“It’s the Year of the Peach,” by Alpha Unit

It’s been 40 years since the Allman Brothers Band released their album Eat a Peach. In celebration the band has named 2012 “The Year of the Peach.”

This is also the year they’re going to be given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, which, according to the Recording Academy, “honors performers who have made contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.” (I know some people are cynical about the Grammys, but I can’t be cynical about the Allman Brothers Band – and there are too many people who are the same.)

Eat a Peach is a double album that was recorded after what critics call the group’s “breakthrough” album, At Fillmore East, and contains live tracks that didn’t make it onto that album, including “One Way Out,” a blues song that the Allman Brothers made popular with rock audiences. The Allmans knew blues music, and had been playing it from the time they began forming bands in the early 1960s.

After making it to Southern California where they opened for acts like The Doors and Buffalo Springfield, the Allmans moved back South, to Macon, Georgia. That’s where they began to put together the group of players who would join them in forming the Allman Brothers Band: guitarist Dickey Betts, bassist Berry Oakley, and drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny Johanson – a Black drummer who had started out in R&B and had toured with such acts as Otis Redding and Sam & Dave.

According to one chronicler:

At the same time, Duane Allman began doing session work at the Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama, where this skinny White hippie quickly earned a reputation as a stinging, soulful accompanist. Duane and Gregg both exhibited a natural feel for Black music that the much-hyped British “blues masters” of the period couldn’t begin to match.

Growing up in the South, they absorbed gutbucket R&B and sanctified gospel along with the more common influences of soul and freedom jazz and came up with an unprecedented sound…

It was a sound that combined “deeply Southern” strains of music – blues, country, and gospel – with rock and roll. Some called it New South.

Critics and fans love Eat a Peach, but the album cover art is famous, too. The album cover includes a gatefold mural featuring a “fantasy landscape of mushrooms and fairies and folklore,” as described by one writer. It is the work of brothers James Flournoy Holmes and David Powell, from Spartanburg, South Carolina.

The brothers were in their early twenties when they went into the graphic design business. James had a fine arts degree from the University of Georgia; David was a photographer and businessman who had a degree in sociology from Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina. Their association with the Allman Brothers began, according to a Billboard piece written back in May of 1974, after the band played in Spartanburg, noted the brothers’ talents, and asked them to do an album cover for their Capricorn release.

Eat a Peach was among the album covers displayed in an exhibit of J. F. Holmes’ cover art that ran a couple of years ago at Spruill Gallery in Atlanta. Bo Emerson wrote about Holmes and some of the bands he did work for (like the very first cover he did, for Wet Willie), groups on the Capricorn label and elsewhere – like Charlie Daniels and the Marshall Tucker Band.

“He would maybe take the feeling that the band gave you musically and develop it into something that you could get by looking at the album cover,” says Dick Wooley, who was vice president of promotion at Capricorn during the 1970s. “A lot of the bands didn’t have an identity, and he’d come up with something.”

Holmes was talented in watercolor, airbrush, and ink and pen, said Emerson, and his style depended on the music inside.

The clear, spare rendering of the postcard joke on the front of Eat a Peach ( a flatbed hauling a house-sized piece of fruit) contrasts with the crowded, trippy landscape on the gatefold interior, with its mushrooms, dragons, and grotesque figures that he says, “I stole, sorry, ‘borrowed,’ from [Hieronymus] Bosch.”

All of Eat a Peach – the music and the cover art – came from the imagination, skill, and artistry of Southerners. David Quantick calls this album the work of “Southern rock” pioneers at their creative peak.

But Gregg Allman has often been quoted as saying:

Well, to say “Southern rock” is kind of redundant, isn’t it? It’s like saying “Rock Rock.”

This is because, as Swampland puts it, rock and roll and all of its precedents – blues, gospel, jazz, country, bluegrass – are products of the American South.

30 Comments

Filed under Alpha Unit, American, Art, Culture, Guest Posts, Music, North America, Regional, Rock, South, South Carolina, USA

30 responses to ““It’s the Year of the Peach,” by Alpha Unit

  1. Hacienda

    Lynard Skynard. Allman Brothers. Even ZZ Top. Like them all. “Free Bird”, that song hits the spot, doesn’t it? “Ramblin Man”, “Midnight Rider”, a little sweeter. Maybe a Georgia vs Bama thing. Sweet Georgia, hardass Bama.
    Do peaches make that much of a difference? LOL.

    One of the oddest things about America is that Michael Jackson is from Gary, Indiana.

    • Gay State Girl

      Gary has the highest percentage of blacks of any US city.

      • Hacienda

        “Gary has the highest percentage of blacks of any US city”

        Used to go through Gary when the Jackson Five were there. Just a goddamn amazing place.

