If these walls could talk… That phrase has never been more appropriate than at The Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House in Macon, Georgia. It was home to the band, their roadies, friends and families from 1970 to 1973. For Allman Brothers fans, this house is a “must see.” It houses the world’s largest collection of their memorabilia.
As you approach the house, enter the gated driveway to the parking area. Walk around to the front of the house and notice the front porch where Duane Allman and Berry Oakley spent countless hours. (You can almost hear Midnight Rider and get high just standing there.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLbnWr1-Qsc) Go through the front door, buy your ticket, and begin the self-guided tour.
On the first floor, some of the more interesting items on display include Duane Allman’s Gold-Top Les Paul guitar, Gregg Allman’s Hammond B-3 organ, Gregg and Cher’s pool table, and Gregg’s blue velvet jacket worn on the inside cover of his first solo album, 1973’s Laid Back.
Go upstairs to see the bedrooms which have been faithfully re-created by the widow of Allman Brothers bassist Berry Oakley, Linda, and their daughter, Brittany Oakley. These rooms give insight into the real people who inhabited them. Brittany’s early childhood room is particularly sweet but it’s hard to imagine a child in here with the “Casbah” lounge or music-listening room right next door, which is adjacent to the legendary 7-headed shower.
This iconic home isn’t what we were expecting. Most fans of Southern Rock music have heard of The Big House and it’s commune-like atmosphere and party house reputation, but there’s so much more to the story. Gregg Allman wrote the song Please Call Home about this house. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYPilqRifS8
The first to live here were Berry and Linda Oakley with their daughter Brittany, Duane Allman and his girlfriend Donna with their daughter Galadrielle, Candy Oakley (Berry’s sister), and Gregg Allman. Linda, Candy, and Donna saw an ad for the house and went to check it out. The large, three-story Grand Tudor house on a double lot, surrounded by gardens with fountains and a fishpond in the backyard enchanted the young women. The Big House captured their imagination; the three women saw their future in this place and, with three couples chipping in, they figured they could afford the $225 a month rent.
When the guys were on the road, the women and children lived quietly. The idyllic life was suspended when the guys came home from concert touring and the partying commenced. Marijuana, heroin and alcohol were common. It wasn’t all party, all the time though. Guitarist Dickey Betts, also a resident, liked to write in the backyard as well as inside the house. He wrote the iconic, hit song Ramblin’ Man at the kitchen table and Blue Sky in the living room.
While they lived here, The Allman Brothers released an album (the kind played on a record player ;-)) called At Fillmore East. That album went on to become one of the most respected live albums of all time and catapulted them to fame. Listening to it, it’s obvious that these were more than just some young guys who were playing music in their parents’ basement or garage. They use elements of blues, jazz, R&B, and rock which indicates either an incredible musical education background or a tremendous God-given talent, or both. The band’s next album, Eat A Peach, written here, was extremely successful too.
Unlike many houses turned museum, this one isn’t about the architecture or the furnishings. It’s a completely different experience than Elvis Presley’s Graceland. This one is about these very talented young men and all they accomplished in a short amount of time. The walls are adorned with gold and platinum records. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. Duane Allman was arguably one of the most talented guitarists of his time. Before the formation of the Allman Brothers Band, he played guitar for Derek and the Dominoes with Eric Clapton, most memorably on their hit song, Layla. Both Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley were only 24 years old when they were killed in motorcycle accidents about a year apart while they lived in this house. Following their deaths, the heroin use escalated among the surviving band members and they were evicted from The Big House in 1973.
At the end of the tour, there’s a gift shop with posters, t-shirts, and other souvenirs. Exit through the door next to the gift shop and see the peaceful backyard on the way to your car. Capitalizing on the museum’s history, the backyard is available as a wedding venue. We happened to be there on a fan’s wedding day and we could almost hear Jessica playing in the wind….
Psst! The clean restrooms are located near the gift shop.
The Big House, 2321 Vineville Avenue, Macon, GA, 31204.
Hours: Thursday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
NOTE: Hours may vary due to special events. Check the website before you go.
Be sure to tell them the Picky Peaches sent you.
Join us next week for another tasty installment of Peaches on the Road.
Until next time, Love and Peaches!