I was so sad to hear about the passing of Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks – sadder still when I learned that his death was self inflicted. I hope his loved ones will find comfort and remember the good times.
In the summer of 1972 we were mourning the loss of Duane Allman. It was exactly a year after the release of At Fillmore East, a huge success for the band. Idlewild South, in 1970, received much airplay on the New York FM stations, especially the improvisational masterpiece In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, but, At Fillmore East was an album that was truly an instant classic. The Allmans were at their best when playing live.
Duane’s sudden demise was a shock to all of us. Little did we know that soon we would also lose innovative bassist Berry Oakley.
I didn’t know what to expect when I headed out to Gaelic Park on that day in July of 1972. The concert venue was familiar to me: an Irish-American soccer stadium in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. It was not at all like a modern stadium show. This was basically a walled-in field with no seating, other than on the ground, with a stage at one end. An intimate space where you would quickly make friends. In fact, when exiting through the narrow, aqueduct-like arches the crowd would make mooing sounds, like cattle going to the slaughter.
I was going as a loyal fan trying to show support for a band I loved. Nevertheless, I admit that my expectations were not especially high. I didn’t know if the band could survive the loss of Duane.
I was very impressed with the way that the remaining band members carried on, especially Dickey Betts. He showed that he could play a mean slide guitar in addition to his usual biting solos and while he was not trying to be a substitute for Duane he held his own and respectfully honored Duane’s memory.
There was a hill behind the stage with a billboard. All of a sudden, I saw some people sitting on the hill. A few of them looked familiar. I realized in an instant that it was Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzman. In the 1970’s you were always hoping for these serendipitous moments when musicians from your favorite bands would show up and jam together. I felt that these members of the Grateful Dead showed up to give moral support to the Allman Brothers in the wake of tragedy – but, would they actually play?
Happily, they did join to play an epic Mountain Jam together. Most accounts I have seen mention Garcia and Weir, yet, I distinctly remember Kreutzman (and I have seen some photos) as a third drummer. This was a pivotal show in the legacy of the Allman Brothers. It is a shame that the only recording of this event that I can find is a really poor quality audience recording. If this show was recorded by the band or someone in the Grateful Dead’s entourage I hope it will surface.