May 27, 2017 – Gregory LeNoir “Gregg” Allman was born December 8th, 1947 in Nashville, TN, a little more than a year after his older brother Duane. In 1949, his dad offered a hitchhiker a ride home and was subsequently shot and killed. After that tragedy his mother Geraldine moved to Nashville with her two sons, and she never remarried. Lacking money to support her two sons, she enrolled in college to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). State laws at the time required students to live on-campus and as a consequence, Gregg and his older brother Duane were sent to Castle Heights Military Academy in nearby Lebanon. A young Gregg interpreted these actions as evidence of his mother’s dislike for him, though he later came to understand the reality: “She was actually sacrificing everything she possibly could—she was working around the clock, getting by just by a hair, so as to not send us to an orphanage, which would have been a living hell.”
While his brother Duane adapted to his militarized surroundings with a defiant attitude, Gregg Allman felt largely depressed at the school. With little to do, he studied often and developed an interest in medicine—had he not gone into music, he hoped to become a dentist. He was rarely hazed at Castle Heights as his brother protected him, but often suffered beatings from instructors when he received poor grades. The brothers returned to Nashville upon their mother’s graduation. Growing up, he continually fought with Duane, though he knew that he loved him and that it was typical of brothers. Duane was a mischievous older child, who constantly played pranks on his younger sibling.
The family subsequently moved to Daytona Beach in 1959, though the brothers would spend considerable time back in Nashville over the years. What later became Music City, Nashville was an inspiration to Allman. He attended his first concert – starring Jackie Wilson, Otis Redding, B.B. King, and Patti LaBelle – and with the guidance of a mentally challenged neighbor named Jimmy Banes, fell in thrall to the power of a guitar. Nashville’s pull continued long after the family moved, with the brothers both hooked on local radio station WLAC’s legendary late night R&B broadcasts. He looked forward to summer vacations spent in Nashville.
Allman earned enough delivering newspapers in Daytona to afford a Silvertone guitar at the local Sears store, which he and his older brother then proceeded to fight over for years. (But it also brought them together in music). They made their on-stage debut as part of a YMCA youth group in Daytona Beach, uniting their first band – The Misfits – while attending Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, TN. In 1963, the brothers returned to Florida, rocking Seabreeze High School with their next beat combo, The Shufflers.
The Allman brothers were less interested in school than they were in pursuing their own musical education, spending all their cash on records. The two began meeting various musicians in the Daytona Beach area. They met a man named Floyd Miles, and they began to jam and sit in with his band, the Houserockers. “I would just sit there and study Floyd. I studied how he phrased his songs, how he got the words out, and how the other guys sang along with him,” he would later recall.
They put together what Allman calls his first “real” band, The Escorts, and began gigging around the Daytona Beach area, proving so busy that Gregg skipped his Seabreeze graduation to perform with his band.
He grew undisciplined in his studies as his interests diverged: “Between the women and the music, school wasn’t a priority anymore.”
Having won over Daytona Beach, the band – now known as The Allman Joys – headed out into the world, beginning with a 22 week run at Mobile, Alabama’s Stork Club. An extended booking at Pensacola’s Sahara Club proved a milestone for Gregg, his first true lesson in stagecraft, as well as where he turned to and bought his first keyboard.
1966 saw The Allman Joys travel to Nashville for their first true recording session, with songwriter John D. Loudermilk producing. The band’s version of “Spoonful” proved enough of a local hit, that allowed them to return to the studio with producer/songwriter John Hurley, this time recording a number of Gregg’s increasingly sharp originals.
The Allman Joys eventually made their way west, sponsored in part by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band manager Bill McEuen. Reinventing themselves as Hour Glass, the band signed to Liberty Records and began making a name around L.A. by supporting such stars as Buffalo Springfield and The Doors. Two albums followed, 1967’s HOUR GLASS and 1968’s POWER OF LOVE, the latter highlighted by seven Gregg originals and liner notes by Neil Young, who also sat in on the album’s sessions. Hour Glass then traveled to Rick Hall’s FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL, hoping to finally capture their evolving blues rock sound. Unfortunately Liberty Records did not appreciate the band’s new direction and Hour Glass split soon after the sessions.
