By: Ross Cat
For: Best of NY
Concert Preview: GREGG ALLMAN & Friends
SENECA ALLEGANY CASINO
Saturday January 10th
MIDNIGHT RIDER…..As the clock struck twelve on New Year’ s Eve it marked the 40th anniversary of the immortal mythology of the ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND. Florida bred Southern kin GREGG and DUANE ALLMAN fused the Jam Base Rhythm & Blues Rock Band in 1969; leaving an enduring imprint in the annals of American Music with their inspired improvisational vision spanning their dynamic four decade career.
While tragedy would rear it’s ugly head for the first of many times with the untimely death of DUANE ALLMAN on October 29, 1971; younger brother GREGG would keep the Brotherhood alive through thick and thin as the ABB reached the summit of superstardom with their induction to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
GREGG ALLMAN, who just turned 61 in December, is a consummate Rock ‘n’ Roll Road Warrior continuing to tour full-throttle, cascading his soulful gritty voice from behind his patented Hammond B-3 throne navigating the “Dreams” he and DUANE envisioned.
Rolling Stone Magazine recently recognized GREGG ALLMAN as one of the Top 100 Singers of All Time; in the article SHERYL CROW is quoted as saying, “Even in his earliest recordings he sounded like he’d already lived a thousand lifetimes”
The GREGG ALLMAN & Friends tour will be spreading some holiday cheer at the Seneca Allegany Casino this Saturday Night. It’s a safe bet that this band of accomplished musicians will be “Playing Up a Storm”, so if you have one more silver dollar left from the holidays this is one show you won’t want to miss.
The Rock Rapport had the honor to once again speak with GREGG ALLMAN from his home in Georgia as he was preparing to celebrate the Christmas season with his family before heading out on the road.
Ross CAT- Thanks so much for taking time out for the Rock Rapport. First off GREGG we’re glad to hear that you’re enjoying a full recovery from you’re various ailments throughout 2008.
GREGG- I’m feeling great and lookin forward to gettin back out with some of my old friends for this holiday tour. I just had some melanoma spots removed from the sun but they were benign so I’m sporting a couple of shiners. Now that you mention it 2008 did kick my ass but I’m a survivor, I beat the Hep C and finally took care of my sciatic nerve in my leg, after all that I’m feelin great.
Ross CAT- I had the chance to see the ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND tour this past August at the picturesque Canandaigua NY venue and the band sounded stellar. What was it like stepping back behind the Hammond B-3 on August 12th in Bethel NY after having to take so much time off to convalesce?
ALLMAN- It was an absolutely wonderful feeling to be able to get back out again with the band and play for the fans after one of the longest dormant periods of my touring career.
Ross CAT-Was there ever any doubt during that period of time that you would in fact tour again or be able to perform at the high level that you’re accustomed to?
ALLMAN-Oh Yeah, those thoughts most definitely cross your mind when you’re away from the music for such a long time. Thankfully for me it was like ridin’ a bicycle, I was able to hop right back on (laughter). Once I received medical clearance to start working again I called the band together and we had a few rehearsals to see were I was at. All those ridiculous thoughts were immediately put to rest as soon as I opened my mouth, I felt better, sounded better and played better then I have in a quite a while. Actually the summer tour was one of our best.
Ross CAT-While I understand the Hepatitis C treatments you underwent where extremely taxing physically, what was the down time like for you creatively, were you
ALLMAN-That’s the thing about it, when I told my solo band what was going on, my keyboard player had already been through the treatments, he told me: “I’ve got some bad news on top of bad news for you; don’t even think about inspiration or creation during treatment, brother I didn’t even want to get laid”. Boy he wasn’t lying I didn’t touch a pencil, my guitar or my piano the entire time. I just about had enough energy to pick up the phone to talk to my mother. It’s that bad, it’s basically watered down chemo is what it is, for those folks that have to endure full blown chemotherapy man I say a prayer for them every night. I’ve got to tell you I feel like I’m thirty again and can’t wait to share the Holidays on this little tour with my Friends.
Ross CAT-Western New Yorkers are glad to see that the Seneca Allegany Casino has become a regular stop for the GREGG ALLMAN & Friends tour with the show this Saturday Night. We northerners sure do appreciate the fact that a good ole Southern boy like yourself is brave enough to visit these parts this time of year.
ALLMAN-Hell Yeah, I love to play during Christmas time up North. I don’t know when the BROTHERS decided they didn’t want to play in the cold weather but I sure do. That was one of the biggest disappointments of the Hep C treatments was missing last year’s New Year’s Eve performance, it was the first time that I couldn’t play a gig since I was fourteen years old.
Ross CAT—The New Year (2009) will mark a momentous time in the already epic ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND legacy as you celebrate the 40th Anniversary of this revolutionary group of musicians started by yourself and your late great brother DUANE ALLMAN. What kind of plans are in store to commemorate this impressive feat?
ALLMAN-Yeah brotherman and we’ve got some really special stuff planned and that’s about all your gonna get out of me right now.
Ross CAT-You guys are one tight lipped group, when I spoke with DEREK TRUCKS and WARREN HAYNES during the summer tour they wouldn’t give up anything either.
