40 Years Ago: Berry Oakley of the Allman Brothers Band Dies
Former Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts is always quick to celebrate the importance of Berry Oakley’s contributions to the legendary southern rock band. Before Oakley died — 40 years ago, on Nov. 11, 1972 — he was responsible for some of the most iconic Allman riffs, including the opening of ‘Whipping Post.’ He’s remembered for the way he died more often than the way he lived, and Betts works to fix that.
“I bring up the importance of Berry Oakley in every interview, but it doesn’t always get printed,” Betts told Guitar World in 2007. He and Oakley were part of a few groups before joining the Allmans, including the Soul Children, which became the Blues Messengers, which became the Second Coming, “so named by a club owner because he thought Berry looked like Jesus Christ.”cool
Oakley died after a motorcycle accident that occurred barely one year after and three blocks away from the scene of Duane Allman’s fatal crash in 1971. Allman crashed into a truck. Oakley, who is said to have never fully recovered from the emotional loss of Allman, rode his ’67 Triumph into a bus. He declined medical treatment, but was later taken to the hospital were he died of cerebral swelling cause by a skull fracture. He was just 24 years old at the time.
Drummer Butch Trucks wrote about both deaths in his blog, describing just how difficult Allman’s death was on Oakley. “I don’t think Berry really knew how to exist in a world without Duane,” he writes. “The sparkle that was Berry was simply gone. He drank himself into a stupor almost daily. We continued to tour but Berry’s heart just didn’t seem be 100 percent into it any more.”
Duane Allman and Berry Oakley are buried next to each other at the Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Ga.