Raymond Berry Oakley III (April 4, 1948 – November 11, 1972), was an American bassist and one of the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band. He is ranked number 46 on Bass Player magazine’s list of “The 100 Greatest Bass Players”.
Oakley was born in Chicago, Illinois, raised in the suburb of Park Forest, Illinois, then moved to Florida where he met and joined Dickey Betts’s band, The Second Coming. He was a founding member of The Allman Brothers Band in 1969, along with guitarist Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, who was the band’s vocalist and keyboardist, Dickey Betts on co-lead guitar, and drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson, both on drums, congas, and the band’s percussionist.
With the Allman Brothers, Oakley was known for his long, melodic bass runs underneath Allman and Betts’ furious guitar solos and jams. “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”, “Mountain Jam” and “Whipping Post” from the live album At Fillmore East capture Oakley at his best. Oakley was also the band member most involved in establishing domestic unity among the band’s extended family. When Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident, Oakley was devastated.
Oakley’s bass guitar, nicknamed “The Tractor Bass”, was a Fender Jazz Bass with a Guild bass pickup (manufactured by Hagström, a Swedish company).
Death and tribute
On November 11, 1972, Oakley was involved in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia, just three blocks from where Duane Allman had his fatal motorcycle accident the year before. Oakley was driving around a sharp right bend of the road on Napier Avenue at Inverness when he crossed the line and collided at an angle with a city bus making the bend from the opposite direction. After striking the front and then the back of the bus, Oakley was thrown from his bike, just as Allman had been, and struck his head. Oakley said he was okay after the accident, declined medical treatment, and caught a ride home. Three hours later, he was rushed to the hospital, delirious and in pain, and died of cerebral swelling caused by a fractured skull. Attending doctors stated that even if Oakley had gone straight to the hospital from the scene of the accident, he could not have been saved.
In 1998, the Georgia state legislature passed a resolution designating a bridge on State Highway 19, in Macon, Georgia, as the ‘Raymond Berry Oakley III Bridge’ in “honor and remembrance” of the late founding member of the Allman Brothers Band”.
He is survived by his sister, Candace Rose Oakley, his wife Linda Diane Oakley (an artist in Florida) and daughter, Brittany Ann Oakley (who was a massage therapist, and is currently an esthetician in Florida). Brittany’s photo appeared on the back cover of the Allmans’ 1973 album, “Brothers and Sisters”, as well as on the inside photo with sister Candace Oakley, wife Linda Miller, roadies, and extended family. After his death, his son, Berry Duane Oakley (aka Berry Oakley Jr.) was born in March 1973. Berry Jr. is also a bass guitarist. Grandson Shaun Berry Oakley is a musician in training in Florida.
- The Allman Brothers Band
- The Allman Brothers Band (1969)
- Idlewild South (1970)
- At Fillmore East (1971)
- Eat a Peach (1972)
- Brothers and Sisters (1973) tracks 1 & 2