The brothers returned to Florida where they began collaborating with The 31st of February, a Jacksonville trio whose ranks included drummer Butch Trucks. Gregg soon headed back to Los Angeles, recording a solo album to fulfill both his and Duane’s remaining Liberty contract. Though the sessions ultimately proved fruitless, Gregg spent considerable studio time writing songs and working with his new favorite instrument, the Hammond organ. Meanwhile, Brother Duane had returned to Muscle Shoals where he became FAME Studios’ lead session guitarist, recording legendary tracks with such giants as King Curtis, Arthur Conley, Clarence Carter, and Wilson Pickett. Soon signed to a deal of his own, Duane began enlisting musicians including drummer/percussionist Jai Johanny Johanson and Chicago born, turned Floridian bassist Berry Oakley. They returned to Jacksonville, their extended jams luring in additional members including Trucks and Oakley’s former bandmate, guitarist Dickey Betts.
Gregg also finally returned to Florida and on March 26, 1969, Duane suggested he join the group for a run through Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More,” encouraging his younger brother to “sing his guts out.” The Allman Brothers Band was born.
Signed to Phil Walden’s new Capricorn Records label, the Allman Brothers Band virtually invented Southern Rock, blending blues, boogie, country, psychedelia, R&B, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll into their own idiosyncratic musical stew. The band relocated to Macon, Georgia where they began forging the intuitive musical bond that came to define them, spending infinite hours rehearsing and jamming while also growing a local following for their improvisational ingenuity and creative interplay. Elongated covers were paired with Gregg’s original songs, his songwriting voice fast proving as unique and inspired as his growing vocal power. Songs like “It’s Not My Cross To Bear,” “Dreams,” and “Whipping Post” exposed a gifted and evocative tunesmith, remarkably adept at reconstructing traditional forms into modern classics.
Released in November 1969, THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND album was immediately acclaimed if not an immediate commercial success. The band spent the next year on the road nearly non-stop, performing over 300 gigs across the country while also visiting studios in New York, Miami, and Macon to record what would be their second studio album. IDLEWILD SOUTH (named after a farmhouse on a lake outside of Macon they rented) arrived in September 1970, less than a year after the band’s debut. Recently named by Rolling Stone as one of the “40 Most Groundbreaking Albums of All Time,” IDLEWILD SOUTH is home to one of Allman’s defining songs, “Midnight Rider,” an immediate FM radio favorite later covered by artists spanning Joe Cocker, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Theory of a Deadman, UB40, and reggae singer Paul Davidson.
Having earned a reputation as a spectacularly inventive and expansive live act, The Allman Brothers Band decided to showcase their on-stage strength with their third album, the legendary AT FILLMORE EAST. With that album their fortunes began to change over the course of 1971, when the band’s average earnings more than doubled. “We realized that the audience was a big part of what we did, which couldn’t be duplicated in a studio. A lightbulb finally went off; we needed to make a live album,” said Allman later.
At Fillmore East, recorded at the Fillmore East in New York during two sessions produced by Tom Dowd in March of that year, was released in July 1971 by Capricorn. While previous albums by the band had taken months to hit the charts (often near the bottom of the top 200), this one started to climb the charts after a matter of days. At Fillmore East peaked at number thirteen on Billboard’s Top Pop Albums chart, and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America that same October, becoming their commercial and artistic breakthrough and proved the Allmans’ world-changing breakthrough, seven songs over four sides culminating with a extraordinarily epic rendition of “Whipping Post.” (see video below)
Gregg Allman – organ, vocals
Duane Allman – guitar, vocals
Dickey Betts – guitar, vocals
Berry Oakley – bass, vocals
Butch Trucks – drums
Jai Johanny Johanson – drums
Tom Doucette – harp
A quick summary:
On this date, Bill Graham assembled a stellar roster of bands to participate in the filming of a television special called Welcome To The Fillmore East for broadcast on educational channels. Short sets were filmed by the Byrds, the Elvin Bishop Group, Sha-Na-Na, Van Morrison, and the Allman Brothers Band, as well as behind-the-scenes footage of Bill Graham and the Fillmore East staff at work.
The Allman Brothers performance is nothing short of spectacular and features the original lineup that included Duane Allman and Berry Oakley. Recorded six months prior to the legendary Live At Fillmore East double album set, this performance captures the Allman Brothers when they were a relatively new band, full of youthful passion and performing what would become classic original material when it was fresh and new.
