Monday, May 11, 2015

The Allman Brothers: Blue Sky

The Allman Brothers Band were formed in 1969 by brothers Duane and Gregg Allman. While the band has been called the principal architects of southern rock, they also incorporate elements of blues, jazz, and country music, and their live shows have jam band-style improvisation and instrumentals.

The Original Lineup:
Duane Allman (slide guitar and lead guitar)
Gregg Allman (vocals, keyboards, songwriting)
Dickey Betts (lead guitar, vocals, songwriting)
Berry Oakley (bass guitar)
Butch Trucks (drums)
Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson (drums)

The group's first two studio releases stalled commercially, but their 1971 live release, At Fillmore East, represented an artistic and commercial breakthrough. The album features extended renderings of their songs "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and "Whipping Post", and is often considered among the best live albums.

Group leader Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident not long afterward, and the band completed Eat a Peach (1972) in his memory, a dual studio/live album that cemented the band's popularity.

Following the death of bassist Berry Oakley later that year, the group recruited keyboardist Chuck Leavell and bassist Lamar Williams for 1973's Brothers and Sisters, which, combined with the hit single, "Ramblin' Man", placed the group at the forefront of 1970s rock music.

Internal turmoil overtook the band soon after; the group dissolved in 1976, reformed briefly at the end of the decade with additional personnel changes, and dissolved again in 1982.

The band reformed once more in 1989, releasing a string of new albums and touring heavily. A series of personnel changes in the late 1990s was capped by the departure of Betts.

The group found stability during the 2000s with bassist Oteil Burbridge and guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks (the nephew of their drummer), and became renowned for their month-long string of shows at New York City's Beacon Theater each spring.

The band retired in 2014. The band has been awarded eleven gold and five platinum albums, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. Rolling Stone ranked them 52nd on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time in 2004.

I've enjoyed most the Allman Brothers songs, and "Blue Sky" is among one of my favorites.

"Blue Sky" is a song on the Eat a Peach double album. Dickey Betts composed it about his Native American girlfriend, Sandy "Bluesky" Wabegijig, whom he later married.

Guitarists Duane Allman and Betts alternate playing the song's lead, Allman solo beginning 1:07 in, Betts joining in a shared melody line at 2:28, followed by Betts solo at 2:37.

While Duane Allman died before Eat a Peach's release, the Band played the song live several times before and after the album's studio version was recorded. Only one of these performances, recorded live during a September 19, 1971, concert at S.U.N.Y. Stonybrook, has been released by the band; several bootleg recordings from other shows circulate.

"Blue Sky" was Dickey Betts' debut as lead vocalist with the Allman Brothers Band. He had previously composed two songs on the Band's second album, Idlewild South; "Revival", on which Gregg Allman sang the lead vocal, and the instrumental "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed".

"Blue Sky" has been covered several times, perhaps the best known being by Joan Baez on her 1975 album Diamonds & Rust, also released as a single.

Two versions of "Blue Sky" were being performed as of 2012: An Allman Brothers take on the SUNY Stony Brook/Eat a Peach original (with Warren Haynes on lead vocals, though Gregg Allman does them sometimes), and an arrangement which evolved between 1973 and 2001 played by Dickey Betts and his band Great Southern.

I hope you enjoy today's song as much as I do.
Here is the live recording that features Duane Allman

What does tomorrow bring?

Tune in to find out! 

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