GABBAfest, fans have grown older together

Kevan “Luke” Green has vivid memories of his epic hitchhiking trip, at age 14, from from Tampa, Fla., to visit the spiritual home of the Allman Brothers Band. He came to see the restaurant where they ate, a venue where they played, and especially the graves where two are buried. He especially remembers walking up the hill to get to those graves in Rose Hill Cemetery, a path he followed Sunday with his Florida truck to mark another Allman Brothers homage.

“Every time I come up here, it’s spiritual, man,” said Green, now 53.

As the Georgia Allman Brothers Band Association’s annual GABBAfest wrapped up Sunday, Green’s description of Allman Brothers followers as a family seemed quite true. There were far more hugs than beards and ponytails, and younger people are moving in.

Surelle Pinkston of Macon, the group’s treasurer, said one Canadian man who began coming to the GABBAfests when he was a little boy now had aged enough to join in a weekend jam session at The Big House, the Allman Brothers Band museum.

But time is taking its toll, too. Green said his heart tugs when he thinks of aging “Mama Louise” Hudson of H & H Restaurant fame, who served the band, or of the ailing Joseph “Red Dog” Campbell, a famous Allman Brothers roadie.

And the group dedicated a red cedar for roadie Mike Callahan, who was with the band at its beginning. Callahan died two years ago, but the memories remain strong.

“Big Dave” Pierson of North Augusta, S.C., recalled Callahan as a guy who was always ready for anything. “Motorcycle, iced-down beer, pistol and black leathers,” he said. Until his death in 2008, Callahan was always willing to talk about the Allman Brothers Band.

“He enjoyed people and he enjoyed people who enjoyed the Allman Brothers,” Pierson said.

Pinkston said GABBA has partnered with Rose Hill Cemetery to plant trees in honor of people important to GABBA and the band itself.

“As I look at the list of who we had honored, it was people who kept food in their stomach and fire in their belly. They took care of the details so the Allman Brothers could take care of the music,” Pinkston said.

But the Allman Brothers’ music winds its way through lives in sometimes profound ways. Some GABBA members say they can talk to their friends in a way they can’t speak with their families, because the families won’t understand. Some members’ children are named Jessica and Melissa, after two classic songs. Some boast tattoos created from album art. Near the grave that gave a name to the song “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” one GABBA member parked a car with a license plate paying homage to Gov’t Mule, an Allman Brothers spinoff band.

Kyler Mosely of Lizella said he hopes that artifacts from the Allman Brothers’ first home in Macon, on College Street, could be sold to help keep the band’s legacy going. The reunions, of course, will continue.

“It’s always a family-oriented brotherhood, brothers and sisters, all tied in together,” he said.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.