The Unbroken Circle explores the roots and influences of the Allman Brothers Band. It traces each “cover” song (as well as those that show very heavy influence from earlier songs) all the way to its deepest roots, highlighting the origins of each song, its recording history, and the artists who created the songs that we know and love today.
For example, Duane and Gregg Allman learned one of the Allman Brothers Band’s signature songs, “Statesboro Blues,” from blues artist Taj Mahal. But Taj Mahal had previously recorded “Statesboro Blues” together with Ry Cooder in their band Rising Sons, and Statesboro Blues was first recorded in 1928 by Blind Willie McTell. But the McTell “original” borrows lyrics from earlier artists such as Sippie Wallace, Bessie Smith, Ivy Smith, and others, and some lyrics can even be traced to the 1800s.
The Unbroken Circle explores the songs that the Allman Brothers Band have recorded on commercially released albums under their own name, including:
- Don’t Want You No More
- Trouble No More
- (I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man
- Outskirts of Town
- Statesboro Blues
- Done Somebody Wrong
- Stormy Monday
- You Don’t Love Me
- Mountain Jam
- One Way Out
- Jelly, Jelly
- Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had
- Need Your Love So Bad
- Blind Love
- I Beg of You
- Come on In My Kitchen
- Midnight Blues
- The Same Thing
- Woman Across the River
- Heart of Stone
- Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
(plus Will the Circle be Unbroken).
The Unbroken Circle will include
- A brief history of the blues, jazz, country, and gospel.
- A chapter for each of the songs, tracing the development of the song through any earlier material that was borrowed/incorporated, both musical and lyrical. e.g. a Chapter on “Jelly, Jelly” and its musical influences (which include “Jelly, Jelly Blues” by Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine, among others.)
- A biographical chapter for each of the artists who wrote and/or performed any of the root material, including artists such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Sleepy John Estes, Eddie Kirkland, Elmore James, Taj Mahal, Blind Willie McTell, Sippie Wallace, Bessie Smith, and many more.
- A chapter on each of the major musical influences on members of the Allman Brothers Band, above and beyond those in the chapters above (i.e. artists who influenced the Allman Brothers band, such as John Coltrane, even if the Allman Brothers Band never covered their material.)
- Recommendations for further reading. The Unbroken Circle provides a view into early American musical forms like the blues, jazz, and country, but it is only one view. Hopefully the reader will want to learn more about this music and the artists who created it, and there are many great sources to explore.
Why The Unbroken Circle?
The title The Unbroken Circle is a reference to the song “Will/Can the Circle be Unbroken.”
- While the Allman Brothers Band never recorded “Will the Circle be Unbroken” it is important to the history of the group. It formed a large part of the musical foundation for “Mountain Jam,” it was played at Duane Allman’s funeral, recorded by Gregg on his first solo album, and was a recurring theme in the final set of performances by the band at the Beacon Theater. It was also the final song played at the Gregg Allman tribute concert “All My Friends.”
- It is metaphor for the rich tapestry that is a major theme of the book; i.e. the way the Allman Brothers Band have incorporated the music of earlier blues, country, and jazz music. The musical circle is unbroken through this musical borrowing.
- While “Will the Circle be Unbroken” is thought of as an “American Traditional” song, it was first written in the 19th century as an English Hymn, subsequently recorded as an early country song, by a gospel choir, and provided the melody for a song by early blues musician Charlie Patton (“Lord I am Discouraged.”) It provides a wonderful illustration of how music transcends categories/genres, and the interrelationships between blues, country, gospel, and jazz, as well as black and white.