By Barb and Greg Potter
We wanted to let all of you know about the Dedication that occurred during GABBAfest 2001. It was definitely one soul-stirring, heart-pounding, tear-producing, pride-inducing moment in GABBA and ABB History. First of all this whole thing started when Mama Louise mentioned to Senator Robert Brown that the city of Macon should do something special in memory of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley. Thanks to the Senator, the idea to name a section of Highway 19/41 after Duane Allman and a Bridge on the same Highway after Berry Oakley has become a reality.
The Dedication of both namings took place at noon on Saturday March 24, 2001. Thanks to the efforts of GABBA Board Member Dean Johnson, March 24, 2001 was also named Duane Allman Day and Raymond Berry Oakley III day by proclamation of the Mayor of Macon. The ceremonies took place in a large room, called the Macon Room, on the 3rd Floor of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. The room was packed, all the seats put out were taken and people were lining the sides of the room and standing in the back out into the hallway. They even ran out of Dedication pamphlets to give out. The sun was shining into the room spotlighting the many pictures of the Allman Brothers Band and other Macon musical luminaries that hang on the walls of the large room.
Senator Brown, serving as emcee, welcomed everyone to this wonderful event. He then called on Len Strozier, Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Covington to perform the invocation. Rev. Stozier proclaimed "If Mama could see me now!" He said that growing up in the 70's he was not bothered at all by the music that comes from his Youth Groups meetings. He talked about how, as a young man, he would ride around in his car and listen to the Allman Brothers Band. He listed off several of their songs and it was obvious that he was truly a fan. Someone in the crowd asked him if he still had the 8-Track and he said yes he did! He led us in a prayer and proclaimed again "If Mama could see me now".
Next up was Phil Walden, founder of Capricorn Records. He extolled the accomplishments, talent and significance of the Band and how they had become the best band in the land is such a short period of time. He said that he gave the band all the credit for their hard work and dedication and how they toured like no other band then or since. He talked about how the band has persevered through the years and through the light and dark and how they know how to come out of the dark and back into the light. "Don't ever write off the Allman Brothers Band". The whole room applauded. He then talked about what he considered the most amazing thing about the Band, their sense of family and Brotherhood. He pointed out that Berry was the one who really made an effort to bring this wonderful idea of Brotherhood to reality. This combination of Brotherhood, friendship, family and music made the ABB the most unique Rock Group in the world.
Because the Mayor was not there yet, Senator Brown asked Alan Walden, Phil's brother to say a few words. Alan said that although Lynyrd Skynyrd was his band they had learned about how to be family from the Allman Brothers Band. He said the ABB was the leader of this special kind of band and that LS learned from them. He recalled how LS would dedicate the song "Free Bird" (remember this analogy for later) to Duane after his tragic death.
The Mayor arrived with the Proclamations. He read the Proclamation for Duane Allman Day and was met with thunderous applause. Greg Potter, President of GABBA, accepted the framed Proclamation to be later placed in the Allman Brothers Band exhibit at the Music Hall of Fame. The Mayor then Presented the Proclamation for Raymond Berry Oakley III day and GABBA Board Member Dean Johnson accepted it and it was also placed on display in the exhibit. Again thunderous applause and a standing ovation was given for these presentations.
Next up was Mama Louise, ahhhh Mama Louise, what a special lady she is. Mama said how happy she was to be able to be there this day and witness this event. She talked about how much she loved the band and how much she missed Duane and Berry. She told us how the boys would come into her place, 'with long hair and all', and ask for two plates of food to be shared by five of them. 'I went ahead and fixed them five plates of food'. In about a week they would return and pay her. Then they would say could she spare some food this time and they would pay her later and she would fix them food. And they would return from touring and pay her. Pretty soon she would just start serving them food whenever they would walk in and never worry about being paid. But they always paid her sooner or later. One day, Gregg asked her if he could call her Mama Louise and she said "No". But he did anyway and the name stuck and pretty soon they were all calling her Mama Louise. One day she went to Phil Walden to complain about Twiggs acting ugly, but Phil just told her that she was their 'Mama' now! Then she said that if Phil had only paid them more money, then they could have paid for more of their meals! The whole place, including Phil, busted up laughing. AHHH, Mama Louise, she tells it like it is! Of course thunderous applause and a standing ovation was given to Mama's speech.
