×

Johnny Sandlin, Allman Brothers Band Producer, Dies at 72

Producer Johnny Sandlin, who co-produced the Allman Brothers Band’s two biggest albums and worked with virtually every top name in the Southern rock genre, has died in Decatur, Ala. He was 72.

Sandlin’s daughter, Leigh Ellen Sandlin Cauthen, confirmed that the veteran musician, engineer and producer succumbed to cancer.

A versatile multi-instrumentalist as a youth, Alabama native Sandlin made an early mark as a session musician at Rick Hall’s noted FAME studio in Muscle Shoals. In 1967, his group the Five Men-Its merged with Duane and Gregg Allman’s combo to become Hour Glass; he worked principally as a drummer on the act’s two Liberty Records albums.

From 1969, Sandlin was principally involved for several years as an executive, producer and mixer at Phil Walden’s Macon, Ga.-based Capricorn Records. Beyond his work on the Allmans’ “Brothers and Sisters” (No. 1, 1973) and “Win, Lose or Draw” (No. 5, 1975), he produced or engineered albums by the Southern rock units Cowboy, and Wet Willie and Allmans guitarist Dickie Betts.

As an independent producer in the late ‘70s, he helmed albums by Texas singer-songwriter Delbert McClinton and “Two the Hard Way,” a commercially disastrous set by the then-married Gregg Allman and Cher.

With the renaissance of Capricorn Records in the ‘90s, Sandlin worked with a number of second-generation Southern rock acts, including Widespread Panic and the Dixie Dregs, while producing sets with such original Capricorn artists as Gregg Allman, Wet Willie vocalist Jimmy Hall, Allmans and Sea Level keyboardist Chuck Leavell and R&B singer-guitarist Johnny Jenkins.

Sandlin was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

He was born April 16, 1945 in Decatur. As a teenager, he played in the local bands the Secrets and the Impacts. While working with the later band, he met members of another local act, the Mark V – pianist David Briggs, bassist Norbert Putnam and guitarist Marlin Greene – who, like Sandlin, would go on to work as house musicians during the early days of the hit-producing Fame facility.

At the studio, he also encountered such key Southern soul figures as pianist Spooner Oldham and singer-songwriters Eddie Hinton, Dan Penn and Donnie Fritts. He founded the Five Men-Its with Hinton. That group later merged with the Allman siblings’ Florida-bred Allman Joys, who were the group’s major regional competition.

After Hour Glass folded following a pair of unsuccessful albums for Liberty, Sandlin began working for artist manager Walden’s neophyte Capricorn imprint in Macon as a house producer and A&R director. His first project for the company was “Ton Ton Macoute!” by singer-guitarist Johnny Jenkins; Duane Allman was featured on lead guitar. He also produced Cowboy, an act including members of the pre-Allman Brothers Band unit the 31st of February.

He served as an engineer on the Allmans’ “Live at the Fillmore East” (1970) and “Eat a Peach” (1971). In 1973, he produced the chart-topping “Brothers and Sisters,” which included the No. 2 hit “Ramblin’ Man,” and continued his chart streak with the group with “Win, Lose or Draw.” His other Capricorn projects of the era included albums with Elvin Bishop, James Taylor’s brother Alex, comic Martin Mull and Bonnie Bramlett of Delaney & Bonnie.

As an indie producer during the ‘80s, Sandlin branched into straight country via sessions with Jerry Reed, Mac Davis and Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn.

He returned to his Southern rock roots during the ‘90s, producing Widespread Panic’s “Pick Your Panic” (1991) and “Space Wrangler” (1992), Dixie Dregs’ “Bring ‘Em Back Alive” (1992), Jimmy Hall’s “Rendezvous With the Blues” (1996) and Chuck Leavell’s “What’s in the Bag” (1998).

In later years, Sandlin produced new albums by Bramlett and Bishop and worked with young Southern rock performer Kenneth Brian.

Sandlin’s survivors include his daughter and wife Ann.

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Celso Pina Dead

    Celso Piña, Known as 'Rebel of the Accordion,' Dies at 66

    Celso Piña, the cumbia music legend known as “the rebel of the accordion,” died of a heart attack on Wednesday in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico. He was 66 years old. “Today is a sad day for La Tuna Group, with deep pain we communicate the unexpected departure of a family member, our friend, and [...]

  • Shawn Mendes, Camila CabelloShawn Mendes and

    Camila Cabello, Shawn Mendes to Perform 'Señorita' for First Time at VMAs

    Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes are performing their hit single “Señorita” live together for the first time at the 2019 Video Music Awards. Cabello received five VMA nominations this year, including Best Collaboration, Best Art Direction, Best Choreography, Best Cinematography and Song of Summer. Mendes received six: Artist of the Year, Best Collaboration, Best Art [...]

  • Taylor SwiftTaylor Swift in concert at

    When Could Taylor Swift Re-Record Her Big Machine Songs? It's Complicated

    Her few words echoed around the world within minutes: Asked in a preview of her forthcoming “CBS This Morning” interview whether she might re-record her master recordings from her Big Machine, which are now owned and controlled by her nemesis, Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun, Taylor Swift said, “Oh yeah.” Asked whether she plans to: [...]

  • James Corden Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke

    James Corden Got a Little Help From Paul McCartney on His Drive to the Emmys

    Saying “Baby, I could drive your car” has proven to be a very good strategy for James Corden — never more so than when he put Paul McCartney into the highly sought passenger seat. The primetime special “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney, Live From Liverpool” is a contender in five Emmy categories this year, [...]

  • Big Mouth Netflix

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Announces 'Big Mouth' Season 3 Premiere Date

    In today’s roundup, “Big Mouth” Season 3 sets an October 4 premiere date and Univison releases a sneak peek of its new music competition show “Reina de la Canción.” DATES “Big Mouth” will return to Netflix with its third season on Oct. 4. The adult animated comedy, created by childhood friends Andrew Goldberg and Nick [...]

  • Dolly Parton

    BBC Commissions Dolly Parton Feature Documentary

    The BBC has commissioned a feature length documentary about country music legend Dolly Parton, it announced Wednesday. The documentary, tentatively titled “Dolly’s Country” will air on BBC Two this fall as part of a season of programs dedicated to country music. The broadcaster announced earlier in the day that it had acquired Ken Burns’ upcoming [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content