Being on the road as an up and coming band in the early 70’s was never easy. Clu…
Written by megarock on May 14, 2018
Being on the road as an up and coming band in the early 70’s was never easy. Club owners / promoters were always looking for ways to screw the band. On April 30, 1970, The Allman Brothers Band had a problem:
The following is an article that was written by David J. Krajicek and appeared in the New York Daily News on May 11, 2013:
“It was that moment late at night that every touring club band must endure: begging for their fee.
While the roadie packed the last of the gear, bass player Berry Oakley approached the Buffalo club’s owner, Angelo Aliotta.
Aliotta offered $500 for the two shows that night, April 29, 1970. But the band had $1,000 coming.
Oakley knew this tune by heart. He went to the band’s hotel and informed the tour manager, Twiggs Lyndon Jr., that they were being chiseled.
Lyndon was in no mood.
The up-and-coming Southern rockers had been on the road for five months, crisscrossing the country to promote their debut album: “The Allman Brothers Band.”
They had opened for Chicago at SUNY-Stony Brook on Long Island the previous night, then hightailed 500 miles across the state in their Winnebago to make the Wednesday night gig at Aliotta’s Lounge, on Hertel Ave. in North Buffalo.
They were to continue on to one-nighters in Cleveland and Pennsylvania before heading home to Georgia for a much-needed week off.
Lyndon, though just 27, was a veteran rock ’n’ roll road warrior.
He had stumbled into a job as tour manager for Little Richard, a fellow native of Macon, Ga., when he was 23 and fresh out of the Navy. He went on to manage tours for Percy Sledge (“When a Man Loves a Woman”), then wrangled R&B stars Otis Redding and Sam and Dave for a Stax Records tour of Europe.
When brothers Duane and Gregg Allman put together a band in 1969 for Macon’s Capricorn Records, Lyndon was hired as road manager.
“He was so organized and anal about everything,” Gregg Allman later wrote. “The world was never perfect enough for Twiggs Lyndon.”
No detail was lost on him. For example, he drew up a list of the legal age of sexual consent for each state and made copies for the band, according to Allman Brothers biographer Scott Freeman.
There wasn’t much Twiggs couldn’t fix,” Freeman wrote.
He was fiercely devoted to his musicians.
“Twiggs didn’t have a short fuse, but if it burned down, look out,” Gregg Allman wrote. That night in Buffalo, “Twiggs was gonna make sure we got our money.”
Lyndon stormed out of the hotel, his brown mane trailing behind and the leather sheath of his 10-inch fishing knife bouncing at his hip.
Allman said, “Twiggs, maybe you shouldn’t take that knife with you.”
Lyndon didn’t listen. He went to the club and confronted Aliotta.
The owner argued that the Allmans were late for their first show. He said he would pony up the $500 if they agreed to play a makeup set the following night.
Lyndon cursed and whipped out his knife. As six witnesses watched, the two men grappled to the barroom floor, where Aliotta soon lay groaning.
Lyndon got up, found a chair and calmly sat down.
“I stuck him,” he drawled. “I don’t care if I get the electric chair. I proved a point.”
Aliotta was dead an hour later, and Lyndon was charged with first-degree murder and locked up without bail.
The Allman Brothers’ Winnebago pulled out of Buffalo that day, bound for Cleveland. But the band made sure Lyndon got a good lawyer. In fact, he got a humdinger: John Condon Jr.
There was no doubt that Lyndon had stabbed the unarmed Aliotta in an argument over money. That was not a narrative a Buffalo jury would have viewed with sympathy, especially when the perp was a long-haired Southerner.
But Condon saw another defense: temporary insanity induced by the burnout of a rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.
He asked for a bench trial, without a jury, gambling that it would be easier to convince a judge than a conservative jury that Lyndon had been afflicted with amphetamine psychosis after five exhausting months of babysitting a band.
Managing a rock ’n’ roll tour would drive anyone nuts, Condon said. To prove his point, he called bassist Berry Oakley as an expert on narcotics abuse on the road.
“Did you take any dope in the last month?” Condon asked.
“Uh-huh,” Oakley replied.
“In the last week?”
“Oh, yeah,” the musician said.
“What about the last hour?”
“You bet,” said Oakley.
Condon’s strategy worked. Lyndon was judged not guilty by reason of insanity. He spent 18 months in jail before trial, then about six months locked up in a psych ward.
By the summer of 1972, he was back on the road with the Allman Brothers Band, which toured relentlessly even after the motorcycle-wreck deaths in Macon of Duane Allman in 1971 and Berry Oakley in 1972.
Later in the 1970s, Lyndon toured with the Dixie Dregs, a jazz-rock fusion band.
Along the endless road, he became an avid skydiver, logging more than 300 jumps. On Nov. 16, 1979, as the Dregs were meandering toward a gig in Syracuse, Lyndon squeezed in a sky dive from an airplane based in upstate Duanesburg.
At 8,500 feet, Twiggs Lyndon exited the plane. He enjoyed a glorious view of the Catskills to the south and the Adirondacks to the north.
His chute didn’t open. He was 37.