Gregg Allman 1947-2017

Photo by Lisa Keel

By Keefer

Even as a teenager he had a voice that seemed to have already carried the weight of his words…

Just one more mornin’
I had to wake up with the blues
Pulled myself out of bed, yeah
Put on my walkin’ shoes

or

She took all my money, wrecked my new car.
Now shes with one of my good time buddies,
They’re drinkin’ in some crosstown bar.Sometimes I feel,Like I been tied to the whipping post

Reports say Gregg Allman passes quietly at his home in Savannah Georgia. He had been in declining health the last few years, he was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 1999 and underwent a liver transplant in 2010.

The is no arguement about his legacy and the band he and his brother Duane fronted: a racially intergrated group (this was the late 60’s remember) that concocted a gumbo of blues, country, jazz, and rock n’ roll. They single handily invented southern rock and, along with the Grateful Dead, gave birth to the current day jam band scene.

Before the Allman Brothers, there was the Houserockers, Escorts, Y-Teens, Hour Glass and the Allman Joys. Despite the lack of success of those early efforts, the brothers carried on. Gregg commited as ever, shot himself in the foot to get a medical exemption from the Vietnam draft.

But with the Allman Brothers, the musical peices fell into place. Duane had already put the group together before inviting younger brother Gregg to join. In an interview, he told me when he arrived at the practice house, the band blindfolded him and led him to a room. There, the blindfold was removed and he was presented with a Hammond B3 organ. Gregg had never played one before (his first instrument was the guitar). The boys left him a few joints and told him he had a couple of days to learn how to play.

While the debut, The Allman Brothers Band, only sold around 50,000 copies, it was a solid blues rock record that was favorably reviewed and attracted a cult following. The second record, Idlewild South, built on the first, showing off the groups melodic instincts and country leanings.

It was their third, the monumental concert recording,  At The Fillmore East, that became an instant classic. What the band had honed over countless nights touring Florida and Georgia was now on display for the unintiated. It was a primer on extended jams, never over indulgent, always exciting, and altered on-stage play for countless bands that would followin their wake.

But as quickly as success came, so did heart breaking tradgedy. While recording Eat A Peach, Duane died in a motorcyle accident.  No long after, bassist Berry Oakly met the same fate. What would follow would be a string of inferior albums (with the exception of Brothers and Sisters) herculean drug and alcohol abuse, power struggles, Gregg’s marraige to Cher, etc.

The band felt apart at the seams when Gregg found himself in the middle of a federal drug case against a supplier and agreed to testify against a friend and employee.

But in 1989 after the release of the 4 cd retrospective Dreams, the band was back. They would release a handful of solid albums, but most importantly return to the stage reinvigorated, reminding many young bands in the emerging jam scene, this is where it began and this is how it’s done.

Line up changes would ensue over the years (including the dimissal of original member Dicky Betts) but the band never really faltered, easily filling 20,000 seat venues or smaller theaters for 3 week residencies.

But Gregg’s health and the departure of Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes, brought the band to an end in 2014. Butch Trucks, drummer and original member, died of a self inflicted gun shot wound earlier this year.

Allman is survived by his wife, Shannon Allman, his children, Devon, Elijah Blue, Delilah Island Kurtom and Layla Brooklyn Allman and three grandchildren.

“When it’s all said and done, I’ll go to my grave and my brother will greet me saying, ‘Nice work, little brother – you did all right,'” Allman wrote in the last lines of his autobiography, My Cross to Bear. “I must have said this a million times, but if I died today, I’ve had me a blast. I wouldn’t trade [my life] for nobody’s, but I don’t know if I’d do it again. If somebody offered me a second round, I think I’d have to pass on it.”