WALLS THAT TALK AND ROOTS THAT ROCK
When one Googles “Macon, GA”, as I did just now to prove a point, it does not take long to happen upon some reference to The Allman Brothers Band. In fact, it took me less than a minute—32.95 seconds, to be exact. The Allman Brothers Band Museum, or The Big House, is easily one of Macon’s more well-known attractions. Sure, Macon might not be your typical tourist destination. There are no snow-capped mountain tops or seemingly endless bodies of water so bright and blue; there are no skyscrapers to indicate that you are, in fact, some place cool. No, Macon is not known for any of those things.
Macon is known for its roots. My roots are also here in Macon. For nearly twenty-five years I have called this city home. It has been the rich and occasionally rocky soil in which I have grown. And while the city has been a steady foundation at every stage of my life, I sometimes fail to reciprocate that support. Strangers to the city of Macon travel miles and miles to visit The Big House, to admire a music history unique to our little corner of the globe; and I’ll be damned if I am going to let a bunch of tourists out-tourist me in my own town. So after six years of living within a mile of the museum, I finally made my way through its mushroom-molded gate.
The museum is open Thursday through Sunday from 11 AM to 6 PM (4 PM on Sundays). My husband does not typically work on Thursdays, so I decided to take a Thursday off too, because it’s summertime and that’s what local tourists do. After driving through the iconic gate mentioned above, we walk around the side of the house and up to the front door. There I find another mushroom, this one is a small, metallic door-knocker. I tap it against the door frame excitedly before opening the unlocked door. A few guests are watching, wondering whether or not we know to let ourselves in. I smile, slightly embarrassed, but most just enthused, feeling like a tourist already.
An alluring woman with long, black hair and bangs waves us into the parlor. She is utterly at home, telling us everything we need to know. She offers both wisdom and warnings—warnings, specifically, against loft developments and poison ivy, both of which can spread at a terrifying rate. Information in hand, she sends us on our way.
The tour is self-guided, which allows you to move at your own pace. Each room is numbered, corresponding with a paragraph on the page given to you by the alluring woman with bangs. We pass through the parlor with its impressive collection of concert posters. It is a much more put-together version of your teenage bedroom. To its left, the Filmore East room, where the band once rehearsed, showcases everything from a Hammond B-3 organ played by Greg Allman himself to a vintage vest that was allegedly worn by all the members in the band. Speaking of which, The Big House is home to lots of sexy, seventies clothing. The jackets alone are worth writing home about. A lot of velvet and suede, but still somehow less costume-y than the styles that mimic the era today. The overall aesthetic of The Big House easily puts Urban Outfitters to shame. And although the walls do not speak audibly, the photos, band paraphernalia, and personal items lining them certainly make a statement all on their own.
Beyond the music memorabilia and stunning clothes, the museum also offers a look into the families that made up the band. A pool table that once belonged to Greg and Cher, a wedding photo of Dickey Betts and Sandy Bluesky, the yellow dress worn by the daughter of Berry and Linda Oakley on the back cover of Brothers and Sisters, and a room dedicatedly entirely to the road crew all prove that the museum is not just The Big House but also a home.
Right around the corner is the “Casbah” lounge, famous for its seven-head shower. And while there is surely a scandalous quality to the feature, I cannot help but wonder who cleaned the hair out of the drain.
One thing is for certain—The Big House is both a time capsule and a treasure trove. Still, the roots planted in Macon by the Allman Brothers extend far beyond the large, Tudor home. You can feel them when you order The Midnight Rider biscuit at H&H; when you pass a table of “Allman Candles” at Lawrence Mayer that are mushroom-shaped; they are felt immensely when Bonnie Bishop performs a cover of “Whipping Post” at the Cox Capital Theatre and then again when Brent Cobb covers “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” on the very same stage; and they rock your own roots like crazy when your mom talks about having seen the band perform at the Macon City Auditorium, admitting to standing in a chair, lighter in the air, and pregnant as hell.