1998 GABBAFEST MEMORIES
…(OR HOW I GOT AWAY FROM THE HURRICANE! HAD A “NEAR GREGG” EXPERIENCE! AND GOT BACK TO MY MUSICAL AND FAMILY ROOTS)
by “Little” Martha Jones Long (pictured at the Music City Grill with Johnny Jenkins portrait)
Although I’ve lived in New Orleans long enough to be regarded as a native by some standards, I am first and foremost, a Georgia Peach, born and raised in the Central Savannah River Area. Everyone in the world knows what a Mecca New Orleans is for Dixieland, Jazz, Blues, R&B, and thankfully, some Rock. But most of my favorite music was home grown in Macon, Georgia, on a label that also happens to be my birth sign: Capricorn.
They say, “Into each life a little rain must fall.” In early 1997, I experienced a personal flood losing whom I considered to be my life partner after a short illness. In the months that followed, I used music like therapy, often letting Bonnie Raitt’s version of Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home To Me” lull me to sleep. During that time I began looking for all things Allman, Browne, Skynyrd, Tucker, Credence, Clapton, Three Dog Night, Zeppelin, and so on.
In November 1997, I went to a Gregg Allman & Friends concert at the House of Blues in New Orleans with my friend Lil’ Bobby “Blue” (cause his favorite music is the blues), who dubbed me “Little Martha” (after the ABB instrumental, of course). Bobby was determined that we should get there early, so when the doors opened at 8:00 p.m. we were the third and fourth in line. After being banded and stamped by HOB staff, we walked through the portals, and straight up to the front of the stage (SRO except for very limited seating in the “Gold Circle”) and claimed territory right in front of Gregg’s B-3. It wasn’t but a couple of minutes until we heard the voice of John DuBois say, “Hey, y’all got the best spot!” (Yes, the very one who discovered the lost New Orleans Warehouse Tapes.) We started sharing fan memories of who’d seen Duane and where; Berry’s abilities to make his driving Bass serve as a third harmony guitar with Duane and Dickey; Jaimoe and Butch’s dual drumming and how this one band listened and had one drummer trying to copy their licks; the breakups; the marriages/divorces; reformations, personnel changes, which album was the best, which version of which song was the favorite, Hittin’ the Note, and Hittin’ the Web. And inevitably, the question came up: “Where were you the day Duane or Berry died?” As the crowd grew, people began to talk about a festival in Macon with performers like Oakley Krieger Band, Gov’t Mule, Devon Allman and others; poster collectors; tape trading and who was taping tonight’s show and how we could get a copy; The Big House, Rose Hill; H&H and Mama Louise. Then opening act: –the Derek Trucks Band–came on and played their hearts out for us. It was unbelievable to see such a young man play slide so skillfully, almost reverently. Finally it was time for Gregg & Friends. Gregg loves New Orleans and let everyone know it! Hall, Matthews, Miles, and all of Friends were electric. This was their second night at the HOB on the “Searching for Simplicity” Tour and John told us that this performance was better than the night before. Gregg looked better than I’d ever seen him. He caught my eye when I was singing along with “Melissa” and winked and smiled (I figure he can spot a Georgia peach at 120 paces!). When Jimmy Hall sang “Keep On Smiling” it was hard to keep still, so I didn’t. Then Gregg sang “Dark End of the Street” and there was hardly a dry eye on stage or among fans. After about an hour and a half, Gregg said goodnight – much too soon for us. At first I did the usual to get them back – just clapped. But then it occurred to me that pounding on the stage might be more efficient. I started pounding on the floorboards with my hand and Bobby and John joined in. [The next day John sent me an E-mail that he had never (mis?)behaved like that at a concert before.] Then everyone that was in front of the stage started pounding also. Those who were not started stomping their feet, and whistling. Now the House of Blues is in a very old converted warehouse in New Orleans. Since the roof did not cave in on us and we did not fall through the floor from all the noise, it made me have a greater respect for the architects of long ago who knew how to build for the future. But I’m not sure this near riot was what they had in mind! John said it had taken the audience 20 minutes to get GA&F back the night before. In less than 15, Gregg, Friends, and Derek Trucks took the stage. It seemed all this adulation had revived them and we got another 30 minutes of fantastic ear candy! After exchanging E-mail information and hugs, we all left for home.
