My Gregg Allman Story
I still remember the first time I heard the song Dreams by The Allman Brothers Band. It was an exceptionally hot and humid mid July evening in 1983. The kind of evening where the air hung thick in a hazing sky; heavy and oppressive. We didn't have central air, and the floor fan in my upstairs bedroom did nothing more than shove around the hot air from one side of the room to the other.
I was 17 years old, my parents were going through an exceptionally nasty divorce. I felt confused, and full of questions...about everything. What would my future look like? Where was I going to live? What about college? I was lost and searching...and not getting a lot of answers from the adults in my life.
Music was my refuge. It's where I went to escape. And it's there that I ran across The Allman Brothers first album in a stack of record I had borrowed from my Uncle Charlie. I'd been listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd records for a few years already. And I knew the history of southern rock really started with the Allmans, but for whatever reason I had never listened to them. That changed forever that July night in Parkersburg, WV.
I remember lying on my bed, headphones on...and feeling a connection to the jazz, blues, country, rock fusion that I'd never felt with other bands I really loved. There was something about it that just connected...Gregg Allmans soulful voice spoke to me. When he sang Dreams...
Just one more mornin'
I had to wake up with the blues
Pulled myself out of bed, yeah
Put on my walkin' shoes
And went up on the mountain
To see what I could see
The whole world was fallin', right down in front of me
I felt that...all the way to my bones. I related. From there I devoured every ABB album I could get my hands on. Over the years, and the bands break-ups, they remained a part of my life. But not as prevalent as other bands of the day. That is until 1990.
Once again it was July. I was serving in the United States Air Force at Zaragoza Air Base in Spain. Driving to the base one afternoon I heard the Allmans "come back" song, Good Clean Fun. That's all it took to put me right back on the ABB bandwagon. I went and bought the cassette at the Base Exchange and it stayed in my tape deck for months. I literally listened to it every single day.
Over the years, the Allman Brothers saw me through a lot of ups and downs. New career opportunities, cross country moves, marriage, the birth of my sons, and a divorce. And each step of the way there always seemed to be a song that fit every event or milestone. I decided while living in Portland, ME to make my commitment to the band permanent. You'll find my favorite tattoo...the Allman Brothers logo with a sunglass wearing fox next to it...forever inked on my upper left arm.
So imagine my excitement when I actually got to interview Gregg before his concert at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, ME a few years ago. I've interviewed literally dozens and dozens of rock stars over the years. But this guy? This wasn't just any rock star. This was Gregg freakin' Allman! Strangely enough I didn't feel the least bit nervous. It was more like Christmas morning...knowing everything you asked for is under the tree. He was giving, gracious, and real. He was just a very cool guy who felt blessed to still be doing what he loved. We talked about the music, his brother Duane, Barry Oakley, motorcycles, and his love of scratch off lottery tickets. Which by his response, not a lot of people knew about. When he asked how I knew about that...I told him I had to have some secrets, he laughed and joked with me in a way that made me feel like I was a part of his inner circle. And that was one of the coolest feelings ever! The next day he sent me an autographed photo. And to this day it's one of my most prized possessions.
Seeing the band live twice...from the front row at Meadowbrook...and Gregg's solo tour, twice were amazing experiences. What made them even more special was sharing them with my sons, Jack and Nick. While a little young at the time to truly appreciate the music...they loved it because I loved it. And like all good music, it bonded us. When the news of Gregg Allmans passing spread across social media this weekend, it was my youngest that texted me to break the news. After the initial shock, I texted my oldest. His response was exactly what I expected: "Nooooooooooooo. What the hell? :( ".
If you're an Allman Brothers fan you probably feel the same way. It was a very sad day. And I'll be completely honest...I cried.
RIP Gregg Allman