After many regenerations, the Allman Brothers Band goes out on a high note

GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: the iconic musical group that became the very definition of Southern Rock. The Allman Brothers band is moving on.

Jeffrey Brown helps them close it out.

JEFFREY BROWN: Last night in New York was the last night for the Allman Brothers, a group that's been around in various forms for 45 years, famed for its live performances.

Two years ago, Gregg Allman told me it started when he and his brother Duane brought together the music they each loved.

GREGG ALLMAN: He sort of leaned toward the country blues, which is unelectrified, like Robert Johnson, Elmore James. And I was really into Bobby Bland, James Brown, you know, people like Curtis Mayfield.

JEFFREY BROWN: The sound they created with two lead guitarists and two drummers made rock 'n' roll history.

Anthony DeCurtis is a contribution editor at "Rolling Stone" magazine.

ANTHONY DECURTIS, Rolling Stone: But they had this amazing kind of twin guitar attack. You know, Dickey Betts and Duane Allman really defined a kind of beautiful harmonic sound that was simultaneously tough, but really lyrical. And they were based in the blues, but this was a hardcore rock 'n' roll band that just came tearing out the South and kind of took over.

JEFFREY BROWN: Duane Allman, acknowledged as one of rock's all-time greats guitarists, died in 1971, exactly 43 years ago today, in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia. It was just as the band was starting to gain some commercial success.

GREGG ALLMAN: At first, I screamed and yelled and shook my fist at the sky and yelled, shortchanged.

JEFFREY BROWN: After that, Gregg Allman told me the band members debated whether to continue.

GREGG ALLMAN: I told them, I said, we're going to either wind up a bunch of street junkies, or we can forget all that crap and go back to business as usual. And it was pretty much a landslide.

JEFFREY BROWN: But, just a year later, bass player Berry Oakley died in another motorcycle accident. And their deaths, as well as the drugs, alcohol, broken marriages, and lot and lots of money, took their toll.

ANTHONY DECURTIS: These were, like, hard-living, tough guys, but through it all, you know, the Allman Brothers kept restoring themselves and reviving themselves.

And this latest version of the band, you know, with Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks on guitar, was one of the strongest lineups that the band had had since the very beginning.

JEFFREY BROWN: Warren Haynes, in fact, has been involved with the band for 25 years and a regular for last the 15 as a lead guitarist and singer.

This afternoon, by phone, I asked him what had been the key to keeping the band alive and thriving?

WARREN HAYNES: Incorporating the original spirit allowed the band to have a good springboard for where to go in the future, and I think we were all pleasantly surprised at the chemistry of the new band, and the — the sky was the limit.

JEFFREY BROWN: Haynes says band members began talking three years ago about the right time to quit and go out on a high note.

WARREN HAYNES: This isn't a band that can just go through the motions. This isn't a band that can just walk on stage and play its hits. This is a band that's created a legacy of playing a completely different show every night, breathing new life into the old songs on a nightly basis, allowing improvisation to be the lifeblood of the music.

JEFFREY BROWN: Anthony DeCurtis says that legacy will live on at concerts around the country.

ANTHONY DECURTIS: And they became more important as time went on. They — in addition to inventing Southern rock when they started out, they were a band that invented the jam band scene, pretty much. I mean, they're icons on that scene and have influenced all of the bands from the world.

JEFFREY BROWN: And going forward, the music will also live on in the various solo projects band members have planned.