Wednesday, December 19, 2007

life in the big house

some readers may know of my brother's affiliation with the allman brothers band. others might have missed my occasional references to their music. well anyway, my brother, kirk, and his wife, kirsten [shown with their dogs martha and lizzie] have sold their house, the big house, home to the allman brothers band during the band's beginnings and at the time of the tragic deaths of both duane allman and berry oakley in the early 1970s. what follows is a story from the macon telegraph, one of the local papers. it's an interesting read.
Allman museum closer to reality
By Travis Fain
The "Big House" where the Allman Brothers lives and wrote some of its best-known songs, is in the process of becoming a museum.
For 14 years, thousands of people from all over the world found their way to Kirk and Kirsten West's front door on Vineville Avenue in Macon.
They came to see one of the finest collections of The Allman Brothers Band memorabilia in existence. They didn't need an appointment. They just climbed the front steps and knocked on the Wests' front door.
But not any more. Kirk, a longtime Allman Brothers manager with titles ranging from "tour mystic" to "professional observationist," and Kirsten have moved to the Shirley Hills neighborhood. This fall, they sold the famous "Big House" where bandmates lived and wrote some of their best-known songs, deeding it to a foundation that plans to turn the home into a full-fledged museum.
Today, on the front steps that Kirk West figures 25,000 "pilgrims" have climbed, the Big House Foundation plans to unveil more detailed plans for the museum and announce a new fundraiser.
The group has raised about $1.75 million since it formed in 2004, foundation president Bob Johnson said. An undisclosed portion of that went to the Wests, who not only owned the century-old home but also amassed the collection of roughly 200,000 pieces of memorabilia.
"Bigger than a bread basket," Johnson said of the price. "Everything was for appraised value."
That includes about one third of the couple's Allman Brothers music collection: compact discs of just about every live Allman Brothers show ever recorded.
The foundation's portion of that music collection will be played at the museum. The other two-thirds were split between the Wests and the band itself, Kirk West said.
Johnson said he hopes the museum can open in early 2009 and that the foundation can raise another $5 million. That's $2 million for various renovations at the house and $3 million for an endowment to operate the museum long term. Meanwhile, the group has received the planning and zoning commission's permission to add a parking lot at the house and is awaiting approval of some landscaping changes and signs.
The collection is in storage and is being cataloged, West and Johnson said. That includes a shirt that British guitar legend Eric Clapton gave the late Duane Allman during the famous "Layla" sessions. It also includes the lid from late bassist Berry Oakley's amplifier case - the one stamped "The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East" that appears in the top left corner of the iconic album cover bearing the same name.
That picture, which many assume was taken outside the famous Fillmore East theater in New York, was actually taken in front of a Poplar Street warehouse in downtown Macon, West said. The building is gone, and there's a parking lot there now, West said.
The case lid was stolen in 1972, but years later someone sent the band a Polaroid of it. It seems a man had been using it for a coffee table and his wife wanted him to get rid of it. West said he bought it back for $845, which he assumes was one month's house payment for the man.
Said West: "I tried to talk him down to $750. ... But if he hadn't stolen it, it would have gotten destroyed from, just, use."
Along with the fundraiser concert and auction planned for next month, as well as other private fundraising efforts, the foundation is seeking federal grants for the museum. Nothing's made it into the budget yet, but in statements from their offices, U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson both called the museum project a cause worth consideration.
West, whose beard and ponytail are now long gray, said the band's legacy and the fact that many members of Congress grew up listening to the band makes the museum a pretty easy sell.
"Walking up and down the halls of congress just blew my mind," West said. "And the reception that we got ... we were just really warmly received."
and in honor of the sale of the big house and zappadan,
one of MY favorites, done frankenstyle....


Jeff C said...


Not sure if you are up on your "conceptual continuity" with respect to why they actually worked up this cover. The 1974 Helsinki concert had a drunk in the audience that insisted that they play Whipping Post. So... they mutated Montana into "Whipping Floss". The whole of that concert is on YCDTOSA Vol#2. There are several other FZ covers of WP on YouTube. There is also an excellent one from the 1988 band.

Jeff C

the mostly reverend said...

nice--that's very fucking funny.
thanks. i'll check them out.

Miriam said...

Hi. I met Kirk a few years ago at an ABB show in Toronto .. he is a complete an utter DOLL and I was grateful to him for all the times he let me and my friend Nathalie backstage to watch the show. If you would be so kind as to say hi to him for me (just say Miriam from Toronto who used to come out to the shows say hi) I would be eternally grateful. Thanks to his kindness I am still a huge ABB fan. Missed their show in NYC this weekend but hope to catch them again soon.