“I hope you’re haunted by the music of my soul, when I’m gone”
That lyric, from the song, “My Only True Friend,’’ is as moving and prophetic as Gregg Allman’s bluesy voice on the Southern Rock legend’s final album, “Southern Blood.’’ Recorded in March 2016 at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., where his brother, Duane, got his start nearly 50 years earlier as a member of producer Rick Hall’s Swampers sessions band, “Southern Blood’’ was released to critical acclaim four months after Gregg Allman’s death in May 2017.
At the risk of being overly dramatic, Tommy Strowd has been haunted by Gregg Allman’s vocals and Duane Allman’s slide guitar licks since the late 1960s, when he first heard the Allman Brothers Band on the only FM radio station in Jackson, Miss.
“The music hooked me,’’ Strowd said. “There was nothing like it. It was a totally different musical expression.’’
These days from a studio in Riviera Beach – a long way from his Mississippi Delta “middle of nowhere’’ roots in terms of time and culture – Strowd is helping keep that music alive as one of two lead guitarists for Brothers Again – A Celebration of The Allman Brothers Band.
Strowd, whose day job is that of a civil engineer and Executive Director of the Lake Worth Drainage District, plays the Dickey Betts parts, while Robert Allen Gibbs plays the Duane Allman riffs. Tom McKernan, a former Marine whose voice and look bear an uncanny resemblance to Gregg Allman, is the band’s lead singer, with Eddie Huerta (a Julliard attendee) on keyboards, Dennis Freireich on bass, and Larry Dinan, Jr., and Larry Dinan III on the dual drums.
Together, the seven men have the Allman Brothers Band’s combination of melodies and jams down to a musical science. Brothers Again’s sets basically showcase songs from the Allman Brothers’ early albums – The Allman Brothers, Fillmore East, Eat A Peach and Brothers and Sisters – meaning audiences are treated to heavy doses of the Jazz, Rock, Blues and even Texas Swing sounds that made the band a legend.
“People come up and tell me, ‘You play well’ which is nice to hear,’’ Strowd said. “I tell them that Jimi Hendrix invented the music, I’m just copying it. The same with the Allman Brothers.
It’s one thing to re-create and duplicate the feel and sound, but they were creating something that never existed. I feel lucky that I can take that music and present it as realistically as possible.’’
Said Huerta, the band’s music director, “We try and capture the essence and spirit of the music. It’s one thing to play the right notes. That’s the easy part. But the way they’re played and what’s behind it… it’s the soul behind it that makes it great.’’
Brothers Again is the brainchild of Strowd’s wife, Barbara, whom he met and married more than 44 years ago while attending Florida Institute of Technology in Jensen Beach. In 2016, Barbara, known as “Bobbie,’’ founded Endless River Productions in Royal Palm Beach as an outlet for her husband’s music wanderlust.
“I wanted Tommy to play with great musicians,’’ Bobbie Strowd said. “I asked myself, ‘How I can bring those great musicians to play with Tommy?.’’’
Understand that Bobbie Strowd was no stranger to the music scene. A native of Jensen Beach and self-proclaimed “hippie girl,’’ she spent years photographing local and national bands, so she was familiar with most of South Florida’s top artists.
“I invited all these great musicians I knew to come and play with Tommy,’’ she said. “Then I started thinking about what I wanted to do with these great musicians.’’
The answer, of course, was to form a band. Bobbie Strowd’s first choice, however, wasn’t the Allman Brothers. In fact, it was about as far from Southern Rock (a name Gregg and Duane Allman didn’t like) as you can get.
“We chose Pink Floyd,’’ Bobbie Strowd said. “People said that would be too hard. But that’s why we wanted to do it.’’
Called The Floyd Experience, each two-hour concert features the music of Pink Floyd played by a 10-member band along with a laser light show that’s synchronized with the music. Bobbie Strowd, by the way, took the name of her production company – Endless River – from Pink Floyd’s 2014 album of the same name.
Next came Brothers Again. Bobbie Strowd also has put together “Do It Again,’’ which celebrates the music of Steely Dan; “South City Brothers,’’ the music of the Doobie Brothers; and “3DN The Three Dog Night Experience.’’
All told, Endless River Productions counts nearly 50 musicians (independent contractors) across the various bands, including back-up musicians.
“You have to get the right musicians for the right music,’’ Bobbie Strowd said. “You have to be authentic.’’
Each ERP band plays larger theaters and outdoors venues throughout Florida. The bands have been on hiatus since March because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but Strowd is set to launch its own “Park & Rock” Series of “car’’ concerts starting with Brothers Again and the live premiere of Do It Again on Nov. 6-7 at the St. Lucie County Fairgrounds.
The online premiere of Do It Again – The Music of Steely Dan, with its “Reelin’ in the Giving” Charitable Video Series, will be Aug. 19 with its version of the classic hit “My Old School.” It’s the first of three premiere video events that will benefit Little Kids Rock with 100 percent of the monies collected going to bring inclusive, culturally relevant music education to kids, while supporting music students and teachers as they head back to school this upcoming school year.
Brothers Again is also scheduled to perform Jan. 16, 2021 at The Florida Theatre in Jacksonville. The city last year was named the “Official Birthplace’’ of the Allman Brothers Band. A state historical marker now stands in front of the “Gray House,’’ where it’s said Duane Allman, Berry Oakley, Dickey Betts, Butch Trucks and “Jaimoe” Johanson first jammed on March 23, 1969.
Photo: Brothers Again, left to right, Tommy Strowd, Larry Dinan III, Robert Allen Gibbs, Tom McKernan, Larry Dinan Jr., Edward Huerta, Dennis Freireich. (Endless River Productions)