GABBAfest 2001: AN ODYSSEY DOWN HIGHWAY 41

By M.J. Long

 

I read an article a few weeks ago about a book tracing Highway 61 (remember the Bob Dylan album?) from where it begins to where it ends in New Orleans. I couldn’t help but think of the road that Dickey Betts made famous in “Ramblin’ Man:” Highway 41, and Macon, Georgia, “Where It All Begins.” I did a little research. I mean, US 41 just has to be as important, or more important if you’re an ABB fan, than its first cousin US 61 (Although US 61 does come in awfully handy when you’re running away from a hurricane and need an escape route from New Orleans, but that’s another story!). While surfing, I found a site called “History of the US Highway System: From Dirt Paths to Superhighways.” Right under the title was, are you ready for this????? 

…And I was born on the back seat of a Greyhound bus/Rolling down Highway 41.” Allman Brothers Band, “Ramblin’ Man”.

 Isn’t that cool? And speaking of cool…..Hwy. 41 begins in the cold north state of Wisconsin near Lake Superior; meanders through Indiana and Illinois near Chicago; then races down near Louisville, Kentucky’ famous Bluegrass. Next it tiptoes through the mountain ridges of the birthplace of my two favorite Allman Brothers Duane and Gregg, Tennessee; gingerly flows down to the heart of Georgia and finally ends in Florida. Hwy. 41 was one of the first numbered highways created by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1925 in response to the confusion created by the 250 or so named highways. Like Hwy 61, US 41 was a major source of moving goods from north to south prior to completion of the Interstate System.

            It’s always fun to travel, especially when the road leads back to good music, good friends, good food, and good times! GABBAfest is a wonderful way to experience all four at once! Combine this with the Cherry Blossom Festival, and you couldn’t wish for anything more. Had to travel on the roads that my real brother built: USA 280 and 80! Our reservations for Thursday night were for a hotel on Riverside Drive not far from the Macon Music City Grill. The hotel lobby was beautifully decorated for the Cherry Blossom Festival.

             Since we got to Macon early, we were able to take advantage of the beautiful weather on Friday. Unfortunately, almost all of the 250,000 flowering Yoshino Cherry Trees planted in and around Macon had bloomed earlier than expected, but the Azaleas and Dogwoods were peaking giving us shows of breathtaking beauty wherever you looked. We drove down College Street, Forsyth, and other famous thoroughfares. Since it was too early to check in the hotel or at the Douglass, we went to Central City Park to enjoy some of the festivities these, and then visited a couple of antique malls (Macon is a great place to antique!). I spotted a beautiful poster which is now out of print, kind of a musical map of Macon. Just one of those things you have to have! Also found an antique Coca Cola Bottle manufactured in Macon. Some things you just can’t resist!

        

Brothers & Sisters

            I’ve often said that I do love the music that was created in Macon, GA, by the Allman Brothers Band and others, but most of all, I love the people who love the music! This year was no exception. After checking in at the Crowne Plaza (thanks to Greg Potter’s negotiating such a great rate), and unwinding a little, it was time to drive over to the Douglass Theatre. When we got downstairs I noticed a young couple standing in front of the hotel. I asked them if they were going to the Douglass. They said yes. So I said, “You can ride with us.” Now, my honey (Jim) who was having his first encounter of the GABBAkind, gave me this “are you crazy? We don’t know these people” look. I just smiled, made introductions, and we all headed over to the Douglas.

            As we’re driving into the parking garage, whom do I see but Mr. and Mrs. Huffy (Huffmeister) from Mississippi. We’d had the pleasure of meeting them at the Gregg and Friends HOB performance we’d attended with Mr. T. (Terry Allbritton) and Professor David Guilfan. Also got to ‘shroom Mrs. Huffy, and was tickled to see that she was wearing her hand-made mushroom necklace for GABBAfest. Bros and Sistas were inside and outside. Saw the tall one, Greg Potter, and as it turns out, the two young people riding with us had met he and Barb at the Beacon, and drove down from Virginia after hearing about GABBAfest. He had also dubbed them “The Potter Kids.” Small world! Also got a huge hug from Dan and a “thank-you” for including a picture of him in some I’d sent to our supreme webmaster (MichaelV).

