All In The Family – The Allman Betts Band

Click here for photo gallery of the Allman Betts Band.

When I was getting out of college a couple of my fraternity brothers worked for this old liquor store across the street from WDEF on South Broad. They told me about this eccentric old guy that owned the place named “Boots”. They said he was always talking. And they swore up and down he knew everyone in town – or at least their parents. I laughed at this notion.

I never shopped there. J.D.’s a block up, had better prices with a larger selection. Boots’ place was old school Chattanooga. A little run down, but with personality – especially from Boots.

I finally ventured down there to hang out with my frat brothers Lance and Alex to see if all these outlandish stories were true they were telling me. As I walked in there stood Boots. Sporting thick black framed glasses and a bad toupee. I walked up to the counter and before I could say a word he asked to see my ID. “I know your daddy,” he said, staring at my driver’s license. I laughed to myself. My father at this point had been dead over ten years never making many friends here after we moved to Chattanooga from New York. He then went on to tell me where my father worked and knew stuff about my father I never knew. Boots was a human Wikipedia page of Chattanooga history. We immediately hit it off and over the next year or so I would come down and hang out with him even if none of my fraternity brothers were working. I witnessed untold amount of times him utter those words to those whose IDs he checked and he indeed knew their “momma” or “daddy” somehow. Boots ended up getting an offer he couldn’t refuse for the property and sold. The building was razed for a Burger King and now it is a vacant lot.

I kept in touch with Boots or Robert Geismer, his real name after that. He would pop up in the oddest places. Once while visiting Hamilton Place Mall, which was very new at the time, he was busy getting people to fill out surveys about the mall. Of course I humored him and filled one out. He got paid based on the number of surveys were filled out. It wasn’t like he needed the money, he was just bored and liked to talk to people.

I realize I’m supposed to reviewing Friday’s Allman Betts Band Show at Walker Theatre, I’m just getting there in a roundabout way. I kind of felt like ole Boots Friday night. Watching Devon Allman and Duane Betts on stage I thought to myself, “I know your daddy – or daddies.”

I had listened to the Allman Brothers Band since I was single digit in age and “Southern Rock” was a new thing. They were all over the radio back then. I got a chance to see them live for the first time in the late ‘80s and the last time I was them ended up being one of Dickey Betts’ last gigs with the band, if not his last. I lived through all the band’s ups and downs, side projects and deaths. Duane Allman and Berry Oakley had already passed before I knew exactly who they were. And I sure read enough in the gossip pages – even before the internet.

The Allman Betts Band was everything I expected (and hoped for) and more. The band could be dubbed The Allman Brothers Band 2.0 – and I mean that as a compliment. The band seems to have picked up where their fathers had left off. The showcased tight, well-crafted musicianship offering up to the crowd a mixture of original traditional southern rock as well as covering some of their fathers’ material and doing it true justice.

Being the first time seeing the band, I wasn’t familiar with them. I had drawn my own conclusions and to be really honest I was about right on. Both Betts and Allman shared vocals. And there was a third vocalist on bass that sounded well-rehearsed with the material including the old Allman Brothers songs being performed. And then the band members were introduced and I knew why. On bass was Berry Duane Oakley, Berry’s son. It was indeed Allman Brothers Band 2.0.

The highlight of the night was a surprising cover the band performed. The band performed a cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain” and literally stole the song from the Purple One. They were able to take this R&B classic and turn it into a southern rock ballad and with the amazing guitar work made the song their own.

Not knowing what to expect, I came away with a new appreciation for the Allman Brothers Band legacy and respect and appreciation for the Allman Betts Band.

 – Dave Weinthal