On May 2nd, 1970, southern rockers The Allman Brothers took the stage at Swarthmore College. The Jacksonville band had been around for only a couple years at this point; the tour they were on was in support of their sophomore album, Idlewild South, released that February. Their breakout Eat A Peach was still a couple years in the future, Duane Allman was still living, and the band’s founding lineup was intact. On this recording of the concert, you’ll hear Duane on guitar, his brother Gregg Allman on keys and vocals, Dicky Betts on guitar and vocals, Berry Oakley on bass and vocals, and dueling percussionists Dickey Betts and Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson.
What you’ll hear in this rough and roaring audience recording is a mix of Allman Brothers originals from the first two records, covers that would wind up on later releases — Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues,” which opens the set, later landed on At Fillmore East, and Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More” was on Eat A Peach. You’ll also hear covers that are less heard — Albert King’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” is a particularly clever response to their own “Every Hungry Woman.”
Closing the show is the one-two punch of “Whipping Post,” followed by an early performance of their iconic “Mountain Jam,” which would later see a release on Peach.
WXPN’s David Dye is a Swarthmore grad, and was a student at the time of the concert, and had some additional details to share about the show:
The recording was done on 1/4-inch tape at WSRN, the college radio station, which was 300 yards away and connected to the stage by a wire. It was usually used to record public speakers, but they figured what the heck, let’s record the Allman Brothers too.
The tape itself is a thing of legend, it had disappeared for at least three decades. And when you listen to it, they’re so young, and so on. There are all those covers, like “Dimples,” and it just sounded so bluesy and cool.
Their first album had the famous gatefold photo of them skinny dipping in a creek. And when they arrived at the Swarthmore campus, they threatened to go swimming in the creek on campus.
There was an intermission that was spliced out of the recording, and at the show, as the intermission started, some campus radicals got up on stage and said “they started bombing Cambodia, we need to meet and figure out our reaction!” Everybody left, and there were maybe 20 people there for the second set. That’s why you hear the band say “hope it was a good meeting.”
The opener was a band called Quill, they had a Swarthmore grad as their drummer, and their only claim to fame was they were the first band to play at Woodstock, but they had a sax player that jammed on “Mountain Jam.” That’s why you hear this screechy and sort of godawful sax solo on that song where there could have been a Duane solo.
Wild and wandering, this recording captures an iconic American band at their first peak, before they were struck by tragedies and trials and had to rebuild over and again. 48 years down the road, even after the passing of Gregg Allman last year, the Allman Brothers Band’s music and legacy endures; listen to the band play Swarthmore in 1970 below.
- Statesboro Blues (Blind Willie McTell cover)
- Trouble No More (Muddy Waters cover)
- I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man (Willie Dixon cover)
- I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town (Casey Bill Weldon cover)
- Every Hungry Woman
- Oh, Pretty Woman (Albert King cover)
- In Memory of Elizabeth Reed
- Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just as Bad) (T‐Bone Walker cover)
- Dimples (John Lee Hooker cover)
- Whipping Post
- Mountain Jam
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