E.J. Devokaitis has the ultimate rock fan’s career. Not only has he toured with his musical idols as part of their road crew, but he is now the full-time curator and archivist at The Big House, the museum and former communal home of the Allman Brothers Band in Macon, Ga., that has become the equivalent of Graceland to fans of the legendary Southern blues rockers.
A lifelong fan, Devokaitis was first in line for tickets to the band’s 1992 show in New Haven, Conn., and scored front-row seats. When he arrived with spray-painted banners hailing the group, the band was so delighted they invited him backstage. One thing led to another, and Devokaitis was soon part of the traveling Allman caravan. “I’m a real geek about the band,” he says, without need for further explanation.
Devokaitis and executive director Lisa McClendon operate The Big House, the tudor-style mansion in Macon occupied by the band, their wives and roadies from 1970-73, and then again by Warren Haynes and the Allman Brothers offshoot, Gov’t Mule, in the mid-1990s.
“They moved in here in 1970 as an unknown band,” Devokaitis says. “By the time they left in 1973, the were on one of the most popular bands in the country.”
First rented by Linda Oakley, wife of Allman’s bassist Berry, for the then-princely sum of $225 a month while the band recorded at nearby Capricorn Records, the house quickly became home base for the entire band. After Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, the happy vibe at the house diminished. When Berry died in another motorcycle accident a year later, gloom set in and the party was over.
In 1993, the band’s road manager purchased the house, by then an unofficial landmark, and Haynes, Matt Abts and Allen Woody took up residence to rehearse as Gov’t Mule. Since then, says Devokaitis, “It’s been a communal effort, spearheaded by crew members of the Allman’s in 1990s,” to turn the home into a museum.
In 2007, the stately home received its nonprofit status, and hired Devokaitis to curate and archive the museum. Built on donations from the band, relatives, crewmembers and others associated with the band throughout its long career, the museum’s collection ranges from archival video and audio to posters, handbills, old gear, set lists, contracts, personal effects and instruments.
Among the most-prized items is Duane’s 1957 Les Paul Goldtop guitar, which he played on the band’s first two albums and on “Layla” as a member of Eric Clapton’s Derek and The Dominos. Fans can tour the house and gardens, including the upstairs bedrooms and the re-created “getaway” where the band retreated downstairs.
The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m, Thursday through Sunday, for tours ($4-$8) and is often rented for weddings and private parties. Devokaitis says Gregg Allman, a Savannah resident, sometimes stops by unannounced and will be on hand June 3 to sign copies of his new memoir, “My Cross to Bear,” during a fundraiser for the museum.
The Big House
2321 Vineville Ave. Macon, Ga.