             Caught up with Sista Surelle and others at the Registration Table. We picked up our full-access laminates, goodie bag, signed up for the tour of the Big House, and looked at a few of the auction items that were on display. Then it was on to the next event.

 

 Welcome Dinner

            The Board really did a fantastic job with the Welcome Dinner BBQ…especially one dessert! It had peaches hidden in it! This also gave us a chance to see those Brothers and Sistas we hadn’t seen, and meet those we just knew by internet nicknames, some traders, etc.  

 

GABBY Award Presentation

            The coveted GABBY Award was presented to founding Board members this year, with most of them in attendance.

 

GABBAfest Raffle and Auction

            Greg Potter once again acted as auctioneer. There was something really special about this year’s auction. The artist who designed the stained glass peach (which I purchased this year) had designed a beautiful stained glass of Little Martha. It was a treasure to behold, and the lucky bidder is indeed fortunate to own it. I was high bidder on one of the framed Georgia Department of Transportation invitations to the dedication of Duane Allman Boulevard and Raymond Berry Oakley III Bridge. The raffle was also fun. Ended up with a signed and framed pic of Warren Haynes for my collection.

 

Tony T. in the middle with the tuxFriday Night At the Douglas

            Tony Tyler Trance is a gifted 15-year old who’s as at home on keys as he is on guitar. His dad is also very talented and has a great voice. We got a chance to talk with him at the street party on Saturday night. He does a great job of keeping Tony centered on his school work and other activities. Bill Ector added some sweet, soulful slide guitar to Tony’s performance also.  

Breau Jam consisting of some wonderful, talented musicians, also gave us a treat. They were amazing! I'd love to see them again. I'd also love a tape of their show. (Hint! Hint! I have lots to trade J!)

Then, Skydog took the stage. Those Atlanta musicians who amazed me at my very first ABB Revival a couple of years ago, did not disappoint this time.

 

The 2001 GABBAfest T-Shirt

This T-shirt is a very special design encompassing a drawing of Duane and Berry; Highway 41 going past the H&H and the Big House; a boot for Joe Dan Petty who made custom boots; a police car for Allen Woody who was known to keep one on top of his amp and for his Woodism of  “I’d rather see a police car than ride in one.” (I’m sure that most of us would agree.), printed on an off-white T. There’s a scan on the Home page on GABBAnet and I believe they may still be available for those who wish to add this to their collection.

 

Tom and ChankHighway 41: The Road Goes On Forever - Dedication of Duane Allman Blvd. And Berry Oakley Bridge OR How Mama Louise Stole The Show!

            Jim had gone downstairs ahead of me to get the SUV. When I walked outside, I saw him talking to someone. He said, “This is John. He’s going to ride over to the dedication with us.” I just smiled. He was really embracing the GABBA experience! 

The dedication was very eloquently covered on GABBAnet already, so be sure to read that article as well as the official state proclamation. Bill Ector also wrote an article in Hittin’ the Note (the one with Gregg A. on the cover).

 I got a chance to talk a bit with Chank Middleton ( who gave me a hug) and take a picture of he and Tom Holloway. Tom was carrying his encased Silver Dollar autographed by you know who. Also had a chance to visit with Marty Willet (who was sporting the attire of a young Sidney Lanier on this momentous occasion) and catch up on some GA Music Hall of Fame happenings.

 

The Hawk and The Butterflies

            Sista Carol McDonald (from Florida) has a butterfly garden which she dedicated to Duane and Berry. She brought two Swallowtails to Kirsten West to be released at the Big House in memory of Duane and Berry. She noticed that a Monarch cocoon was almost ready and brought it along as well. After the dedication, Judi (Mrs. Joe Dan) Petty came over to Carol and her husband Kevin and asked to meet their daughter Heather. It then dawned on Carol that the Monarch must’ve been meant for Joe Dan. So she asked Judi to follow her to her van. Like the three pilgrims we picked up, Judi followed, and accepted the cocoon in honor of Joe Dan. Again that feeling of love, friendship, kinship, family, whatever you want to call it, is evident throughout GABBAfest everywhere during this weekend.

