The Allman Brothers Band was founded by brothers Duane and Gregg Allman, and the group has recently become home to another pair of relatives. Nineteen-year-old guitarist Derek Trucks was added to the Allman lineup last month, joining one of the band's founding drummers, his uncle Butch Trucks, who turns 52 today.
Trucks was born Claude Hudson Trucks Jr., in Jacksonville, Fla. He met Duane and Gregg Allman in the late '60s when the brothers -- who had fronted the bands the Kings, the Allman Joys and the Hourglass -- joined the 31st of February, the group in which Trucks was drumming.
Gregg soon moved to Los Angeles to record on Liberty Records. While there, he began jamming with the Second Coming, which included guitarists Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley (both formerly of Tommy Roe and the Romans). Duane considered joining the Second Coming as well, but accepted an offer to play on several Wilson Pickett recording sessions.
As a result of his work as a session man, Duane was offered a solo contract by Atlantic Records. Duane gathered his brother, Betts, Oakley, Trucks and a second drummer, Jai Johanny Johanson, as his backing group. They moved to Macon, Ga., to record for Capricorn Records, an Atlantic subsidiary.
The record deal turned into a contract for the Allman Brothers Band, which issued their eponymous debut LP in 1969 after months on the road perfecting the jam-heavy blues rock for which they would soon become famous. The LP featured the concert favorite "Whipping Post" and also had touches of jazz.
Tom Dowd produced the follow-up, Idlewild South, which had a more acoustic feel, due to Betts' writing. The album included such Allman classics as "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and "Midnight Rider," and it added to the band's growing reputation for musical interplay. The Allmans' live chemistry was captured on 1971's At Fillmore East.
In October 1971 Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident when the band was halfway through work on Eat a Peach, for which Betts ended up completing all guitar tracks. The LP, featuring "Ain't Wastin' Time No More" (RealAudio excerpt), was the Allmans' first to make the top 10 in the U.S.
The group added keyboard player Chuck Leavell, but tragedy struck again when Oakley was killed in a motorcycle accident in the middle of recording Brothers and Sisters. The LP became the band's most country-influenced effort, thanks to Betts' rising prominence in the group. It stayed at #1 for six weeks, partly due to the #2 smash "Ramblin' Man."
The band began to splinter in the mid-'70s because of solo careers and drug habits. Win, Lose or Draw (1975) was criticized because of Gregg's limited participation. The next year the group split when Gregg became embroiled in a drug lawsuit against a friend. Trucks studied music at Florida State University and began an experimental group called Trucks.
The Allman Brothers Band reunited in 1978, and the next year's Enlightened Rogues received acclaim due to the return of producer Dowd and the addition of Dan Toler on guitar. But Johanson was soon fired and the Allmans spent much of the '80s inactive.
In 1989 the box set Dreams stirred interest in the band. Another lineup formed, with Gregg, Trucks and Betts remaining and Johanson returning. Seven Turns (1990) was well received, leading to two live albums.
Despite having issued only two more studio LPs since 1990, the Allman Brothers Band remain a leading concert attraction; they play packed theaters nearly every year. This year the group played 18 shows at New York City's Beacon Theater. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
Innumerable Southern rock acts, including Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet, have enjoyed successful careers as a result of the avenues opened by the Allman Brothers Band.
Other birthdays: Eric Burdon (Animals), 58, and Jonathan "J.J." Jeczalik (Art of Noise), 44.