The Allman Brothers Band

Allman Overcame Illness to Continue Playing

By: Mike Kerwick
For: North

There is an eatery near Gregg Allman’s home in Savannah where the owners specialize in salad. The place serves “110 different kinds of salads,” according to its newest regular, offering everything from hot chicken wings over lettuce to classic vegetarian entrees.

“I love to go there instead of worrying,” Allman said during a recent phone interview.

Allman has logged enough time worrying, ever since hepatitis C knocked him to the canvas. Diagnosed in late November, Allman spent six months walled up inside his Georgia home. He needed a shot once a week for 24 weeks. A doctor administered the first few before turning the needle over to Allman’s wife.

On Sunday nights, right before Allman climbed into bed, his wife would inject the medication.

“It’s nothing short of chemotherapy,” he said. “My hair got a little bit thin, but it’s starting to come back down now. It’s the closest thing I’ll ever know to house arrest. I didn’t have the strength to get out.”

For the first time in years, the Allman Brothers Band did not play its legendary string of shows at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan.

“I sat here during March thinking, ‘Damn,’” Allman said. “One of the reasons I believe we’re still out here playing music and making people happy and still selling places out is we’re always giving them their money’s worth. [There are a] lot of problems out there, but for two to three hours, we make ’em forget about it.”

Doctors told Allman it’s possible the virus had been dormant, plotting its path of destruction for as long as 40 years. Allman suspects the virus dates back to the ’60s, when he got his first tattoo in San Francisco.

But he survived the ordeal. He returned to the yoga mat in his home gym. And he got his hands on a guitar, preparing for a pair of shows this week — one tonight on Long Island, one Friday in Holmdel.

“All you people out there who sent me an e-mail, I sure thank,” Allman said. “I got hundreds, thousands maybe. One of the people in my camp said, ‘I don’t want anybody to know you got hepatitis C. They won’t book the band.’ That’s [expletive].”

Allman is encouraging his fans to get blood tests. And he wants them to exercise caution.

“You can get it off the end of a joint,” Allman said. “You can get it off the end of a straw. You can get it off the end of a tattoo needle. Anything that gets in your blood. If you get scratched by certain things that people have had their hands on. … There’s all kinds of literature on the Net about it.”

He has tweaked his diet and his exercise regimen. Hence, his frequent trips to the local salad shop.

“I’m on the South Beach diet,” Allman said. “No bread, no taters, no rice, no sugar. Just proteins. And I’ve lost 25 pounds.

“I love focaccia bread and I love cinnamon bagels. I’m just [thinking], ‘Hey man, you could have lost your life. You lost your bagels. So what?’”


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