Allman Brothers' Jacksonville Days: Jumping Creeks And Partying In Riverside

Aug 28, 2020

The Allman Brothers Band was one of the most critically admired and commercially successful rock groups of the 1970s and beyond. Although many of the band’s best songs were created in Jacksonville, VOIDCAST host Matt Shaw argues the band is wildly underappreciated locally. 

The formative period of the Allman Brothers Band  — four passion-, drug-, and kismet-fueled months in the spring of 1969 — was when the pieces of the legendary group came together in Jacksonville’s Riverside neighborhood. 

Then, poof, they were gone to Macon, Georgia, then on the road, playing famously at places like Piedmont Park in Atlanta, in the studio with Eric Clapton, and of course for Bill Graham at the Fillmore both East and West. 

Eventually, the Allman Brothers Band sold something like 10 million records. They had hits like “Dreams” and “Revival,” many of which were written or came together during the band's time in Jacksonville that turned the late ‘60s music scene on its ear.

Linda Miller, who still lives in Northeast Florida, is the widow of Allman Brothers Band bassist Berry Oakley. In the 60s when she was a teenager, she was a rock music fan growing up in Jacksonville and sneaking out to shows as often as she could. 

“I wanted to marry George Harrison. I think I came pretty close,” Miller said. 

When she met Oakley, her future husband, “I noticed him right away. He just had this charm about him and these sparkling eyes. And he came over, somebody introduced us. And, you know, we struck up a friendship, which later became, you know, a very sweet, innocent romance.”

Miller remembers nights in Willowbranch Park with Oakley, playfully jumping over creeks, when they lived in a Riverside home with other members of the band. 

“You know, they really became brothers,” she said. 

When it was time to hit the road, it wasn’t anything against Jacksonville, she said.  

“It was not that, you know, the hippie environment or that Jacksonville decided they didn't want anything to do with this, because it was growing and growing. People were being attracted to this good energy.” she said. “You know, as Berry created this phrase, ‘hittin’ the note.’ He wanted everybody to hit the note.”

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Local music journalist Daniel Brown has found memories of discovering the Allman Brothers Band when he was a kid in the 1970s visiting a friend whose “old hippie” mom had a cool record collection. 

“So while we were, like rebinding Bibles, we listened to the Allman Brothers, and that's where I first heard what is my one of my favorite performances ever, which is ‘In Memory of Elizabeth Reed’ At Fillmore East,” Brown said. “That was just a mind-blowing song and when I hear it today, it still kind of takes me back to that apartment with the windows open.”

Brown said the band had something of a mystical lore about them.

“Like, ‘Oh, I saw the band, you know, at the hardware store.’ You know, that kind of thing. All these stories came up, it's like people felt obligated to create this mythology around them, which is interesting to me,” he said. 

In the VOIDCAST episode about the Allman Brothers, “Please Call Home,” Shaw also talks with Melody Trucks, daughter of Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks, and today a musician who holds her own on the Jacksonville music scene and beyond. 

Listen now to the VOIDCAST episode to hear the full story of the Allman Brothers Band’s early days in Jacksonville.  

VOIDCAST from Void magazine and WJCT Public Media is a three-part musical journey through Northeast Florida hosted by Void Editor Matt Shaw. 

Also check out Episode 1: "In My Room," where you'll meet musicians plugging away in home studios across Northeast Florida including one who made it big signing with Sub Pop, and Episode 3: "Space To Spit," about the current state of transition in Northeast Florida's hip hop scene, as more women and queer folks are claiming their space.