Feb. 11, 1970: Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers Jam

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fillmore-marquee (Amelie Rothschild)

Photo by Amelie Rothschild

Ask certain classic rock fans who they’d love to see jam together, and the answer might likely be two bands that raised jamming to a high art: the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band. Add to that Fleetwood Mac guitarists Peter Green and Danny Kirwan along with Mick Fleetwood, and it was a jam of monumental proportions that took place at the Fillmore East on this day.

The Dead and the Allmans had formed a mutual admiration society on first meeting at a free Dead show in an Atlanta park following the first Atlanta Pop Festival in 1969. “I love the Dead,” Duane Allman once said. “Jerry Garcia could walk on water.”

The kinship included both bands having the same line-up: two guitarists, bass, keyboards and two drummers. And the admiration was mutual. “They’re like a younger, Southern version of us in some ways musically,” Garcia observed of the Allman Brothers. “I really enjoy playing with those guys, they’re fun to play with. They’re good.” The two groups would draw one of the largest crowds in rock history when they played Watkins Glen with The Band in 1973.

Bill Graham’s affection for the Allmans likely landed the then-still-largely-unknown band on the bill (which also included the group Love). And the Dead had just gone through the wringer in New Orleans with a drug bust that they would later immortalize into the lyrics of “Truckin’.” They were ripe for something special.

In the 11th song of the second show, “Dark Star,” Duane Allman appeared onstage with the Grateful Dead to add his trademark slide guitar. As the set list proceeds into “Spanish Jam,” Green, Kirwan and Fleetwood – playing a New York show the following night – join in. On “Turn On Your Love Light,” Gregg Allman, Berry Oakley and Butch Trucks also took the stage.

fillmore-Dead & Allmans

At one point in the jamming, the Donovan song “There Is a Mountain” gets referenced. The Allmans would run with that melody and spin it into their signature instrumental, “Mountain Jam.” It was a night to remember for both the musicians and all who witnessed it.

Grateful Dead Set list (found here):

1) Not Fade Away
2) Cumberland Blues
3) Cold Rain And Snow
4) High Time
5) Me And My Uncle
6) Dark Star
7) Spanish Jam
8) Turn On Your Lovelight

Encore
9) Uncle John’s Band

Related: We look at the top albums recorded Live at the Fillmore here and here

In 2018, an official live recording of the Allman Brothers Band’s February 1970 performances at the Fillmore was released. The title of the set is Bear’s Sonic Journals: Allman Brothers Band, Fillmore East February 1970 and the original recording comes from the Feb. 11, 13 and 14, 1970, gigs at the venue.

The release features one of the earliest known live concert recordings of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” with which the band opened on each of the three nights. These recordings have not previously been released to the public.

This recording showcases an early incarnation of the Allman Brothers Band with Duane Allman (lead and slide guitars), Gregg Allman (vocals, Hammond B-3 organ), Dickey Betts (lead guitar), Berry Oakley (bass, vocals), Jaimoe (drums, percussion) and Butch Trucks (drums, tympani).

The February 1970 engagement came more than a year before the legendary concerts at the same venue that resulted in the band’s classic album At Fillmore East.

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