A Big House Of Memories

Come winter, devotees of the Allman Brothers Band will see their version of Graceland turned into a museum.

The “Big House” – a three-story Tudor in Macon, Ga. – will have gone full-circle from a rock ’n’ roll home to a law firm and back again.

The house is where the Allman Brothers Band created their signature Southern rock sound and where they wrote “Ramblin’ Man,” “Blue Sky” and “Midnight Rider.”

The 6,000-square-foot house, built in the early 1900s, was home to most of the band and where the band’s wives, girlfriends and children would stay when it went out on tour.

Duane Allman visited the house just before he died in a motorcycle crash in 1971. Phil Walden – former head of Capricorn Records and manager of Otis Redding, requested the band move to Macon in the late 1960s. The band was evicted in 1973 after Allman and Berry Oakley (who, with his wife, Linda, were the official renters of the house) each died in motorcycle crashes a year apart in the same Macomb neighborhood.

“It was right after we left the Big House that everything kind of started drifting away from music and we started focusing more on being rock stars,” said drummer Butch Trucks, who spent a lot of time at the Big House even though he didn’t officially live there.

Through the years, Allman Brothers fans have made pilgrimages to the house. It has changed hands several times – sometimes housing businesses like a beauty parlor – but was bought in 1990 by Kirk West, the band’s former tour manager and photographer, and his wife, Kirsten, who dreamed of converting it into an Allman shrine.

They welcomed more than 20,000 fans from as far away as Finland and Japan, and sometimes opened their home to Allman Brothers Band members who came back to their old haunt.

The museum, expected to open in December, will contain more than 300,000 pieces of memorabilia West has collected. Along with posters, photographs and live recordings, the house will include Duane Allman’s jacket that was draped next to his coffin, Gregg Allman’s Hammond organ and a restoration of Duane’s bedroom, decorated to look like it did when he lived there.

Yet, “It was never meant to be just a house with a number of things hanging on the walls but to be active in promoting music in the community,” said Kirsten West, managing director of the Big House Foundation.

To that effect, the house will include music classes for school children and an outdoor bandshell to host concerts.