Today’s New York Times reviews Gregg Allmann’s new autobiography, My Cross to Bear. Reviewer David Kirby gives it a qualified thumbs-up, but is horrified by the drugs and drink ingested by Allmann and his band-mates:
At the height of their success, the band members walked onto the jet they’d just acquired to find “Welcome Allman Bros” spelled out in cocaine on the bar. Yet there’s none of the Dionysian cackling you hear below the surface of “Life,” Keith Richards’s monumental recounting of the Rolling Stones’ story. And while “My Cross to Bear” isn’t the most degrading account of a musician undone by narcotics (that honor belongs to “Three Dog Nightmare,” by the former Three Dog Night frontman Chuck Negron), Allman reckons he went into treatment 18 times before getting clean.
The band that gave us “Whipping Post” and “Ramblin’ Man” broke up in 1976, at least partly because of a bust in which he was spared after agreeing to testify against the road manager who’d bought drugs for him. Drinking up to two quarts of vodka a day didn’t help, and in 2010 Allman underwent a liver transplant. “I have had my fun when it comes to women,” he writes — O.K., but he married and divorced six of them, three by the time he was 30. . .
“My Cross to Bear” has all the earmarks of a text dictated by its subject and cleaned up by someone else, meaning it has too many ho-hum moments but also the charm of a real voice. In Allman’s case, that’s a lot of correct Good Old Boy usages (“you didn’t want to wear no pair of wool pants without no drawers on”) that may challenge readers not conversant with that tongue.
The sad part (for us) is that Allman finds God at the end. Well, if that myth helped him clean up, fine. I guess rock stars have reached the age when they write memoirs (Keith Richards’s memoir, Life, is supposed to be excellent), but it shows that we of the Sixties we’re marching toward the forward trenches.
At any rate, I often ponder what career I would have like to have had if I hadn’t been a scientist. The answer always comes up the same: rock star, preferably a multitalented one like Steve Stills or Eric Clapton. What a rush it must be to be up on stage before thousands of people entranced by your skills on an electric guitar, and to make loud, wonderful music, either in front of others or jamming with your pals!