Macon has a rich heritage in Georgia music. Otis Redding, and Little Richard are a couple of artists who come to mind. Then there are the Brothers Allman.
There’s no way I’d attempt to write a huge piece about the Allman Brothers. What hasn’t been already said? I’m still a major fan, of course. If you weren’t in Atlanta or the south in those days, you may have a little difficulty understanding the love for the Brothers and the impact they had on the lives of we Suthunuhs.
The first time I heard the Allman Brothers was 1970, playing on a tape in a friend’s Chevelle SS 454, I think…or maybe it was a SS 396. In those days the sweet-sounding 8-track player allowed one to cruise with great sound.
Through the years we learned that these weren’t just a bunch of guys doin’ the southern rock thing. They were so much deeper than that. The Brothers reincarnations were many over time. If you know any of their history, the deaths of Duane Allman and cofounding member-bass player Berry Oakley as they were just beginning their rapid ascent created a disastrous scenario for this young group.
But truth be known, I’m a bigger fan of Gregg’s solo efforts. His voice, numerous backing bands and songs can touch any bluesy soul with his bluesy soul.
Duane’s baby brother Gregg outlived and outlasted the core group for the most part. After being involved in a reincarnation or three, his musical callings were telling him to try something different. He evolved into the present, but that deep down blues-soul inside defined him. Yes, he also knew how to rock it when necessary and could “country fry” you in a quick step. His music was diverse.
I’ve never been a rocker type. A little blues, funk, and soulful horns will always get my ear. Some of Gregg’s magic formula with these flavors still astonishes me to this day.
I started playing the piano by ear when I was four years old, so naturally Gregg’s keyboard prowess had me hooked when I first heard him with the group. His signature chords lasted for decades along with his other compositions and compilations. He could weave together masterpieces of musical art. Vocally, there’s no chart to measure the richness of his interpretation of a song he’d written, or a cover of one of his favorite artists’ songs.
Then there’s the personal life. Along with the booze and drugs, Gregg’s propensity to be involved with the ladies allowed him the pleasure of being married seven times…seven times! We all know the Cher story. I actually saw Cher in the Omni [a long-time Atlanta music venue], and their offspring Elijah Blue played in her band.
When the lifestyle of years of abuse caught up with Gregg, in 2010, he moved to Richmond Hill, Ga., to be close to the Jacksonville Mayo Clinic where he had a successful liver transplant.
One evening at a gathering I met a gentleman and his wife from Richmond Hill. When I made a reference to Gregg’s residence there, the gentleman said, “Yes, he’s my neighbor, I was in his kitchen yesterday.” Gregg was offering to give him a case of shampoo he was displeased with and didn’t want to trash. Such a neighborly thing, right? I told him I was a huge fan of Gregg’s, and he suggested I I drop over sometime and said we could visit Gregg.
Part of the fun in the music biz is meeting artists. I’ve met and hung with some of the biggest names on the planet. They’re just people with different lines of work. I do have to say the thought of meeting Gregg Allman at his house kind of wowed me for a minute. In my world he was bigger than most.
I wish I could finish this article by saying we went to Gregg’s house, he was a nice, humble gentleman and we enjoyed a few hours together. That didn’t happen. I’ve heard stories over the years about how “real” he was from friends who did know him.
Gregg recorded his final album, “Southern Blood,” in 2016 at the world-renowned Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals Alabama. He died in 2017. Former news legend, Dan Rather has a series on various stars called The Big Interview. His piece on Gregg is truly rewarding for any fan.
I encourage you to take a trip to Macon and, for starters, visit the Big House, where the Allmans lived, and Capricorn Records. It will be informative and fun. If you’ve never checked out Gregg’s solo work, I encourage you to do that, too!