Erica's dad was in the Vicksburg Post today for a piece of road art he did 34 years ago. You can go read the article there, or I've tucked it below the jump for posterity...
Update: some followups.
Caption: David Reid stands next to the Remember Duane Allman tribute carved in the dirt bank next to Interstate 20 in 1973.
A place in time: 4 who carved Allman tribute remember a star
By Eric Brown
While Vicksburg might be just another spot on the map to many traveling musicians, it represents something else to Gregg Allman, who will be playing two shows in town next week.
Gregg's brother, Duane, died Oct. 29, 1971, from injuries in a motorcycle accident. Duane, co-founder with Gregg of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted Allman Brothers Band, was 24 years old. However, he had accomplished enough musically to achieve legendary status from the band's followers and critical acclaim from music historians. Rolling Stone magazine even named him No. 2 on its list of the greatest guitarists of all time in 2003, trailing only Jimi Hendrix.
Duane's genius was also recognized more than 34 years ago by four young men from Vicksburg. They were college students who carved a roadside icon into a bluff along Interstate 20, at the time a new highway. The monument, which simply read, "Remember Duane Allman," would later appear in Rolling Stone publications and continues receiving attention today, although no longer visible.
Created in 1973 about six miles east of Vicksburg off the westbound lanes near the Bovina exit, the carved tribute to Allman lasted for more than a decade. Common due to the soil of the area, highway construction crews level out ridges and leave flat earthen walls along roadsides that become targets for graffiti artists. The "Remember Duane" etching was different. Hand-carved, it stood 10 feet above ground level, the letters themselves about 7 feet in height and the entire message more than 100 feet in length.
In an interview with The Vicksburg Post, Gregg Allman said last week he had seen this tribute many times in Rolling Stone and in other photographs, but not in person. However, he greatly appreciated such a gesture to his brother.
"I've loved it from the start and I love it still today," Allman said.
Responsible for the monument were Don Antoine, Dennis Garner, Len Raines and David Reid, who, in 1973, were freshmen at Hinds Junior College. They have never publicly taken credit for the tribute until now.
"We didn't do this to go around bragging about it," Reid said at a Sunday evening reunion of the four, an event he described as very rare. "We did it just to do it. Plus, we never even thought it would become the big deal that it did."
While the group saw no desire to claim it, Reid said plenty of others did.
"I've heard of people from as far away as Birmingham taking credit for it," Reid said. "It's really kind of a compliment that so many people want to take credit for it."
When asking them today about creating the tribute, the four, all in their 50s and all Vicksburg residents, say they can't recall all of the details. Perhaps the best account is a recap of the events typed by Reid in 1975.
According to Reid's documentation, the carving began at 8:45 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 3. The four had planned the tribute during their morning and afternoon commutes to their classes on Hinds' Raymond campus. The site was carefully selected from others up and down the highway as the most pristine. Reid described the dirt as fine and packed, smooth and with no vegetation. The wall was left with an almost vertical face, making it easy for a message to be seen by passing motorists. Also, the sun cast shadows in the letters.
After unloading picks, axes and a 9-foot ladder from Reid's 1954 Plymouth Savoy, the four marked and spaced the positions for the letters. Upon the realization they had used only one-third the space available, they increased the dimensions of the entire message.
Reid described the day as beautiful, with a clear sky and warm sun. Three of them would work on the lower part of each letter, while one on the ladder would finish the top portion. Some passing motorists honked their horns and smiled, others passed by stone-faced. Reid said the honking of horns seemed to increase as the completion of the message drew nearer.
Upon finishing the message, which happened about 4 1/2 hours after its initiation, Garner told the rest of the group it should be signed. The others agreed and flipped a coin to determine the order of their names. That took another hour of work.
While the message turned out OK in the end, the group avoided a near disaster midway when it came to their attention that the second "m" in "remember" was missing.
"That would have been the most colossal screw up," said Reid, an employee of International Game Technology.
While Gregg Allman expressed his gratitude toward the hand-carved monument, he said the gesture meant a great deal to someone else.
"You should have seen my mother's face when she first saw a picture of that," he said. "She was quite honored and quite elated, almost to tears."
Garner, who works for Capitol Welding Supply in Vicksburg, said Sunday that learning the Allmans knew about their effort changed his whole perspective of their tribute to Duane.
"That's just mind-blowing to me," Garner said. "We really just did this to bring attention to a great musician. But for it to have really meant something to the family is incredible."
And apparently a reward for their hard work might be in store for Antoine, Garner, Raines and Reid 34 years later.
"I would absolutely love to meet those guys at the show," Allman said. "That would be wonderful."