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Gregg Allman

+ {Allman And Woman}

An integral member of The ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND, since their incarnation in the late 60s, singer, songwriter and organist GREGG ALLMAN is a man that’s been through the ringer. What, with his sex, drugs and shock ’n’ show lifestyle and, of course, the loss of his elder brother Duane in the autumn of 1971, bassist Berry Oakley (a year later), plus his two broken marriages to CHER (his third missus, between June 1975 and January 1979), Gregg has had his fair share of er… ups and downs.
Courting tabloid column inches as much for his bevvy of beauties than his much-publicised testimony in ’76 against ALLMANs imprisoned road manager/pusher, Scooter Herring (who’s said to have saved him from OD’ing on more than one occasion), Gregg’s gritty growl has survived the test of time; 2011 has saw him deliver his umpteenth solo set, the appropriately-titled Billboard Top 5 breaker, `Low Country Blues’.
Born Gregory Lenoir Allman, December 8, 1947, Nashville, Tennessee, tragedy had followed Gregg and Duane from virtually the get-go, when their father was murdered after offering a lift home to a bar buddy. Raised by their mother and subsequently settling in Daytona Beach, Florida, both brothers learned how to play the guitar, although by the mid-60s, singer Gregg had mastered the keyboards. From The Escorts, to The Allman Joys (which propagated a move to L.A.), and then on to the psychedelic soul of The HOUR GLASS, both brothers promised much but gained little or nothing (only debt) in return.
When Duane, Gregg and drummer Butch Trucks (from the 31st of February) were urged to form a new combo in 1969, The ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND were founded with the addition of second guitarist DICKEY BETTS, bassist Berry Oakley and second drummer Jaimoe. Garnering critical and commercial appraisal, the mansion “family” outfit roller-coastered their way to the top of the southern-rock heap, only to find snakes-and-ladders-like obstacles at every roll of the dice. Drugs played a big part in their downfall, alleged unpaid royalties from Capricorn Records was another.
In the midst of all this turmoil, GREGG ALLMAN broke free from the shackles of band life and recent tragedies, to release his inaugural album, LAID BACK (1973) {*7}. Breeching the Top 20 and helped along by a similarly-placed re-vamp of his ABB song, `Midnight Rider’, Gregg plays it gospel cool on the likes of `Queen Of Hearts’, JACKSON BROWNE’s `These Days’, Oliver Sain’s `Don’t Mess Up On A Good Thing’ and the traditional `Will The Circle Be Unbroken’.
Together with backing combo, Cowboy, Scott Boyer, Tommy Talton, Kenny Tibbetts and an overstretched guest list (including ALLMAN newbie, Chuck Leavell and Jaimoe), THE GREGG ALLMAN TOUR (1974) {*6} scraped into the Top 50. While there was room for an Allmans classic, `Dreams’ and a 10-minute take of `Turn On Your Lovelight’ on the Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ disc, this album was centred on gap-filling between ALLMAN BROTHERS sets.
With the aforementioned supreme court controversy behind him and his get-out-of-jail card passed on in exchange for amnesty, The GREGG ALLMAN BAND delivered their second Top 50 album, PLAYIN’ UP A STORM (1977) {*7}. Augmented by DR. JOHN, Neil Larsen, Willie Weeks, Ricky Hirsch, LITTLE FEAT’s Bill Payne, et al, Gregg divvied up a selection of his own and group member compositions with a few covers: RAY CHARLES’ `Brightest Smile In Town’ and `Clarence Carter & Candi Staton’s `Sweet Feelin’’ among the best.
