Interview with the Lyndon Brothers: The Story of Twiggs

In honor of their brother’s posthumous birthday, the Lyndon brothers stopped by the studio to talk about Twigg’s upbringing, musical influences, and the wonderfully weird life he lived. Listen in to hear AJ, John, and Skoots tell their stories.

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Jon Waterhouse wrote a wonderful article about Twiggs for the 11th Hour. Read it below or visit 11thhouronline.com to see the entire issue.

 

THE GREATEST ROADIE TO EVER LIVE

BY JON WATERHOUSE

Afternoon sunlight brightens the large stained glass window in Alan Walden’s living room. It’s just enough illumination for the former music business impresario to flip through a photo album.

The book holds a collection of old photographs. Most feature the late Twiggs Lyndon, the fabled road manager for The Allman Brothers Band and several others. To those in the know, the legend of Twiggs looms large with tales so over-the-top it’s a wonder he even lasted those 37 brief years.

At first, the mood in the room has a somber tinge. Walden and Twiggs were comrades during Macon’s musical heyday. The stained scrapbook pages and aged photographs cement the reality of fallen friends and loved ones, the literal embodiment of faded youth.

“Take a look at that,” says A.J. Lyndon, one of Twiggs’ three surviving younger brothers, who’s sitting on the couch next to Walden. A.J., who brought the photo album to Walden’s home, points at a specific shot.

The picture in question shows Twiggs from behind, backstage at an Allman Brothers show. We know it’s him, because of the trademark black cowboy hat. Stenciled on the back of his long winter coat, it reads: “No Head, No Stage Pass,” a phallic mushroom smack in the middle of the phrase.

The mood instantly lightens. The laughter helps.

Stories of Twiggs’ larger-than-life persona, crass sense of humor and unorthodox cognitive skill begin filling the air. The colorful yarns rival the vibrancy of sonic psychedelia. They come one after another, each more remarkable than the one before.

Walden tells of Twiggs’ days as road manager for Percy Sledge in the late 1960s. While touring in the segregated South, Walden says Twiggs took great pleasure playing mind games with racists.

“One time a gas station attendant asked him what he was doing in a car full of African-Americans,” Walden says. “He told the man, ‘I have the hardest time explaining to people that I’m black.'”

Twiggs’ parents were most definitely caucasian. Miller Lyndon sold industrial trucks in Macon. Laura, a homemaker, gave birth to Twiggs on Oct. 26, 1942.

By his teens, Twiggs developed a passion for black music. He gravitated toward the grit and authenticity of blues and R&B. Twiggs soaked up the sounds from Macon’s WIBB radio, and spun 45s from his ever-growing record collection. Once Twiggs heard John Lee Hooker moan and James Brown wail like a banshee, he was hooked. Screw the Pat Boone schmaltz. This shit was real.

In 1961, Twiggs graduated from Lanier High School in Macon. He eventually took a handful of courses at Middle Georgia College before joining the Navy. Dead set on working on a submarine, Twiggs soon found out life aboard the U.S.S. Clamagore wasn’t for him. The trouble was he had committed to a six year stint. So, Twiggs devised a plan.

“The way he opted out is he convinced the authorities he wasn’t mentally stable and wasn’t the type of person they’d want to have on a submarine,” says brother John Lyndon, an attorney in Athens. “For him, it was all an act.”

Going to drastic lengths for a desired result was how Twiggs rolled.

“There’s never been anyone like him,” says Willie Perkins, who took a road trip with Twiggs that would change his friend’s life. In 1964, Twiggs, along with Perkins and another friend, hit the bricks for Las Vegas. Out of money, his buddies opted to head back to the South. But Twiggs scrounged up enough cash to take a bus to California. Once in L.A., he made money selling shoes.

One night he talked his way backstage at a Little Richard concert. Twiggs had a reputation for lighting up a room and laying on serious charm. Impressed by the fellow Maconite, Little Richard offered Twiggs a job as his tour manager, even though Twiggs had zero practical experience.

