Here’s the GABBA experience…
by Ron Everhart
Ron’s article was originally submitted to the ALLMAN listserv right after the ’97 GABBAfest. It tells it like it was.. We appreciate his giving permission to publish it on GABBAnet for all of you to enjoy.
Ron is one of the true GABBAfest stalwarts and has been to more than a few – all of them so far, Ron? He is also very active on the Allman and Gov’t Mule Internet email listservs.
…and this is abbreviated ’cause I was havin’ too much fun to take notes!
I’ll assume that most of y’all, like me, had never been to Macon.
I hit town about 2:30, got a nice room at the Crown Plaza Hotel. It’s a
modern, recently renovated hotel just on the edge of downtown, within a few
blocks of all the GABBA activities, the Opera House, the Georgia Music HOF,
and a Waffle House. The GABBA folks got us an astounding rate ($59!), and I
went further by talking the desk guy into a free upgrade to a suite.
Unfortunately, there were no more suites left (I found out later that some
friends of mine had actually been bumped from their suite, but the guy really
took a shot at it, spending ten minutes fiddling around with the computer.)
(FWIW, here’s the pitch: walk in with a BIG ASS boom box, explain that you’re
with a group, and that your neighbors and the neighbors of the folks that’ll
be in your room at 3 AM will be terribly grateful in a way they’ll literally
never know if you’re in a suite far far away from the other paying guests. Try
it sometime.) So I settled for having my request that “you get me as high as
possible in the hotel.” (Yeah, yeah, I know.) So I got the 12th floor with a
lovely view and NO neighbors.
First checked in with Bob McCann. As everyone says, the great thing about
GABBA is putting names with faces. Bob was sharing a room with Steve Padgug.
They were kind enough to walk me up to the Georgia Music HOF to register.
(First thing about Macon: if I owned Macon and Hell, I’d summer in Hell.
Seriously, wouldn’t late October be a great time to have this next year now
that it’s not in conjunction with the World-Famous Cherry Blossom Jubilee or
whatever? Geez it was hot and humid!)
The GA Music HOF is very impressive, a lovely new building, designed for easy
access. There were video rooms showing Brothers performances. I watched some
of a video shot at the Fillmore east way back when. (And yes, I applauded at
the end of Whipping Post.) The Brothers exhibits were impressive and on the 2
upper floors, memorabilia was for sale. That’s where I ran into Sara T., Meg
Wi, and Al Booth, 3 of the nicest, kindest, most dedicated (and yet, strangely
normal :~) ) ABB/Mule fans anywhere.
Perhaps coincidentally, I ran into a stray Vaylorette or two a little later…
After the HOF closed at 5, GABBA registrants were able to hang around after
hours. I watched some of the auction (note to organizers: get someone who can
at least feign enthusiasm to be the auctioneer next year. Hell, I’ll
volunteer. Leastways I’ll make it fun whether anything gets sold or not…
Back out at the park, they were cranking out the music. OKB took the stage a
little late. The heat and a powerful craving for some food took me away from
the park early in their set, but what I saw was impressive and by all accounts
they surprised the hell outta everyone who saw them play, both there and at
the Opera House.
Back at the Hotel, I met up with Chris and Sussanne Sasser, my main companions
(and caretakers) for the evening. Chris had a World-Famous Mule Ale
(literally) with my name on it. They say a poor man can live on two of these a
That about takes me up to the Mule show. I’ll say in passing that that’s where
I ran into Bob Beatty and Steve Marshall (a coupla great guys and an extra
thank you to Bob, who was with Lana, which is how I wound up up-front for some
of the show!).
Great show, by the way. See EMule for various descriptions. Let’s just say
that the Mule literally shook the foundations…
The next AM, Bob McCann gave me the “Wake-up call from Hell.” Of course, after
getting in after 3 AM the night before, any call would’ve been…
We wandered up to H & H for the brunch. Got there kinda late, around 11:20ish.