Following Bill Graham’s introduction, they kick things off with a tight performance of “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’,” which features the band’s friend, Tom Doucette, blowing harp over the group’s trademark sound. Gregg’s vocal is barely audible, but it’s obvious the group is full of fire. “Dreams,” which follows, slows things down a bit and the group establishes a relaxed groove that showcases their trademark sound, blending elements that would eventually come to define “Southern Rock.”
They hit their stride on the next number, Dickey Betts’ “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed.” Here, the dual guitar attack of Allman and Betts is astounding. The two guitarists intertwine and synchronize in a manner nothing short of telepathic, creating a melting pot seasoned with elements of jazz, rock, country, and blues into a style utterly their own. The set ends with a ferocious take of “Whipping Post” that features outstanding melodic bass playing from Berry Oakley, with both Duane Allman and Dickey Betts soaring over the propulsive rhythm section. Shorter than the expansive versions that would develop in coming months, this is all the more fascinating for it, as they compress an incredible amount of energy into the time allotted.
Time constrictions and vocal microphone malfunctions aside, this is still a fascinating performance. This original lineup of the band was certainly one of the most innovative and captivating bands to ever play the Fillmore.
Whipping Post Allman Brothers Band 1971 Fillmore East
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AT FILLMORE EAST was a phenomenon, becoming platinum certified, and the album is a universally acknowledged milestone, a landmark American work selected in 2004 for preservation in the Library of Congress, deemed to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States” by the National Recording Registry.
Suddenly very wealthy and successful, much of the band and its entourage got into the struggle with addiction to numerous drugs; they all agreed to quit heroin, but cocaine remained a problem. His last conversation with his brother Duane reportedly was an argument over the substance, in which Gregg lied. In his autobiography, Allman wrote: “I have thought of that lie every day of my life […] told him that lie, and he told me that he was sorry and that he loved me.”
Shortly after Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident October 29, 1971 in Macon. At his funeral on Monday, November 1, 1971, Gregg performed “Melissa”, which was his brother’s favorite song, written in 1967 during the Summer of Love. After the service, he confided in his bandmates that they should continue. He left for the island of Jamaica to get away from Macon, and was in grief for the following few weeks. And as the band took some time apart to process their loss, At Fillmore East became a major success in the U.S. “What we had been trying to do for all those years finally happened, and he was gone.” “I tried to play and I tried to sing, but I didn’t do too much writing. In the days and weeks that followed, I wondered if I’d ever find the passion, the energy, the love of making music,” he remembered in is autobiography.
And then they found out that mourning is a great inspiration, and learned to celebrate Duane’s accomplishments by returning to both the road and the studio, releasing EAT A PEACH three months later in February 1972. The album collected a number of studio recordings – both with and without Duane – as well as additional cuts from the 1971 Fillmore East performances. Highlights include the towering “Mountain Jam” as well as Gregg’s “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” – penned in the wake of Duane’s passing – and the classic “Melissa,” beloved by Duane as his little brother’s best song.
In March 1972, Gregg tracked a series of songs at Macon’s Capricorn Studios with the goal of recording a solo album. Sessions continued, even as the Allman Brothers Band began work on its highly anticipated third studio album, BROTHERS AND SISTERS.
Then fate reared its ugly head once again in November 1972 when Berry Oakley was killed in a motorcycle accident just three blocks from where Duane had lost his life little more than a year earlier. Oakley had been visibly suffering from the death of his friend Duane – “Upset as I was, I kind of breathed a sigh of relief, because Berry’s pain was finally over,” Allman said.
Berry too was 24 years old and again The Allman Brothers Band carried on, finishing BROTHERS AND SISTERS in December of that year before returning to the road. The album proved the band’s most popular yet, topping the overall Billboard album chart for five consecutive weeks on its way to worldwide sales in excess of 7 million.
The Allman Brothers Band enlisted Lamar Williams on bass and Chuck Leavell on piano and took to the road once more, confirming their place as one of the most successful live outfits in rock ‘n’ roll history, consistently selling out arenas and stadiums across the country. July 1973 saw the ABB headline the historic “Summer Jam at Watkins Glen,” teaming with the Grateful Dead and the Band at New York’s Watkins Glen Grand Motor Raceway before a record-breaking crowd well in excess of 600,000.
