They finally caught the midnight rider.
How big was the Allman Brothers Band? They HEADLINED the biggest rock festival to date, Watkins Glen, with 600,000 attendees. The Band opened, but their hits and impact were in the past, and out of steam they broke up just a few years later. The Dead? This was not the Dead of today, a legendary act known by all who were godhead, with a soulful guitar player who took you on aural trips…that was the ALLMAN BROTHERS!
That's what I heard first, that's what most people heard first. And the opening cut, "Revival," was nothing like what ultimately made the band famous, it was tight, it was energetic, it exuded both confidence and a will to impress, but listening to it one knew not that southern rock would soon infiltrate not only the airwaves, but our consciousness. Yes, let's state for the record right now, the Allmans were the progenitors of southern rock. They made it before Skynyrd or anyone else, they were the first with twin lead guitarists, we'd almost never seen two drummers, they came to play, and you certainly realized this when you heard the first side closer, "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," when the guitars locked on and took you on a mellifluous journey that required no visuals, you could just lay your head back and close your eyes and dream.
But what pushed "Idlewild South" over the top, was "Midnight Rider."
There was the picking, the percussion, the groove, the feeling like you were riding a horse, and then…
"I don't own the clothes I'm wearin'
And the road goes on forever
And I've got one more silver dollar
But I'm not gonna let 'em catch me, no
Not gonna let 'em catch the midnight rider"
This wasn't about fast cars and private planes, although their manager, Phil Walden ultimately owned an aircraft, but the MUSIC! That's right, the road really did go on forever, from Florida to L.A. and back again, with a stop for Duane in Muscle Shoals in between. You either had a hit record or you played in the studio or live. The Allmans had no hits. So, Duane quit the studio and they ground it out on the road. In an era where people put out albums and then toured and then recorded again, but the Allmans were different, they kept playing and playing, they were convincing customers one by one, but with no help from either the press, which hated the south, or promotional shenanigans, it was purely the music.
And then came…
LIVE AT FILLMORE EAST
It was closing, New York's most legendary venue. And the closing night band, the headliner, Bill Graham's favorite, the best in the land according to him, was the…ALLMAN BROTHERS?
They had no hits, were barely known, it'd be like Jason Isbell being the headliner at Coachella. There was a radio simulcast, but most of the focus was on the appearance of the suddenly resurgent Beach Boys, and then, at the end of August, the album came out…
"Wake up mama, turn your lamp down low"
You only had to drop the needle.
WHAT WAS THAT? You were immediately grabbed by the throat, made to pay attention, you fired up a doobie, even though it was still two years until most knew that term, sat on the couch and listened through, all four sides, and one thing was for sure, no one said the package was TOO LONG!
How could this be, how could a band emerge so fully-formed? It would be like stumbling upon a Ferrari in 1910, you suddenly got it, what all the excitement was all about.
And as energetic as "Statesboro Blues" was, "Trouble No More" was just as energetic, but different. It was like going on a date with your crush, the girl you admired from afar, and finding not only was she just as beautiful without makeup but she had a 3-D personality. And you know how that goes, when you're pinching yourself, it never lasts.
And it didn't.
Duane Allman died.
"Just one more mornin'
I had to wake up with the blues"
We planned to see the band in Providence. You traveled to see your favorite bands, but not by plane, you loaded up in old American iron, Chevys and Fords, and drove for hours just to be in the auditorium, it wasn't about being seen, but being in the same room with the magicmakers. It was a badge of honor, before you had any idea what the experience was like, long before MTV, when every show was a new adventure.
But the Allman zenith was still two years off. Atlantic put out a two album retrospective on Duane, the band soldiered on, but still so much of America was clueless, because to reach everybody you had to be on AM radio, but just like now, there are pockets of people who will keep you alive, huge pockets the press misses until an event like Watkins Glen.
So newly-minted fans went back and bought not only "Idlewild South," but the initial LP, where it's all there, even an abbreviated "Whipping Post," it's just that the production kept the band too contained, they were so busy getting it perfect that there was one percent missing, and that one percent is everything, it's what pushed "Fillmore East" over the top.
AIN'T WASTIN' TIME NO MORE
"Well lord, lord Miss Sally, why all your cryin'
Been around here three long days, lookin' like we're dyin'
Go step yourself outside, look up at the stars above
Go on downtown baby, find somebody to love"
The band was soldiering on, so we got onboard, we jumped on the truck carrying the giant peach and listened…
But the emotional cost… Now all the weight was on Gregg's shoulders. Dickey stepped up, but that ultimately caused problems, but the band was even more successful.
You wanna know why you have so many friends named "Melissa"? That's straight off "Eat A Peach." Never underestimate the power of music, the power of a band.
It's a Dickey song, written and sung, but it's this number that made the band the biggest in the land, you could go nowhere without hearing this tune, to the point where you couldn't push the radio button soon enough to end it.
If you didn't live through the era you've got no idea what I'm talking about, no act today has this ubiquity, not a single one, just talk to the average person about Taylor Swift or Jay Z or Ed Sheeran and they're flummoxed, but everyone knew 'Ramblin' Man."
And a lot of women are named "Jessica" because of the instrumental on the second side of "Brothers and Sisters," which dominated dorm room play all fall, but my favorite track on the LP is 'Come and Go Blues."
"People say that you're no good
But I wouldn't cut you loose, baby, if I could"
Bad boys with bad girls. Not everybody went to college, not everybody was on the fast track, life was about meaning as opposed to accomplishments, and our beacons, our instructors, were these bands, these acts. We looked to them for direction.
And on the heels of this great success with "Brothers and Sisters," Gregg released his initial solo LP, a victory lap that swept up every woman in America, that touched every male's soul, you see here was the coolest dude on the planet singing about his weary life, this twentysomething with long golden locks had seen more than we ever would in a lifetime and he was deigning to tell us about it, in a slowed-down version of "Midnight Rider" and the definitive version of Jackson Browne's "These Days."
