Jack Barba, a musician from Hidalgo, Mexico, drove all the way to Macon for the April 23 grand opening of a museum honoring the Allman Brothers Band.
“It took me three days, driving 16 or 18 hours a day,” he told GlobalAtlanta. For the effort, Mr. Barba was able to attend his first Allman Brothers concert, which was held that evening in Macon.
He was not the only international visitor to the Middle Georgia city that day. Matjaz Kumelj traveled from his home in Slovenia for the opening of the museum, which is in the renovated “Big House” where the band members lived in the early 1970s.
“I have been a fan of the Allman Brothers since 1973-74,” Mr. Kumelj said.
Through a friend in Macon, he had been following the renovation of the Big House and felt compelled to attend the opening. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event,” said Mr. Kumelj.
Macon Mayor Robert Reichert said the museum, founded and funded by fans from throughout the U.S, is an international tourist attraction.
In the 1970s, the band was one of the most popular in the United States with hit songs such as “Midnight Rider,” “Melissa” and “Whipping Post.” More than three decades later, the band retains a loyal fan base.
“Many people are interested in the birthplace of the Allman Brothers Band, how they came together, how they spent their formative years,” said the mayor. “It is internationally significant.”
Mr. Reichert pointed out his own family connection to Allman Brothers music.
“My great grandmother was Elizabeth Reed Napier,” said Mr. Reichert. Her name on a tombstone in Macon’s historic Rose Hill Cemetery was the inspiration for the title for an early Allman Brothers instrumental song, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.”
Lead singer Gregg Allman, touring the museum before the grand opening, said he hopes it will help Macon attract visitors. “It’s a wonderful town,” he told GlobalAtlanta, although he downplayed the band’s global popularity.
But one of the band’s drummers, Butch Trucks, recounted a personal experience that speaks to their appeal overseas.
“I’m renovating an old house in France right now,” Mr. Trucks told GlobalAtlanta. “One of the plumbers is a big Allman Brothers fan. He can’t speak English and I can’t speak French. He showed up with this French magazine with this huge article about us, with us right in the middle butt naked. Everybody there was laughing like hell at me because I was, you know, naked.”
Several hundred people, including two Georgia congressmen, Jack Kingston of Savannah and Jim Marshall of Macon, attended the museum opening.
The museum is working to becoming an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution , said Donna O’ Donnell, a museum board member who is managing director of the Eastern Technology Council in Philadelphia.
“The Smithsonian made a decision many years ago that since most Americans are never going to get to Washington, they ought to extend their footprint,” Dr. O’Donnell said. “We are in the process now of establishing a relationship with the Smithsonian that will make it possible for the Big House Museum to be part of the Smithsonian footprint.”
Wayne Clough, former president of the Georgia Institute of Technology, currently heads the Smithsonian Institution.
The Big House Museum is also working with Yale University and other universities to obtain a grant for digitizing the museum’s archives, said Dr. O’Donnell.
Yale University President Richard Levin is participating in the effort, she added.
“You never met a bigger Allman Brothers fan,” she said of the Yale president.
For more on the museum, click here.