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Allman Brothers Band Members’ Deaths That Ruined the Band

If you take a trip down to Macon, Georgia, and head on over to 2321 Vineville Ave, you’ll find a pretty fantastic museum at a place called The Big House. It was here that members of The Allman Brothers Band lived alongside their family and friends from 1970 to 1973. For fans of the influential southern rock jam band, a visit to this locale has become something of a pilgrimage ever since it’s opening in 2009.

But to really get an idea of just how amazing The Allman Brother’s band really was, you need to get to know it’s members. Unfortunately, science has yet advanced to the point that we’re able to travel backwards through time. Even so, we still know quite a bit about it’s founding members’ personal lives and career achievements.

The rock group was started by brothers Duane and Gregg Allman in 1969 in Jacksonville, Florida. Both of these groundbreaking musicians are sadly no longer with us.

In addition to the Allman siblings, the band also employed the talents of musicians Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks, Jaimoe Johanson, Warren Haynes, and several other gifted individuals who joined in for their live shows and studio sessions over the years. Despite breaking up and re-forming several times, The Allman Brothers were active between 1969 to 2014.

In this video, we’ll be covering how each member of this iconic group that is sadly no longer with us died. Die-hard fans of the original line-up will often argue that when members passed, their deaths created such a rift that it ruined the band. Whether you agree with this assessment or not, there is no denying that The Allman Brothers Band was a force to be reckoned with throughout all of it’s incarnations.

Duane Allman

Born Howard Duane Allman on November 20, 1946, this Nashville native was one of the original and founding members of The Allman Brothers Band.

He started playing the guitar when he was 14 years old and formed the Allman Brother’s Band with his brother Gregg in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1969 at the age of 23.

Duane is perhaps best remembered for his influential, albeit brief, tenure in the band and for his particularly adept ability to play slide guitar expressively. He could make his guitar sing with raw emotion, and he was a master of improvisation.

Throughout his musical career, both before and during his tenure with The Allman Brothers Band, he was a greatly sought-after musician who got the chance to collaborate with legends like Herbie Mann, Arethra Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Boz Scaggs, and King Curtis.

Duane died tragically following a horrific motorcycle accident in 1971 at the age of 24. The Allmans Brothers’ most revered live album At Filmore East was released just days before the crash. The accident happened when Duane was riding his Harley-Davidson Sportster at high speeds in the western region of Macon, Georgia.

Duane was forced to swerve when a flatbed boom truck suddenly stopped in front of him at an intersection. When swerving, he struck the back of the truck or possibly the ball of the crane it was carrying and was violently thrown from his motorcycle. When he landed, his bike crashed on top of him and skidded for another 90 feet with him pinned under it. While he was still alive when he was rushed to the hospital, his injuries were much too severe to be treated, and he died hours later.

Gregg Allman

Gregory LeNoir Allman came into this world on December 8, 1947. Just like his older brother Duane, Gregg grew up with a strong interest in music – especially rhythm and blues. When forming the Allman Brother Band, he and his brother would fuse that genre with rock, jazz, and country influences to create their signature sound.

Gregg is credited with writing some of the group’s biggest hits, including Whipping Post, Midnight Rider, and Melissa. Outside of The Allman Brothers band, Gregg also enjoyed a successful solo career, putting out seven studio albums of his own before his death.

After Duane died in 1971, Gregg and his fellow band-mates continued to to work on material despite the fact that they had lost one of their key players. In 1973, the band released the LP Brothers and Sisters which proved to be their most successful album. That also happened to be the same year that Gregg would begin his solo musical career with the release of his album Laid Back.

Allman primarily played guitar and Hammond organ, but he was also celebrated for his rich, soulful voice. Just like so many other gifted musicians that have come before and after him, Gregg struggled with alcohol and drug abuse throughout his life. He also couldn’t seem to manage his personal life very well either.

In total he was married seven times. Most famously, he was wed to Cher from 1975 to 1979, although it’s widely known that their relationship was exceptionally turbulent. But just like his love life, Gregg’s relationship with his bandmates was just as tumultuous. Although he would ultimately remain a band member of the group that bore his surname until their final show in 2014, largely because of his choices, they would break up several times over the decades.