“He said it was the best education he ever got,” says A.J. “Promoters would take advantage of you. They’d cut corners and steal money. Twiggs learned the ins and outs. The tour wasn’t doing well, so Twiggs invested money to keep it afloat. He said it was money well spent to learn how to road manage. That’s how he wound up doing what he did.”

Touring with Little Richard found Twiggs developing friendships with the band members, including guitarist Jimi Hendrix. The two would correspond up until the guitar god’s death.

In 1965, a Little Richard show found Twiggs at the Royal Peacock in Atlanta. Alan Walden, who was in the audience, recognized his old Macon schoolmate. Alan had been made a full-time partner at Phil Walden Artists and Promotions and suggested Twiggs come check out the Macon operation.

Twiggs moved back to Macon and joined the bustling and raucous world of Phil Walden Artists and Promotions, which managed more than 40 soul and R&B acts. In addition to Sledge, he was hired to road manage Johnny Jenkins, Arthur Conley, and work on the Stax/Volt Revue’s European tour, including Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and others.

“He was the shrewdest box office man,” Walden says. “I literally saw him tackle a guy over a $2 ticket. He took great pride in making sure everyone paid to get in to see that show. And he kept an eye on shady promoters. He’d figure out the percentages to the penny. He was my right arm.”

At Percy Sledge’s 1966 homecoming concert in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, fans tried sneaking in the side doors of the theater. The crowd came pouring in on Walden and Twiggs.

“He and I locked arms, and we both pulled pistols,” says Walden. “We charged right into that crowd as they were coming in. We weren’t big men, but we pushed their asses out and locked those doors.”

The Walden management organization felt an emotional blow on December 10, 1967 when Otis Redding, its biggest star, perished in a plane crash. When Zelma Redding, Otis’ widow, went to Wisconsin to identify her husband’s body, Twiggs accompanied her and did the duty himself so she wouldn’t have to.

“He was the kind of guy who would do anything for you,” says Perkins. “If you needed something, he was there.”

In 1969, Walden and Twiggs recruited Duane Allman, who was recording at Fame Studios Muscle Shoals at the time. Allman’s playing floored Twiggs. Walden evenutally signed the guitarist, instructing him to put together a band and bring them to Macon where Walden’s fledgling Capricorn Records label would have its own studio.

Once the band relocated to Macon, Twiggs’ apartment on College Street became home base for the Allman Brothers Band. Inspired by seeing “Hair” in New York City and spending time in Greenwich Village, Twiggs painted the walls with bold colors.

During his senior year at Lanier High School, A.J. would often skip class and head to his brother’s pad to take advantage of the Coke machine Twiggs kept filled with beer. A.J. says he’d walk in to find the entire group, their girlfriends and groupies sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags and mattresses.

Local law enforcement were less impressed. They wanted to scalp the hippie element right out of Macon. According to Walden, members of the band were arrested so regularly, Twiggs donated TVs to the local jail so the boys would have something to watch.

Once the group began touring, Twiggs wrangled the band from one town to the next. After several years of experience, his itineraries had become more elaborate and meticulously detailed.

“Twiggs did more for the musicians than any other road manager I ever knew,” Walden says. “He did everything for them. They didn’t have to think.”

According to Walden, when the band would arrive in a town, Twiggs would hand each member an envelope with their name on it. Inside they would each find their respective room key, and a list of room numbers for everyone in the band and crew. Twiggs also compiled local addresses and phone numbers for everything from music and liquor stores to groupies and drug dealers.

Understandably, the incident on April 29, 1970 tends to overshadow Twiggs’ road experience with the Allman Brothers. When Buffalo, New York club owner Angelo Aliotta stiffed the band out of $500, an altercation broke out between Aliotta and Twiggs. Aliotta was stabbed and died. The knife belonged to Twiggs.

While he awaited trial, Twiggs spent 18 months in incarceration. During this time, in July of 1971, the band’s landmark “At Fillmore East” album was released. An image of Twiggs appeared on the back cover.

The band hired criminal defense attorney John Condon, Jr., who put together an insanity defense. Proving to the judge the rigors of the rock ‘n’ roll road, including amphetamine use, could cause temporary insanity, the judge declared Lyndon not guilty by reason of insanity. Twiggs was transferred to a psych ward for six months.