I'M NO ANGEL
And then the band petered out. Made an ignored record, broke up, got back together, you never counted them out, but now we were in the video era and on to something new and then came this, from a survivor, a cut he didn't write but that expressed his ethos perfectly, Gregg Allman was no angel, but he'd SURVIVED!
Kinda like Keith Richards, but an American, someone we could relate to, not a man who made a pact with the devil, but someone who'd lived the life, taken some chances, and had emerged on the other side.
There was the Cher episode. Which was incomprehensible, but when she complained he was passing out in his dinner plate, inside you laughed, she snagged him, but she hadn't changed him, you couldn't change Gregg Allman, the midnight rider.
He dated a famous porn star. Got married again, had children, and didn't worry about you judging him, he just lived on, and then he had another hit!
My favorite cut on the "I'm No Angel" album, there's a moment, after the break, when Gregg Allman reaches down deep and at the top of his lungs screams…ANYTHING GOES! It's at 3:20 in the song if you wanna check it out, and it's moments like these that are personal, that keep you going, putting one foot in front of the other, so when we were hanging out before the show…
Yes, I ain't got no money, but I'm rich on personality, and that has allowed me to meet all my heroes, get e-mail from them, it thrills me, and about an hour before they took the stage at the Greek I was introduced to Gregg and I had to ask him, about that emotive explosion.
Now you've got to understand, they're not like you and me.
First and foremost, he was wearing his boots, the original American rockers never got over the Beatles. And he's towering above me, and he leans down to my ear, his long hair almost falling on my shoulder, and he starts whispering, telling a story, sotto voce, like we're the only two people in the universe, like he's gonna reveal a deep dark secret.
"I can't hit that note every night. But there are certain evenings, when I'm sitting on the piano bench, and I reach over to hit a note and my left nut gets caught under my leg and I yell ANYTHING GOES!"
I swear to god, just like that, that's about an exact quote.
And he backs off, stands straight, but gives me a poker face, and I'm not sure if he's making fun of me, pulling my leg, putting me down, or initiating me into the ways of the road, making me an honorary insider, but one thing's for sure, he was still COOL!
They'd been on Atlantic/Atco/Capricorn, jumped to Arista and Epic, everybody wanted to give the band a chance, everybody still believed, but the act didn't truly recapture the magic until they made a record themselves, for their Peach label, "Hittin' The Note," which was a complete return to form, but had no impact.
This is rare. That the magic can be recaptured, check this number out, the whole damn album, to experience it.
PEAKIN' AT THE BEACON
And when your record company has stolen all your money, that's right, the Allmans got a judgment against Capricorn but could not collect, and no one is interested in your new recordings, what do you do?
You bury the hatchet and go on the road.
Suddenly the Allmans were available. Everywhere, on a regular basis, but nowhere as much as the Beacon, they owned it, figuratively if not literally, they were recapturing the Fillmore magic at James Dolan's pleasure palace, and that meant no showiness, no over-the-top elements, just pure music.
One time I sat on stage, right behind Gregg, where you could see the tattoos on his arms as he tickled the ivories, supporting the band in front of him, despite the act carrying his name, being untenable without him, but he saw himself as just a musician, one of the group, but I remembered, we remembered.
Wait long enough and you can see your favorites up close and personal. That's what's weird, you're lamenting their loss when they were just here, readily available. And it made me crazy that the crowd refused to listen to the quiet numbers, but Gregg could still sing and play. And when I was in the dressing room after the show he wanted to talk…
This is always surprising. You learn not to say hi if you're not introduced. But then they know who you are and you express a few pleasantries, and then there are times you realize…they're thrilled to find a friendly face, thrilled not to have to press the flesh and go through the motions, when they want to open up and converse.
And you're flummoxed. Not sure exactly how to act. Whether to fawn, which is usually a mistake, talk about the world at large or put forth the questions that have always haunted you.
I went for the questions.
And this man with the pink skin and the white beard and quiet southern voice answered them all.
That's the last time I saw him.
GOD REST HIS SOUL
So what have we learned?
That you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.
These classic rockers have to stop dying.
But some are broke, some lived so hard their bodies have given out.
But one thing's for sure, they lived.
It would be great if Gregg was still here, but no one can say he didn't make the most of his 69 years on the planet. Sure, he could have made other choices, stopped the drugs and alcohol earlier, but when you're testing limits, making it up as you go, sometimes you fall down the hole, but the amazing thing about Gregg is he always climbed out of it, until now.
He didn't take his own life, didn't die in an accident, he just lived hard and used himself up.
But he left a legacy. Of not only hits, but a whole way of life.
First and foremost he was a musician, whereas today it's more about being a star. He paid his dues, he earned his success.
And he wrote these songs. It's one thing to play in the band, quite another to improvise a solo, but to compose the changes and the lyrics, that's what we marvel at, how did he come up with this stuff?
Duane's death was a surprise.
Berry's almost a fait accompli.
And then they kicked Dickey out of the band and Butch took his own life and now Gregg has succumbed, all that's left is ashes, the Allman Brothers are no more, but the records live on.
And those records, they weren't repeats of what came before, rather the Allman Brothers improvised upon what once was and created something brand new.
And Gregg's life had many twists and turns, but he got bitten by the music bug and lifted himself out of the land of single parenthood to have an impact, to burn an impression upon a whole generation. And, like I said, he was never one of us, he had too much charisma, he was too cool.
He survived. All the death, all the bankruptcies, all the substance abuse, but now he's gone, and we're all feeling the loss.
You see, when done right, music is unique. It might be part of a genre, but you never mistake one great for another. You knew when you heard the Allman Brothers, you knew it was Gregg Allman when his voice came out of the speaker, and although you thought you knew him, you really never could, because he was different from you and me, and it's these different people, these gods, these musicians, we look to enrich our lives. Not the techies, not the bankers, not social media sensations, but the players who sit down and overwhelm us with their talent, the sound they create.
"God Rest His Soul" is from the 1989 Allman Brothers boxed set "Dreams," when that was still a thing, when you hungered for the outtakes, the alternative takes, long before Napster. And nothing I've written will tell you as much about Gregg Allman as much as listening to one cut, and the one cut I listen to most these days is "Come and Go Blues," not the one from "Brothers and Sisters," but from "Dreams."
"People say that you're no good"
Believe me, Gregg had haters, long before the internet, long before Twitter.
"Don't ask me why I stay here, I don't know"
When an act touches your soul you can never deny them, you still follow them, play their new tunes, you never forget, you stay attached.
"Well maybe I'm a fool to care"
We're all fools, we baby boomers who refused to join corporate America and decided to make this music our life, we just wanted to be involved, closer to these musicians, Gregg Allman was bigger than Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or Warren Buffett could ever be.
"Without your sweet love baby I would be nowhere"
They needed us as much as we needed them, it was a mutual experience.
"Here I'll stay, locked in your web"
We'd play the records and just the records over and over again, they were not a distraction, they were the main event.
"'Till that day I might find somebody else"
We never did, find somebody else, that is. We liked other bands, but we never forgot you.
"Well I seem to stay down on the ground
Baby I'm too far gone to turn around"
This is me, this is you. Our records are our most treasured possessions, I've never sold my vinyl, not because it sounds better, but because I built that collection, that's me, thumb through those records after I'm gone and you'll get a good picture of who I am.
"Oh, if only you would make up your mind"
The great thing about Gregg Allman is his mind was made up, he knew where he was going, he stayed the course, refused to sell out and be someone else. Never got plastic surgery, never overexposed himself on game shows, he'd play along, but always reluctantly, because he knew his residence was behind his instrument, in a rehearsal room, on stage.
"Take me where you go, you're leaving me behind"
Yes, I feel left behind. I'm sure you do too. I got the news and felt at loose ends. How can this be happening? Death is final, you mean he's never coming back, I'm never gonna see him sing "Midnight Rider" one more time, how can that be, what am I supposed to do with myself now, now that I've dedicated my whole life to you and your ilk, I'm not ready to join that great band in the sky, but it seems they've got better players than we have down here.
Now they've got you.
A really tough loss for all of us. I was so lucky that I was able to call Gregg a friend as well as manage his career for so long. It was a true pleasure to polish what was already so beautiful. He will be sorely missed.
A very nice piece on the ABB and Brother Gregg. Thank you. I was honored to be associated with the ABB and Gregg solo. Incredible highs and heartbreaking lows. I am thrilled that Gregg and I had one last great get together before he got so ill this last time.
I knew Gregg for a very longtime, but didn't really "know" him the way close friends or family do. We hung out in Knebworth and Hilverson (Netherlands) in '74, then decades would go by till we toured with the 2009 version of AAB, and again with Gregg as a solo act in 2015.That was the time we actually sat down in a hotel room and talked about……music! We'd gotten all the catch up of the old days over years ago.
Gregg was one of a kind. A Soulful singer with a stand alone voice everyone knew instantly, great B3 player, guitarist and song writer. We jammed with him almost every night in 2015. Because that's the kind of guy Gregg was. We'd get a text from Scott his guitar player to come up on a couple of songs. He was good people. He was shy but kind. Fierce onstage but mellow off stage. And I had loved the ABB and Gregg's voice for years. As you said their songs were staples of that period and EVERYBODY knew them. And still do. Quality lasts! Hallelujah.
The first time I saw the Allman Brothers was in Boston in 1970 ( the opening band was The Doobie Brothers). My thighs were sore for days as I had kept beating on them trying to keep up with the astonishing energy emanating from the stage.
the Live at the Fillmore version of Statesboro Blues is still one of my favorite songs to get me UP!
Whipping Post live version will always be on top of my most played songs of the era.
So sad that Gregg is gone, so glad he made it as long as he did.
For people growing up Southern and progressive, the Allman Brothers Band made it okay, even cool, to be Southern. Gregg mentioned my hometown of Rome, Georgia – twice! – in "Multi-colored Lady" on "Laid Back" (STILL the best- produced album of all time).
Guys wanted to play like Duane, but we wanted to BE Gregg.
Something else; these brilliant country boys from the Deep South had a multicultural, multiracial band both in personnel and musical influences. Certainly that took some courage in that barely-past-civil rights era. Also, for all their self abuses and "common" ways, they were smart, seemed like they probably read at least a bit, and further against type, leaned pretty far left having been huge supporters of Jimmy Carter.
Head and shoulders above all the rest of their genre.
I got to know Tom Dowd before he passed when I lived in south beach. His doc done by his daughter Dana is by far the most compelling music six I know off. Needless to say I beats many Greg stories. When I moved to aspen – he played at the belly up. As if that wasn't enough. – ended up talking and drinking at the Sky most of the night after. It's a cliche that your idols always disappoint. Surely not on this case. I'm sure it wasn't me – but the odd connection we had with Tom. I'm rarely awed by people. I was that night. Have thought about that many nights here in Aspen since. A lot in the last few days
Saw the Allmans many times but the show 1972 Hollywood Bowl when Johnny Winter guested for the recently departed Duane was epic!
Joe Mock in PDR
P.S. Where It All Began is the last great Allman Bros album w/ Dicky Betts. "No one left to run with" is my battle cry
beautiful! saw him with them 1st at the atlanta municipal auditorium in 1972. i was 17. i think the tix was $7.99. it was hard to see the stage for the smoke, and it smelled like elephants. the B & B circus had been there the week before. rip.
I spent a summer working with my childhood friend Jim Koplik promoting Watkins Glen and went to the picnic and numerous shows. One of the absolute great American bands and everything you said below is spot on
Thanks Bob. ABB was something special.
Gregg Allman was the blues of The Allman Brothers. Duane was the spark and then, after, the North Star they followed. Dickey kept the train on the tracks. But Gregg, he lived the life of a modern bluesman with rock and roll trimmings. Together with Berry, Trucks and Jamoie they created that once in a lifetime formula for modern orchestral pieces that shall live on for many, many decades.
You are stellar. Amazing piece.
"Our records are our most treasured possessions, I've never sold my vinyl, not because it sounds better, but because I built that collection, that's me, thumb through those records after I'm gone and you'll get a good picture of who I am."
RE: Gregg Allman – GREAT ONE
KEEP ON KEEPIN' ON … GOOD THE SADNESS TO SHARE AS WE GET FEWER CARRYIN' THE LAMP …
Beautifully worded homage. Thankyou.
Thanks Bob. We needed this. Be well.
Been listening to live at Fillmore east and eat a peach since I got the news about Gregg
CBS had a nice interview with Gregg
I like the anecdote about how he came up with name for the song Melissa
Saying anything more than thank you seems redundant.
May his memory and his music be a blessing
One of your most beautiful – thank you
Thank you for putting the real on the page. Thank you for not hiding the importance of GA to you. Thank you for seeing the deeper currents of meaning.
George Soros was my boss and he is a fine man. He just isn't John Coltrane.
And you let us feel what you care about and ask ourselves what matters.
This is a great essay. You are the artist tonight.
Beautiful tribute. Thank you.
Michael K. Clifford
My sister introduced me to the Allman Brothers when I was 11 and she 15 and I was hooked, she named her daughter Melissa, I just quietly worshipped from afar.
I feel kind of empty knowing he's gone, there are a few more that are his age that if they pass before me will take a piece of my soul just like Greg has. Please Call Home is my favorite. Thanks for writing this.
Thank you for the beautiful piece on Gregg. I'm very glad you got to talk to him a few times. Close as I ever got to them was one of my first gigs with the Feat, opening for the Brothers outdoors at UCSB. Their piano tech taught me some cool things. Then later, in the 80s, there were a few late nights on the bus with our driver, Scooter Herring.
Anyway, your sentence below is the answer I've been looking for every time I question my life. So thank you, Bob.
Spot on. I was a freshman at Georgetown in the spring of 1970 working in the cafeteria for minimum wage – like, $2/hr. One of my fellow workers shared my interest in music – we both came up playing in bands. He talked me into taking a ride one night after work to see a band that was playing at a high school gym in Manassas Junction. I wasn't keen to blow off a night of studying for a dalliance that would cost money since I had very little. He assured me it would be worth my time and the $2 cover.
It was my first exposure to the Allman Bros. – I was fairly current on new music but had never heard of them. It was an unforgettable experience – a totally different mix of rock, country, blues and, yes, jazz. I was – and still am – blown away by the musicianship, Greg's singing and the songs they played. Just literally blew me away. Best $2 I ever spent. Ever.
Up till about 2am this morning. Playing AAB on guitar. Not well, of course. Even when I'm playing well, well will never be anywhere close to that kind of good.
Wow..a great post…it's been somber in Georgia today ?
Goosebumps dude. Thanks for sharing!
I'm just a regular guy, with a regular guy story about Gregg…but your article made me want to share.
My old friend and I, maybe 17 years ago, before cell phones and social media, had just seen The Gregg Allman band at the Fillmore in SF. We were in our late 20's and feeling like we were experiencing the last of our young fun lives.
I hadn't seen him in awhile (my friend) and the night was magic.
Following the show, we took a cab home. As we were exploding post show, we pull up to a stop light. Window of the car next to us rolls down, and the gentleman in the passengers seat asks for directions…is was Gregg!
I, always the innocent to my friends cool, blurted out "that's Gregg Allman!!!. I was shivering. And I went on and on.
He looked back at us…and calmly said…"it's cool man, just chill"…or something like that.
He waved and we went on our way.
What a thrill. RIP Gregg.
Rob Giuffre from SF
Well said Bob. My friends bought 500 tickets to one night every Beacon run. For 15 years. Had a big pre-game at Citrus across the street night of the show. Raised money for the Big House in Macon, Georgia. But ultimately had a great night with the Allmans and everyone at the Beacon. Seeing your favorite band with all your friends at a great venue. What could be better? Uh, nothing. RIP Gregg…and on behalf of all of us, thank you.
David M. Ehrlich
Bob, You are a master writer. End of discussion.
No better tribute
Thank you for writing this. I
Oh Boy ! Was that great !
Yeah Bob. What you said. Carry on.
The Gregg Allman piece was, is brilliant. Just brilliant. A giant in the history of music is gone. Long live the music.
Powerful stuff, Bob. Thanks.
Got on the bus in 69 and never looked back. Through all the highs and lows. There was never a band that grabbed me like theses guys. I saw them 65 or so times either together or solo and was never disappointed. Thanks for run down on your feelings. An NO "The Road Goes On Forever" does not but the music will be here forever!
Daniel J. Weizer
A fine tribute Bob… here's Eric Church with a nice tribute cover of the Midnight Rider…
Thanks, Bob, for a great Gregg sendoff.
My Ohio bar band opened for the Allmans at a Univ. of Kentucky frat party early on in their career. They were so great that on the ride home I started thinking about finding another line of work.
The LA Times obit today ran a great quote from Gregg: "I hope on my deathbed that I'm learning a new chord or writing a new song." A true musician – a great American singer/songwriter as well.
It is a damn shame the ABB has not released more archival releases 1969-2002. I hope the respective estates will authorize some releases to benefit the Big House…If 16,500 Dave's Picks can sell out 4x a year, there has to be a market for ABB material!
Another great tribute to a music legend Bob. I know you are doing too many of these lately but nobody gives the due and respect better. We thank you for reminding us the depth of the music pioneers of our generation. They'll be many more tributes to come sadly but this one hits mighty hard as a Ga boy. God bless Greg and the band for an insurmountable amount of joy their music has given me and the world.
As always a fantastic read. And I know it's a tribute to Gregg and his music but how could you not touch on the scooter herring trial ?
"Live at the Fillmore" was my go-to album on moving day. And I moved a lot as college kids/graduates do. That live album was so alive. For me, it was truly like being in the audience. Great music, filled with songs that resonated. When I moved from one apartment to the next, the first thing I unpacked was my stereo. First, figure out a place for the speakers, the tuner and amp and the turntable. Position the speakers; run the speaker wire (remember when they came out with the "center channel" as a way to trick your ears into surround sound with 3 speakers?); plug the turntable and receiver into the amp. Grab "Live at the Fillmore" and crank it up loud! Every time I moved, it was the first album I played as I unpacked. To this day, the album maintains the magic I heard back in the early 70s during my formative years at Northwestern University and our radio station WNUR. College radio played the hell out of that piece of vinyl.
WNUR host of "The Best in Blues"
Seeing a show in '12 at the Beacon…I was right in front of him…thought he'd never make it back up to the throne when he left after the main set. Derek and Warren that night. Then he did come back and sang "ain't go no one to run with anymore." I literally thought he was saying goodbye. Chill bumps…and that's what we seek.
PS Our generation, the gift now is this set list site. I just love it. The Weight and a Van tune to boot.
Come on Bob. You fucking missed the first album? The Adrian Barber produced first recording sonically crushed Idlewild South. It sounds thin.
I don't know what Dowd was going for, who was a fabulous producer, perhaps it lost its' punch in the mastering, but the low, mid-range dynamics are surprisingly absent.
The first album rips wide open from the first track and track for track, pound for pound this is the masterpiece of all the Allman Bros. studio recordings.
I found it in a box of promos from a college radio station the week it was released and was blown away from the first note.
It even closes with a 5 minute Whipping Post that is far punchier and more visceral than the bloated live version that sounds more like a car crash than the elegant, jazz infused Mountain Jam, Dreams, You Don't Love Me and Elizabeth Reed.
Speaking of which, how can you forget Mountain Jam and Its' ethereal arc and pure virtuosity? The song the last incarnation of the band chose to weave in and out of their entire final gig, not to mention taking up an entire two sides of Eat A Peach.
Finally, if your talking about Gregg's greatest songs and performances you can't leave off "Multi-Colored Lady" from his first solo recording, Laid Back.
Talk about heartfelt blues, this is Gregg's triumph.
Oh by the way I'm bound for Rome.
Come on Bob …
"In Memory of Elizabeth Reid" Live at Fillmore East was what they were all about …
I actually cried in the fall of 1973 when junk like "Ramblin Man" and "Angie" were big hits … it was over … Jim McClean had it wrong – that's when the music died … great bands like Jethro Tull , Led Zeppelin, the Who, Pink Floyd , Rolling Stones, Yes, Traffic, CSN&Y were done … it was all bad … that why "Oldies" emerged, and then Disco … and Country … Punk tried to pick up a little of the former magic, but it was a fake and embarassing …
And it's all been terrible ever since then …
MTV was never about music …
Rap is garbage …
Metallica, Tool, etc is garbage …
And pop like Taylor Swift/Bruno Mars is mid-boggling … it's at the same level as "Dancing with the Stars" …
How music went from Stan Getz and the Bossa Nova to the British Invasion and even fun SF stuff like the We 5 and Spanky & the Gang … to Jimi Hendrix and Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper and the Doors and albums like Sticky Fingers and Who's Next and Led Zeppelin 4 and Low Spark of High Heeled Boys and Dark Side of the Moon … to the junk of 1973 is unimaginable …
ps Fleetwood Mac went from Bob Welch to pop garbage – sums of mid-70s music
Thanks for this Bob. Sad day indeed.
Growing up in Toronto in the early 70's, I became a huge ABB and Gregg fan from the moment the needle dropped on Idlewild South.
This was no small task given they got little to no airplay here until of course Ramblin Man came along.
I tried as hard as I could to turn everyone I knew on to them but in most cases it was a hard sell. People just did not get them.
And forget his solo stuff, most had no use for that. But I got it because as you said "he touched my soul". Still does today and always will.
Sure, I drifted away from Gregg and the Band occasionally, but I always found my way back.
To me, Gregg was the ultimate rock star/cool guy. The hair, the walk, the drawl, the aura that surrounded him, he had it all. He was who I wanted to be.
I got the news walking into a store with my wife. It hit me hard and I went numb for a second. My wife hugged me and said she was sorry because she understood what Gregg meant to me. Then I saw a report that it was not true and breathed a brief sigh of relief until the numerous reports confirming it started to poor in and the sources were too credible to deny.
I've been sad since then but at least I still have the music to listen to as I remember him.
Thanks for listening Bob. Rest easy Midnight Rider!
Thanks Bob…another great read.
We've all seen him live and felt the power. But it was in the lobby of a hotel in SF in 1990 where he became immortal. Dressed in a brown leather jacket with a fox collar, his hair fell like spun gold and matched perfectly. He had a beautiful woman dressed in a matching outfit standing next to him. He was talking on the house phone. That's right…Greg Allman on the house phone in the lobby of my hotel! That's it. He did nothing special. We didn't speak. I saw him from across the room. But there was the rockstar in the room and EVERYONE knew it. You could see the waves of bad ass pouring out of him as he stood there. You could not take your eyes off of him. There were a few others in his group waiting while he talked. He finished call, hung up the phone and with a slight head gesture to the group they were gone.
A masterpiece Bob. Masterpiece. Thank you.
Sometimes, the old school bands still did things the old school way before the security and security guards made everyone unavailable. Below is short story from 2005 I posted on Facebook to tell Greg thanks for an amazing night.
RIP Greg Allman. I took my son, Trey when he was 11 to his first Allman Brother's Concert, and we had front row seats I had won in an online auction. After the concert, Butch Trucks came down and gave Trey his drumsticks. Their manager gave us some backstage passes. Trey had brought his red guitar and we got it back from security. Trey (not me, sadly) was invited to the dressing room and got the drumsticks and guitar signed. Then, the tour manager invited Trey onto Gregg's tour bus to meet Greg. Greg showed him a new way to play Whipping Post and then took out the set list and signed it to Trey. An amazing night with an amazing band and Trey will never forget it. Thanks Greg!!
The last 3 paragraphs of your Gregg Allman remembrance made me cry – I think it's your best writing – I was there when ABB recorded At Fillmore East – I still remember it clearly – the band changed my musical life too- have a great day today, Alan
Bob, your ducking great! No one says it like you. Keep up the good work.
Three Oaks, MI
Thanks for this, Bob. There probably isn?t a musician I saw more times, more than I can count. We went to the Beacon every March for nearly 20 years, 2, sometimes 3 shows.
And I had backstage passes a few times, sat on the stage too. But the sound sucked, so after the thrill and novelty wore off we went back to our seats!
Went to a summer shed show each year too, a great time from the tailgate to Little Martha over the PA as we left fulfilled and happy. I was at the official final Allman Brothers show October 2014, at the Beacon, 3 epic sets and they played until nearly 2:00 am. I cried more than once.
Actually the Grateful Dead was the opener at Watkins Glen. The Band went on second and a huge rain storm blew through and it became muddy and very cool. I was there.
Thanks Bob! I really fell like I lost a brother this weekend. Spent the last few days just listening to his music. This was the soundtrack of my youth. There was nothing else like Gregg's voice. The Hammond B3. Duane's slide guitar. They are back together again!
RE: Gregg Allman
Of all the eulogies written about Gregg Allman your's was the only that told the story right.. It become so obvious when a
millennial writes a piece on a deceased classic rock star..
p.s. I've met two women named after Allman Bros. songs..
Great piece. Phil Walden's business model was to sign anyone who had original material, cut an album, get 'em a truck, bus and road crew and let them go out and build a following. If they could sell the first album, he'd put the farm behind the second.
Lucky enough to see the Allman Brothers in Austin about 6 mos. before Duane died. I was 15. Took my girlfriend. My mom dropped us off and picked us up after.
There were many news and blog posts about Gregg's passing but I didn't even bother reading any of them. I knew your post, when it came, would be the one that summed up what he meant to us.
Bob, I've been an Allmans fan forever..never stopped loving their stuff…I knew something was wrong when Gregg cancelled all his tour dates earlier this year…I guess it was just a matter of time…I have been playing Midnite Rider on stage for years…easily one of my favourites from the band…I was lucky to finally see them about ten years ago at Casino Rama in Orillia, Ontario…They were doing two nights in a row…Should have been there for the Friday nite but couldn't make it until the Saturday?….They seemed a little tired…I'd like to tell you it was a great show but I can't with all due respect…What was special was the fact that I got to see them at all!… the thrill of a lifetime…We were about five rows back with a bird's eye view of Gregg behind the hammond organ which was turned toward the center of the stage giving us a perfect side view of Mr. Allman…Warren Haines on guitar with Derek Trucks who blew me away with his slide playing…the best I've ever heard live…unforgettable show…you're right about the Allmans…you either got it or ya didn't ….There will never be another group like them..They towered above anything since in that genre…no one will miss them more than me….All the Best!
Here is one that always gave me chills:
Incredible Bob, thanks for this 🙂
Thanks for writing about Greg Allman & the ABB. they are a band that was, and in some ways still is a big part of my history and life. I was born & raised in Macon Georgia, went to HS in Jacksonville and Milledgeville GA (actually the capital of the Confederacy) and went to college at University of Florida and lived in Gainesville from 65-75. the Allmans, Dwayne & Greg, were around that area through the 60’s, as were the Second Coming Dickie & Barry’s original band from Jacksonville and the 31st of February Butch’s band. Chuck Leavell was around the same bar circuit as well. I started playing bass in ’65 and saw Greg and Dwayne at the same bars and gigs that I was doing, on different nights obviously. they were always nice to me and were an inspiration. I was learning how to rock, but they already knew!
The Allmans spent a fair amount of time in Gainesville, mainly because there was a great music store there, Lipham Music. the owner, Buster Lipham, helped them get real equipment when they stepped up to the national stage. at one time their stuff was stolen out of a truck and Buster fronted them the $$ to replace it. they payed him back over time religiously. for a short time Greg was married to Ron Blair’s sister Janice Blair. she was a pretty girl, but with all the drugs and everything the marriage didn’t last long.
One of my favorite memories was over Labor Day Weekend 1969 there was a battle of the bands called the Lipham Music Southeast Pop Music Contest, held in the Gainesville High School gym. My band at the time, The NY Mystery Band with Tom Petty bass player Ron Blair on guitar, played – along with many great bands including ABB. the other bands were great, but ABB was over the top, on another level. This was only a few weeks before the release of the ABB's first album. It was an amazing time to be a musician living and growing up in the South.
in the 70’s I saw them a number of times, tho once I was on my path I didn’t get the opportunity. still listened to the music tho, and even today I play some of those iconic jam tunes from the early albums. I sub sometimes with a good New England regional ABB tribute band called the Peacheaters. they take the music seriously and it’s fun to play all those tunes again with people who actually know the parts. so many of those tunes people think they can play, but they don’t.
Ah well, so many of the giants are leaving. pretty soon all will be gone… [sigh]
Thank you, in my opinion one of your best for one of the best! We were at the Tedeschi Trucks show in Jacksonville Saturday night and got the news right before the show, both Derek and Susan seemed to be channeling down from above and you could certainly feel Gregg's presence and certainty his influence! The music lives on!
Bob… I was working on WMMR's Morning Zoo, live from the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, circa 1990, and I accidentally walked in on Greg Allman in the restroom. He was scheduled to be on our radio show and bent over the toilet. I thought he was sick, at first, and asked if he was ok. In a slow, Southern drawl Greg said, "I will be," and snorted what looked like Goody's headache powder (wink, wink). It was 8:00 am. We didn't have the kind of keyboard he liked, so he played 'Melissa' on my acoustic guitar and nailed it. So much for moderation. R.I.P.
Firstly, thanks for writing the Lefsetz letter. You have a unique mind and I for one am grateful that you share it.
In the early 90’s, and in what now feels like a different lifetime, I was a recoding engineer. I had the great pleasure of spending maybe 4 days with Greg in Sausalito, CA recording song demos for the Brothers. Allen Woody was on bass and Tony Williams was on drums. It was a very casual vibe in the studio that week, and Greg was nothing but personable and in good humor.
At one point, while we were going about our business setting up for the next take, Greg was off sitting in a corner rummaging through a bag. Then he just started cracking up laughing to himself. We all look over smiling. His laugh was infectious. He was sitting there with his reading glasses on trying to make out the label on a bottle of medicine. Then he cracks a joke about how he used to take pills so he wouldn’t see straight and now he has to take them so he can! The ironies of his life were not lost on him! For that week anyway, he had an easy going sincerity that we would all do well to try and emulate.
When it came time to record vocals, we were in a large control room so I set Greg up at the B3 just behind the outboard rack facing my back as I sat at the console. He was maybe 7 or 8 feet away. I roll tape and when he starts to sing it was not so much a tingly down my spine as a blinding flash. Suddenly the memory of countless nights growing up in my high school friends' basements came flooding in — of playing music and doing things our parents did NOT want to know about, much of it while listing to “Live at Fillmore East,” “Bothers and Sisters” and “Eat A Peach.” I GREW UP WITH THIS GUY! It was THAT voice right here in the room with me! His singing communicated directly from his heart through the conduit of one of the greatest voices God ever bestowed on a man. The importance of music in my life, in all our lives, became distilled into a single moment. I guess you call that an epiphany…
Bob, you are fond of saying that we should never underestimate the power of music. Please keep reminding us.
In '71 three of us made the trip to the Fillmore East to see the Allman Brothers. Canned Heat came on stage first, and the crowd got antsy very fast. And as I remember it, with the smoky fumes wafting up to the balcony seats, the Heat were booed off the stage (not really booed but encouraged to finish quick) and out they came – the boys we were there to see/hear/feel/experience.
The greatest ever blues singer was in the greatest ever American band AND he was that cool?..get the f… out. Thank you for that letter as I read it in blurred fashion through my tears and listen to the link.
Bob, I got my start in the music biz back in the 70s partially due to the ABB. I’d just moved to Atlanta next to Piedmont Park and heard some guitars tuning up nearby after unpacking the last boxes. It turned out to be this little band starting to play in a Park gazebo and they kicked into a mix of rock, blues, R&B with some country tinges and I was mesmerised. I went back to see them every Sunday like hundreds, then thousands did at their impromptu free gigs.
I had no idea what I was going to do with my life and after a bout of wholesaling fine emerald stones from Mexico, Jamaica and Colombia as well as bootlegging trailer loads of Coors beer from Oklahoma, we met again when I fulfilled their concert rider with the rare brew through a few promoter..
From there I went to work with Atlanta promoter Alex Cooley and worked with an array of Southern Rock bands through that connection, then connecting to the R&B scene through black promoter Quinton Perry. But my fave shows were always ABB concerts, even to making the trek to the Beacon from Australia for two of their last nights in 2014.
Part of what made the band was their loyal road crew, acknowledged with a gatefold shot on the Fillmore album and they were a production machine. Oddly enough some of the members of the crew formed their own band and recorded an album
The Almost Brothers “A Band of Roadies” https://play.spotify.com/album/0cSjpklCNiKDX7edjG2ktS?utm_source=phplist5867&utm_medium=email&utm_content=text&utm_campaign=Re-Gregg+Allman
Twiggs Lyndon, who played guitar in this motley crew of giggers was also road manager for Percy Sledge and Little Richard was an incredible innovator of road hacks like making a curved steel top of a barricade in front of the stage coated with motor oil to prevent climbers and in a freezing outdoor concert in Germany for Dixie Dregs who he toured with after the Allmans, he rigged up a hair dryer at the end of a PVC pipe drilled with holes that was positioned over Chuck Leavell’s keyboards to warm his hands. Twiggs died tragically in a parachuting accident in 1979.
Red Dog Campbell was another character in road crew of 10 or so as was road manager Willie Perkins and guitar tech Joe Dan Petty
Aside from Gregg’s great bio “My Cross to Bear", there are a number of books about the band.
Midnight Riders: The Story of the Allman Brothers Band by Scott Freeman
No Saints, No Sinners: My Years with the Allman Brothers Band by Willie Perkins
Skydog: The Duane Allman Story by Randy Poe
The Allman Brothers Band by Peter Gregory
Street Singers, Soul Shakers, Rebels With a Cause: Macon Music by Candice Dyer
Legendary Red Dog: A Book of Tails by Joseph “Red Dog” Campbell
But best of all there is a rich resource of a few hundred live gigs recorded by Munck Music, many of which are stellar additions to an ABB collection over and above their label releases
Bless you for your insight.
Nice piece (as usual!)
I was lucky enough to have attended their second visit to the Fillmore East when they opened for the Dead.
While the Dead seemed to meander often aimlessly the Allman's when hitting a rare lull immediately kicked it back into gear with a relentless drive and purpose.
I was back for the "Live" show. I have a program and stub somewhere and bought the show they ended up headlining.
One of the truly great sets ever. They were on fire.
It should be noted that the opening acts were indicative of just how good an night at the Fillmore East could be. Eleven Bishop opened with a group that included the Pointer Sisters as backup singers.
Johnny Winter And followed with Rick Derringer.
One night and five of the greatest Rock and Roll guitar players anywhere anytime (Duane, Dickie, Johnny, Rick and Elvin) AND The Pointer Sisters!
My orchestra stub says $5.50.
It just doesn't get any better for a music lover! (casual or serious).
He doesn't get mentioned as often but Berry Oakley was a driving force in this fantastic band.
Hearing the intro to "Whipping Post" live was an experience–you knew something special was happening and'something even more special was coming. (that's what a great intro is for after all).
Great piece Bob
Gregg Allman had his share of misfortune. His artistic outlet kept him alive for almost 70 years. His music still feeds the soul of a generation.
"Ok…the Allman Brothers Band."
That reticent introduction to "Statesboro Blues" got me every time! Not adequately conveying how explosive the band that sat next him was. How do you introduce that sound? Those next five notes, before Duane's slide kicked in…Just perfect. But the introduction was also perfect in its own way, just get out of the way and let the music speak for itself.
I was surprised by how the news of Gregg's death affected me. I grew up in Georgia and ABB was hard to miss. There was a great rock station in ATL when I was growing up, WKLS – 96 Rock. They constantly played great Georgia bands like ABB, The Black Crowes, R.E.M., and Drivin' N' Cryin'. The Allmans were my favorite though. I started playing guitar in middle school and started trying to learn all of their songs. I had a band in high school that would always play "Midnight Rider", "Whipping Post", and "Melissa" at our coffeehouse gigs. Just what everyone wasted to listen to…. We always tried a way to find a way to play ABB live. My senior year of high school they played Music Midtown. A huge festival that always brought great talent to ATL but seemingly always ended early due to rain. They went away for several years and are now back with a narrowed scope but still big talent. The Brothers at Music Midtown was the first concert I freaked out at. Couldn't believe what I was witnessing. Dickey was still in the band at the time. I was proud to say I got to see them play together.
When I went to college, I spent years almost exclusively listening to the Allman Brothers Band. At college is where I first discovered At Fillmore East. I didn't realize until then that when I heard "Statesboro Blues", "Whipping Post", and "One Way Out" on the radio as a kid that they were actually live recordings from this album. Holy shit! I think I listened to that album everyday for a year. At the bars I used to find those digital jukeboxes where you can download songs and I'd always find "Mountain Jam" and play it. 33+ minutes for one credit seemed like the best deal around! Not sure anyone appreciated it, ha. During that time, I also began to dig deeper into their catalogue. Found Gregg's Laid Back record. Found The Duane Allman Anthology, which many say has the birth of Southern Rock on it – Duane's guitar solo on Wilson Pickett's "Hey Jude". The further and further I dug, the more obsessed I became with the band. I felt like they didn't have any bad songs. I remember the first time hearing "Come and Go Blues" on some documentary they did and Gregg played it as an outtake on just an acoustic guitar. I was enthralled with his Open G tuning. Our college band always played ABB. As a musician their songs were so fun to play and everyone in Georgia loved them! Like playing Waylon or Willie in Texas. During this time, the band released two albums. One was a live show recorded at the Atlanta International Pop Festival which was the first time I heard "Don't Keep Me Wonderin' ". The other album was Hittin' The Note
as you mentioned. And while I agree with you that "Desdemona" is a fantastic song that could've been good at any point in their history, I think "Instrumental Illness" is one of their best songs of all time. The musicianship is unparalleled. Warren panned to one side and Derek panned to the other and all played and recorded live. I have dreams of being able to play like that!
I went to the University of Georgia. The Athens music scene was always strong. When I was there Drive-By Truckers with Isbell, John Mayer, and Luke Bryan were all staples. In Athens, I got to see every side project iteration that the ABB band members had – Saw Dickey Betts & Great Southern (with Dangerous Dan Toler), Derek Trucks Band, Gov't Mule with Johnny Neal. What a musical education! I dated a girl that was from Macon, GA and I remember the one of the first things we did was go back to Macon and see all the ABB hot spots: Rose Hill Cemetery where Duane and Berry are buried and where the band spent a lot of time writing songs; The Big House; H & H restaurant; and a few other things. Her dad gave me a rare live vinyl. We eventually broke up but I still have that vinyl. One night in Macon we went to see Widespread Panic and Chuck Leavell sat in with them. Not sure if he's the greatest rock keys player of all time, but he definitely makes the short list. And he played the piano solo on "Jessica" and here we were watching him play IN Macon, GA.
The Summer of my sophomore year, I moved to Nashville to take an unpaid position sweeping floors at a studio during the graveyard shift. That Summer ABB came to Starwood Amphitheater on 4th of July weekend. Couldn't think of a better way to celebrate the the holiday. At that ABB show in Nashville, I decided that when I graduated from school I was going to move to Nashville and work in the music biz, whatever that meant. I had the bug. I loved playing guitar but knew my limitations. What I could do really well was talk to anybody. I enjoyed it and I always set up the gigs my band played (before I knew we could ask for money!)
So after school and upon the urging of my then girlfriend/now wife, I moved to Nashville by myself. I went to grad school and looked for any music industry job I could find. I worked at a chicken finger restaurant when I met my friend who ended getting me a job at WME. Since working at WME, several big moments of my professional career have happened with Gregg involved. As a young agent, i booked a Hank Williams Jr. and Gregg Allman package at a festival in Alabama. Gregg was not a client at the time, but we rep Hank Jr. and booking him that summer meant also booking Gregg. I remember calling my mom to tell her. Feeling like life had been complete. Another moment came when my colleague, CJ Strock, helped me get my client, Amanda Shires, on a dozen or so Gregg Allman dates including at the Ryman. Let me tell you, Gregg still had it! He hit all the notes he once did. And that time that Gregg needed a last minute opener on NYE in Atlanta an CJ (again) put my best friend, Sean McConnell, on the show as support. The same singer who played ABB songs with me at all those terrible high school and college gigs we did was now opening for the man himself! I've now been at WME almost 11 years, and I believe that my passion for music, which flourished because of Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers, is one of my biggest assets as an agent. I feel like I'm able to connect with artists on a musical level in a way that others can't.
I'm not sure there'll ever be another artist that'll have the same effect on me as Gregg and his band. He could sing, he could play, he could write! And I loved it all. If I could, I would've thanked him, but I never got the chance. Honestly I'm not even sure why I wrote all of this to you….catharsis I suppose. Don't know anywhere else this would be an appropriate email given the length. Sorry! If nothing else, it gave me the weekend to dig through all their music and show my kids.
Jonathan Insogna | WME