Southern Rock Pilgrimage: The Allman Brothers Big House
Shortly after they established Southern rock in Jacksonville in 1969, the Allman Brothers Band relocated to Macon, Georgia to record at Capricorn Records. From 1970 to 1973, band members and their families lived together in an 18-room Tudor Revival home known as the 'Big House.' Today, the Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House celebrates the legacy of Southern rock's founders.
The history of the Allman Brothers Band begins in March 1969 at an unassuming gray house in Jacksonville’s Riverside neighborhood. Six musicians, guitarists Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, bassist Berry Oakley, drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson, and keyboardist Reese Wynans, had a jam session so epic that Duane reportedly refused to let anyone leave unless they agreed to form a band. Shortly thereafter, Wynans was replaced on keys by Duane’s brother Gregg Allman, who also assumed singing duties. The original incarnation of the Allman Brothers Band was formed, and Southern rock was born.
The former home of Capricorn Records Sound Studio, restored for use as a recording studio by Mercer University.
A few weeks later the band decided to relocate to Macon, Georgia to record at Capricorn Records, where Duane had signed a contract. Berry Oakley’s wife Linda set about finding a home for the band members, and fell in love with an 18 room, 4400 square foot Tudor revival house on Vineville Avenue built in 1900. In January 1970, Berry and Linda moved in, and the “Big House” served as the communal home of several band members and their families for the next three years. Living there were the Oakleys and their daughter Brittany; Duane Allman, his girlfriend Donna Roosman and their daughter Galadrielle; and Gregg Allman and his girlfriend Candy Oakley (Berry’s sister). Many others came and went over the years. With Macon as their home base, the band traveled relentlessly for tours and recording.
The graves of Butch Trucks, Gregg Allman, Duane Allman, and Berry Oakley at Rose Hill Cemetery
Tragedy struck in 1971 when Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident on Hillcrest Avenue in Macon. The following year, Berry Oakley also suffered a fatal motorcycle incident just blocks from where Allman had been killed. The bandmates were buried next to each other in Macon’s historic Rose Hill Cemetery. Butch Trucks and Gregg Allman were buried nearby following their deaths in 2017. As of 2019, marble slabs have been placed at each grave and the cemetery has enclosed the area surrounding them.
The band used this front room for rehearsal.
After Duane and Oakley’s deaths, the Allman Brothers Band started to fall apart, even as new members joined and hit records kept coming. The owners of the Big House had also apparently gotten tired of their rock star tenants and the accompanying publicity, as when Linda Oakley returned home from a trip to Florida in January 1973, she found an eviction notice on the door. Thus ended the Allman Brothers’ stay at the Big House. The band called it quits in 1976, and the members pursued other projects. However, they reformed several times under a series of new lineups, and continued playing together until their retirement in 2014.
In 1993, long time Allman Brothers tour manager Kirk West bought the Big House with his wife Kristen. It served as their residence, and they started the Big House Foundation with the hopes of turning the house into a museum dedicated to the band. This dream was finally realized in 2009 with the opening of the Allman Brothers Museum at the Big House. Today it hosts the largest collection of Allman Brothers memorabilia in the world as well as a stage for live events, and stands as a monument to the founders of Southern rock.
Next page: pictures of the Big House and other Allman Brothers sites in Macon