The Gray House - The Allman Brothers Band’s Jacksonville Roots

Whenever in the Riverside area, one thing you’ll definitely want to check out is the Allman Brothers House, otherwise known as "The Gray House”. Built in 1915 a few blocks away from the St Johns River, the 4,022-square ft home features 6 bedrooms, and 3 bathrooms. The residence boasts a historical marker giving more information about the home, and the band’s history there. Though today the home is a privately owned residence, in 1969 this house is where the legendary classic rock group, The Allman Brothers Band found its beginnings. 

After being in some unsuccessful bands together, the now legendary brothers went their separate ways for a while, to follow their own projects. But in 1968 Duane Allman got a job working in Muscle Shoals, Alabama as a lead session guitarist at Fame Studios. It was there that he was discovered for contributing to recordings by R&B soul greats like Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin. In January, 1969 he signed a contract with Phil Walden, soon to be co-founder of Capricorn Records. Because of this, he returned to Florida and in the coming weeks he formed The Allman Brothers Band in Jacksonville. They were also then joined by Gregg Allman, who came back to Florida and joined as vocals and keyboards.

The Allman Brothers Band’s original members consisted of six members -  brothers Gregg Allman (vocals, keyboard, organ, songwriting), Duane Allman (side and lead guitar), Dickey Betts (lead guitar, vocals, songwriting), Berry Oakley (bass guitar), Butch Trucks (drums), and Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson (drums). All hailing from different towns and states - four Florida musicians, a bassist from Chicago, and a drummer from Mississippi - the members had all previously been apart of other smaller bands before joining up to become the famous group who we all know and love today. The band became the founders of a genre that soon grew to be known as Southern Rock; changing the course of prominent American rock music. And it didn’t stop there, as their music also incorporated features of country music, jazz, the blues, gospel, and even R&B as well. Even though southern rock had already had a long and lively legacy, The Allman Brothers Band inspired many other bands to form afterwards with similar styles of music. The band gave name to the genre and caused the Southern Rock scene to explode.

While living in the Gray House, one of the famous brothers, Gregg Allman, wrote most of the band's self-titled first album including the song “Whipping Post”. Which, interestingly enough, he didn’t have access to a pen or paper while writing. So he wrote the lyrics in the middle of the night using burnt matches on an ironing board cover; according to the historical marker found in front of the house. The band's first jam session was held on March 23, 1969 at about 3:30PM in this very house - their unofficial, but very important start. The Allman Brothers Band debuted in Jacksonville, Florida, on March 29, 1969. In April 1969 the band's manager, Phil, talked the musicians into moving to Macon, Georgia, where he lived and where he was also working on launching a new record label, Capricorn Records.

It’s a very cool thought - to think that the band started right here in our very own Jacksonville. A band that not only made history by officially starting the Southern Rock genre, but one that grew to be one of the most famous rock bands of the 1970’s. How can one not be proud to call Jacksonville home?!

Photo Credits: Jessica Larsen, Chad and Sandy Real Estate Group Photographer

**Note; when going to visit this awesome piece of rock n’ roll history, please be mindful that this is a privately owned residence. So just be respectful of that when taking photos. 

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