Greg Allman died

According to CNN, one of my music heroes, Greg Allman, just died at the age of 69, The details:

Gregg Allman, a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band who overcame family tragedy, drug addiction and health problems to become a grizzled elder statesman for the blues music he loved, has died. He was 69.

Allman died due to liver cancer complications at his home in Savannah, Georgia, and he was “surrounded by his family and friends,” Michael Lehman, Allman’s longtime manager and close friend, told CNN.
He will be buried at Rose Hill cemetery in Macon, GA, though a funeral date has not yet been set, Lehman said.
According to a statement posted to his official website, Allman had struggled with many health issues over the past several years.
Allman was of course a long-time drug user, and also had hepatitis C; you can see a video of him explaining his disease at the CNN site. I was shocked at how thin and wasted he looked.

There’s a lot I could say about his music—his great songs, his gutsy blues voice, and the wonderful synergy of the Allman Brothers Band, of which he was an integral part. But I’ll let two of songs stand for his legacy.

The first, “One Way Out“, was written by Sonny Boy Williamson and redone by the Allman Brothers. It also features Dickey Betts, who (amazingly) is still alive:

That’s a smoking band!

. . . and an acoustic version of another of my favorites, “Melissa“, written by Greg himself (read about the genesis of “Melissa” at the link). It’s a haunting and beautiful song. Wikipedia notes this about it:

When Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1971, his brother performed the song at his funeral, as he had grown to like the song over the years. Gregg Allman commented that it “didn’t sit right” that he used one of his brother’s old guitars for the performance, but he nonetheless got through it; he called it “my brother’s favorite song that I ever wrote.”

There was never a band like the Allman Brothers, and there won’t be one again. (n.b.: Allman and Betts are both wearing cowboy boots.)

You may remember that for a short time he was married to Cher, and here’s her reaction on Twitter (go here for a collection of reactions by musicians and others).

Finally, a 7½-minute PBS mini-documentary of Greg Allman, made five years ago:

43 Comments

  1. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    I will otherwise desist from speaking ill of the dead, but I will never forgive him for snitching on Scooter Herring.

    • Posted May 27, 2017 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that wasn’t good–not good at all. But it doesn’t detract from the music.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 27, 2017 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        Agreed. I’d venture to hell to hear Duane and Berry Oakley play with Robert Johnson. 🙂

        • Mark R.
          Posted May 27, 2017 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

          Can Stevie Ray Vaughn sit in for a song or two? 🙂

          • BJ
            Posted May 27, 2017 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

            Throw Jimmy Page, Chet Atkins, Jerry Garcia, and Mark Knopfler in there too. What a sesh

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted May 27, 2017 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

              Messrs. Page & Knopfler might object, as they’re still among the quick. 🙂

              • Mark R.
                Posted May 27, 2017 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

                Yes…this für die Toten.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted May 27, 2017 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

                … and whose licks suggest a Faustian bargain — Garcia & Atkins might qualify.

              • BJ
                Posted May 28, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

                Knopfler has slowed down though. Listen to him try to play the fastest part of the solo in Sultans of Swing in recent performances.

                I mean, he hasn’t slowed to Steve Howe levels, but he has slowed a bit. So had Page, to the same extent.

    • mordacious1
      Posted May 27, 2017 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      You still have him tied to the whipping post?

      • Ann German
        Posted May 27, 2017 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

        Whipping post intricate time signature:

        Musically, the composition was immediately noticeable for its use of 11/4 time signature in the introduction. (It is also sometimes described as 11/8,[11] and band drummer Butch Trucks called it simply “a lick in 11” or “elevens”.[12]) As Gregg Allman later said:

        “I didn’t know the intro was in 11/4 time. I just saw it as three sets of three, and then two to jump on the next three sets with: it was like 1,2,3—1,2,3—1,2,3—1,2. I didn’t count it as 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11. It was one beat short, but it didn’t feel one short, because to get back to the triad, you had two steps to go up. You’d really hit those two hard, to accent them, so that would separate the threes. … [Duane] said, ‘That’s good man, I didn’t know that you understood 11/4.’ Of course I said something intelligent like, ‘What’s 11/4?’ Duane just said, ‘Okay, dumbass, I’ll try to draw it up on paper for you.'”

    • BJ
      Posted May 27, 2017 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      WOW. I did not know that story.

      On the other hand, having attended law school and knowing how prosecutors work, I can understand how Greg could both do what he did and feel horrible, enraged, and guilty about it at the same time. Prosecutors tend to be absolutely ruthless animals (especially a Georgian prosecutor going after a drug dealer in the 70’s), and I can’t imagine what Greg went through before he ended up providing that testimony.

      Thank the universe that Scooter ended up serving “only” 30 months. (I put “only” in quotes because even a few months in prison can destroy a man’s soul).

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 27, 2017 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

        While you’re at it, thank the lawyer I went to work for after my clerkship; he’s the one who represented Scooter pro bono and sprung him after 30 months in stir.

        • Diane G.
          Posted May 28, 2017 at 12:15 am | Permalink

          Sounds like you picked an excellent guy to work for.

        • BJ
          Posted May 28, 2017 at 12:19 am | Permalink

          WOW, aren’t you lucky! That’s amazing

  2. Jiten
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    I like “One Way Out” but I didn’t know the version by the Allman Brothers. It’s quite good too.

  3. Randy Bessinger
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    The best concert I have ever seen was the original band in concert at MU in Columbia, Mo. Magical night. Sad news.

    • Posted May 27, 2017 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      I saw them twice, both after Duane died. Fantastic concerts.

