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Music

The song Gregg Allman claimed to be "most proud of"

@TylerGolsen

The Allman Brothers Band created quite the catalogue of iconic material in a relatively brief amount of time. The minute that Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, the days of the band were numbered, but the five-year span between the band’s 1969 debut and 1973’s Brothers and Sisters represents one of the most impressive runs from a southern rock or jam band in the history of either genre. 

The songs speak for themselves: ‘Whipping Post’, ‘Ramblin’ Man’, ‘Mountain Jam’, ‘Revival’, ‘Melissa’, and ‘Blue Sky’. That’s not even mentioning their reworkings of old blues tunes into their own signature sound, like Elmore James’ ‘One Way Out’ and Blind Willie McTell’s ‘Statesboro Blues’. The band managed to survive both Duane Allman’s and bassist Verry Oakley’s early deaths, but Brothers and Sisters represented the final embers of the group’s original monster run.

Included in that run is ‘Midnight Rider’, Gregg Allman’s ode to escape and modern outlaws. Later becoming a biker anthem, the track features Allman going full country soul, mixing in elements of gospel, country, and rock for an immediately memorable song. Featuring soaring harmonies from Oakley, ‘Midnight Rider’ was featured on The Allman Brothers’ sophomore effort Idlewild South and eventually became one of the band’s signature tracks of AOR radio.

Gregg penned the track as a tribute to the newfound freedom he felt living communally with the band on a farmhouse outside of Macon, Georgia. With no interference from rubbernecking rednecks, who had harassed the band for their long hair and threw racial slurs at black drummer Jaimoe, or police, who had previously busted the band on marijuana charges, Gregg could stretch out and relax. The freewheeling attitude directly led to the open expanses of ‘Midnight Rider’.

Thanks to a bit of help from roadie Kim Payne, who penned the third verse couplet, “I’ve gone past the point of caring / some old bed I’ll soon be sharing”, Gregg had a complete song on his hands. After breaking into Capricorn Sound Studios late at night to record a demo, the rest of the band came in to polish off ‘Midnight Rider’. At under three minutes, the track was one of the band’s shortest and most conventional, without any of the sprawling jams that had characterised their work previously.

Still, Gregg Allman felt a keen sense of pride around the song. In his 2012 memoir My Cross to Bear, Allman claims that ‘Midnight Rider’ is “the song I’m most proud of in my career.” High praise from a musician with numerous classic tracks, but it’s hard to argue that ‘Midnight Rider’ doesn’t perfectly encapsulate what The Allman Brothers Band could be in a short amount of time.

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