Allman Brothers reunion had to wait for a fresh audience, Betts says

September 21, 1990|By Nestor Aparicio | Nestor Aparicio,Evening Sun Staff

To hear guitarist Dickey Betts tell the story, the reunion of the Allman Brothers Band seems more like a labor of love than a lust for money.

"Last year Gregg [Allman] and I were both coming off of very respectable solo albums and we had a choice to make," Betts said. "We could go back into the studio as solo artists or try to bring the Allman Brothers back to life. It turns out we made the right decision."

The members of the band, which appears at Merriweather Post Pavilion tomorrow night, saw the monetary rewards of a reunion hanging over their heads since they cut their last disappointing album in 1981. But, Betts said, the impetus for last year's successful tour and the recent release of a new album, "Seven Turns," was more than just quick cash.

"Financially we would have benefited by coming back together a long time ago," Betts said. "But thank goodness we had the foresight to see it would have been a detriment to the name of the Allman Brothers. It would have been like a last hurrah, and we didn't want that."

Instead, what Betts and Allman wanted was a fresh audience for the Southern rock they wanted to create.

"We had been asked by all kinds of people at all different times about getting the band back together," Betts said. "We just didn't think it would work. There was no area in the market for us, nowhere to go with the '80s disco-rock going on. But with blues-oriented rock starting to make a comeback over the past few years, we saw an area where we could move ahead with the music."

So which came first, the tour or the album?

"Well, Epic, our record company, wanted us to go straight into the studio to cut an album and then tour," Betts said. "But we wanted to play together first. So we went on a 12-week tour last summer, playing mostly our solo stuff and the Allman Brothers standards, and it really helped us. We used that time together to get to know each other and write songs for the album. By the time we got into the studio we knew exactly what we wanted to do."

And that turned out to be a masterful work of songs from Allman and Betts, along with original drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe, and three new members, Warren Haynes (guitar), Allen Woody (bassist), Jonny Neel (piano). The sound of "Seven Turns" isn't at all unlike anything the Allman Brothers did during their heyday in 1975.

"We were trying to make an Allman Brothers record with an Allman Brothers sound," Betts said. "Very innocently, we wrote songs that we thought were good, and the record company and the fans have been just as happy."

But has the fine music been an inspiration to bring better relations between Allman and Betts, who were reportedly not on the best of terms some years ago?

"I get so tired of talking about Gregg and I," Betts said. "We worked together for 20 years, we had our differences and they really don't amount to much. You can't work together that long without having some disagreements. I mean, Jesus Christ probably had a few differences with his disciples."

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