First There Is A Mountain: Eat A Peach At 50

This 1972 magnum opus provided the Allman Brothers with a tasty triumph in light of a horrible tragedy

Eat A Peach ad in Rolling Stone (Image: eBay)

It’s somewhat ironic — and also a bit sad, perhaps — that Eat a Peach, released on February 12, 1972,  would be the Allman Brothers album that would mark the band’s big breakthrough.

Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.

They had made their mark before — their eponymous debut, its superb follow-up Idlewild South, and the live At Fillmore East (still considered one of the best concert albums ever recorded) had clearly put them on the cusp of wider acclaim, and yet commercial success was still elusive. Despite an audience that worshipped their technical prowess and jam band proficiency, the absence of a successful hit single seemed to stifle the band’s ambitions, leaving them longing for the wider recognition that was decidedly their due.

Nevertheless, there were other, unforeseen circumstances that would inevitably intrude on their fortunes. Heroin addiction plagued both the band and its crew, and a stay in a rehab facility temporarily ground them to a halt. However the larger tragedy was the motorcycle accident that took the life of guitarist and de facto band leader Duane Allman on October 29, 1971. The group was only a couple of months away from completing the studio portion of the upcoming two disc set, only to contend with the fact that the loss of one of its namesake players could curtail their will to continue.

The Allman Brothers Band Eat A Peach, Capricorn Records 1972

The fact that the bulk of the album consisted of previously recorded concert material clearly helped prep the record for release. Nevertheless, it was the original material — Gregg Allman’s “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” (an elegy for his brother that hinges on the futility of taking life for granted), his tender “Melissa” (a decidedly soft and sentimental ballad by Allmans Brothers standards), and guitarist Dickey Betts’ incisive instrumental “Les Brers in A Minor” — that demonstrated their musical prowess wasn’t limited to their incendiary stage performances.

That said, it was the live tracks recorded prior to Duane’s demise that would be forever identified as part of the Allmans’ remarkable repertoire. A reworked version of Elmore James and Sonny Boy Williamson’s “One Way Out” shines as yet another of their relentless rockers. The reflective “Trouble No More” was based on a blues tune, in this case, Muddy Waters. “Little Martha” was the only Allman Brothers song credited solely to Duane Allman, and the version of the song released on Eat a Peach features only him and Dickey Betts with an intricate and articulate instrumental read. 

The band’s daring and dexterity was further showcased in “Mountain Jam,” a lengthy instrumental that occupied two full sides of the original LP. Based on the whimsical folk tune originally written by Donovan Leitch, it evolved out of a spontaneous backstage gathering at the Fillmore East that found Duane Allman, Jerry Garcia and Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac trading chops and sharing their skills. In addition to its appearance on Eat a Peach, it was featured on numerous other Allmans albums as well. 

Gatefold cover for Eat A Peach (Image: Capricorn Records)

The iconic album art, featuring an oversized peach hauled on a flatbed truck, is complemented by the fantasy art that adorns the inside of the gatefold cover. Notably, the band’s name doesn’t appear on the front, referencing the fact that an executive at their record label had once insisted that the band was so hot, they could sell albums that were packaged in a paper bag. As for the name of the album itself, it was gleaned as another homage to Duane after his death. 

“You can’t help the revolution, because there’s just evolution,” he was quoted as saying. “Every time I’m in Georgia, I eat a peach for peace.”

It seems, that at the time, it summed his sentiments completely.

 

AUDIO: The Allman Brothers Band Eat A Peach (full album)

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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

One thought on “First There Is A Mountain: Eat A Peach At 50

  • June 10, 2022 at 11:36 am
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    In your article, you remark that the band’s name is not shown on the front cover, but it is clearly visible on the side of the flatbed truck drawing.

    Reply

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