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The Fascinating Relationship Between Jimmy Carter and the Allman Brothers

Learn how the "Ramblin' Men" helped him get elected

Jimmy Carter has long been one of our most beloved former presidents, and with him nearing 100 years old and being in hospice for over a year, there’s been much reflection on his life and legacy.

While his political achievements and his fundamental personal decency are well known, there’s a fascinating aspect of Carter you may not have been aware of: His connection to rock and roll, and specifically the great ’70s Southern rockers the Allman Brothers.

Jimmy Carter’s connection to the Allman Brothers

Presidents and rock stars would seem to have little in common beyond being public figures, but the Allman Brothers were surprisingly important to Jimmy Carter.

At the beginning of the Georgia native’s presidential campaign, he was considered a long shot, and didn’t have a lot of money. Right around the same time, the Allman Brothers, also based in Georgia, were growing in popularity with their hit song “Ramblin’ Man.”

Carter was friendly with Phil Walden, the band’s manager, and the then-governor saw them in concert. He then met the Allman Brothers’ lead singer and keyboardist, Gregg Allman, after the show, and the unlikely pair quickly developed a rapport. Carter told him of his plans to run for president, and mentioned that the band could help him raise money.

Georgia governor and US presidential candidate Jimmy Carter, dressed in an Allman Brothers T-shirt, talks with the press while vacationing on Jekyll Island, just after the 1976 Democratic convention
Jimmy Carter, then the governor of Georgia, wore an Allman Brothers shirt while talking to the press after the 1976 Democratic conventionGetty

Carter’s fundraising plan came to fruition on November 25, 1975, not long before the Iowa caucuses, when the Allman Brothers performed a benefit concert (which you can listen to here) in Providence, Rhode Island for his campaign. Carter even came onstage to introduce the band, and called them “the ones that are going to help me get elected along with you.”

Political fundraising concerts weren’t nearly as common in the ’70s as they are today, and Carter and the Allman Brothers helped pave the way for many a musical benefit for a political campaign that followed.

Reflecting on his relationship with the band, Carter said, “It was the Allman Brothers that helped put me in the White House, by raising money when I didn’t have any money. Gregg and I were good friends.”

In a 2012 interview with Conan O’Brien, Gregg Allman, who passed away in 2017, spoke in detail about his friendship with Carter, admitting that he initially “laughed so hard I about choked” at his low chance of winning. On the day Carter was inaugurated in 1977, he invited Allman to the White House.

Rock & Roll president

While the Allman Brothers were Carter’s most prominent musical connection, the president was also close with many other musicians. Carter’s friendships with the Allmans, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and more were even the subject of a 2020 documentary, Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President.

In the documentary, the notoriously enigmatic Dylan called Carter “a kindred spirit,” and said that when they met, he quoted Dylan’s songs back to him. The movie is full of enlightening stories showing that Carter truly loved music, and the rock stars of the ’70s loved him back.

As the president himself eloquently put it in the film, “Music is the best proof that people have one thing in common no matter where they live, no matter what language they speak.” We agree, and just as we’ll be keeping Carter in our thoughts, we’ll also listen to the Allman Brothers and other classic rock that was so deeply important to the former president in his honor.

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