Wednesday, 26 December 2018 15:27

Allman Brothers' Big House now home to band's memorabilia

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The Big House Museum in Macon, Georgia, which was once a home away from home for the Allman Brothers Band, is now home to much of the band's memorabilia. The Big House Museum in Macon, Georgia, which was once a home away from home for the Allman Brothers Band, is now home to much of the band's memorabilia. John Martin - Richmond Observer

Being the fan I am of The Allman Brothers Band, I often heard of this mystical place they all lived in called “The Big House” many years ago but thought nothing of it — other than the fact they all lived in a big house somewhere in Macon, Georgia. 

As time passed, I began to hear rumblings of the creation of a museum to honor the music and the legacy of The Allman Brothers Band — and it was being established at that mystical place fondly referred to as “The Big House.”  

Long before it became a place honoring The Allman Brothers Band, it was home to Berry and Linda Oakley and their daughter Brittany. This was when the band was working on recordings at Capricorn Studios in downtown Macon. Actually, it was a place for band members, roadies and anyone close to have a place to stay. Soon, Duane and Gregg Allman moved in with their significant partners, too. The house obviously had plenty of room for them and more.

 This was a place for the band and crew to come home to for rest and rehearsals from being on the road, as they were often away for periods of time playing and traveling. They had this space rented from 1970-1973. During this period of time tragedy struck, first losing Duane Allman and then Berry Oakley a little more than a year later. Soon after, things started falling apart and the place of refuge was being evacuated. 

To fast forward a bit, Kirk and Kirsten West bought the house in 1993 and started depositing their collection of memorabilia there with the thought that, one day, it would become a permanent museum to honor The Allman Brothers Band to further keep alive the band’s legacy.  Incidentally, Kirk West is well-known for being a photojournalist and yet he also held the job as road manager for the band. 

They helped found The Big House Foundation and in 2003 they sold the house to the foundation. Many years of fundraising and restorations were poured into the project and it finally opened in late 2009. Since its opening, so many items of interest — including instruments, posters and just about anything connected to The Allman Brothers Band and extended inner family members — have been acquired, loaned to and/or donated to the museum. It seems every time I visit there is more space open with more new items on display.  There are so many people to truly thank for their labor of love: Greg and Laraine Potter; Kirk and Kirsten West; as well as all past and current staff members and board members. Currently Richard Brent, collection and merchandise director, is very hands-on and is there to help guide what comes into the museum. 

My personal experiences there have all been very interesting to say the least. Just to walk into this place you can feel the energy and the cool vibe it seems to emit. My first visit was right after it opened because I wanted to be part of something I considered to be more than just special. It was something that needed to be done. I have also been to many functions there and they are always produced professionally and well worth my efforts to have attended. 

I don’t know how many times I have been there over the years but I am sure it is more than 10. The most memorable visit I had was the most recent when Idlewild South, the band I play and travel with, was invited to come be part of GABBA Fest (The Georgia Allman Brothers Band Association) this past September. This is an annual gathering of ABB fans literally from all over the world. On the property behind the house is a large space where events are held and there is a permanent performance stage and Idlewild South performed at the members jam on that stage, as well as other functions related to the four-day festival. The reason it is my most memorable visit is because I often dreamed of playing on that particular stage and that dream came true.  

I strongly suggest that if you are or even think you’re a fan of one of the greatest bands in the land, I urge you to make a trip there. The Big House Museum is located at 2321 Vineville Ave. in Macon, Georgia, and is open Thursday through Sunday. And bring your wallet because they have a well-stocked gift shop in the house and you will want to purchase something (or multiple things) as a keepsake of your visit.  

And remember: “The road goes on forever.”