Friday, June 16, 2006
Special to The Cleveland Plain Dealer
The Allman Brothers Band sang about going down to the whipping post in 1969, and they’ve rarely gotten off it since. Except for a split between 1982 and 1989, the original Southern rockers have remained a hard-touring and hard-playing entity, overcoming the deaths of band members, drug addictions, infighting and lineup changes along the way. Every March sees a lengthy stand at New York City’s Beacon Theatre, while the summers bring Gregg Allman, interviewed below, and company outdoors for lengthy, improvisational concerts that work for both the bikers and the Deadheads in the crowd.
What does an Allman Brothers crowd look like these days?
We have our old fans, and then we’ve got new fans. It’s literally 16 to 60. That’s so amazing to me. You look out there, and you see these high school kids and then these old hippies that are, like, bald on top and long hair all around. They look like monks, and they have their kids on their shoulders. It’s a real blessing, because we could’ve faded out a long time ago.
Is breaking up for a period of time one of those things that maybe helped the band stay together for the long haul?
Could be. During the time we were breaking up, we knew we would be back together. I’m pretty sure we did, at least. And that period, I mean the ’80s, were not good to the Allman Brothers. Those were the years of electronic music and disco and all that kind of music. There really wasn’t a place for a good ol’ roadhouse band.
You try to do a different set list every night you play. Isn’t that a lot of work?
Well, yeah, but you’ve got to. You can’t just go in there and play what you did last year. Some bands I’ve heard that are still around, they get up, and they play the same songs in the same order every single night of their life. It’s got to become a job, y’know? That can be no fun whatsoever. Me, every night I look forward to either sitting down, when it’s my night, and making out a set list or waiting for it to slide under my door.
When can we expect some brand-new Allman Brothers music?
Well, there’ll be no wine till it’s time (laughs), but it’s in the making. There was nine years between the last one and the one before that, but there won’t be that much time before the next one. We’re too old to wait that long, man!
Derek Trucks, one of your guitarists, is doing double duty with Eric Clapton’s band. What do you make of that?
I think it’s a new twist, and I’m really honored, since he’s part of our band, too. I’m really happy for the dude, for both of them. And [Trucks] is that age; when I was that age I was touring that much. I remember in 1970, we worked 306 nights, and most of them were for free! We just needed to get around and wanted everybody to be, “Hey, man, you ever heard of these dudes from the South? They’re called the Brothers or some kind of brothers.” We worked hard to get our name out — still do, in fact.
Graff is a free-lance writer in Beverly Hills, Mich.
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