Not too happy to be following Mama Louise, Glenn Durrence with the Georgia Dept of Transportation read the resolution designating Duane Allman Boulevard and Raymond Berry Oakley III Bridge. See below for a complete rendition of this resolution. Again thunderous applause and a standing ovation occurred from the crowd. Not to mention many tears in the eyes. Mr. Durrence said the signs had already been erected and someone in the audience voiced loudly "Don't y'all steal them!"
Last, but definitely not least, Hewell "Chank" Middleton, read a letter from Gregg Allman that he had written for the Dedication. First off Gregg thanked his Best Friend, Hewell Middleton, for reading this letter. Chank sheepishly accepted the applause and laughter. Gregg went on to say that Macon was in the hearts of all the founding members of the band and the people who worked for the band. The people of Macon were always kind to them from Mama Louise to Ronnie Thompson and many, many more in-between. He said their time in Macon was marked by many highs and many lows but he, for one, will always remember the good times they had in Macon Georgia and he thinks that Brother Duane feels the same way.
After Chank's speech, the unveiling of the Ceremonial signs took place. Mama Louise held one end of the covering and Phil Walden held the other end and raised it up to reveal two beautiful signs, one that read Duane Allman Boulevard and the other that read Raymond Berry Oakley III Bridge. Board member, Penney Tullis said that right when the covering was lifted a hawk flew by the window-----Free Bird?
Resolution by Georgia State Transportation Board
Whereas, in 1969 a group of young but already seasoned and demonstrably and incredibly talented musicians, including guitarist Duane Allman, bassist Berry Oakley, vocalist and organist Gregg Allman, guitarist Dickey Betts, percussionist Butch Trucks and percussionist Jaimoe, formed the Allman Brothers Band and established the band's home in Macon in April of that year; and
Whereas, at now legendary jam sessions at their initial base on College Street, their later home at the "Big House" on Vineville Avenue, and other locations in and around Macon, including Rose Hill Cemetery they created a musical genre now known and loved as "southern rock" and became one of the most exciting groups of performers ever to take the stage; and
Whereas, the band members' talents and tour de force marathon performances across the nation not only received critical acclaim and awed their peers among musical greats but also served to inspire countless others and made Macon a musical mecca; and
Whereas, Duane Allman's all too brief life was tragically ended at age 24 by a motorcycle accident on a street in Macon on October 29, 1971 and Berry Oakley suffered a similar fate at the same age and at almost the same location a year later on November 11, 1972; and
Whereas, although their presence is sadly missed, these musicians' incomparable and wide ranging talents, creativity, inspiration, soulfullness, and dedication to their art stirringly remain evidenced in legacies of live performances and studio recordings of such songs and compositions as "Statesboro Blues", "Dreams", "Midnight Rider", "Whipping Post", "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed", "Mountain Jam", "Blue Sky" and "Little Martha"; and
Whereas, while the bodies of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley rest peacefully in Rose Hill Cemetery, the spirit of each, like the road, "goes on forever" and the love and intensity with which they lived their lives and made their music remain always in the hearts and minds of family and legions of fellow Maconites, musicians, friends and fans worldwide; and
Whereas, it is only fitting and proper that their memories and families be honored by this Board.
Now, therefore, be it resolved that the portion of State Highway 19 from its intersection with Holt Avenue to its intersection with College Street in the City of Macon is designated as "Duane Allman Boulevard".
Be it further resolved that the bridge on that same portion of State Highway 19 which spans Interstate 75 is designated "Raymond Berry Oakley III Bridge".
It is resolved that a copy of this resolution be spread upon the minutes of this meeting, a suitable copy of the resolution be provided to the family of Duane Allman, and the family of Berry Oakley, and the Commissioner of Transportation be instructed to install appropriate signs designating these facilities.
Adopted the 15th day of March 2001.