the most widely beloved Georgia export in music history, and they’re certainly one of the most influential bands ever. So it might be an obvious question, but what prompted you to start a tribute band?
Gunther: A number of things, but number one is I’ve always been a huge fan. They were a big influence on my early appreciation of music, and one of the big reasons that I started playing guitar. And from a business aspect, in terms of why we’d choose that band—they just have incredible longevity. Their music is still as relevant today as it was then.
The other thing that’s really cool for us is that their music is so cross-generational. We get the college, jam band kids, all the way up to 70-year-old people and everything in between. So that makes it a lot of fun.
One of the most unique things about the Allmans, aside from the way they fused genres together, was the guitar harmony thing that they were known for and the intricacies of their arrangements. What would you say is the most rewarding part of working these songs up?
Gunther: Yeah, they really were one of the most groundbreaking groups in terms of blending genres. They were a blues band, but with a lot of jazz influences, and there are little nods to country. Blended in with a whole bunch of soul.
I’m one of the guitar players, and the other guitar player and I work really hard to have the harmony parts down. We’ve never played a show where the two of us weren’t there. It’d be a challenge to have another guitar player step in, because what Duane and Dickey [Betts] did together was very structured in parts but completely unstructured in other parts.
When you listen to the early live recordings that are floating around, you can see some of those signature licks that later became integral to the song. They developed, and they developed spontaneously and improvisationally.
Why do you think the band’s music has lasted as long as it has, and has had the kind of impact it has? They’re, in a lot of ways, responsible for the jam band culture, and really have this undying legacy.
Gunther: I agree, I think they’re totally responsible for their even being a genre called “jam bands.” But I think their music has held up because their songs and solos are so memorable. Being a guitar player, one of the things that I try to keep in my mind is when you run out of things to say, stop playing [laughs].
They rarely ran out of anything to say. When you hear a song that lasts 15 minutes and you can whistle the solo, that guy was playing something. He wasn’t just noodling.