During the recording of Brothers and Sisters, co-lead guitarist Dickey Betts had become the group’s de facto leader during the development process. Meanwhile, after some internal disagreements, Allman began recording a solo album, which he titled Laid Back. The sessions for both albums often overlapped and its creation caused tension within the rest of the band. Both albums were released in the autumn of 1973, with Brothers and Sisters cemented the Allman Brothers’ place among the biggest rock bands of the 1970s. “Everything that we’d done before—the touring, the recording—culminated in that one album,” Allman recalled later. “Ramblin’ Man”, Betts’ country-infused number, received interest from radio stations immediately, and it rose to number two on the Billboard Hot 100. The Allman Brothers Band returned to touring, playing larger venues, receiving more profit and dealing with less friendship, miscommunication and spiraling drug problems.
This culminated in a backstage brawl when the band played with the Grateful Dead at Washington’s RFK Stadium in June 1973, which resulted in the firing of three of the band’s longtime roadies. The band played arenas and stadiums almost solely as their drug use escalated. In 1974, the band was regularly making $100,000 per show, and was renting the Starship, a customized Boeing 720B used by Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. “When we got that goddamn plane, it was the beginning of the end,” said Allman.
In between tours, Allman embarked on another tour to promote Laid Back. He brought along the musicians who helped record the album as his band, and hired a full string orchestra to accompany the group. A live album of material from the tour was released as The Gregg Allman Tour later that year, to help recoup costs for the tour. It went up against Betts’ first solo record, Highway Call, prompting some to dub their relationship a rivalry. Their relationships became increasingly frustrated, amplified by heavy drug and alcohol abuse. In January 1975, Allman began a relationship with pop star Cher (Sonny and Cher)— which made him more “famous for being famous than for his music,” according to biographer Alan Paul.
The sessions that produced 1975’s Win, Lose or Draw, the last album by the original Allman Brothers Band, were disjointed and inconsistent. Allman was spending more time in Los Angeles with Cher. Their time off from one another the previous fall “only exaggerated the problems between our personalities. With each day there was more and more space between us; the Brotherhood was fraying, and there wasn’t a damn thing any of us could do to stop it.”
Upon its release, the album was considered subpar and sold less than its predecessor; the band later remarked that they were “embarrassed” about the album.
From August 1975 to May 1976, the Allman Brothers Band played 41 shows to some of the biggest crowds of their career. Gradually, the members of the band grew apart during these tours, with sound checks and rehearsals “becoming a thing of the past.” Allman later pointed to a benefit for presidential candidate Jimmy Carter as the only real “high point” in an otherwise “rough, rough tour.” The shows were considered lackluster and the members were excessive in their drug use.
The “breaking point” came when Allman testified in the trial of security man Scooter Herring. Bandmates considered him a “snitch,” and he received death threats, leading to law-enforcement protection.
Herring was convicted on five counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and received a 75-year prison sentence, which were later overturned as he received a lesser sentence. For his part, Allman always maintained that Herring had told him to take the deal and he would take the fall for it, but nevertheless, the band refused to communicate with him. As a result, the band finally broke up; Leavell, Williams, and Jaimoe continued playing together in Sea Level, Betts formed Great Southern, and Allman founded the Gregg Allman Band, releasing PLAYIN’ UP A STORM in May 1977 to acclaim and chart success.
He also worked on an collaborative album with Cher titled Two the Hard Way, which, upon its release, was a massive failure. The couple went to Europe to tour in support of both albums, though the crowd reception was mixed. With a combination of Allman Brothers fans and Cher fans, fights often broke out in venues, which led Cher to cancel the tour. Turmoil began to overwhelm their relationship, and the two divorced in 1978. Allman returned to Daytona Beach to stay with his mother, spending the majority of his time partying, chasing women, and touring with the Nighthawks, a blues band. (In a 2011 interview with WBUR’s On Point, Allman told host Tom Ashbrook that he was also uncomfortable with his wife’s celebrity lifestyle.)
