Long before their fans crowned them Southern-rock royalty, the Allman Brothers Band were honing their chops on the road and in the studio.
Siblings Gregg and Duane Allman had kicked around in groups, individually and together, for half a decade before forming their namesake band in 1969, the same year they released their self-titled debut. And guitarist Duane was one of the most celebrated session men at the famed recording studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., working with Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and others. (He died in a motorcycle accident in 1971; Gregg passed away in 2017.)
Through various members, celebrated live shows and countless drum and guitar solos, the Allmans built a legendary career that lasted from 1969 through 2014. Here's our list of the Top 10 Allman Brothers Band Songs.
"Dreams"From: 'The Allman Brothers Band' (1969)
Even though the band's self-titled debut album didn't generate much buzz at the time, it included a handful of songs that would become Allman classics over the years, especially when they were dragged out to marathon lengths onstage. "Dreams" is already a pretty hefty number in the studio, clocking in at more than seven minutes. But Gregg's soulful vocals and the band's slow simmer (especially Duane's equally soulful and simmering solo) make it worth your time.
"In Memory of Elizabeth Reed"From: 'Idlewild South' (1970)
There really was an Elizabeth Reed, but the Allmans didn't know her. Guitarist Dickey Betts wrote the jazzy instrumental after spotting a headstone at a cemetery where the group occasionally hung out in the early days. Like many tracks on our list of the Top 10 Allman Brothers Songs, the studio version of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" is a mere starting point for the extended workout the cut would receive onstage. Either way, it became one of the band's most versatile performances.
"Blue Sky"From: 'Eat a Peach' (1972)
Eat a Peach is a tricky album. The band was in the middle of recording it when Duane was killed. But instead of scrapping the sessions, they assembled a double-LP with the studio cuts paired with leftover live tracks from their breakthrough album At Fillmore East. The laid-back "Blue Sky" features Betts' first vocal on record. But it's the dual guitar interplay between him and Allman that makes it one of the group's most treasured tracks.
"Ain't Wastin' Time No More"From: 'Eat a Peach' (1972)
The opening song on Eat a Peach pays tribute to Duane Allman, who died as the band was recording the album. Gregg's groove-heavy nod to his brother is one of the group's leanest cuts, coming in at less than three minutes. And, appropriately, not a second of it is wasted.
"Melissa"From: 'Eat a Peach' (1972)
Duane and Gregg Allman originally recorded "Melissa" with one of their earlier groups. They revisited the song on Eat a Peach, and it became one of the band's most enduring tracks. The plaintive ballad features a sweet, weeping solo by Duane and one of Gregg's most restrained, and best, performances.
"Statesboro Blues"From: 'At Fillmore East' (1971)
After two studio albums, which were slowly catching on with adventurous music fans, the Allman Brothers Band released a record in their natural environment. The two-LP live At Fillmore East made them stars, and "Statesboro Blues" – a cover of an old blues tune by Blind Willie McTell – kicks it all off as a blistering showcase for what they did best. The jam is quick but powerful, fueled by Duane's singing slide.
"Midnight Rider"From: 'Idlewild South' (1970)
Gregg's signature tune, about a guy who refuses to be pinned down, is also one of the most covered songs in the Allman catalog. (Willie Nelson does a pretty cool version, and Gregg remade it on one of his solo albums.) It's also one of the songs that showed up in the band's live sets almost every time you saw them. Unlike most of the tracks on this list of the Top 10 Allman Brothers Songs, "Midnight Rider" is short (three minutes on the nose) and mostly solo-free. It features one of Gregg's all-time best vocals.
"Jessica"From: 'Brothers and Sisters' (1973)
Brothers and Sisters was the first album the Allman Brothers Band recorded after Duane's death, and it's a transitional record as much as it is a traditional one. It was the group's most mainstream-sounding album at the time, which paid off: Brothers and Sisters is their only No. 1 LP. Betts has more of a presence on the album, including this playful instrumental he named after his daughter. It's a tight performance, which, of course, would gain even more momentum in concert.
"Whipping Post"From: 'The Allman Brothers Band' (1969)
The highlight of the band's debut album (which it closes), "Whipping Post" sounds like an old blues number. But Gregg Allman was barely in his 20s when he wrote it. It's one of the band's most beloved and legendary songs. We're going with the lean five-minute studio version here, but you can substitute it for the 23-minute live centerpiece from At Fillmore East. Either way, it's the definitive Allman Brothers Band song: a muscular slab of southern rock wrapped in myth, sweat and solos.
"Ramblin' Man"From: 'Brothers and Sisters' (1973)
The band's most popular song (it reached No. 2) doesn't sound an awful lot like the Allman Brothers tracks that came before it (or many on our list of the Top 10 Allman Brothers Band Songs, for that matter). Following Duane's death, the group streamlined their sound for mainstream audiences. Dickey Betts' voice was less gruff than Gregg Allman's, making him more digestible for pop fans, and his solos were more jazz-influenced than Duane's R&B riffs. "Ramblin' Man" definitely stakes out its territory, combining down-home twang, a radio-friendly hook and a killer guitar solo that drives it all home.