At the age of 17, guitarist Devon Allman went on tour with his father, Gregg Allman, founding member of southern rock band the Allman Brothers. As a young musician, he remembers that being up close to his favorite artists left him in awe.
Now, with 20 years in the music industry, Allman can now say he has played guitar with the gods.
As I’ve gone down this road, it’s been interesting your heroes become your peers, Allman says. Now I get to hang out with these guys.
Allman’s band, the Royal Southern Brotherhood, connects two historic music family trees to their southern roots. Devon Allman shares the stage with percussionist Cyril Neville, who has performed for 28 years with his three older brothers in the Neville Brothers Band, including Grammy Award-winning vocalist Aaron Neville.
The blues-rock collective will perform as a headliner for the 16th annual Ribfest at Headwaters Park on Saturday.
With nearly 50 years of experience, Neville has played with artists such as Jimmy Buffett, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.
There’s no way that I thought I would ever play with him. He was a god to me, Allman says. I look over across the stage a couple times a night while we’re playing, and I still get a goofy smile on my face.
Working as solo artists, Allman says that he, Neville, guitarist Mike Zito, bassist Charlie Wooton and drummer Yonrico Scott all crossed paths in New Orleans in 2010, and they turned a jam session into a debut self-titled album and tour.
The whole concept was what it would be like to have an Allman and a Neville play together, Allman says. I thought it was a great concept, but it would really have to be something. We jammed four times before our first show, and it was instant chemistry.
For a year and a half, the band has performed its hybrid of American rock, blues, funk, country and soul. With the tour going overseas to Germany, Finland, Switzerland and Italy this summer, the band will begin working on its second album while on tour in Europe, releasing the album by the end of the year.
Allman says he has heard from fans and reviewers alike that the band’s music and high-energy performance is keeping the real stuff alive.
Popular music is unfortunately made to be catchy, and that’s fine for 10-year-olds. For the real music lover, they are looking for something more organic, and we definitely fill that void.
Allman says fans hold the band to high expectations because of its background, but the Royal Southern Brotherhood easily meets the challenge with every performance. Meeting his father later in life as a teenager, Allman says he ultimately has tried to live outside his father’s shadow.
There are some second-generation performers who feel entitled to carry the torch, but I worked to get here, he says. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what your father did – it’s what you do.