In April 1998 Gov’t Mule came to the HOB on their “Dose” tour. Lots of familiar faces in the same SRO environment. More talk about Macon and GABBA. Then Mule came on and really kicked butt! Warren is an amazing performer. His voice was strong, solid, powerful. When he announced that he was going to do some tunes from the Allman Brothers, the crowd (including myself) roared. The song he performed first was “Soulshine”, one of my favorites. Brian Stotz of the Funky Meters joined them for an acoustic set. At 1:00 am they were still jamming which did not make people lined up outside to come in for Latino Night very happy, but thrilled us!
One of the few good things about Scott Freeman’s book (I won’t do a book review here.) is that he does mention the work of the Georgia Allman Brothers Band Association and GABBAFest. I was determined to find out more about it. I didn’t just want to go I HAD TO GO!
SOMEONE TO RUN WITH!
A Hurricane is heading toward Louisiana today.
After checking in the hotel and unpacking a little, I tried to fall asleep. I was like a kid waiting for Christmas morning to arrive. I was in Macon–back “Where It All Began”. Finally I drifted off. The next morning while Pat slept late, I put on my jeans, T-shirt and boots, and began my adventure exploring some of the sights of Macon.
H & H – Mama Louise’s cooking soothes your soul like a great blues slide guitar! From the moment you walk through the door, breathe in the aroma of crispy fried chicken or breaded pork chops, collard or turnip greens seasoned to perfection, your brain is telling your taste buds that something wonderful is about to happen! Just hope that you’re lucky enough to get one of her sweet potato pies! (Calories be damned! Besides, you can easily work those off dancing or helping with the Rose Hill clean up.) A treat for the eyes also awaits you as she has her own archives of ABB (including some oils) and other artists as well.
THE BIG HOUSE – I felt really honored to have the Tour Mystic himself arrange my tour. The first thing I noticed was how truly beautiful the Big House is. The second was all the mushroom artifacts. Inside a large, friendly dog and an even friendlier guide greeted me. Seeing all the memorabilia amassed over many years for the first time was awesome. Almost every inch of every wall covered. Posters, CDs, guitars, tour jackets, newspaper articles, concert flyers. Feelings of admiration, appreciation, respect, love, envy [ENVY? Now how’d that word get in there?] overwhelmed me.
ROSE HILL – I parked outside the gate and entered this beautiful site on foot. My trip would not have been complete without seeking out Little Martha, the Bond Monument, and Elizabeth Reed. [I purposely did not visit Duane and Berry until Easter. I wrote a note to the Message Board about my experience.]
ART FOR ABB’S SAKE – In a back issue of “Hittin’ the Note” there was an article about where to find ABB art in Macon. The Georgia Music Hall of Fame and Capricorn Studios have been covered extensively by others. I went in search of a charcoal on canvas of Duane and 3’ X 4’ acrylic of the ABB at the Bond Monument in Rose Hill. I was not disappointed.
I also took a picture of a beautiful angel at Rose Hill. I’m sure this angel watches over Little Martha, Elizabeth Reed, Duane and Berry, and those of us who venture back to our musical roots.
GABBA JAM AT MUSIC CITY GRILL – What could be better than having another convention at your hotel that had booked vans to take them back and forth? I’ll tell you what. Having the driver say, “I’ve got a few minutes free, I’ll drive you!” (for a small fee of course) and at least 12 people get in! No worrying about a designated driver. (Unfortunately, the driver only had a Joe Walsh tape, but we made do!) Before long we were at the Music City Grill ready for the music to begin.
For those of you who have not been, the Music City Grill is something best experienced when it is not as crowded as it was for GABBA Jam. Management does not mind if you explore or take pictures. There are signed guitars above some of the windows – my personal favorite being that of Johnny Jenkins; a signed copy of “Melissa” and other ABB memorabilia; Sea Level poster; memorabilia of other local and national artists; huge collages; a grand piano hanging upside down from the ceiling; a sculpture made entirely of musical instruments; and a bar painted like piano keys. The acoustics are fantastic for an intimate, live performance. The cuisine is excellent and the staff attentive.
Yonrico Scott and Friends of Derek Trucks Band: Scott is a fantastic drummer and showman. Great set.
