Allman Betts Family Revival salutes Allman Brothers legacy at Capital One Hall in Tysons, Virginia

Hear our full chat on my podcast “Beyond the Fame with Jason Fraley.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Allman Betts Family Revival at Capital One Hall (Part 1)
The Allman Betts Family Revival pays tribute to their fathers' Allman Brothers music. (Capital One Hall)

Their fathers made music history with The Allman Brothers Band, being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and ranking No. 53 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time in 2011 as “without question the first great jam band.”

This Tuesday, Dec. 5, talented musicians Duane Betts (son of Dickey Betts) and Devon Allman (son of Gregg Allman) pay tribute to their fathers’ enduring legacy with the Allman Betts Family Revival at Capital One Hall in Tysons, Virginia.

“It’s more or less a celebration of my father’s catalog and Gregg Allman’s catalog and a celebration of the Allman Brothers Band in general,” Duane Betts told WTOP. “We only do this once a year, this particular thing, and we do it every year as a celebration and a tip of the hat just for a couple weeks. … It’s really special, it’s a great way to end the year, we call up our friends and see who’s available and who wants to do it. We have so many great guests.”

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, brothers Gregg and Duane Allman lived briefly near Norfolk, Virginia where their father Willis Allman was stationed in the U.S. Army. Their dad was a World War II veteran, having stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, but was tragically murdered by a hitchhiker the night after Christmas in 1949.

Eventually, the brothers made their way to Jacksonville, Florida to form the Allman Brothers Band. Their 1969 self-titled debut album featured the original five-minute studio version of “Whipping Post,” which would later enter classic-rock lore with a live 22:40 version on the landmark live album “At Fillmore East” (1971).

“‘Whipping Post’ is a lot of fun, you can really do some exploring, I like to really test the boundaries on it in the opening sections,” Duane Betts said. “There’s so much improvisation and the potential for something really amazing, the potential for magic to happen. What I mean by that is the fans have a certain standard that has been set in those songs. … You have these long jam sessions where it can either be cool and good or it can be magical.”

The band’s second studio album “Idlewild South” (1970) featured Betts’ opening track “Revival,” the band’s first song to make the Billboard Hot 100 chart, as well as the iconic southern-rock anthem “Midnight Rider.”

“That one’s pretty universal,” Duane Betts said. “Everybody likes that song, the hippies, the bikers, everybody likes it. That’s kind of one that is a good way to just wrap everything up with. I’m not going to give away the surprises or the set list, but we tend to close the show with that. That’s kind of the tradition, just get everybody up on stage and just take it home with ‘Midnight Rider,’ you can’t really beat that.”

Unfortunately, tragedy struck the band when Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1971, while bass player Berry Oakley died in a separate motorcycle accident in 1972. Both were just 24 years old.

The surviving band members comforted each other and found solace in completing their third album “Eat a Peach” (1972), a double-album combo of live and studio recordings including “Mountain Jam,” “Blue Sky” and “Melissa.”

“Gregg said he was in a grocery store and was looking for a title for [‘Melissa’],” Duane Betts said. “He heard this woman calling for her daughter, calling her name ‘Melissa.’ That’s what he always said, it always sounded a little vague to me, but that’s what he always said, that’s how the title came to be, in the grocery store, this lady calling, ‘Melissa, Melissa!’ … If it’s that easy to write a great song, I should hang out at the grocery store more.”

Their fourth album “Brothers and Sisters” (1973) was their most iconic thanks to “Ramblin’ Man,” penned by Dickey Betts, who wrote the line “I was born in the back seat of a Greyhound Bus rollin’ down Highway 41.”

“It’s a great line,” Duane Betts said. “He got the line, ‘When it’s time for leavin’, I hope you’ll understand, that I was born a ramblin’ man,’ that’s something that someone used to say to him. I forget the gentleman’s name, but one of his mentors would say that, so there’s a real story behind that, but all of the other stuff about being ‘born in the back seat of a Greyhound Bus,’ that’s just imagery and making your point. It’s really good stuff.”

His father also wrote “Southbound” for the same album, as well as the all-time instrumental tune “Jessica.”

“It just makes people feel really good,” Duane Betts said. “To write an instrumental and not have a vocal and have it be that captivating, the melody is so strong and so undeniably captivating that it almost is like a song that has words and a singer. But yeah, he wrote that for my sister Jessica. She was crawling around the floor and he was playing guitar, trying to capture the innocence of what it’s like when you’re a child crawling around the floor.”

Plenty of other studio albums followed, including “Win, Lose or Draw” (1975), “Enlightened Rogues” (1979), “Reach for the Sky” (1980), “Brothers of the Road” (1981), “Seven Turns” (1990), “Shades of Two Worlds” (1991), “Where It All Begins” (1994) and “Hittin’ the Note” (2003), not to mention a half a dozen more live albums.

The original lineup lost two more members in 2017 when drummer Butch Trucks committed suicide and Gregg Allman died of cancer. While Trucks’ nephew Derek Trucks teamed with Susan Tedeschi to form Tedeschi Trucks, Gregg’s son Devon formed the Allman Betts Band with Dickey Betts’ son Duane and Berry Oakey’s son Berry Duane Oakley in 2018, recording the original albums “Down to the River” (2019) to “Bless Your Heart” (2020).

“Devon started it after his father, Gregg Allman, passed away,” Duane Betts said. “He started it as a celebration for his father, it was just one show in San Francisco, and it’s grown to now where we go out for three weeks. We thought it was appropriate to bring my dad into the narrative as we end up playing a lot of his songs. … My dad is getting older in age, he’ll be 80, so we thought it was appropriate to make it a tribute to him as well.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Allman Betts Family Revival at Capital One Hall (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation on the podcast below:

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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