As you’ve probably heard, Coronavirus has not been kind to professional musicians. Many bands and artists are on an indefinite hiatus, leaving their fans in limbo. A few promoters, however, have gotten creative, developing alternative concert formats, including the COVID safe “drive-in” theater model.
One of those venues, the Yarmouth Drive-In, has been chugging along this summer on Cape Cod, bringing some top bands to the region. On Thursday August 20th, the Allman Betts Band will visit. The southern rock/jam band was founded in 2019 by Devon Allman and Duane Betts, sons of legendary members of the Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman and Dickie Betts.
Earlier this week, I had a brief chat with the band’s keyboardist, well-known session man, John Ginty. He was looking forward to the show, the band’s first “drive-in.”
“This is the first time we’ll be in front of an audience since March. We haven’t played a drive-in yet but I played a show here in New Jersey with my local band. It was a benefit for the local theater and it went great. But a lot of lessons were learned.
Ginty continued, “When we came home in March, there was talk of, well, hopefully we’ll be back by June. And so here we are at the end of August, and it’s as bad as it’s ever been. Everybody’s just trying to stay as creative as possible. With the Allman Betts Band, we would try to be really productive for one weekend a month, one time was a live stream. And then we went out to the desert, dressed up like cowboys, and shot a video for the new single ‘Pale Horse Rider.’ We’re trying to put it all in and do it safely.”
The band recorded a new album before COVID-19 hit at the renowned Muscle Shoals Studio in Alabama.
“It’s called Bless Your Heart and it’s a great record. It’s our sophomore effort so you get to hear more of how the band sounds live in this batch of songs. It was a super fun record to make and awesome to be able to do it to Muscle Shoals. I got to play the ‘Freebird’ piano, which was awesome.”
Ginty mentioned that the studio, where the Rolling Stones once recorded, now also serves as a museum. “That’s why you have to wait until after 4:00 when the museum closes before you can actually start recording,” he explained.
It’s certainly a special place to make an album. “When you’re in the corner playing a maraca, there’s a picture of Mick Jagger standing in that corner playing a maraca right there in that spot. It’s a lot of the same instruments, the same gear, so it’s a bit of a time travel to do it.”
Ginty added, “We didn’t want to go in there and try to make a digital recording in this room. You got to go all-in. So we recorded to tape, 2 inch analog, all the way. The result captures the old sound of the room but also makes it a record that’ll play on modern radio.”
When not touring with Allman-Betts, Ginty is a busy performer.
“I did the world tour with the Dixie Chicks or The Chicks, as they are now known, in 2016-17. I’ve always been a session guy and I’ve played on a couple hundred records. I was sort of in between the Chicks tour and a bunch of session work when I got a call from Devon Allman and he said he was going to put together a band with Duane Betts and Berry Oakley and they wanted me to get in there.”
“It was sort of a dream call for me because Gregg Allman was my biggest inspiration, I was a huge fan growing up. I actually got to know Gregg pretty well and I got to be good friends with Warren Hayes over the years, and got to play with the Allman Brothers, during their Beacon Theatre run in New York City,” he added.
Tickets are still available by the carload for Thursday’s show. Ginty reminds everyone, “Safety first. I’m looking forward to doing the drive-in, because it’s really the only safe way to put on a concert right now.”