In the summer of 1974, like many other 18-year-olds at the time, I was nervously awaiting my A-Level results. I needed a B and two Cs in order to read International History and Politics at Leeds University and wasn't too hopeful.
In those days such notifications came via the postman and I remember the scene when - on the designated day - the familiar figure walked up to my front door as I idled about in the street, trying to look nonchalant.
Grabbing the letter I ripped it open and saw – in wonderful black and white - that I'd achieved the almost unimaginable feat of an A and two Bs. I smiled to myself and then smiled some more and then, with a rictus grin locked on my face, raced inside. I needed, right there and then, to hear some music, good time, infectious, happy music which – as an obsessive fan of delta blues – didn't feature much in my collection.
I stared impatiently at my shelves of LPs, not wanting to lose the moment, and finally grabbed Eat A Peach by the Allman Brothers Band. There was a sparking blue sky outside so on the turntable went Blue Sky. Perfect. Perfect then and perfect now. It is still my go-to tune to create a real good-time feel.
You're my blue sky, you're my sunny day
Lord, you make me high when you turn your love my way
Turn your love my way
Blue Sky is a very simple love song, written by Betts for his girlfriend of the time Sandy 'Bluesky' Wabegijig. It kicks off with a catchy guitar riff that perfectly sets up a joyful, country-esque groove – a complete change from what was then the Allmans' staple of jazzily improvised blues/rock – with a chorus that dissolves into a dynamic and flowingly melodic Duane Allman solo played over just two chords, E and A.
Listen and try not to smile. Impossible.
The Allman Brothers Band 40th anniversary concert (Beacon Theatre, New York, March 23 2009)
Warren Haynes’ and Derek Trucks’ instrumental tribute to Duane Allman – Little Martha segues into Trucks playing the distinctive bending opening notes of Duane’s original album solo on Blue Sky. I was there at the Beacon that night and those simple notes brought more than a few tears to my eyes. Amazing how music you love can do that. Just needed Dickey's vocal to make it perfect!
Cover version by Joan Baez (1975)
Only recently heard this for the first time
Dickey Betts and Great Southern (Live, May 2009)
Betts was fired by the Allmans in 2000 after a perceived decline in the standard of his playing and although he was invited to the 40th anniversary run in 2009 the animosity between them had not thawed enough for him to attend. This version is by his band Great Southern. Still a great song but, in my opinion, this – and indeed most others – pale in comparison to those featuring Duane Allman
Allman Brothers Band: Blue Sky September 19 1971, Suny, Stoneybrook, New York