Married to celebrity chanteuse CHER a few years previously, and duly re-wed after a quickie divorce (their son Elijah Blue Allman was born on September 20, 1976), ALLMAN AND WOMAN unleashed probably the worst album (and sexist billing!) in the history of popular rock music, TWO THE HARD WAY (1977) {*2}. Lying/posing arm-in-arm on the sickly-sweet sleeve shot, the so-far unreleased-on-CD set made little impact but for large dents inside bargain bins; from Fred & Steve Beckmeier’s `Move Me’ to Leiber & Stoller’s `Love Me’, this unlikely union played its part in making everything else in music sound great.
Back in his southern saddle for further ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND adventures (from 1979’s “Enlightened Rogues” to 1981’s “Brothers Of The Road”), Gregg also saddled up for another wedding bash, this time to Julie Bindas, although they divorced in 1981; incidentally he re-married twice again, Danielle J P Galiana (from 1989 to 1994) and Stacey Fountain (from 2001 to whenever they split); he has five children, a few out of wedlock; his second son DEVON ALLMAN (ex-Honeytribe) to his first missus Shelley Kay Winters, is now a reasonably successful solo star in his own right.
The GREGG ALLMAN BAND’s Top 30 I’M NO ANGEL (1987) {*6} and his disappointing second Epic Records set, JUST BEFORE THE BULLETS FLY (1988) {*5}, showed the singer’s inconsistency in full, the latter sounding rather DOOBIE BROTHERS-esque and lukewarm; if he was short of tracks then he’d just add an Allman Bros nugget as filler – this time it was `Every Hungry Woman’.
The aptly-titled comeback album, SEARCHING FOR SIMPLICITY (1997} {*5}, kicked off with a gruelling version of `Whipping Post’, but at least it was a return to the blues. The LITTLE FEAT-esque `Come Back And Help Me’ (penned with his new sidekick guitarist, Jack Pearson), Gregg at least pulled off good renditions of Chips Moman & Dan Penn’s `The Dark End Of The Street’, Huey P. Meaux’s `Neighbor, Neighbor’ and JOHN HIATT’s `Memphis In The Meantime’.
Busy up to 2004 fronting his ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND outings, it was still a long-time-coming between solo sets, but the aforementioned LOW COUNTRY BLUES (2011) {*7} put him back on the map. Uniting with legendary roots producer, T-BONE BURNETT, he worked hard on a raft of tight, organic blues numbers from the likes of masters and legends: SLEEPY JOHN ESTES (`Floating Bridge’), MUDDY WATERS (`I Can’t Be Satisfied’), B.B. KING (`Please Accept My Love’), SKIP JAMES (`Devil Got My Woman’), BOBBY “BLUE” BLAND (`Blind Man’), OTIS RUSH (`Checking On My Baby’), et al. Only one song it seems (`Just Another Rider’), stemmed from his time with The Allmans, and guitar ace Warren Haynes in particular.
Not nearly as grandiose as a certain LYNYRD SKYNYRD farewell package revealed, in which Gregg provided vocals on `Tuesday’s Gone’, the homecoming LIVE: BACK TO MACON, GA – JANUARY 14, 2014 (2015) {*7} thankfully slipped from video to official double-CD. Capturing the heart and warmth of staples from `Statesboro Blues’, `Whipping Post’ and `Midnight Rider’, to covers of `I Can’t Be Satisfied’ and `These Days’, GREGG ALLMAN proved beyond doubt his worth to the Southern-rock/blues community.
Sadly, due to complications from liver cancer (he was diagnosed several years back), the “Midnight Rider” man joined brother Duane in that great gig in the sky on May 27, 2017. A posthumous near-Top 10 set, SOUTHERN BLOOD (2017) {*7} was an extension on this country-blues giant. Augmented by co-songwriter, music director and his band’s guitarist, Scott Sharrard (opening piece `My Only True Friend’ was laid back to the point of keeling over), ALLMAN bowed out smoothly with some worthy reinterpretations from the likes of TIM BUCKLEY (`Once I Was’), DYLAN (`Going Going Gone’), GRATEFUL DEAD (`Black Muddy River’), LITTLE FEAT (`Willin’’), WILLIE DIXON (`I Love The Life I Live’); JACKSON BROWNE contributed guest vox and the finale `Song For Adam’.
© MC Strong/MCS Feb2013-Aug2018

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