    • Alpha Unit

      Yes, “Free Bird” does hit the spot. :)

    • Mott

      Halucienda- I play all that stuff that you say you like- and yet you called me drug-addled and tone deaf for doing so in a previous post. WTF?

      I also used to live in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and can play/sing your “Free Bird” from start to finish. Now you show your true stripes- you’re a freakin’ hippie.

      Have another hit, Halucienda!

      • Hacienda

        Somehow I knew you were a Baman, Mott.

        Free Bird is a great song, I admit. Religion to Bamans. But still just a song.
        Sweet Home Alabama, that’s probably a religion to you too.

        • Gay State Girl

          I LOVE Hacienda!

        • Mott

          Halucienda- I lived there for less than a year- but enough to know what the hell that Southern shit is all about.

          A lot of good, cool stuff- tons of bad stuff, too. They all act like The War is not over and they didn’t lose. Very patriotic- to The South. Don’t like NAH-THANERS.

          Races keep separate, voluntarily. It was like going back in time 50-150 years.

          The working class blacks were smarter than the working class whites- but there is a strong class divide- the upper class whites act stupid but dumb they ain’t- buncha whip-crackin’ mofos.

          “Sweet Home Alabama” was written as a very toungue-in-cheek spoof of a “proud to be a Southerner” song- Skynyrd was from Florida/Georgia and considered Alabama redneck central.

          The ORIGINAL Skynyrd were all liberal hippies, and were afraid of going to Alabama because of their long hair, etc. When a tour of Alabama went well, and Alabamans proved friendly, Skynyrd decided to write a song for them- pretending to hate Neil Young (Skynyrd actually loved N. Young and vice-versa).

          The fact that the song became a Southern redneck anthem is really funny when it was written as an inside joke. The LATER VERSONS of Skynyrd (post plane crash) have embraced redneck conservatism, pandering to their fan base. Ronnie Van Zandt (and Allen Collins) are turning in their graves, no doubt!

        • Hacienda

          Mott,

          Cool stuff. I’m no hippie, just a push over for music from my youth. Like we all are. But, yeah, there’s that extra dimension to Southern rock. Maybe Skynyrd, as much as they liked Young felt like he was encroaching on their territory. Musicians have to defend their turf, just like everybody else.
          And Young can be pretty abrasive. He’s got that way of seducing his listeners and choking them at the same time.

        • Mott

          Hacienda- The highlight of my stay there was visting the Muscle Shoals studios (two of them) made famous by the Stones , Rod Stewart, and countless others. The small one is featured in “Gimme Shelter” movie- it’s the one where they recorded “Wild Horses” and “Brown Sugar” across the highway is where Stewart recordedhis Atlantic Crossing LP.

        • Hacienda

          I LOVE Hacienda!

          Cupcake, I’ll meet you half way in Kansas somewhere. Redneck style in the woods. It’s the only way.

      • Bay Area Guy

        Halucienda, LOL

        • LOL.

          Halucienda. Har har.

        • dano bivins

          At the time, Van Zandt said he was responding to Youngs “Southern Man” and “Alabama” because he felt Young was picking on Alabama at the expense of the rest of the south…I once worked a Neil Young concert (lighting), and when I was in the bathroom he came in and took a piss.
          He left without washing his hands.
          Ronnie VZ was from Jacksonville, the song was written by lead guitarist Ed King.
          Free bird is beloved of Radio DJ’s, because it’s so long..it gives them an opportunity to go the bathroom, get a snack, or get a BJ from the chick that called on the phone that night and showed up at the back studio door..

        • Mott

          Dano- “Van Zandt said he was responding to Youngs “Southern Man” and “Alabama” – That VZ quote is genuine also, VZ was quoted as saying the song is both a tribute/response to those songs, as well sly and only half-serious.

          Only have to dispute one thing: ” the song was written by lead guitarist Ed King.” The riff that repeats in between each vocal line was something Gary Rossington had been “fooling around with in rehearsal”. That’s as much as I have heard as far as who actually wrote the music to “S.H. Alabama”. Never heard who wrote the verse chords or chorus riffs…

          I love rock trivia wars!
          Third guitarist Ed King, however, did compose and play all the solos in the song- and so his contribution in that respect was a very big one, indeed!

        • Hacienda

          “I once worked a Neil Young concert (lighting), and when I was in the bathroom he came in and took a piss. He left without washing his hands.”

          He was pissed off at you staring at him, while he was taking a piss.

          “Van Zandt said he was responding to Youngs “Southern Man” and “Alabama” because he felt Young was picking on Alabama at the expense of the rest of the south”

          When will Floridians realize they are not part of the South and in fact are not part of the USA.

