Berry Oakley

Plying his craft with a Fender Jazz bass rigged with a Guild Hagstrom pickup which his band-mates affectionately dubbed “The Tractor” due to the way it “rattled,” Allman Brothers founding member Raymond Berry Oakley III accomplished much in his tragically short career as a recording artist.

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Sandwiched between two young lion guitar virtuosos (Duane Allman, Richard Betts), two brilliant jazz inflected drummers (Jaimoe, Butch Trucks), and a keyboardist (Gregg Allman) given to rendering extended, droning passages, Oakley was the lone cat holding down the harmonic fort! 

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Focus on Oakley and you’d know exactly where the song was going. Among my favorite Berry Oakley performances include the 6/8 swing section of “Stormy Monday” from Fillmore East, “Melissa,” “Blue Sky,” the studio and live renditions of “Whipping Post,” the entirety of “Mountain Jam” from Eat A Peach, and his final recording “Ramblin’ Man.”

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Many extraordinary bassists succeeded Berry in the Brothers, namely the dearly departed Lamar Williams and Alan Woody, along with David Goldflies and Oteil Burbridge – however Berry Oakley is the master, and has had the most lasting influence on the legion of jam bands that cite the iconic Allman Brothers as their template.

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