By Nikki Hedrick
How does a boy who played violin in Ohio become the bass player for the band that helped define southern rock? If you’re David Goldflies, it’s a mixture of talent and being in right place.
Goldflies’ grandfather went by the stage name Gene Gold and was the music director for a Chicago theater. Gold was also the young Goldflies’ first violin teacher. At 14, Goldflies had been playing the violin for 10 years but had lost the heart for it after his grandfather passed. “I was getting pretty good and then he died,” he says. “And then nobody from my point of view, as a seven-or-eight-year-old child, was able to teach me. I didn’t want to hear it.
“At 14, I figured it out and said, ‘Dad, I really want to play guitar.’” Goldflies’ father, however, suggested his son take up the bass instead. Soon, Goldflies was playing in his father’s band and starting his own garage bands. All before he entered high school.
At a gig for a band called Sagebrush, Goldflies met Bill Bartlett and got a taste of the music career that awaited him. “Bill had a falling out with his bass player, and I joined Starstruck,” says Goldflies. “We recorded ‘Black Betty,’ and it became a hit. It was the first time I’d played with a band that did any sort of recording.”
But that band dissolved, leaving the young Goldflies “out of work, at my mom and dad’s house at, like, 19 years old. It was like, ‘This sucks.’ I had been having fun in this rock band, and now nothing. No money, no girlfriend. It was terrible.”
Soon, Goldflies joined a Cincinnati cover band and got word that Dickey Betts was looking for a bass player. Only Goldflies didn’t know Betts was a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band—he only had fleeting knowledge of Betts due to a mentor who would often play Allmans songs.
“I went to a motel room, and there was Dickey,” says Goldflies. “I played a little, and he said, ‘Let’s go.’” But Goldflies didn’t feel right leaving his bandmates without a bass player on short notice, so the pair arranged to meet up a couple days and a few hundred miles later.
“I played with Dickey Betts and Great Southern for about a year and a half,” says Goldflies. “Then the Allman Brothers reformed and I tried out for the bass part. I knew Dickey and I knew how Dickey directed on stage, and I think that gave me an edge. I knew how he did it. The other bass players (who tried out) didn’t know his cues. I think it really made a difference, that’s just my opinion.”
And that’s how Goldflies became the bass player for none other than the Allman Brothers Band in 1978.
“It was kind of wild,” Goldflies says of touring with the Allmans. “And then it became a Hunter S, Thompson novel. It was a pretty wild lifestyle, which I’m very happy I survived. I learned a lot of music, too.”
In 2012, the Allman Brothers Band received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Recently, that Grammy made it’s way to Goldflies.
“Oteil Burbridge, the last bass player for the Allman Brothers, contacted me and said, ‘Hey man I have this Grammy, a Lifetime Achievement Award. I got to thinking about this, and I’m standing on the shoulders of the people that came before me. I didn’t do this for a lifetime, and I’d really like to share this with the other living bass player and the estates of the deceased bass players.’
“And that’s just a very generous and thoughtful thing. I’ve come to know Oteil more through this interaction with this Grammy award, and he is really intelligent, sensitive…just a gentleman.”
True to his word, Burbridge shipped the Grammy to Goldflies. “It’s a pretty neat thing to be a part of,” says Goldflies. “I had a Grammy nomination, but to have an actual Grammy…”
Goldflies recently shared an intimate look at the late Butch Trucks on his blog (www.goldfliesmusic.com) but was a bit more reserved in talking about the recent passing of Gregg Allman. “Gregg kind of lived on the other side of the stage and had what I called a ‘star orbit,’” he says. “I had a great time, but Gregg was a star, the superstar. He was always friendly, and I was really lucky to work with what I’d call one of the best blues singers and the originators of the southern rock genre.”
After his time in the Allman Brothers Band came to a close, Goldflies toured throughout the United States and found himself smitten with Panama City Beach in the ‘80s. In 1993, he officially moved to the beach, in part because of the attractiveness of regular gigs.
He is currently a member of the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra, Panama City POPS and the Downbeat Jazz Orchestra.
Additionally, he has formed a new band with a familiar surname. “Now I’m working with a guy named Gary Allman, and he definitely has that voice. We have a band called the Allman Goldflies Band.” Look for their upcoming release Second Chance, and catch the band in person at a venue near you.
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