    • BJ
      Posted May 27, 2017 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      What I wouldn’t give to see the whole original band (and yes, I mean with Duane). Their best album really shows just how important Duane was, as you can tell just in which songs his presence is missing. However, they still managed to make great music after that (how could they not? They still had some amazing people, and Betts in particular) like Brothers and Sisters.

      Farewell, Greg!

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 27, 2017 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

        Some of my favorite playin’ by Duane is on Wilson Pickett’s cover of “Hey Jude.”

        Story goes, that’s what caught Clapton’s ear and led to his inviting Duane to sit in on the Derek & the Dominos sessions.

        • BJ
          Posted May 28, 2017 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

          Never heard it! Time to go a-searchin’

          • Brujo Feo
            Posted May 28, 2017 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

            Indeed. The story seems to be true. More than one reviewer has said that Duane’s solo on Wilson Pickett’s “Hey Jude” was EC’s favorite guitar solo of all time.

            Which seems really suspect, considering Duane’s absolutely revelatory body of other work, some of which I have already referenced here.

            Look, I’m a completely rabid Duane devoté, but his “Hey Jude” solo against, let’s say, Larry Carlton’s solo on Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne”? I think not. And don’t make me release my flying monkeys, like Zappa’s work on “Overnight Sensation.”

            • BJ
              Posted May 28, 2017 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

              Thank you for mentioning those latter two. Maybe this whole story, if true, confirms what I’ve been saying for a long time: Eric Clapton is one of (if not the) most overrated guitar players in history. He was pretty good. He was a good songwriter. One of the best guitarists ever? Get outta here.

        • Ken Phelps
          Posted May 29, 2017 at 8:30 am | Permalink

          This might be a good time to mention the Muscle Shoals documentary available on Netflix.

          • Brujo Feo
            Posted May 29, 2017 at 8:38 am | Permalink

            From Netflix: “Muscle Shoals is unavailable to stream. This title is available on Netflix DVD.”

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted May 28, 2017 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

        John McLaughlin on electrified acoustic played once [or twice?] with Jimi in NY & he showed himself to be able to add to Jimi [a rare thing]
        I think it’s on a bootleg

        Astonishing breadth of styles
        Jeff Beck said at some point that he’s the best guitarist alive

        Not exactly a rocker, but he deserves more recognition outside of jazz & fusion circles

  4. Michael Fisher
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    What does Cher mean by GUI?

    • Mark R.
      Posted May 27, 2017 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      Graphic User Interface? Good question.

  5. Kevin
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Great sounds….will be missed.

  6. Mark R.
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    One of the best live bands ever. Huge loss. I lift a dry hard cider in your honor Mr. Allman.

  7. Michael Scullin
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    I was playing “Duane Allman an Anthology” just last week — LOUD (my wife was out shopping), and I reached into my desk drawer for a harmonica to join in. Apparently that sounded good to our dog who then joined me. We had a good time.

  8. Brujo Feo
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Any number of commentators have said of Gregg (note the spelling) that he was the “greatest of the white blues singers,” or words to that effect.

    Which always made me question…which black ones did they have in mind? He was the greatest blues singer ever, period. (Oh no…Jeebus! Did I just commit an act of cultural appropriation?) Allow me to present my case:

    While both Allmans had earlier bands, the first that most would have ever heard him sing would have been on the eponymous “The Allman Brothers Band,” released in November, 1969. Gregg Allman had yet to see his 22nd birthday. The album opens with the Spencer Davis instrumental “Don’t Want You No More,” but then segues into the Gregg original “It’s Not My Cross to Bear.” The album closes with the iconic “Whipping Post,” another Gregg original. I’ve been listening to those tracks for 46 years now, and either will still raise goosebumps and bring a tear to my eye. Everything else that he did after that was pure gravy.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 27, 2017 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

      Props for the shout-out to the Spencer Davis Group — 16-year-old Stevie Winwood’s first band. I’ve been diggin’ them since “Gimme Some Lovin'” and “I’m a Man” cracked the charts. Blue-eyed soul at its best.

  9. Posted May 27, 2017 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Oh yeah, smoking band, the dead bit though is far too early, the stilling of the licks.

  10. eric
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    A sad loss. Never a big fan but still appreciated his artistry. 69 is 5-10 too young for our generation; everyone take care of yourself (and make some positive effort to leave your fortunes to good causes rather than letting lawyers, the state, and second cousins argue over it!)

  11. Diane G.
    Posted May 28, 2017 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    Such a loss.

  12. Don Mackay
    Posted May 28, 2017 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    Thankyou Jerry for posting this very sad news.
    The Allmnans were a wonderful band, uniquely telling stories with their guitar work, touching souls in ways rarely repeated since by anyone in the rock business.
    RIP Greg.

  13. Posted May 28, 2017 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    They were never the same after Duane passed, but they were well worth seeing up to the end. The annual Beacon runs were always a treat and introduced me to Derek Trucks and Warrren Haynes, two excellent guitar players that carried on the music after the falling out with Dickie Betts. One of the highlights of my musical adventures was seeing Clapton playing with ABB from the first row sitting 5 feet from Gregg. Awesome. Good bye to a true legend.

    • BJ
      Posted May 28, 2017 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

      Somehow, they still managed to make their second-best studio album without him: Brothers and Sisters. Dicky Betts, man. Without him, that band would have been nothing after Duane’s death. He co-wrote Jessica, and wtote or co-wrote most of the songs on the album (including Ramblin Man, while a hit, was not very Allman-like).

  14. Mike
    Posted May 29, 2017 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Great band, my old bones are rocking, or trying to.lol


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