Monday, January 2, 2012

Poker With The Allman Brothers

Since the band often played large college towns, on the same bill as other name groups of the day, we eventually got around to doing a gig in Austin, Texas. On the bill, and probably sharing the headline, was the Allman Brothers.

I wasn’t as awe-struck this time, as I was with some of the other big names that we shared the stage with, but I had certainly heard Duane’s guitar playing on albums and the radio and was looking forward to hearing them play live.

Somewhere along the way, someone got us chatting together with a few members of Duane and Gregg’s band, in the hotel lobby of the Austin Holiday Inn. I think it was Gregg who mentioned that they were having a poker game in their hotel room that evening, and that any of us who wanted to show up were invited.

Around 10:00 p.m. that evening, Frank called my room and asked if I wanted to go to the poker game. Being the new guy in PG&E, I needed to have someone with some balls to tag along behind, and Petricca may have known that. In any case, I gladly accompanied him to the Allman’s hotel room.

After arriving, and some niceties, someone suggested that we get some drinks and snacks. I made the first of a number of runs to the snack machines, and loaded up on a variety of soda pop and vending machine snacks. That actually is one of the things that sticks out in my mind the most, other than how down-to-Earth and genuinely nice these Southern gentlemen were. Not once during the night did any alcohol or drugs come into the picture. It was a very sedate meeting of the road-musician minds, centered around a very friendly poker game. I say very friendly, because the rules were set from the beginning that there would be a fifty-cent maximum bet. With any winnings or losses set to that level, the likelihood of hard feelings was pretty much zero.

At about 7:00 a.m. that next morning, the game finally broke up. As I recall, I either lost or won around three dollars. The amount sticks in my mind, but not which way it went for me. Nobody else could have been heavier or lighter in the wallet than I, and we had become great friends. That’s actually one of the things about living on the road, as a musician back in those days: You became fast friends (or enemies), due to the speed your life was travelling. Everything happening to us, during that time, was in exaggerated time. So, the new friendship, although it was arrived at in “road-speed”, was very genuine. I saw confirmation some two weeks later, when Duane Allman himself came up to me--at a gig we did with them in Athens, Georgia--and gave me a big bear-hug.

Over the next couple years, Duane and I would cross paths, play music together, and ultimately witness our mutual decent into alcohol and drug abuse. I sure miss him today.