The Allman Brothers Band made a brief return in 1978, hiring two new members: guitarist Dan Toler and bassist David Goldflies. Betts had approached Allman during his time in Daytona regarding a reunion. Allman remembered that each member had their own reasons for rejoining, though he surmised it was a combination of displeasure with how things ended, missing each other, and a need for money. The band’s reunion album, Enlightened Rogues, was released in February 1979 and was a mild commercial success. But drugs remained a problem with the band, particularly among Betts and Allman. The band again grew apart, replacing Jaimoe with Toler’s brother Frankie. (“One of the real blights on the history of the Allman Brothers Band was that Jaimoe, this gentle man, was fired from this organization,” said Allman later.)
For their second and final album with Arista, Brothers of the Road, they collaborated with a “name producer” (John Ryan, of Styx and the Doobie Brothers), who pushed the band even harder to change their sound. “Straight from the Heart” was the album’s single, which became a minor hit, but heralded the group’s last appearance on the top 40 charts. The band, considering their post-reunion albums “embarrassing,” subsequently broke up in 1982 after clashing with record company owner Clive Davis, who rejected every producer the band suggested for a possible third album, including Tom Dowd and Johnny Sandlin. “We broke up in January ’82 because we decided we better just back out or we would ruin what was left of the band’s image,” said Betts. The band’s final performance came on Saturday Night Live in January 1982, where they performed “Southbound” and “Leavin’.” “It was like a whole different band made those records. In truth, though, I was just too drunk most of the time to care one way or the other,” Allman would recall.
Allman spent much of the early 1980s adrift and living in Sarasota, Florida with friends Marcia and Chuck Boyd. His alcohol abuse was at one of its worst points, with Allman consuming “a minimum of a fifth of vodka a day.” He felt the local police pursued him heavily, due to his tendency to get inebriated and “go jam anywhere.” He was arrested and charged with a DUI; as a result, he spent five days in jail and was charged $1,000. While he did not consider himself “washed up,” he noted in his autobiography that “there’s that fear of everybody forgetting about you.” Southern rock faded from popular culture and electronic music formed much of the pop music of the decade. “There was hardly anybody playing live music, and those who did were doing it for not much money, in front of some die-hard old hippies in real small clubs,” he later recalled. Nevertheless, he reformed the Gregg Allman Band and toured nationwide. He often went to Telstar Studios to rehearse and write new songs.
“No two ways about it, the ’80s were rough. […] It was seven years of going, “What is it that I do?” Being self-employed your whole life, that becomes a certain rock, a reinforcement. When that’s gone, not only are you bored stiff, but you just want to cry—”What do I do? I know I used to serve a purpose.”
By 1986, he felt tired of having little funds, and teamed up with former bandmate Betts for several performances together. It led to two Allman Brothers reunion performances that summer. Eventually, tension would arise and they would spend time apart again. After recording several demos in Los Angeles, Allman was offered a recording contract by Epic Records. He recorded his third solo release, I’m No Angel, at Criteria in Miami. Released in 1987, the title track became a surprise hit on radio. The album immediately returned Allman to the forefront of American popular music, boasting a pair of indelible hits in the chart-topping title track and the top 3 rock radio smash, “Anything Goes.”
Allman released another solo album the following year, Just Before the Bullets Fly, its title track co-written by future ABB guitarist Warren Haynes, though it did not sell as well as its predecessor, Haynes proved to be a catalyst for more ABB successes. Allman’s alcohol abuse however continued in the late 1980s, as he moved to Los Angeles and lived at the Riot House. He married one of his 6 wives, Danielle Galliano, in a midlife crisis wherein he felt he would one day be too “old and ugly” to get married. The marriage began with Allman overdosing at the Riot House—”so our marriage started off with a bang,” he said. He also dabbled in acting for the first time in those years, taking a small part in the film Rush Week (1989), and singing the opening track to the film Black Rain (1989)
In spite of all the controversies, The Allman Brothers Band celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 1989, and the band reunited for a summer tour, with Jaimoe once again on drums. In addition, they featured guitarist Warren Haynes and pianist Johnny Neel, both from the Dickey Betts Band, and bassist Allen Woody, who was hired after open auditions held at Trucks’s Florida studio. The classic rock radio format had given the band’s catalog songs new relevance, as did a multi-CD retrospective box set, Dreams. Epic, who had worked with Allman on his solo career, signed the band. Danny Goldberg became the band’s manager; he had previously worked with acts such as Led Zeppelin and Bonnie Raitt.
