Allman Brothers Band – The Final Note – Painters Mill Music Fair – Owings Mills, MD – 10/17/71 (Allman Brothers Band Records)
Recently discovered cassette of the final performance of the great Duane Allman
Duane Allman was just 24 years old when he was killed in a motorcycle accident in October of 1971. After many years of stellar work as a session guitarist, his own Allman Brothers Band was just starting to achieve their full potential when his life was snuffed out. Over the years, virtually every second of his brief performance career has been issued in some form or another. But, The Final Note is something completely unique – here, for the first time ever, is Allman’s final concert performance before he passed away, just 10 days later.
We have Sam Idas, an Allman fan and former DJ, to thank for unearthing this gem. He was given permission to interview Gregg Allman after this show and brought along his cassette recorder. While sitting in the audience, he decided, what the heck, and pressed record. Little did he know that he was documenting Duane’s final show. He’d forgotten all about this tape until a friend asked if he still had it.
This is NOT a professional recording. In fact, one of the first things you hear as “Statesboro Blues” begins is Idas saying “testing, testing.” The microphone was built in to the recorder, so it isn’t great fidelity. At first, you’ll probably be put off by the low fi quality. But, give your ears a few minutes to adjust and you’ll be amazed at what’s here.
At first, there seems to be a problem with the house sound, as Duane asks “are the mics louder than the music”? Be patient, the sound actually gets better as the night goes on. Duane seems to be in a jovial mood as he clowns between songs (accusing the crowd of being on Qualudes) and verbally sings the count-offs of several tunes.
“Trouble No More” features some fantastic interplay between Allman’s slide work and Dickey Betts equally liquid fretwork. “One Way Out” is just blistering, one of the finest versions I’ve ever heard – both guitars seem to be going for broke, while Gregg wails through an extended ending.
Things go up a notch when they invite saxophonist Juicy Carter up for the final three songs.
This addition really makes “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” sound more like Ornette Coleman than Southern rock. Both drummers add aspects that I’ve never heard on any other rendition. Too bad this fantastic version gets cut off (Idas had to turn over the cassette!)
For the encore, Duane asks “what would you like to hear”? Even in those early days, the crowd roared for “Whippin’ Post,” which must’ve have come at a point where the band was running out of time…because he then says, “a ten minute ‘Whippin’ Post,’ the man says. Some things you just have no control over.” The version they do is ferocious – still clocking in at over 12 minutes, hard rock devolving into freeform near the end.
Sure, this is a bootleg quality recording. But, it’s also a holy grail for fans: a final glimpse of the mastery of Duane Allman, and the swan song of the first incarnation of the Allman Brothers Band. —Tony Peters