Rocker on the road: Gregg Allman finds comfort at home, and his passion with the band
The Times-Picayune – 13 May 2005
By Ed Condran, Contributing writer
It’s a mild, sunny day in scenic Savannah, Ga., and Gregg Allman is relaxing in his spacious new house. The leader of the Allman Brothers Band admits that he’s lost his desire to tour extensively.
“I don’t need to do that anymore,” Allman said in a telephone interview. “I’m 57. None of us need to be out there for a long time. We’re not spring chickens anymore.
“I’m sitting in this brand new home here in beautiful Savannah. It’s nice to live in this town. I love it here. I love playing too, but as I get older I don’t enjoy everything that goes with playing out.”
Allman doesn’t intend to emulate diabetic blues legend B.B. King, who will turn 80 in September, and still tours extensively, or 72- year-old country icon Willie Nelson, who loves the road as much as he hates filing taxes.
“Good for those guys,” Allman said. “If they want to tour at that age, more power to them. Everyone is different.”
For the next few years, however, fans can expect the grizzled vocalist-keyboardist to be on the road with and without his beloved Allman Brothers Band. The band performs Tuesday at the Saenger Theatre. Gregg Allman & Friends, including electric guitarist Robben Ford, percussionist Floyd Miles, keyboardist Neil Larson, bassist Willie Weeks, drummer Steve Potts and a three-man horn section, played the House of Blues on Mardi Gras.
“One thing I want to make clear is that I still do love doing the Allman Brothers,” Allman said. “It remains a passion for me and fortunately for fans as well. A lot of people still come to our shows.”
The Allman Brothers Band sells out shows on a regular basis, although at press time tickets were still available for Tuesday’s show. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
“It’s obvious that the Allman catalog has been passed down to teenagers and those in their 20s, since a healthy portion of the band’s audience is comprised of younger fans.
“It’s exciting for us,” Allman said. “The younger people are so enthusiastic about the music. Fortunately, there is a lot for them to soak up.”
It’s easy for new fans to be hooked by the early Allman albums, recorded between 1970 and 1975. During its salad days, the young Southern band introduced the music world to a polyrhythmic extension of rock, with Gregg Allman impressing as a blues belter. At the time, many rock guitarists were lost in distortion but the Allmans relied on clean, precise guitar lines. It’s not surprising that jam band kids have fallen for such classic Allman albums as 1972’s “Eat a Peach” and 1973’s “Brothers and Sisters.”
However, the Allman live performances eclipsed the studio releases. Guitarists Duane Allman, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1971, and Dickey Betts, who was booted from the band in 2002, pushed each other throughout concerts, backed by a huge wall of rhythms.
Fans, who would like to experience those halcyon days can pick up one of the live recordings on CD.
“We got some tapes of early shows, which featured my brother (Duane),” Allman said. “A lot of our fans are too young to have seen us then and I wanted to give them the opportunity to hear my brother play. We have plenty of other shows in the can from back then. You can expect to hear some more old shows on future discs.”
Don’t expect Allman to reconcile any time soon with Betts. The ouster has been tough on the revered guitarist, who was an integral part of the Allman Brothers sound for 30 years. After a recent conversation with Betts, it’s apparent that he would like to mend fences, but Allman, who wouldn’t comment on the topic, is fine without his former bandmate.
“I’m more than happy with the way things are,” Allman said. “I don’t need any extra problems at this point in my life. I would like to just enjoy things as much as possible at this point. I’ll leave the conflicts behind. The more conflicts I have the more likely I am to spend time here in my new house away from everything.
“After all I’ve been through, I’ve earned the right to do things the way I want to musically and to tour or stay home.”