“From its inception, on March 12, 1971, the Allman Brothers Band rapidly established a near-mythical reputation through its incendiary, marathon concerts.” Those are the words of “Allmanologist” John Lynskey, in his liner notes for 2014’s extended edition of one of the great live albums in rock history. At Fillmore East entered the Billboard US album chart on July 24, 1971.
“No other group could touch the Allman Brothers when it came to extended, improvised jamming; they truly were in a league and dimension of their own,” Lynskey continued. “Duane Allman was joined by his brother Gregg on keyboards and vocals, the dual drumming combo of Jaimoe and Butch Trucks, bassist extraordinaire Berry Oakley, and Dickey Betts, Duane’s foil on guitar. Together, these individually talented artists blended into a unit whose sum exceeded the total of its impressive singular parts.”
Recorded over the weekend of March 12-13, the album was released in the wake of the first two studio sets by the ABB. The Allman Brothers Band and Idlewild South had marked them out as pioneers of a new southern rock sound, and sold moderately well, but it was this live release that really sealed their status.
A ‘four-sided showdown’
The July 24 edition of Billboard listed At Fillmore East as a “National Breakout” along with albums by the Byrds and country stars Lynn Anderson and Charley Pride. It went into the chart that issue at No.82, on its way to a No.13 peak. The magazine’s review proclaimed: “They’ll put out hard blues Macon, Georgia-style blues far into the night on this four-sided showdown that features the blues of Will McTell, Elmore James, T-Bone Walker plus second lead guitar Dicky [sic] Betts and the band.”
The four shows were recorded by revered Atlantic Records engineer/producer Tom Dowd, who’d produced Idlewild South. Dowd also oversaw the sessions for the Derek & the Dominos project that led to the thrilling guitar interaction between Duane Allman and Eric Clapton.
The late Allmans drummer Butch Trucks remembered: “That weekend in March of 71 when we recorded At Fillmore East, most of the time it clicked. We were finally starting to catch up with what we were listening to. We had lived together…we got in trouble together; we all just moved as a unit. And then, when we got onstage to play, that’s what it was all about – and it just happened to all come together that weekend.”
Buy or stream At Fillmore East.