The group were initially reluctant to tour, but found it turned out that they performed solidly; in addition, former roadies such as “Red Dog” returned. The band returned to the studio with longtime producer Tom Dowd for 1990’s Seven Turns, which was considered a return to form. “Good Clean Fun” and “Seven Turns” each became big hits on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The addition of Haynes and Woody had “reenergized” the ensemble. Neel left the group in 1990, and the band added percussionist Marc Quiñones, formerly of Spyro Gyra, the following year. The addition of percussionist Quinones finally brought to life the triple percussion ensemble his brother Duane had envisioned when first putting the band together. The ABB’s rhythmic expansion fueled 1991’s acclaimed tenth studio album, SHADES OF TWO WORLDS, recorded with Dowd at Memphis’ famed Ardent Studios. The group hit the road, including a 10 night run of fall dates at New York City’s historic Beacon Theatre, a preview of what would become one of rock’s greatest traditions. Specifically selected for being closest in spirit to Bill Graham’s long gone Fillmore East, the beloved Upper West Side venue became a second home for the band, with runs continuing semi-annually through 2014.
A series of acclaimed releases followed through the next decade, including 1994’s WHERE IT ALL BEGINS and such live albums as AN EVENING WITH THE ALLMAN BROTHERS: FIRST SET, showcasing 1992’s Beacon Theatre run, and 1995’s GRAMMY Award-winning AN EVENING WITH THE ALLMAN BROTHERS: 2ND SET.
Allman also found more time in the Nineties to try his hand at acting, with notable performances in 1991’s RUSH and HBO’S TALES FROM THE CRYPT.
For much of the 1990s, Allman lived in Marin County, California, spending his free time with close friends and riding his motorcycle. When The Allman Brothers Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, honoring their extraordinary history and lasting influence, Allman was severely inebriated and could not make it through his acceptance speech. Seeing the ceremony broadcast on television later, Allman was mortified, providing a catalyst for his final, successful attempt to quit alcohol and substance abuse. He hired two in-home nurses that switched twelve-hour shifts to help him through the process. He was immensely happy to finally quit alcohol, writing later in his autobiography: “Did I get any positive anything out of all that? And you’ve got to admit to yourself, no, I didn’t. You can see what happened and that by the grace of God, you finally quit before it killed you.”
His own extraordinary solo discography then grew with 1997’s SEARCHING FOR SIMPLICITY, highlighted by an unplugged rendition of “Whipping Post.” which was quietly released on 550 Music. Despite positive developments in his personal life, things began declining among the band members. During their 1996 run at the Beacon, turmoil came to a breaking point between Allman and Betts, nearly causing a cancellation of a show and causing another band breakup. Haynes and Woody left to focus on their band Gov’t Mule, feeling as though a break was imminent with the Allman Brothers Band.
The group recruited Oteil Burbridge of the Aquarium Rescue Unit to replace Woody on bass, and Jack Pearson on guitar. Concerns also arose over the increasing loudness of Allman Brothers shows, which were largely centered on Betts. Pearson, struggling with tinnitus, left as a result following the 1999 Beacon run. Trucks phoned his nephew, Derek Trucks, to join the band for their thirtieth anniversary tour. The Beacon run in 2000, captured on Peakin’ at the Beacon, was ironically considered among the band’s worst performances; an eight-show spring tour led to even more strained relations in the group. “We had ceased to be a band—everything had to be based around what Dickey was playing,” said Allman.
Anger boiled over within the group towards Betts, which led to all original members sending him a letter, informing him of their intentions to tour without him for the summer. All involved contend that the break was temporary, but Betts responded by hiring a lawyer and suing the group, which led to a permanent divorce. That August, Allen Woody was found dead in a hotel room in New York, which hit Allman particularly hard. In 2001, Haynes rejoined the band for their Beacon run, setting the stage for over a decade of stability within the group and by 2001 ABB coalesced into what was hailed as one of the strongest line-ups in ABB history, with Allman, Haynes, Johanson, Quiñones, and Butch Trucks joined by bassist Oteil Burbridge and lead guitarist Derek Trucks.
Released in 2003, the Allman Brothers Band’s twelfth and final studio recording, HITTIN’ THE NOTE, drew critical applause as well as a pair of GRAMMY Award nominations. That same year’s LIVE AT THE BEACON THEATRE DVD also proved a classic, earning RIAA platinum certification and rave reviews for capturing the band at the peak of their on-stage powers. The 2003 Beacon run was further documented on ONE WAY OUT, hailed by rock critic Robert Christgau as “the best live album of band’s career.”
