A finely crafted portrait of the southern rock group that created some of the 1970s' most appealing and inventive music. Georgia-based journalist Freeman shows great command of both history and southern context in explicating the richly diverse musical sources of the band's sound. He plays it straight and from the top, beginning with the fatherless, troubled Allman brothers in Tennessee and their youthful discovery of black music--Jackie Wilson gave Gregg goosebumps he thought ``were permanent''--then moving on to describe guitarist Duane's developing mastery, Gregg's bluesy voice, and the brothers' adoption of Macon, Ga., as the unlikely site of their musical stand. (As their fame grew, it became the mecca of southern rock.) The Allman Brothers Band changed personnel often, and Freeman tracks a big, biracial cast of hardscrabble, drug-scarfing outlaws who tangled with the Dixie Mafia and even murder when road manager Lydon Twiggs stabbed a club owner who refused to pay them. He focuses primarily on edge-dweller Duane, who soon became one of rock's legendary guitarists (``I took speed every night for three years and practiced'') but died in a motorcycle accident in 1971; enigmatic but feckless Gregg, unable to overcome drug addiction or deal responsibly with women; and mercurial Dickey Betts, the sweet-playing slide guitarist who grew into stardom after Duane's death. Freeman's determination to cover it all--including the dollar value of every contract and child- support judgment--encumbers his story. But for the most part he tells this yarn well, giving the music itself proper pride of place. Though not shy about criticizing the band's bad middle- and late-period recordings, Freeman does a fine a job of making their best music sing for readers. This book will further stimulate the revived interest in the Allmans, who were a surprise hit at Woodstock II.