Gracie Moon: Some people compare Gracie Moon to Fleetwood Mac (without Peter Greene). Lead singer Holly Baumann has similar moves to Stevie Nicks, especially in Edwardian dress. Personally, I think her soulful styling is more like Taylor Dayne. I could not pass up the fan sample CD.
We were late getting to MCG due to phone calls to see how things were back home with the hurricane – not an easy task since most of New Orleans had vacated to points west.
Chris Hicks: In addition to the ABB, I’m also a fan of Cowboy, The Outlaws and the Marshall Tucker Band. What a joy to meet a talented performer who played with both The Outlaws and MTB, while remaining down-to-earth and family centered. If you don’t own “Funky Broadway” WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? For my money, Chris and Shawn Mullins (who’s career has been influenced greatly by another friend of ABB, Steve Earle) are two rising stars! It was also a pleasure to see Paul Hornsby.
Barry Richman: This band really knows their blues! Would be great to see them again.
Allman or Allmost? On Saturday afternoon I had what David “ROOK” Goldflies would later call my “NEAR-GREGG EXPERIENCE” – Allmost Gregg (Wayne Sharpe): As I was leaving the Crowne Plaza an SUV drove up. A tall, slim man in T-shirt, shorts, pony tail, got out, smiled and waved like he knew who I was. He walked over and gave me a hug. Now everyone knows that you need at least 12 hugs a day, and to be quite honest, I was missing a dozen at that point. Being the polite southern lady my mother raised me to be, I hugged him back! He asked me where I was living now. I told him New Orleans. He said, “Oh, you left to get away from the hurricane?” I told him I had actually come to Macon for GABBA. Getting out of the path of a hurricane was an added bonus. About that time they brought my car up and he hugged me again (now I only need ten more!). He said, “We’re playing at the Music City Grill tonight.” I told him I’d be there. I ran into him later in the lobby. He had cigars in his hand and offered me one, which I declined. HUGS = YES; CIGARS = NO! Then he told me what hotel Gov’t Mule was staying in and how Warren Haynes was registered. [If I ever see him again I’ll have to ask him why he thought I should know that.}That night, Sharpe dressed impeccably in black as Gregg took his place behind the B-3 organ, and he and the Allmost Brothers had the crowd on their feet dancing, singing along, and smiling.
RIGHT PLACE, WRONG TIME – I went outside for a little fresh air between sets. Another GABBA member and I struck up a conversation. He introduced himself and I did likewise. He told me that his first wife had been named Martha and he divorced her because she didn’t like the Allman Brothers. I replied that I was single and I, of course, loved the Allman Brothers. Turns out he was engaged, a definite Dr. John moment!
BACK TO THE CSRA – Pat and I left very early Sunday morning driving to Lincolnton for my family’s reunion, thus missing Gov’t Mule’s performance. “You can pick your friends, but you cannot pick your family!” Consider this: The reunion started at 12:30 p.m. and by 2:00 p.m. the food and most everyone was gone except for my three brothers and their families and one of my uncles! I’m not complaining. I’m a little bit selfish where my brothers are concerned. So this “bonding time” was well spent!
BROTHERS AND SISTERS EVERYONE – I don’t know if it’s engrained in those of us who love the ABB, but there is an immediate camaraderie between fans, especially members of GABBA. Thanks so much to everyone who made this experience such a pleasure. (I thought about naming you all, but then I’d feel terrible if I left someone out.) Some of you kept us in your prayers as we headed back towards Louisiana after the roads opened on Tuesday. Luckily, when I returned your E-mails or phone calls, I reported only minor wind damage–nothing substantial. Some of you have become very dear friends, enriched my life, while adding minutes/hours (and dollars) to my long-distance charges!
It’s also amazing to me that just by wearing an ABB T-shirt, the number of people who will come over and talk to you, tell you when they last saw a concert, and ask you questions. I went out to dinner alone one Sunday night – taking my journal and my favorite pen for company. A young woman came to refresh my coffee. Her name tag read “Jessica”. She said, “I noticed your shirt. My mother and dad love the Allman Brothers, in fact, they named me after one of their songs. I’ve grown to love them too.” Another generation touched by the music!
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my two favorite Bassists, webmasters, and all-around great guys for cyber hugs, real-time chatter, and encouragement. You are loved!
SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER!