Gregg Allman – Not Gonna Let ‘Em Catch Me

“I don’t think I ever really wished for fame. I just – music, just does it for me.” – Gregg Allman

Anyone who has followed this blog for more than five minutes knows of my love for the Allman Brothers Band. I’ve long since done a tribute to the band which you can read here. I would be totally remiss if I didn’t say something about brother Gregg who passed away yesterday, May 27, 2017.

If Gregg wasn’t the greatest white blues singer of the rock era, I don’t know who was. His voice was so deep, so bluesy, so soulful, that at the tender age of twenty, he already sounded like a guy who’d been down that long, lonesome road. And then some. Even in his earliest recordings, says Sheryl Crow, “He sounded like he’d already lived a thousand lifetimes.”

Gregg talked about singing in his 2012 autobiography, My Cross to Bear. (One of Gregg’s earliest songs is a great blues called, “It’s Not My Cross to Bear.”) When they were living in Daytona Beach as teenagers, he and his brother Duane played in a band with a local blues guy named Floyd Miles.

“Floyd gave me a tip about singing,” Gregg writes. “Don’t sing from your chest,” he said. “Tighten up your tummy. That’s where you sing from. That’s where the power comes from. You’ll get it when you don’t think about it.”

Gregg, by his own account, got it and never thought about it again. (Never went back to dental school either, his fallback profession, I shit you not.) I don’t think he rated himself as highly as other people did. Rolling Stone lists him as #70 on their all-time greatest singers. Me, I’d rate him a lot higher. But that’s just me.

Overlooked in Gregg’s pantheon of skills is his fine work as an organist. It totally seems to get overlooked and you can hear great stuff in songs like “Stormy Monday,” or “Hot ‘Lanta.” Here’s a tasty number from Gregg’s 2011 album, Low Country Blues. It’s called “Little by Little:”

Spotify link

Gregg was a fine songwriter too. “Midnight Rider,” is a countryish song that pretty much everybody has covered. That long lonesome road? Sure. You live long enough, eventually, you’ll wind up hitchin’ a ride on it.

I could post that one. But I’m instead gonna go with a really nice song, “Please Call Home,” originally from the Allmans’ second album, Idlewild South (1970.)  Here’s a sweet version from their Beacon run in 2009. (Clapton joined them on that run but not on this tune. Nothing wrong with Warren and Derek’s playing here.) Warren’s tribute to Gregg on his passing is here.

Spotify link (w/Dickey Betts)

Gregg also wrote “Melissa.” and the classic “Whipping Post,” a song about love gone pretty damn wrong. I posted previously about how Gregg wrote it on an ironing board cover with burnt matches because he couldn’t find paper and pencil.

I recently saw an interview of Gregg by journalist Dan Rather. (Rather may seem like an unusual choice but he’s actually a fellow Southerner which I think makes a difference. When Gregg talked about how California’s great but it doesn’t have Southern food, Rather was right there with him.) Gregg talked about how his father was murdered by a hitchhiker when he was two. So he was raised by his eccentric motorcycle-riding mother Geraldine.

And also somewhat by his older brother Duane who went on to some notoriety of his own. Where Gregg was shy and somewhat withdrawn, Duane was what we might today call a Type-A extrovert.  He was a leader and a cut-up.

Duane, of course, died later in a motorcycle accident. Duane was everything to Gregg who lost not only a brother but also a father figure, albeit one who used to beat him up and bust his balls on a fairly regular basis. And then about a year later, weirdly, bassist Berry Oakley died in a motorcycle accident not too far from where Duane died.

I think that to some extent it was this combination of tragedy and loss, along with the “anything goes” lifestyle of a rock musician that led Gregg to a self-medicating place where he would eventually wind up going to (count ’em) 14 rehabs. “But I didn’t go to 15,” he advises.

As is well known, Gregg was – to quote a song he did a few years back – no angel. He liked to party. And he put away, at one point, a quart of vodka a day. In his interview with Rather, he says I “had a liver transplant, I had Hepatitis C, and I had cancer.” (We were supposed to go see him at a small outdoor venue a few years back. Bought tickets and everything but it was canceled as were so many of his shows in the last few years.)

In fact, when the Allmans were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, Gregg was so severely fucked-up on alcohol he couldn’t put a coherent speech together. He saw himself later on TV and was appalled and “cried like a baby.”

Gregg had about six wives, one of whom was, famously, Cher back in the Seventies. This fact alone kicked Gregg into tabloid celebrityhood. We won’t talk about the album they did together. They had one kid, Elijah Blue, but couldn’t go the distance. Gregg blames himself for the failure but maintains they remained good friends. “Words,” she tweeted on hearing of his death, “are impossible.”

I mentioned in my Allmans post that I saw them many times, maybe 15 or 20. The very last time I saw them was in 2014 at the Beacon Theater in New York at one of their last shows. Jack Bruce died the same day. They played “Politician.” (I originally had tickets for the final show but due to Gregg’s shaky health, the show was postponed till later in the year.)

They played their very last show on October 28, 2014, but finished the show after midnight on the 29th, 43 years to the day from Duane’s death. After that, Gregg continued to play as a solo artist but I think he missed playing as many gigs as he made.

Gregg is one of the few celebrities I ever met. Walked right up to him, shook his hand. Talked to him for a little bit. How did this magical event come to be? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother story and it’s one I’ve been working on for a while. I hope to finish it and post it sometime this year. Trust me, you will enjoy it.

With the death earlier this year of drummer Butch Trucks, the only remaining members of the original band are guitarist Dickey Betts (73) and drummer Jaimoe (72).

Gregg was working on an album called Southern Blood when he died. Produced by Don Was, it’ll be released later this year.

Oh, one more thing. In that interview with Dan Rather, Gregg was asked which song of his he’d want played after he’s gone. “The next one,” he said. But what else Rather persisted. “Well,” Gregg said. “Anything by Muddy Waters.”

So here you go, Gregg. A Muddy song you guys covered on your second album, “Hoochie Coochie Man.” Hope it gives you as much pleasure as your music has given me over the years. Rock on, brother.

Spotify link

 

45 thoughts on “Gregg Allman – Not Gonna Let ‘Em Catch Me

    1. Yes, once I heard the news yesterday at about 3:30 or EST, I knew the rest of my day was spoken for. I’ve been really noting the outpouring of love for Gregg not only in the media but also on Twitter. Country artists! Rockers! Beatles (Ringo). Noticeably absent – Dickey Betts. Hmmm. As to listening to the Allmans today, yes I’m afraid that you (we) have no choice in the matter.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Nice post! While I knew Allman’s health had been in decline, I’m still a bit in disbelief he’s gone. I also look forward to reading about your personal encounter with Gregg someday. And, BTW, what a beautifully written tribute from Warren Haynes!

    When I was looking for clips for my post yesterday and watched the performance of “Soulshine” the Allman Brothers gave at the Beacon in 2013, I literally started losing it –
    listening to Gregg singing and playing his Hammond B-3 made me cry!

    I think when music gives you goosebumps, makes you want to dance or brings you to tears, you know it’s special!

    Like

    1. Amen to all that. Yes, my Gregg story is pretty good. It has actually blown a few minds. (Nope, never played with them, not even close.) I need to jump on that, get it going again.

      I’ve been waiting for a Dickey comment. He came through I posted something in a comment below that includes the Warren one, plus Dickey and a few more.

      Like

    1. Yeah, I was pretty happy when I remembered I had that interview. Right at the end, he says he wants a Muddy Waters song at his memorial. No idea if the Brothers are aware of this and so I figured hey, why not. Man, that generation is just going too soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. He was so musically talented. He actually taught Duane to play guitar. I saw ABB once, back in ’79 or so, at a Southern rock outdoor festival. ABB was , of course, the headliner. I look forward to hearing about your conversation with him.

    Like

  3. Yeah, he definitely played guitar before Duane and showed him his first few chords. But by his own admission, Duane sailed past him on guitar after a very short time and Gregg took up the keyboards. I read a book about Duane called ‘Skydog’ and there was some local guy that taught him a lot. Funniest story about Duane is that he’d listen to a B.B. King record, then reach over to the record player with his bare foot and move the needle back to play the passage again to learn it.

    Gregg definitely brought the passion, that’s for sure. Meeting him was an unexpected pleasure. The whole story is pretty cool and I think I need to get my ass in gear and continue working on it.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes that’s what happened. Flashed red Spam and vanished. Can it be retrieved or what’s the story? CB is lacking in computer tech stuff. Why would it do that after all all correspondence? No I didn’t see your note.

          Like

  4. I’ve seen it happen with my posts to others, theirs to mine. It’s some weird glitch.

    If you look at your ‘Posts’ view, you should see a ‘Comments’ section. Click on that. Up top, you’ll see ‘All,’ ‘Pending,’ ‘Approved,’ ‘Spam,’ ‘Trash.’ You’ll see a number in parentheses next to ‘Spam.’ if you’ve never checked it, could be large. Click on ‘Spam.’

    99% will truly be spam. WP does a good job of catching them. If you see my comment, you can click on ‘Not Spam’ and it will restore it. If you find that the rest are crap, go up to ‘Empty Spam’ and it will dump all of them. Good to check every now and again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cool. We saw them about 5 or 6 years ago in Boston at the Orpheum Theater where they earlier recorded part of one of their Dickey-era live albums. When I went in, I gave somebody at the desk 15 or so bucks. When the show ended, those of us who did that queued up and got a CD of that very show, recorded direct from the board. Consider that, by comparison. ‘At Fillmore East’ was released four months after it was recorded.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea, I recall you dug that album when I posted one of the songs on a three-song roundup a while back. Gregg is, IMHO, one of the greatest blues singers, white or black, ever. And pretty good on non-blues stuff, too. I had wanted to post his definitive version of Jackson Browne’s “These Days” in the post but went with Muddy Waters. Check this out if/when you have time. This is from “Laid Back.”

      Liked by 1 person

        1. What do you call it now? 🙂 BTW, he and Jackson Browne were old friends from Gregg’s stint in LA in the Sixties. Jackson liked Gregg’s interpretation so much he adopted it and it became the standard. A bittersweet tune.

          Like

    1. Yeah I’ve resumed working on that. It’s a trip down memory lane that I think you will get a kick out of. The problem now is that I have too much information about this whole experience. (It was a road trip and I wrote a sort of diary .) So I need to pare it down.

      Like

  5. In all the understandable discussion about Gregg, I mentioned that I had met and talked to him. I should also mention that I had quite a good conversation with their drummer Jaimoe who is, thankfully, very much still with us. A really, really cool guy and I look forward to relating that part of the story as well.

    Like

  6. When i was over checking out Pink Grappelli i saw this Steve Earle ‘Midnight Rambler’ tribute. I don’t know how you feel bout Earle but I dig him. It’s heartfelt with a good rap by Earle and a good version. Intimate little setting In Canada. Someone on the comments spotted Lightfoot in the crowd. You’ll see him. Pretty cool.

    Like

    1. I’ll check it out. As you mentioned on Pete’s site, I am hardly the country music guy. I at least know of Earle and his reputation but I am not all that familiar with his work.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I really like his work. I just thought that you would relate to his connection to the Allmans and his sincerity. All that stuff like CCR, The Band, Allmans, J.J. Cale, Bruce …. all dip their toes in the country roots. Earle does some real hard edge guitar stuff. I’ll have to dig a couple cuts up for you. “NYC’ off the top of my head.

        Like

        1. I went over there and checked it out. A couple of things to say. First, I dug Earle’s version. He sings it with the “lived-in” feel the song requires. I also didn’t know he was such an ABB fan.

          I also really agreed with his rap about how it’s the songs that matter. We remember the great bands because they have great songs and they can sing and play them well. Seems obvious but bears remembering I think.

          Lastly, Gordon Lightfoot. I could not find him in the video and so searched for him today. Holy cow! I was not expecting the strapping young guy of the ’70’s. But he did not look good. So I read about him and I was not aware of all his health problems. Good God, he’s lucky to be alive. He’s approaching 80 but it’s a hard 80.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Thought you would dig Steve’s comments. They ring true and come from a guy who has no bullshit involved. He’s old school, he plays live all the time. earned his chops.
          If you look closely he’s sitting there looking real old but he’s digging the music. The camera stays on him for a few seconds. He’s also a good guy from all accounts.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. I have a help request in with WP. I’m getting a few more no goes from others. A bit of a piss off. I’m on the basic plan, maybe that has something to do with it. Your last comment was on the Getaway. Maybe I have to upgrade?

          Like

        4. What a pain in the ass, eh? Unless WP has some new policy I’m unaware of, you shouldn’t have to upgrade. I’m on the basic plan too. I pay them $25/year to own the domain. That’s it. For the most part, no major support issues.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. If all else fails, you’ll find a ‘Support’ link somewhere on WP. I often am able to open up a ‘live’ chat session if I catch them at the right time.

          Like

What would you say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s