In the kitchen is the table from H&H soul food restaurant. It’s where one of the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band, Dickey Betts, wrote “Ramblin’ Man” at 4 a.m. in the early 1970s.
One main room is nearly filled with a pool table once owned by Gregg Allman and Cher. A pane of glass sits atop the dark green felt, with scraps of memorabilia — guitar picks, canceled checks, a letter from Duane Allman to a friend about a recording session with Aretha Franklin — easily perused.
Upstairs, past a landing lined with a row of framed family photos, is Duane’s bedroom, the furniture and flowered wallpaper in the closet offering original pieces of history.
The Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House — a handsome 1904-built Tudor house that blends in with the other structures on Vineville Avenue — has existed since 2009 as a living testament to the band that defined Southern rock in the ’70s and whose history is stuffed with the kind of tragedy and triumphs usually relegated to soap operas.
Formed in 1969 by legendary brothers Duane and Gregg, along with guitarist/singer Dickey Betts, bassist Berry Oakley and drummers Butch Trucks and Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson, The Allman Brothers Band utilized Macon as their playground, recording parts of their 1970 album, “Idlewild South,” at Capricorn Sound Studios and that same year establishing The Big House as the band’s commune, which it would remain until 1973.
The tragic deaths of Duane in 1971 and Oakley a little more than a year later – both from motorcycle accidents three blocks apart in Macon — has only added to the band’s lore, and remains a reason why some of the collectibles in the house have been donated by fans.
“Because of the accidents, fans felt compelled to hold on to everything,” said Richard Brent, the affable and burly executive director of The Big House Museum. “In the South, The Allman Brothers were their band.”
The 6,000-square-foot house contains about 20 rooms filled with artifacts that attract about 20,000 fans annually and internationally. In 1993, spouses Kirk and Kirsten West, who worked for the band in the late ’80s, moved to Macon and purchased the abode. A plaque near the front door of The Big House Museum explains that it was their “dream” to turn their home into a bastion of preservation of Allman Brothers Band memorabilia.
Among the treasures: instruments and clothing; Trucks’ last drum kit before he died in 2017; the poignant, hand-scrawled lyrics of “My Only True Friend” — one of Gregg’s last compositions released posthumously on his 2017 “Southern Blood” album; even a thank you letter from then-presidential candidate Jimmy Carter typed on campaign letterhead to Jaimoe.
It’s those tangible tidbits that prompted friends Bill Taylor and Scott Monroe and their wives to drive three hours from their rental property in Hilton Head, South Carolina, for a pilgrimage to The Big House.
“(Coming here) is on my bucket list,” said Taylor, clad in a 1973 “Summer Jam” Allman Brothers T-shirt and baseball cap. He pulled a faded, partially torn ticket from his jacket pocket — a keepsake from the band’s September 1975 show at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey. “I grew up with the Allmans.”
Taylor and Monroe — who live the rest of the year in Montgomery, New York — attended at least one of The Allman Brothers Band’s fabled Beacon Theatre concerts every year they were performed between 1989 and 2014 (the Allmans played more than 230 shows at the venue).
On Tuesday in New York, the band will be celebrated for a milestone — and perhaps for one of the last times — with a blowout concert at Madison Square Garden.
Dubbed “The Brothers – Celebrating 50 Years of the music of The Allman Brothers Band,” the show will feature Jaimoe, along with guitarists Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes, bassist Oteil Burbridge and percussionist Marc Quinones, as well as Widespread Panic drummer Duane Trucks and keyboardist Reese Wynans. Former keyboardist — and Macon staple — Chuck Leavell will perform as a special guest.
Fans will also get to see Duane Allman’s fabled 1957 Les Paul goldtop (aka the “Layla” guitar), which was purchased last year at an auction for $1.25 million. The buyer agreed to split custody of the instrument with The Big House Museum, where it has been on display, but the guitar will make the trip to New York so Derek Trucks can play it during the concert. (It will then go to the owner for the next several months.)
The concert is sold-out — $1 from every ticket will benefit The Big House Museum, which operates as a non-profit — but fans can livestream the show on pay-per-view via nugs.net.
While Macon will always be Allman HQ – Gregg, Duane, Oakley and Butch Trucks are buried less than 2 miles from the museum in an impressive fenced-in shrine at Rose Hill Cemetery — New York was considered the band’s spiritual home.
They recorded their self-titled debut in the city, turned their Beacon Theatre residency into a mystical journey for fans and, said Brent, “Before Butch died, he talked about doing one more show at Madison Square Garden.”
This golden anniversary was also recognized with the January release of “Trouble No More: 50th Anniversary Collection,” a box set of rarities, unreleased tracks and live performances.
“It’s pretty awesome that the Allmans have touched so many people for so many years,” Brent said, as he looked around at the mounds of memorabilia filling each room.
Taylor, the super-fan finally able to check the museum visit off of his bucket list, unintentionally proved Brent’s point as he prepared to depart with his wife and friends.
He pulled the yellowed and tattered concert ticket from his pocket again, walked into the room with the pool table and slipped it under the glass — an old memory for a new generation to relish.
Look for coverage of the March 10 Allman Brothers Band concert on The Atlanta Music Scene.
IF YOU GO
The Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday (gates are locked 45 minutes prior to closing). $10-$15. 2321 Vineville Ave., Macon. 478-741-5551. the bighousemuseum.com.
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