“While he was in the mental hospital,” says Perkins, “he got a guy to speak who hadn’t spoken in years. In typical Twiggs fashion, he made things happen for a lot of patients.”

Meanwhile, it was Perkins who had been making things happen for the band as their road manager. Upon Twigg’s arrest and per his instruction, the band offered Perkins, a bank auditor, the job.

Twiggs returned to the Allman Brothers fold as production manager, his problem solving skills in full effect.

“He was a brilliant guy, innovative, and he had so many ideas about things,” Perkins says. “He was a perfectionist. He and I would often talk about this, and I think this may have had something to do with the incident in Buffalo. He was an absolute perfectionist living in an imperfect world. That led him to a lot of frustration in life if things didn’t go the way he thought they should or the way he wanted them to.”

With his unconventional approach, Twiggs often saw things go his way. When Chuck Leavell wanted a grand piano on the road, Twiggs designed the perfect steel cage to keep it in tact despite bumpy terrian. To deter overzealous fans from scaling the front of the band’s outdoor stage, Twiggs devised a curved steel wall slathered in motor oil.

Keeping Chuck Leavell’s fingers warm while playing keyboards in Holland called for Twiggs to drill holes in a PVC pipe. He mounted the pipe above the keys and attached a hair dryer to the open end of the pipe. The dyer then blew hot air on Leavell’s hands.

From 1973 to 1976, A.J. got a firsthand look at his older brothers’ world when he joined the Allman Brothers road crew. On June 1, 1974 at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, he watched Twiggs do the unimaginable.

Dubbed the Georgia Jam, the show was headlined by the Allmans and featured Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band and Grinderswitch. More than 60,000 fans attended.

Before the show, an Allman Brothers Band roadie was on his way back from the parking lot after scoring cocaine. Atlanta police officers arrested the roadie for carrying a knife larger than the legal limit. They had no idea the roadie carried drugs. The roadie was then taken to a makeshift holding cell in the bowels of the stadium.

When Twiggs heard the news, he gathered a gaggle of roadies, each with knives dangling from their belts, and they ventured to the holding cell area. A.J. joined the group. He recalls his brother’s spiel.

“Twiggs told the policeman, ‘We just found out that our Buck knives are illegal in Fulton County. I’ve got 13 people here representing four bands who are going to be playing tonight. And we want to turn ourselves in. There isn’t going to be a show, and you’re going to have the biggest riot in Atlanta history. So lock us up.'”

The roadie was then released, a bag of cocaine still in his back pocket.

Twiggs’ adventure with the Allman Brothers continued until the band’s first break-up in 1976. Although he returned to work with them briefly in 1978, he found himself focusing on the jazz-rock fusion of the Dixie Dregs.

On the back cover of the band’s second album, “Free Fall,” released in 1977, you’ll find a large image of Twiggs looking at his watch. The front features band members, including guitarist Steve Morse, jumping out of an airplane.

Ironically, on Nov. 16, 1979, on his way to a Dregs gig in Syracuse, New York, Twiggs died in a skydiving accident when his chute failed to open. Adding to the irony, Twiggs’ demise took place in Duanesburg, New York. It’s a loss some still struggle with today.

Alan Walden closes the photo album, tears welling up in his eyes. After handing the book to A.J., Walden sinks into his couch.

“The day I found out he was dead, I had my first migraine headache,” Walden says, wiping his eyes. “It was a wonderful experience between me and him. If I ever needed any kind of help in any kind of way, I could call on him and he’d come. He was just a lovable person.”

When looking back on his brother’s well traveled road, John recalls a mantra coined by Twiggs.

“He would say, ‘If you did everything you wanted to do exactly when you wanted to do it, you wouldn’t have any regrets when you died.’ And he lived life that way.”

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2 Comments

  • Well done Brad! You’ve managed to give anyone who was unable or not born early enough to actually meet Twiggs an accurate profile of him. Twiggs was without a doubt truly the Force of Nature any knowing acquaintances can attest to and so much more. Also hearing about Twiggs from the brothers Lyndon and friend Alan provides the authentic ring required to separate the Man from the Legend. Thanks for that, to all participants!

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