Jul. 27, 2009
Southern rock was born at 2321 Vineville Ave. in Macon, Ga.
Affectionately dubbed “The Big House,” this three-story Grand Tudor home was where the Allman Brothers Band developed the sound that came to represent a region. From January 1970 to January 1973, this is where Duane and Gregg Allman, Berry Oakley, Dickey Betts, Jaimoe, Butch Trucks, Chuck Leavell and Lamar Williams wrote, jammed, partied, loved and lost. Through recordings, tours, marriages, births and the tragic deaths of two of their founders, The Big House was their refuge.
Now, 40 years after the band first formed, The Big House will honor the group of musicians it inspired. The building will become a museum housing ABB memorabilia and memories from those years. In conjunction with the museum, The Big House Foundation has produced a documentary called Please Call Home: The Big House Years, which highlights all of the amazing ups and downs the band encountered while living at 2321. The movie paints a touching portrait of a family, formed not through blood but through music, and their journey from poor, bi-racial band of hippies in a Deep South town to one of the biggest bands in America.
The story is recreated by the brothers and sisters who were there, like roadie Joseph “Red Dog” Campbell and H&H Restaurant owner “Mama” Louise Hudson, whose accounts reveal these legends of rock as nothing more than good Macon folk, in the right time at the right place. The band members’ tales from the road are especially engaging and to hear them recall the loss of Duane in 1971 and Berry in 1972 is nothing less than heartbreaking. Linda Oakley, Berry’s wife, mentions that after the group vacated The Big House, many of them moved down to Siesta Key to recoup. Some of them are still around today.
I interviewed Please Call Home Director Kirk West over the phone from The Big House:
How long were you working on the movie and how did the idea come about?
“It kind of evolved out of a whole different project. It took us about two and a half years from start to finish. We are building a museum up here in Macon and we started doing some interviews just as promotional materials. We were talking to the guys in the band about how they felt about The Big House. We just got such good footage we thought we should make it into a movie. The brothers have never had a historical documentary made about them. And this isn’t it. This is only about three years of a 40-year musical career. But since we just focused on those years they lived here we were able to get really in depth with the story.”
How will the film be released?
“We’re doing screenings in a variety of different places and we will have it for sale at those screenings. We’ve talked to some film festivals and stuff, but it will never be for sale as a [commercial] production. This is a story that is special to a certain section of the country. It’s basically a way to make some money to help get the museum going and to pay tribute to a tremendous rock and roll band.”
How many interview sessions were there?
“We did this on almost no budget, so we did a lot of filming in Macon at The Big House. We did a swing through Florida to interview Red Dog and Butch Trucks and Gregg. We tried to hook up with Dickey but he wasn’t interested in being involved, and we wanted to respect that. We definitely showed his contribution to the band in the movie though. We’ve got 40 hours of outtakes and we’re in the process now of editing them into five- and 10-minutes stories, which we’ll have showing at The Big House.”
How has The Big House changed since the Allman Brothers lived there?
“I lived in the house for 14 years. I bought it in ’93 when my wife and I moved down from Chicago. Now we’re making it into the museum. Parts of the house will look like a museum and parts of the house will look like it did when the band was here. Linda Oakley is going to come in and do some designing.”
What was your favorite part of making the movie?
“Watching the reactions the first time we showed it to the people that were in it. We had a private screening with just the band and the roadies and friends. Watching their reaction was just great.”