Allman passed away at his home in Richmond Hill, Georgia on the 27th of May, 2017, from complications of liver cancer. His final solo album, Southern Blood, was released posthumously on September 8, 2017 and received critical acclaim.

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Butch Trucks

Claude Hudson Trucks, better known by his nickname, Butch, was born on May 11, 1947. He grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, and played drums in numerous groups before joining the Allman Brother’s Band in 1969.

Even though The Allman Brothers would break up and get back together many times throughout their musical journey, Trucks would remain a consistent member throughout their 45-year run.

Besides playing with the Allman Brothers Band, Trucks has also played in groups like Butch Trucks & The Freight Train Band, Les Bres, The 31st of February, and Frogwings.

His nephew, Derek Trucks, who joined the Allman Brothers Band in 1999, is also one of the founding members of the Tedeschi Trucks Band. He has another nephew named Duane Trucks who plays drums for Widespread Panic.

Butch died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on January 24, 2007 at his home in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was 69. Evidently, he had been dealing with financial difficulties for years before he chose to end his life.

Berry Oakley

Raymond Berry Oakley III was born on April 4, 1948, and was one of the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band. As a bassist, he was best known for his long melodic base runs and is often considered to be one of the greatest bass players of all time.

After Duane’s fatal motorcycle accident in 1971, Oakley was absolutely devastated. He and Duane had been very close, and he just couldn’t imagine why his friend had to die so young. Tragically, however, a little over a year after Duane’s death, Oakley himself was involved in a motorcycle accident in Macon, just a few blocks away from where Duane had his.

While riding along a particularly sharp bend in the road, Oakley crossed the line and collided with a city bus that was rounding the bend from the opposite direction. Oakley was then thrown from his motorcycle just like his late friend had been. He struck his head but was able to get up.

Thinking that he was fine, Oakley declined medical treatment and got a ride home. Hours later, he had to be rushed to the hospital after becoming delirious and suffering from intense pain. Several hours later, he died of cerebral swelling caused by a fracture in his skull. Evidently though, even if he had sought medical treatment after the accident, he still would not have survived.

Oakley was 24 when he died – the same age that Duane was when he was killed.

Lamar Williams

After Oakley died, Williams, born January 14, 1949, was called in to play with The Allman Brother’s Band as it’s bassist. He would remain at that post until 1976. Before joining the band, Williams had been drafted into the United States Army. During the Vietnam War, Williams went AWOL as soon as he arrived at an airbase in Vietnam. He was a pacifist who was vehemently opposed to war and fighting in general. In 1970, despite his actions, Williams was given an honorable discharge with the rank of private.

After The Allman Brothers band broke up in the mid-70s, Williams formed a band called Sea Level with two former Allman Brothers bandmates, Chuck Leavell and Jaimoe Johanson. He would leave the band in 1980 right before it broke up.

In 1981, Williams was diagnosed with lung cancer. It’s believed that he developed the disease after he was exposed to Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. After battling the disease for two years, Williams passed away seven days after his 34th birthday on January 21, 1983.

Dan Toler

Born on September 23, 1948, and known professionally as Dangerous Dan Toler, this guitarist played for The Allman Brothers Band between 1978 and 1982. He would later rejoin the group briefly in 1986.

Toler’s guitar work can be heard on the albums Enlightened Rogues, Reach for the Sky, and Brothers of the Road. He would later collaborate with a number of other distinguished musicians, including George McCorkle of The Marshall Tucker Band and Jason Black, throughout the remainder of his professional career.

Toler lost his battle with ALS on February 25, 2013. He died in Sarasota, Florida, at the age of 64.

Unfortunately, we’re just about out of time for this video. We’d love to honor everyone that had the opportunity to play with The Allman Brothers Band that are no longer with us, but perhaps you can can do so in the comments.

Can you think of anyone else that played with the group that has since passed away? And which one of the death’s discussed in this video do you think most greatly impacted the band’s trajectory?

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