If you like rock and roll, then you don’t hear songs like "Ramblin’ Man,""Jessica" or "Whipping Post" without singing along, maybe even with your eyes closed. The well-known words delivered by the Allman Brothers Band are a soulful union for anyone, still today; and as fans remember Gregg Allman on the one-year anniversary of his death in May, it’s hard not to talk about where we can go to get a little more of him and the music we know so well.
The story goes that in 1970, Linda Oakley sought out a place to live while the band was recording at Capricorn Records in Macon. She found what would come to be known as The Big House at 2321 Vineville Avenue. Her husband, the band’s original bass player Berry, and their daughter moved in, as did Duane Allman and his family, Berry’s sister Candy Oakley and Gregg Allman. Until 1973, it was the cozy home and gathering place for members of the band, their families, friends and roadies. The Big House is where the band made history, and where that history lives on today as home to the largest collection of Allman Brothers Band memorabilia in the world.
For music fans, the hour road trip from the city is worth it. Perhaps more than anything to see the “Casbah” room, the band’s relaxation room where everyone would come to listen to their favorite albums and just enjoy each other’s company, or as Gregg Allman himself described it, as the room where they would “string beads like old hippies.”
“Linda Oakley came to the museum and faithfully recreated the Casbah and bedrooms in order to capture the essence of the house when they lived there,” said Maggie Johnson Reimer, director of marketing and operations for the museum. Almost 50 years later, guests can still experience that Allman Brothers vibe throughout the entire house.
Other exhibits feature memorabilia from the late Gregg Allman at some of the most pivotal points in his career, such as the original cover artwork from his first solo album “Laid Back,” Duane Allman’s 1957 Gold Top Les Paul and several of the original road cases for the band’s most influential album “Live at Fillmore East.” Visitors can glimpse other instruments used by the band, concert posters, clothing, handwritten lyric sheets and much more.
The best part is that an Allman Brothers-inspired trip to Macon doesn’t end at the museum, especially if you’re hungry—for lunch, or for more Allman Brothers. H&H Restaurant, the soul food institution formerly owned by Louise Hudson, nicknamed “Mama Louise” by the band, is still serving phenomenal fried chicken.
“The story goes, when the band came to town in 1969 to start their recording contract with Capricorn Records, they had very little money for food or anything else,” Reimer said. “Mama Louise allowed the boys to eat and pay her later, which they did. She became a Macon maternal figure for the band and the family, treating her as they did their own mothers.”
The restaurant is showing off memorabilia too, including a biscuit menu with items named for famous locals, like the Midnight Rider stacked with fried chicken, pimento cheese and bacon jam.
“The Allman Brothers Band is widely known as the ‘fathers of southern rock,’ paving the way for bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band and many others,” Reimer said. “A visit to the museum will reveal why.”
In fact, a visit to Macon is a worthy stop for any music lover, period, with its community of musicians and support for the local talent growing here today. Anyone who enjoys music, especially southern music, will mark this downtown Atlanta detour for the memory book.