The Allman Brothers Band

Despite hard times, Gregg Allman cherishes memories

By Doug Pullen
Newhouse News Service

29 August 2004 – St. Paul Pioneer Press

After Duane Allman’s Oct. 29, 1971, death in a motorcycle crash, the band that bears his and brother Gregg’s last name refused to perform on one particular day each month.

“It was about four years after he died that we would start to play on the 29th of any month again, especially October,” Gregg Allman recalls. “We just hated that day.”

Things did get better, obviously. The band played on despite Allman’s death, the death of bassist Barry Oakley a year later (and others since), not to mention drug and alcohol addictions, in-fighting, band breakups and commercial peaks and valleys.

Now, 35 years after the release of its first album, the Allman Brothers Band is still a going concern.

The anniversary is being marked with the release of “Stand Back,” a two-CD anthology of ABB music that required unusual cooperation from the various record companies that have released their music over the years.

Allman, 57, said he looks back on the band’s past positively, if a bit wistfully.

“I tell you, for some reason when I think of the past, something good always pops up,” he said by phone from his home in Savannah, Ga., not far from Macon, where he grew up (and Duane died). “It would strike me that the highs were a lot higher than the lows were low, and you can’t go no lower than losing a brother.”

Allman, whose friendly Southern lilt contrasts with his often-stern visage, drops his voice a notch when speaking about his brother, long revered as one of rock’s true guitar innovators.

“Oh, God, it was so damn final,” he said of his brother’s death. “I think about my brother just about every day, but in a positive way.”

The surviving sibling has seen his share of highs and lows. Allman battled and beat drug addiction. His marriage to singer and actress Cher in the 1970s was not greeted enthusiastically by the band’s fans.

His decision to turn evidence on the band’s road manager in a 1976 drug trial alienated fans and broke up the band for a few years.

Equally controversial was the band’s decision to fire longtime guitarist Dickey Betts nearly four years ago. Betts’ alleged drinking was cited as a main cause.

Who: The Allman Brothers Band
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Minnesota State Fair Grandstand, 1265 N. Snelling Ave., Falcon Heights
Tickets: $28
Call: 651-989-5151

Copyright 2004, St. Paul Pioneer Press . All rights reserved.

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