The Allman Brothers Band celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009 with a star-studded Beacon Theatre residency that saw appearances from such friends and luminaries as Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, Eric Clapton, Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell, Buddy Guy, Levon Helm, Robert Randolph, Bruce Hornsby, Billy Gibbons, and Sheryl Crow. Allman underwent a liver transplant the following year, returning stronger than ever with 2011’s masterful solo landmark, LOW COUNTRY BLUES. Produced by T-Bone Burnett, the GRAMMY® Award-nominated album debuted at #1 on Billboard’s “Top Blues Albums” chart, ascending to #5 on the overall SoundScan/Billboard 200 as it drew unanimous critical acclaim around the world.
After undergoing a liver transplant in 2010, the Allman Brothers Band with Gregg Allman officially resumed active duty in 2012 with two sets at their own Peach Music Festival in Scranton, PA, now an ongoing summer tradition highlighted by annual sets from Allman and other ABB friends. The Allman Brothers Band wrapped up their storied forty-five year career in 2014 with their final Beacon Theatre run, culminating October 28th with a now legendary three-set marathon, their 238th consecutive sell out at the estimable venue.
That same year saw Allman honored by an array of fellow artists at “All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman,” a once-in-a-lifetime concert held at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta and later released on CD/DVD to great acclaim. Allman himself followed the Allman Brothers Band’s final bow with the 2015 release of “BACK TO MACON GA,” a live two disc CD/DVD set capturing Allman and his eight-member band blowing the roof off Macon, GA’s venerable Grand Opera House.
August 2015 saw Allman innovate the summer concert experience with the first ever Laid Back Festival, a one-day event held at Wantagh, NY’s Nikon at Jones Beach Theater and presented in partnership by Allman, longtime manager and friend Michael Lehman, and Live Nation. Named after Allman’s classic 1973 solo debut, the Laid Back Festival celebrated America’s rich musical heritage with performances from Allman, The Doobie Brothers, Bruce Hornsby and The Noisemakers, Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, and more. Hailed as a new milestone on the increasingly busy summer concert circuit, the Laid Back Festival also showcased Long Island, NY’s diverse and delicious food and drink, with regional restaurants, food trucks, breweries, wineries, and other artisans represented at the festival.
2016 proved an extraordinarily eventful year for Allman, kicking off with sold out winter and spring tours as well as his acceptance of an honorary doctorate from Macon, GA’s Mercer University, presented by longtime friend, former President Jimmy Carter.
The Laid Back Festival also expanded to include regionally focused shows in five American cities. Once again headlined and curated by Allman, the traveling one-day event boasted a diverse lineup that featured such superstars as ZZ Top, Peter Frampton, and Jason Isbell, not to mention a mouth-watering menu of local food and drink.
The closing paragraph on his website states: As if their non-stop live schedule weren’t enough, Allman and his band also hit FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL to work on a new solo album, SOUTHERN BLOOD. Produced by GRAMMY® Award-winner Don Was, the album will arrive in 2017, supported, as ever, by a full tour schedule.
Sadly this won’t happen as Gregg Almann left us peacefully in his sleep on May 27, 2017 at his home in Savannah Georgia. He made it to 69.
A Message of Wisdom from Gregg on how to deal with death:
“When I got over being angry with my brother’s death, I prayed to him to forgive me, and I realized that my brother had a blast. Not that I got over it—I still ain’t gotten over it. I don’t know what getting over it means, really. I don’t stand around crying anymore, but I think about him every day of my life. Maybe a lot of learning how to grieve was that I had to grow up a little bit and realize that death is part of life. Now I can talk to my brother in the morning, and he answers me at night. I’ve opened myself to his death and accepted it, and I think that’s the grieving process at work.”
Close friend and manager, Michael Lehman, who brought the news of Gregg’s passing to the world, said, “I have lost a dear friend and the world has lost a brilliant pioneer in music. He was a kind and gentle soul with the best laugh I ever heard. His love for his family and bandmates was passionate as was the love he had for his extraordinary fans. Gregg was an incredible partner and an even better friend. We will all miss him.”