“It seems to me that I once heard
Everything is finally cured by time…”
–”Come and Go Blues”

2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the Allman Brothers Band’s classic album Brothers and Sisters. New York Times best-selling author Alan Paul’s new book, Brothers and Sisters: The Allman Brothers Band and the Inside Story of the album that Defined the 70s, coincides with the album’s anniversary. Paul’s definitive book documents the band’s timeless era from Duane Allman’s tragic death in October 1971 to helping Jimmy Carter win the Presidency in 1976. 

Alan Paul’s other books include Big In China, One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band and The Texas Flood: The Inside Story of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Paul’s compelling work often appears in the Wall Street Journal and Guitar World magazine. Any top-shelf musician you can name in the last thirty years, Paul has probably interviewed them. 

The Author’s Note reveals a primary source of inspiration for this insightful book: “Kirk West, the longtime Allman Brothers insider, had recorded hundreds of hours of interviews with the band in the mid-1980s for a book he never wrote. Some forty years had passed, and no one had listened to most of them–not even Kirk. I carried the precious cargo on the plane with tender loving care, as if I were transporting sacred texts. I had already started writing this book, convinced that there was a lot more to be said about the Allman Brothers Band and their impact on America beyond music, even after so much had been written about the group, including my own bestselling oral history One Way Out.”

Duane Allman did not live long enough to enjoy the Allman Brothers success. Paul illuminates the dark fact that Duane picked up his first significant royalty check–an advance from the Derek & The Dominos album Layla–on the day he died. The 1972 Allman’s album Eat A Peach features the last recordings of Duane Allman.

Original bassist Berry Oakley died one year after Duane Allman. Oakley’s final song he recorded on proved to be the hit “Ramblin’ Man” that would appear on Brothers and Sisters. The book details the Allman Brothers Band coping with sudden financial success while grieving the deaths of two original band members within a year. We also learn how close Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts became in 1972, only to become rivals and ultimately fall out.

Released in August of 1973, the album Brothers and Sisters sold 7 million copies. Paul does a fine job of providing America’s cultural backdrop during the recording sessions for Brothers and Sisters. Songwriting is discussed by all the Allman band members surrounding the album’s tunes “Wasted Words”, “Ramblin’ Man”, “Come and Go Blues”, “Southbound”, “Pony Boy”, “Jelly Jelly” and “Jessica”. 

Keyboardist Chuck Leavell and bassist Lamar Williams joined the band during this time and played integral roles in the band’s survival. Some of the musicians that cross paths with the Allmans appear throughout the book including Otis Redding, Jerry Wexler, Paul Hornsby, Charlie Daniels, Buffalo Springfield, Jackson Browne, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Warren Haynes, Col. Bruce Hampton, The Band and Billy Joe Shaver.

Paul’s documentation of the relationship between the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers band proves interesting. Jerry Garcia’s influence on Dickey Betts’ guitar tone during this period comes to light. Betts commissioned the Grateful Dead’s Alembic luthier Rick Turner to build him a guitar that he played on Brothers and Sisters. The Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band performed together various times through 1970-1974, such as the iconic Watkins Glen show. 

Details surrounding Gregg Allman’s solo effort Laid Back, and Dickey Betts’ Highway Call–both recorded at Macon’s Capricorn Records–reveal fractures within the group. Around this time, band members started looking into Capricorn Records president Phil Walden’s accounting arrangements. Legal proceedings ensued. In the summer of 1975, Gregg Allman married Cher. 

Allman’s involvement in a grand jury testimony that sent his friend Scooter Herring to jail brought extreme contempt from Allman’s bandmates, and precipitated the band’s dissolution for a decade. Paul details how Hunter S. Thompson, Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers Band played significant roles in helping Georgia governor Jimmy Carter get elected President of the United States in 1976. 

One of my favorite inside anecdotes occurs during the Allman Brothers Band performance with Bob Dylan in Tampa during 1995. When Dickey Betts asked Dylan what he wanted to play, Dylan responded, “‘Ramblin’ Man’. I should have written that song…”

Brothers and Sisters hits all the right notes.


Alan Paul’s Official Website

The Allman Brothers Band Live at the Atlanta Pop Festival 1970

Dickey Betts: Highway Call

Chuck Leavell: Forever Green

Gov’t Mule: Peace…Like A River

Kirk West Interview in Insured Beyond The Grave

Colonel Bruce Hampton: One Ruined Life of a Bronze Tourist

Long Gone Gonzo: The Friendship Between Hunter S. Thompson & Jimmy Carter

Bob Dylan: The Philosophy of Modern Song

The Grateful Dead: Dick’s Picks #33

Hunter S. Thompson’s Final Story: Shotgun Golf with Bill Murray