January 4, 2017

ROOMFULL (profanity alert):

In the Midnight Hour: The Life & Soul of Wilson Pickett : The following is from Tony Fletcher's book, In the Midnight Hour (Lit Hub, Jan. 4th, 2017)

Duane Allman and younger brother Gregg had been raised by their mother in Daytona Beach, Florida, after their father, a World War II veteran, was shot dead in a Christmas 1949 hold-up. The boys had come of age at the ideal time to fall for white rock 'n' roll, but were intuitive enough to study black rhythm and (especially) blues, and had played in bands together, both on guitar, since junior high. They recorded a single for Buddy Killen's Dial label and then, as the paisley-clad Hour Glass, went to California, where they jammed with the likes of Paul Butterfield and Pickett's former drummer Buddy Miles. Duane experienced a musical epiphany watching Taj Mahal's slide guitarist Jesse Ed Davis, and he subsequently took an empty Coricidin pill bottle and practiced the technique until he was the best young slide player of his generation.

The Hour Glass secured a deal with Liberty in California, but after two disappointing albums they returned south in April 1968 to self-produce some demos at Fame, where a former bandmate Eddie Hinton was now working. The tapes, engineered by Jimmy Johnson, were rejected by Liberty, and after a handful of southern gigs--at which the group's self-composed rock songs were interrupted by demands for "Midnight Hour" and "Mustang Sally"--they broke up. Duane Allman followed Hinton in seeking session work at Fame--and Rick Hall put him off. The official (and plausible) reason was that Hall had plenty other guitarists already on the books; the unofficial (and equally plausible) explanation was to do with Duane's appearance. Allman had scraggly long blonde hair parted in the middle, and sideburns that led to distinctly incongruous moustache. He wore denim jeans, cowboy boots with a dog collar around one ankle, and a leather waist-coast with tassles. "Looked like he hadn't slept in a week, and was high, and was dirty, and looked like hadn't had a bath in a week either," was Marvell Thomas's first impression.

Jimmy Johnson, however, was not about to let Allman slip out of sight. "He was the most natural talent, the kind of guy had the guitar in his hands eight hours a day. None of us was that dedicated." Slowly but surely, and not least due to his irrepressibly positive personality, Allman worked his way onto sessions, but his initial contributions at Fame, for Clarence Carter and Laura Lee in September 1968, were relatively minor, as if showing off the full range of his talents would be a dangerous move too early in his employ.

[Wilson] Pickett's first encounter with Allman was typical of time and type, mistaking him for a "gorgeous blond" upon seeing him in the back of a car. But once they got to working in the studio together, they bonded instantly. Pickett saw and heard in Duane an equally dedicated student of his chosen musical genre, another perfectionist carving his own distinct path, another iconoclast who couldn't easily be towed into line, and a gregarious, outgoing person who could not be cowed or awed. They shared in common a reputation for being inherently crazy, the types that would fill a room with their presence, and they were able to complement, rather than conflict with, each other.

Posted by at January 4, 2017 6:38 AM