That’s where I first realized how many folks were there for GABBA. Not only
was the restaurant full, but there was a tent set up outside with tables and
chairs. We ate out there. I’m a craven vegetarian, so I stuck to the really
terrific biscuits and wonderful Peach Cobbler. Didn’t inquire as to what was
in the ingredients. Great stuff, back for seconds!
Mama Louise had apparently hired a cameraman to interview some of the
participants and document the sights and sounds of GABBA. He was a stitch. He
was middle-aged, polite to the point of obsequity and just as nice a man as
could be imagined. Clearly, he had done no research prep for the weekend. He
was interviewing folks right and left.
An aside: what does Marty Willett do when he’s not doing what he was doing
last Sunday morning? Just wondering.
McCann, Padgug and I stopped off in front of the old Walden offices for a
photo op or two. Whaddaya think? Should you stand in front flipping off the
building or flipping off the world from in front of the building. I say the
latter, Steve and Bob the former.
Worn out, I was headed home, but decided wisely to drop by the Big House.
There’ve been plenty of descriptions of the Big House, so I’ll just add a few.
1) Kirk West: gracious host, justifiably proud of what he’s assembled.
Whatever his reputation may be, he’s a damn interesting guy just to chat with
for a few minutes, and damn funny too. (Sadly, I was still a little incoherent
at that point, but everyone seemed to understand. :~)
2) Kirk Anderson: would sweat blood for OKB.
3) I could spend DAYS in there. Everything imaginable. Autographed picture of
WILLIE DIXON! Portrait of the Bros. w/ Bill Graham inscribed by Graham “Kirk
— to the good times! Bill” Duane and Berry Memorabilia out the wazoo. Posters
and more posters.
And on and on.
Oddly, for me the most poignant thing was off in a corner. I kneeled on the
floor to read it start to finish. It was a hand-printed set of lyrics to (I
think) “End of the Line” written in, presumably, Allen Woody’s hand. At the
bottom, it said “Allen Woody 1994 Proud to be an Allman Brother.” It’s no
secret in these parts that Allen Woody’s one of my favorite musicians and a
damn great guy who I hold in high esteem (so much so that when I came outside
after the show Saturday night and my friends were talking to him I just kinda
stumbled past, feeling embarrassed that I was so loaded as to probably make no
sense in front of one of the only people around whose opinion I really value.
I awoke the next morning thinking of myself as a rude SOB, but I was so
torched that I didn’t want to embarrass myself, and I guess I did
anyway…8~(| ). It just seemed sad to me, I don’t know, despite his
rough-looking exterior, he strikes me as a pretty sensitive guy and it summed
up for me in a moment’s time the sense of sadness I’ve felt over events
earlier this year…
Afterwards, it was off to the cemetery to view Little Martha’s grave. (“Our
Baby” it reads. She’s buried on a hill next to her parents. She died at 12 in
1887, they died a few months apart in 1923. I thought about how many times
they must’ve stood there in the summer heat, or the fall colors, on that
windswept wintry hilltop, or amidst the cruel renewal of spring greenery, for
36 long years, waiting to be reunited with their long-lost, forever young baby
girl…Think of that next time you hear “Little Martha.”)
At Berry and Duane’s graves, madness seemed the order of the day. Berry’s
sister stood on the hilltop overlooking the graves, hired police officer in
tow. The graves were covered with blankets, surrounded with chicken wire and
police tape. From the hill, I could hear her talking loudly above the
desecration of the graves, that they belong to the family, that they’re
private property, and so on and so on. I wondered where it is that paying
respects ends and a fetishistic attachment to stones begins. Visitors to the
graves came quietly, respectful of the sister, saddened all the more. It’s
been 25 years, what if no one had remembered? Would that be better for her?
It was time to leave town. I popped in Johnny Cash singing a sad, sad song —
“Rowboat, row me to the shore…” and took the highway.
NEXT YEAR IN MACON!!!!!
copyright 1998 by Ron Everhart (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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