Monday, November 30, 2009

Allman Brothers Museum Opens In Macon Georgia is reporting when Kirk and Kirsten West decided to move out of their Vineville Avenue home in 2003, the notion of turning it into a museum certainly wasn’t on their radar.

Sure, thousands of visitors from places as far away as Germany, Italy, Japan and Australia had knocked on their door during the decade they had lived there, trying to get a glimpse of what was known as The Big House, where members of the Allman Brothers Band lived in the early 1970s.

It was only after Kirk West — the band’s road manager — was meeting with an interested buyer for the property one night when the man suggested that West start a nonprofit foundation and turn The Big House into a museum.

This weekend, that seed of an idea finally becomes a reality, four decades after the band’s founding.

After five years of fundraising and two years of renovations, the museum is scheduled to open its doors on a limited basis for the rest of the year before a formal grand opening in early 2010.

“At times, I’ve tried to be practical about it, but seeing it come to fruition ...” said Kirsten West, her voice trailing off as she broke into a wide grin. “It’s a tribute to the band, but equally it’s a tribute to the fans who believed that we could do it.”

Kirsten West, the foundation’s managing director, said that to date, The Big House Foundation has taken in about $2.5 million in donations from all over the United States.

In addition, the museum also has received donated materials to refurbish the house and many hours of volunteer labor to renovate it.

“Probably 60 percent (of the renovation) has been donated labor and materials,” said Greg Potter, president of the Georgia Allman Brothers Band Association, who also has donated his own time to help get the house in shape. “We had a roofer come in from New York, donated all the materials and put the roof in, and all it cost us was a week’s worth of hotel rooms.”

In the early 1970s, when the band was getting its start in Macon, bassist Berry Oakley’s wife, Linda — whom everyone called “Big Linda” — was searching for a more permanent home and happened upon the Tudor-styled house at 2321 Vineville Ave. by way of a newspaper ad.

Though the house was more expensive than the Oakleys would have liked, Big Linda fell in love with the place, and they moved in with Duane Allman and his family.

The house became the band’s unofficial headquarters, a place to hang out, to party and to play music.

During a recent visit, E.J. Devokaitis, the museum’s co-curator, pointed to a window in what used to be the living room.

“That’s where (former guitarist) Dickey Betts wrote ‘Blue Sky,’’’ he said. “The line in the song, ‘Good old Sunday morning, bells are ringing everywhere,’ that was from that church across the street. It’s still there.”

There are dozens of little nuggets like that as a visitor moves through each room of the house.

That living room now serves as home for various posters, gold records and a huge Steve Penley portrait of Duane. The other side of the front of the house — the rooms where the band often practiced — is home to various photos and awards the band won.

An interior room contains a wide range of memorabilia, including instruments from several band members — Oakley’s Hummingbird acoustic guitar, Gregg Allman’s Hammond B-3 electric organ, a prototype for Duane’s signature Gibson guitar, a drum kit from Butch Trucks — as well as cases full of handwritten song lyrics, concert tickets, contracts, checks and more. In one corner, there’s a life-size portrait of the band during a rehearsal for 1971’s famed “Fillmore East” concert.

In an interior hallway, there’s an exhibit for the band Gov’t Mule, which also had its origins at The Big House and whose members Warren Haynes and the late Allen Woody were later guitarist and bassist, respectively, for the Allman Brothers Band.

On the second floor, where the bedrooms were located, the bedroom of Candace Oakley — Berry’s sister — is a display room for more artwork. Big Linda is redecorating what was Duane’s bedroom to show what it looked like when the band lived in the house.

One of the most interesting rooms on that floor is a tiny room that Duane used as a nursery for his daughter, Galadrielle. The room has been soundproofed and will serve a place where fans can listen to Allman Brothers Band music. In addition, the room will eventually be equipped with a video camera so that fans can share their own memories of the band, Kirk West said. Those recollections will be compiled and become part of the museum’s permanent collection.

The house’s top floor, which served as a recreation room for the band, will be used for educational purposes and meetings, Kirsten West said. Some of the band members want to volunteer their time in the future to teach music to young children, she said. The room also can be rented out for corporate meetings. To read more go to this location.

1 comment:

rockandrollguru said...

Groovy. Next time we head to South Carolina to visit family, that's definitely gonna be a side trip!

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