  2. Pingback: The Allman Brothers Band – One Way Out « Throughhisown's Weblog

  3. Alpha, did you ever listen to The Black Crowes in the 90s? They carried the torch on that southern rock sound. So did Blind Melon to an extent, even though they were from Indiana.

    • Alpha Unit

      Yes, I did listen to the Black Crowes back then, and I liked them. The only thing I remember from Blind Melon is “No Rain,” which I love listening to. It reminds me of the Grateful Dead.

  4. dano bivins

    Mott, King wrot the chords and the guitar solos.

    hacienda wrot: “He was pissed off at you staring at him, while he was taking a piss.”

    Naw, I was carefully ignoring him, he was just someone with nasty self-hygiene.

    “When will Floridians realize they are not part of the South and in fact are not part of the USA.”

    When will the rest of the south realize that Florida is the southest, the most toughest, and the most hardy of the pioneer states? Everything here will either bite you, stab you or sting you. It was the last state to be settled for a reason. Wimps settled Georgia and Alabama, in Florida you had to have a double-barreled shotgun to walk to your neighbors house…the skeeters were so thick you had to shoot a hole thru them with the first barrel to be able to run to the neighbor, using gators as stepping stones… then use the other barrel to clear a hole on the way back.
    Florida is the real south.

    • Gay State Girl

      “When will the rest of the south realize that Florida is the southest, the most toughest, and the most hardy of the pioneer states?”

      Yeah, I suppose that’s why everyone in South Florida walks around with a cane and a respirator.

      • dano bivins

        Those are all northerners, learn before you squirm..

        • Gay State Girl

          I know, I was just having fun. I have met some native Floridians in North Florida whose ancestors have lived there for generations and they don’t seem particularly tougher or braver than those in the Gulf or Appalachia.

    • Mott

      Dano- FYI- H. is referring to the current theory that postulates that the Florida peninsula was originally a part of northern South America (Columbia) that separated from the continent during the Cocainic Era and drifted northward through what is now the Caribbean Sea, colliding with Haiti and splintering in two, half of which became Cuba and the other half becoming the penisula of “Flawrada”, which, according to the World Book Enclyclopedia is a third-world country and not a part of the U.S.proper.

      • Hacienda

        Mott,

        Any state that doesn’t have a functioning voting system can’t truly be considered a part of The Union. If Floridans want to see themselves as part of Georgia or Bama, that’s fine with me. But, I wonder if they really know who their true governor and assembly members are, by vote, that is.

        The best thing ever to happen to Florida is Walt Disney. It had a dream once of becoming mini-California. When that didn’t work out, it became what we have today- a thing- “out there”. Gatorville.

      • dano bivins

        That whole scenario about the origin of Florida is loopy.
        You made it up.
        Florida is a sandbar. A big sandbar. It’s like the trailing stretch when you pull a slice of Pizza from a pie.. I have found 10,000 yr old artifacts from northern Indians here.
        Our shore used to be where the gulf stream now exists. Miles further out.
        The oldest US city is in Florida.
        we are the south, not the inbred, banjo-plain’ rednecks on tobacco road to our NORTH..
        I know you were having fun GSG, so was I.
        Hacienda, our voting system is the same as everyone elses. Our govt.s are the corrupt good old boys. But if you want to use voting fraud and manipulation as a yardstick of flaw, just look at Ohio, they have us beat by a country mile.
        GSG…Louisianians are tough, but they’re not as tough as Floridians.
        Yes…that’s me, I have 2 brothers…Kirk and James, my father was bricklayer, and we were all freakishly musclebound from an early age.

        • Mott

          Made up what? You don’t remember the Cocainic Era? It was the 80s, when half-shaven creatures wearing pink shirts, white suits and distinctive chest jewelry prowled the Florida Coast. Know your tectonic history!

    • Hacienda

      Dano,

      Walking on future women’s fashion accessories is not tough. Keep doing that and I’ll call in PETA to block off all commerce exit/entry points in Florida- highway, airport, seaports. We’ll see how Florida stands up to half-mad dolphin fuckers and de-sexed women who go bat-shit over the smell of leather.

      Walking on the San Andreas Fault, that’s tough. Living on it, stop and go driving on it, waiting for the day to be swallowed up by it. Having a house on brush fire lines the length of Rhode Island while that same house is net deficit with mortgage, that’s just DUMB tough. “Motherfucker, I’ve been fucked by a nigger ladyboy with a bat size dick”, tough. That’s California tough.

  5. Gay State Girl

    Louisianans is the toughest. They have been known to kill alligators by hand and eat their skin raw.

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