Gregg Allman was no angel. A flawed man (like many of us), he had a propensity for drug use that haunted him most of his life, a love hate relationship with women that careened through seven marriages, and a combative spirit that put him at odds with his band mates several times in his career. But he was also a popular musical icon for his generation and a first rate singer, songwriter, and musician. The list of my favorite Gregg written tunes is literally too long to include here but suffice to say that Gregg had a window to the soul that few others have been gifted with.
My favorite tune written by Gregg is “Midnight Rider”. A tale about a drifter down to his last silver dollar and still battling on captured the imaginations of audiences worldwide, including a young Ben Vee. He was the rock and roll rebel, James Dean writ larger….with drugs and women within easy reach as the Allman Brothers took the music world by storm in the early seventies. His marriage in 1975 to Cher brought him into the Hollywood spotlight, diminishing his status among his southern rock base (who fought with Cher fans at concerts they did together) even as he and Cher “made the paper” constantly with tales of wild parties and huge passionate fights. He did not wear the mantle of celebrity well and after his divorce he retreated back to his roots in the deep South.
He returned to musical form in 1986 with the release of the surprise hit album, I’m No Angel, by the Gregg Allman Band. The title cut was vintage Gregg with an admission of his faults paired with his love for a woman…a lyrical recipe that worked wonders for Gregg throughout his career.
He suffered another very public embarrassment in 1995 when he was too drunk to finish his induction speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame awards. After watching a video of the show, he checked into a rehab clinic and fore swore the use of alcohol for the remainder of his life. As he had done before, he got his life together after the debacle and returned to touring with the Allman Brothers until its dissolution in 2014.
Last year, he released a live album, Back to Macon, that captured him at his very best. The cuts, “Before the Bullets Fly” and “One Way Out” are two of my favorites and I was thrilled at the prospect of his seventh solo album “Southern Blood” coming out this fall. I was shocked to hear of his passing because it was so unexpected, I thought he was back to touring. From what I have read in the days since his death, he hid his battle with cancer in part so that he could continue to perform. He loved his audiences….and they loved him.
Gregg’s older brother Duane’s favorite song was the Gregg Allman penned tune “Melissa”. I invite you to give it a listen and just know that right now the two are playin’ it together at the crossroads….Allman Brothers now and forever.