Butch Trucks’ death: Memories of Jimmy Carter, Gregg Allman — and Cher

Jan. 19, 1977 - President-elect Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn say hello to an old friend at Gala. Rock musician Gregg Allman was one of the performers at the Kennedy Center show. (AP) 1977
Jan. 19, 1977 - President-elect Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn say hello to an old friend at Gala. Rock musician Gregg Allman was one of the performers at the Kennedy Center show. (AP) 1977

Allman Brothers Band founding member Butch Trucks's death on Tuesday night at the age of 69 came as a shock. Less surprising is the news that donations in the drummer's memory are being directed to The Big House museum in Macon.

After all, no matter how far or high up they traveled, the iconic band never lost sight of where it had all begun.

Soon after brothers Gregg and Duane Allman formed their namesake seminal Southern rock group in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1969, they took up residence in Macon — home of Phil Walden and the legendary Capricorn Records. By January 1970, they'd moved along with the rest of the original band members, roadies, friends and family into a Grand Tudor House on Vineville Avenue in Macon. Affectionately known as The Big House, it's now the site of the Allman Brothers Band Museum. Here's some of what the AJC wrote about the house and the band's colorful history there in a story last May.

The biggest bedroom at the front of the house went to Gregg Allman and his then-girlfriend, Candy Oakley (the sister of Berry Oakley, one of the band’s founding members), according to the museum’s website, www.thebighousemuseum.com.

It was while they were living in Macon and recording at Capricorn that the Allman Brothers found international fame — and repeat tragedy. In 1971, the band released “At Fillmore East,” which Rolling Stone magazine ranks No. 49 on its list of the best albums of all time. Four days after the album was certified gold, Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in October 1971.

RELATED: Jimmy Carter helps give Gregg Allman honorary degree

Trucks later went on to form Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band, which headlined a benefit dinner for The Big House Museum just last April. So enduring was the bond between the "original Allmans" and their adopted hometown in fact, that Mercer University awarded Gregg Allman, 68, an honorary doctorate of humanities last May. And none other than former President Jimmy Carter appeared onstage at the Macon-based university's graduation ceremony to help award Allman his degree.

Carter, then 91, was there as a member of the Mercer board of trustees. But his connection to the Allman Brothers went much deeper than old school ties. When Carter began his longshot candidacy for the presidency in 1974, the Allman Brothers Band provided crucial early funding by playing fundraisers for the native of tiny Plains, located some 9o minutes from Macon.

RELATED: Jimmy Carter & Gregg Allman's story goes way back. And it involves Cher.

"Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers just about put me in the White House," Carter recalled in this story, which included his reminiscences about meeting the onetime Mrs. Gregg Allman — Cher — back then. "They were the best fundraisers that we had. In those days, they would charge somebody $15 to come hear them play. And we were getting the whole $15 plus 15 more matching dollars!"

MORE: Read the AJC's Melissa Ruggieri's interview with Butch Trucks

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