Biography by Greg Prato, All Music Guide
In addition to helping revitalize the Allman Brothers during the late '80s, bassist Allen Woody helped co-form one of the '90s finest southern-retro rock acts, Gov't Mule. Born Douglas Allen Woody on October 3, 1956 in Nashville, Tennessee, Woody picked up both the mandolin and bass guitar at a very young age. Inspired by such bassists as Mountain's Felix Pappalardi, Cream's Jack Bruce, and Hot Tuna's Jack Casady, Woody began playing in local bands, and eventually majored in music at Middle Tennessee State University. It was through a job as a salesman at Nashville's famed Gruhn Guitar Store that Woody became friendly with several renowned musicians passing through the area, which led to an invite to join the Artimus Pyle Band (led by the ex-drummer of Lynyrd Skynyrd). Through his association with the Pyle Band, Woody became friendly with Butch Trucks of the Allman Brothers Band, who suggested that he try out for the group, who were in the process of reforming during the late '80s. Woody got the gig, as he toured and appeared on such releases as 1990's Seven Turns, 1991's Shades of Two Worlds, 1992's Evening With the Allman Brothers Band: First Set, 1994's Where It All Begins, and 1995's Evening With the Allman Brothers Band: 2nd Set.
It was during his Allman association that Woody befriended fellow bandmate/guitarist Warren Haynes, which led to talk between the two of forming a side band - specializing in blues-based heavy rock (a la Mountain, Cream, Led Zeppelin, etc.). With drummer Matt Abts signed on as well, the trio took the name Gov't Mule, and issued their self-titled debut in 1995. But what was originally thought to be a side band soon took on a life of its own, and both Woody and Haynes handed in their resignations to the Allmans. Gov't Mule continued to solidify their standing as one of the U.S.' top blues-based hard rock acts, with such further releases as 1996's Live at Roseland Ballroom, 1998's Dose, 1999's Live with a Little Help from Our Friends, and 2000's Life Before Insanity. But just a few months after Gov't Mule's latest studio offering, Woody was found dead on Saturday, August 26th, 2000, in his hotel suite at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Queens, New York. After his passing, a fund was set up for Woody's young daughter, The Savannah Woody Educational Fund, while the surviving members of Gov't Mule decided to carry on. The group's next release, The Deep End: Vol. 1, including several different renowned bassists filling in for their late friend, while Woody himself made a posthumous appearance on a previously unreleased cover of Grand Funk Railroad's "Sin's a Good Man's Brother." In addition to his work with the Allman Brothers and Gov't Mule, Woody also guested on a few recordings by other artists, including Little Milton's Welcome to Little Milton and Kevn Kinney's Flower & the Knife.
D. Allen Woody, Bass Player for the Allman Brothers Band, Dies at 44
By NEIL STRAUSS
Douglas Allen Woody, a former bassist for the Allman Brothers Band and a spin-off group, Gov't Mule, died on Saturday at the Marriott Courtyard Motel in Queens. He was 44.
The cause was unknown, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner's office. An autopsy performed yesterday was inconclusive, she said.
Allen Woody, as he was known, was born in Nashville, where his father, a truck driver, weaned him on the blues, country and rock oldies. Inspired by watching Paul McCartney play with the Beatles, he began learning the bass at age 14. Not long afterward he first heard the Allman Brothers Band on the radio and became interested in exploratory Southern rock.
Mr. Woody majored in music at Middle Tennessee State University and worked selling instruments at Gruhn Guitars in Nashville, where he met many of the city's top musicians. In the mid-80's, he joined the Artimus Pyle Band, led by the former drummer for Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was Mr. Pyle who introduced Mr. Woody to Butch Trucks of the Allman Brothers Band, who suggested that Mr. Woody audition as bassist.
Mr. Woody joined the Allman Brothers Band when the group re-formed after a seven-year hiatus in 1989. Previously the band had lost three members to early deaths, two of them bassists and the other its cofounder, Duane Allman, who was killed in a 1971 motorcycle accident.
The revised line-up, with Mr. Woody on bass and another newcomer, Warren Haynes, on guitar, helped bring the band new commercial and critical success. In 1994, while still touring with the Allmans, Mr. Woody and Mr. Haynes formed a side trio with a drummer, Matt Abts, called Gov't Mule. They recorded for Capricorn, a label that had a longstanding feud with the Allman Brothers over record royalties.
Three years later, Mr. Woody and Mr. Haynes left the Allman Brothers to devote themselves to their trio. Gov't Mule added a harder edge to its jams and explored a wide terrain that ranged from free jazz to the alternative rock of Radiohead.
An avid biker with tattoos and a handlebar mustache, Mr. Woody was distinguished by his ability to move from slow, blues-drenched playing to fast, pronounced runs. He was also known for playing customized instruments like a double-necked combination of a guitar and a mandolin.
Gov't Mule recorded five albums for Capricorn and was set to begin a tour on Sept. 2.