             At GABBAfest 1999, I met another member (from Alabama) who told me about visiting Rose Hill one day and seeing a hawk in a tree that provides shade to the graves of Duane and Berry. He told me that while he was sitting there, the hawk flew up and away. I was reminded of that story when Board Member Penny Tullis noticed a hawk fly by the window of the Macon Room during the dedication ceremony. It was later discovered that at about that same time at Phoenix Studios, the musicians setting up and practicing for the Members’ Jam, started a jam that sounded so good and felt so right, they just could not let go. In fact, not wanting to end this jam made most of them late for the ceremony. Later that afternoon in the skies outside the Phoenix during the Member’s Jam, Board Secretary Barb Potter also spotted a hawk. In fact, on our way back home to New Orleans we spotted a hawk several times. It felt as though the spirits of Duane and Berry were following us home, ensuring us a safe journey.

 

 Jam Session at Phoenix
Jamming at the Phoenix and the Collector’s Revival

            The Phoenix, like the H&H, if it could only talk! The Members’ Jam at the Phoenix was pure pleasure! So many talented individuals sharing the joy the ABB’s music has brought to them. Great to see friend Rick Garner and hear the sweet sound of his soulful blues harp. Also, what an opportunity to pick up some great photos, vinyls, CDs, etc., and tour the facilities. I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of the limited edition, 4-CD of Gov’t Mule “Live With a Little Help From Our Friends” at a great price too! (Especially when someone told me she’d picked one up on Ebay for twice what I’d paid!)  

 

The Road to the Big House

            We left The Phoenix in time to make our appointment at the Big House. On our way we found ourselves on Duane Allman Blvd., and passed over the Berry Oakley Bridge. Kirsten and the girls (the pups Liz Reed and Martha) met us at the front door of the Big House. I do enjoy Kirk West’s tales of traveling with the ABB, but having the tour with Kirsten as hostess gave another perspective. It’s so amazing to see all the things lovingly displayed in The Archives Room. I ended up buying an ABB hat (a little change up from the T-shirts I usually buy!).

Cherry Blossom Street Party

            The Cherry Blossom Festival is a really great event. We’d spent some time looking at the arts and crafts booths, listening to some very talented local musicians, and sampling foods from the vendors. Then Saturday night, we walked over to the street party.

            Maude’s Cabin: With hints of Lynyrd Skynyrd, but very bluesy/rock stylings all their own, this band really rocked!

            Left Foot Down: I’d been looking forward to hearing this band since I read that they were influenced by both the ABB and the Grateful Dead. They did not disappoint! They were fantastic! We bought the CD!

            Pure Prairie League: PPL was one of my favorite bands. So glad to see them out on the road, looking and sounding superb! They played all their hits and did some covers.

             One thing to keep in mind for the street party is that there will be music for anyone’s taste. From gospel to rock; R&B to country. You have your pick!

 

Rose Hill Tour

            It was a gorgeous Sunday morning! Blue Skies all around; birds singing; Dogwoods and a few Cherry trees in bloom; church bells ringing every now and then. All we really needed was a melodious engineer to bring his train down the track to make Dickey’s song truly come alive!

            We and others got trash bags and began our rock ‘n’ roll ramble through Rose Hill. We could see Greg Potter in the distance leading a group of pilgrims on a tour of Rose Hill. He talked about the walk down College Street to Rose Hill’s entrance that the Brothers made; Little Martha; Elizabeth Reed; and Duane and Berry’s gravesites.

Hard to say goodbye to friends old and new. Greg, Barb, Surelle, Carol, Nancy, Brian, Penny, Kenny, Kevin, Heather, Tom, Dan, Kirsten, Bill, John, and so many others. In the truest sign of friendship that Macon gives, everyone received a Cherry Tree to plant when they got home.

Thanks for making GABBAfest 2001 such a success. Looking forward to 2002!