INTERVIEW: Willie Perkins

While writing a previous article on the three nights The Allman Brothers Band played at Fillmore East in March 1971, I spoke to Willie Perkins who was the road manager for the band between 1970-76 and 1983-89. It was an honour to talk with him and I thank Willie for taking the time to answer some questions.

When was the decision made to record a live album at Fillmore East in March ’71?

Probably late 1970. The two earliest albums while well received had not met sales expectations. It was felt a live concert recording would capture the true essence of the band and it did.

Who made the decision to invite the horns to play with the band?

Horns were a band decision. The two players, friends of Jaimoe, had performed live with the band at several concerts previously.

Was it the plan to have the horns play during all of the shows before Tom Dowd insisted they didn’t?

Yes.

No recordings exist of the horns with the band, could you tell me how they fitted in with the music and how the overall sound changed as a result of their inclusion?

They were mostly a jazz embellishment. I, for one, never really cared for them, but I knew what the band’s idea was.

No setlists exist from the shows on the 11th, do you recall which songs the band played?

They played more or less a standard live concert of the period.

There are multiple versions of songs from all the sets. Was it a group decision as to which versions of songs would feature on the live album?

The final version of the album was a joint decision agreed upon by band members, band management and record company management. It was at manager Phil Walden’s insistence that the album was released as a double LP at a single LP price.

Not many photos exist from the March shows, compared to June at least. Do you have any photos yourself of the band backstage and onstage?

I have no photos personally from that event.

What are your feelings looking back on those March shows and what do those shows mean to you 44 years on?

Well, obviously it was and is a great honor to have been involved in and to have been present at those historical recording sessions of what most feel may be the best recorded live concert album ever.

Duane was a driving force and in a way the conductor on stage. What was it like being around him?

Duane was a wonderful, talented and charismatic man and I am blessed to have known and loved him. My first book “No Saints, No Saviors – My Years With The Allman Brothers Band” goes into great detail on this subject.

What do you think Duane and Berry would say today if they knew how important and legendary a live album At Fillmore East has become?

Well, none of us knew at the time we were involved in making rock and roll history although we all knew the ABB was very special. I’m sure Duane and Berry would be pleased and honored.

What was it like working with the band and being a part of the group?

It was obviously a life changing event for me and I treasure all of the triumphs and my heart still breaks at the tragedies.

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