"Dangerous" Dan Toler: An Archival Interview
Dan Toler and Dickey Betts
It’s funny when you see people you know and it’s like, “Hey, let’s get a game of golf.”
[Laughs.] It should be, “Hey man, let’s get together and write a song!” Now it’s, “What kind of clubs you using?”
From guitars to clubs.
[Laughs.] Well, you know, Dickey was notorious for throwing guitars and I guess he can swing clubs and hang on to them now. [Laughs.] But all in all, there were good times and bad times, you know, I guess there is with every band. If not then there’s something wrong, either that or something’s just perfectly right and I don’t know if you could stand to live like that too long. But I’m hoping there’s no enemies here, I mean there shouldn’t be, we played together for years and known each other for years.
I don’t think there are.
I certainly had a lot of fun. I know in the golfing world I can honestly say that I believe I beat Butch every time we played. I was tickled to death about that, but of course his face would get red and he’d get mad and stuff. He’d throw his club and I’d say something like, “Hey, Butchy, the club went farther than the ball!” And he’d get really mad, but oh man, we had a ball. We were competitive and I loved that about playing with Butch. ‘Cause he kept trying, he was hard-nosed at it and that was cool. That was before Dickey even played. That’d probably be one of the shortest books in history—the history of The Allman Brothers’ golf swings.
In the mid-80s, The Allman brothers Band reunited for two big shows. I heard one was a Bill Graham show and there was another benefit. Could you talk about those shows? Was that the same lineup as in the early ‘80s?
That was in the ‘80s during the I’m No Angel band lineup. Yeah, and that was at Madison Square Garden with a Bill Graham show and oh man, Bill Graham, what a great dude.
Bill was something. I had the – well, I don’t know if you can say the pleasure – but I happened to be around Bill one day when he just ate a roadie’s butt for lunch. It was not a pretty scene and you could really see the fire in Bill. This poor guy, man, was almost crying. It was something. He had control and he was a king in the business. But that Crackdown show was really cool. I made a stupid statement that night to somebody and said, “Well, we don’t have to worry about the crack being in the crowd, it’ll be backstage.” Of course, I’ve never even seen it let alone done it, but I soon ate my words because that backstage area was the cleanest. I guarantee you there wasn’t one soul in there that had anything. It was unbelievable. Carlos Santana was there and Stephen Stills and Mick Taylor and Paul Butterfield, God rest his soul. [Paul] came out and we gave each other a big hug and I told him I loved him and he said the same thing. He was just a great guy and what a player. He’s been gone now for probably 15 years or so? Bill died in the early 90’s, and when was it Stevie died? Something right around there, and I think Bill died in ’91 or ’92 and both of them died from helicopter crashes. Oh my god, I’m telling you. But that show was just intense. The crowd was magnificent and we all jammed with all of us on stage. I got a picture of it, it’s really cool.
Was that show with the Gregg Allman Band or was that the Allman Brothers?
That was actually a reuniting of the Allman Brothers, although my brother, David Frankie Toler, played drums with Butch.
He was in the band for a few years in the ‘80s as well, right?
Yeah, as a matter of fact he was in the first Great Southern for the Atlanta’s Burning Down album. He was on Brothers of the Road with the Allman Brothers and then in the entire run of the Gregg Allman Band.
Which included the big reunion show at the Garden?
Yes. My brother played on that and we also used our bass player from the Gregg Allman Band at the Garden, Bruce Waibel.
Then you went out on the road with Dickey, Gregg and you guys as well, right?
Yep, we did. Did you ever see that?
I didn’t actually, but I’ve heard many stories about how that was kind of the beginning of the reconciliation between Dickey and Gregg.
Right. At first, it was the Dickey Betts Band and then the Gregg Allman Band would play, and then a bunch of us would get together and play some old Allman Brothers stuff as a third show. People got off on it big time, it was pretty cool. Then after a while, Dickey didn’t have a band with him and so we would play and then Dickey would come out and join us for a second set and we’d do a lot of his tunes and then some ABB stuff. We tore it up everywhere we went, bro! You know, people have loved it for years and years and seem to continue to do that, although still – I know that ABB’s a good band now – but still, it’s just not the same without Dickey.
I mean any of the guys that have been playing could be me or Derek or Warren or Jimmy or anybody playing the other guitar, but it doesn’t seem the same without Dickey, you know? He brought that country flavor into everything and made it work. Good, bad or indifferent, everybody has a bad day, you know? There’s no doubt about it. I mean, he wrote the only actual hit the band had [“Rambling Man”].
His guitar playing set the pace for the sound of The Allman Brothers Band for years. There were a lot of people that came up and did Duane impersonations and that kind of stuff. That was one thing, but I feel Dickey’s style and sound were very dominant in that band. For years it was the statement of the band, actually, even more so than Gregg’s voice. Ironically, I had the pleasure of playing a gig at the benefit with Gregg’s son, Michael. Yeah, well there’s a few of them around now [Laughs]. Oh my goodness, that guy was something else. Something else.
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