ALLMAN-What I will tell you is that we are going to make this year’s BEACON Run one to remember after missing last spring. These shows will be for music fans and not just ALLMAN BROTHERS fans with what we have in store.
Ross CAT -You culminated the summer/fall ALLMAN BROTHERS tour with the CHANGE ROCKS concert in Pennsylvania in front of 16,000 fans not to mention sharing the stage with the surviving GRATEFUL DEAD members, what was that experience like for you?
ALLMAN-It was amazing to be part of the spirit that was building during the election, personally I would have liked it better if BARACK OBAMA would have been there. Don’t get me wrong I understand that you can’t be in two places at once. I was glad to do it for him because I believe in what he stands for. I’ve been fortunate in my line of work, racism is something that I haven’t really been subjected to over the years, it’s really a non issue when it comes to making music.
I believe this election has proven the growth of this country and the possibilities and potential that we have working together as a unified nation.
Ross CAT-As an artist having traveled the world meeting so many people over your renowned career it must seem surreal for you at times seeing all the transformations and strides this Country has made on so many levels, yet here we are again in a war that in many ways mirrors Vietnam.
ALLMAN- You sure got that right, it’s disturbing. What provoked this last Cowboy President into thinking he could solve the problems in the Middle East, which have been going on since before Christ, at the expense of American lives and at the risk of our economy is absolutely asinine.
Ross CAT- I concur, let’s get back to the music. The current ALLMAN BROTHERS line-up which has been touring and recording together the past decade features young gunslingers WARREN HAYNES (Gov’t Mule) and DEREK TRUCKS (DTB) on guitar has really taken the ALLMAN BROTHER sound and passion to another level. Do you think the freedom to be able to pursue their own musical ventures outside the Brotherhood enhances the band when it comes time to reconvene each spring?
ALLMAN-I think so, but you can just tell when you get back to the BROTHERS it’s like a sigh of relief, it’s not like work it’s like a vacation. A bass player friend of mine once told me, “ the ALLMAN BROTHERS is like a dragon, just hang on for the ride while the wings expand and the beast soars”. Just letting the songs flow comes to us so naturally; you can hear each individual musician with so much clarity on stage. Even after all this time I find myself taken aback by the spontaneity and beauty of the music we create.
Ross CAT-I know that it was a great disappointment to not only the fans but to yourself not being able to play the March Madness shows at the Beacon earlier this year. I would imagine the 2009 Beacon Run, which has just been confirmed with 10 shows from March 9th through the 21st, will be extra special for the band.
ALLMAN-Absolutely I can’t wait to get back to the BEACON this spring. Nice try again, I’d love to tell you what we have planned but not gonna happen, I will say it’s going to be kick-ass.
Ross CAT-The rumor mill is churning that artists like ERIC CLAPTON, ARETHA FRANKLIN and BOZ SCAGGS will join in the celebration of the ALLMAN BROTHERS music as well as honoring founding member your late great brother DUANE ALLMAN. Is there any chance during the 40th anniversary tour that DICKEY BETTS will be welcomed back to perform with the band if even for just one night?
ALLMAN-There is no chance that DICKEY BETTS will ever be involved with anything to do with the ALLMAN BROTHERS Band; we’ve been down that road too many times and it just wouldn’t work.
Ross CAT- In looking back at what the ALLMAN BROTHERS has accomplished despite some tragic and turbulent times was there ever a time you felt you couldn’t carry on with the band?
ALLMAN-NO there was never a time when I felt like throwing in the towel! As a matter of fact it’s been quite the opposite, there have been periods of my life when this band and its music are about the only thing that has kept me going. During the dark periods about the only thing kept me rolling was music and liquor. Thankfully the liquor is no longer part of my life, I’ve been sober for over thirteen years now.
Ross CAT-Recently you accepted the “Legend’s of Live” Billboard Award; how fitting was it for you accepting the award on what would have been Brother DUANE ALLMAN’S 62nd birthday?
ALLMAN-That’s right November 20th, the organizers of the event didn’t even know about it. It certainly gave me an added sense of pride accepting it on DUANE’S Birthday. It was also a chance for redemption for me as it gave me the opportunity to make up for the drunken acceptance speech I made at the Waldorf Astoria when the ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND was inducted to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. Ross, when I watched that replay the next day I was horrified, it made me change my life. I stopped drinking, smoking, snorting I quit everything that day. I went home and hired me a private nurse and fought the good fight for four straight days and haven’t touched anything since.
Ross CAT-The ALLMAN family bloodline continues to flow musically as your son it like to see him follow in your exceptionally large footsteps?
ALLMAN-I’m extremely proud of all my children and supportive of their endeavors. DEVON is making some wonderful music, people have got to see him live, his band is really dynamite he’s also become quite the lead guitar player. He’ll be out with us once again opening up this tour, this will be his third time out with me, I don’t leave home without him.
Ross CAT-Lastly GREGG, the ALLMAN BROTHERS music is a story within itself and continues to stand the test of time influencing generations of musicians; is there any chance the epic saga behind the music will ever be told by you?
ALLMAN-Funny you should mention that, I’ve got about thirty hours worth of material into it, let me tell you it’s going to be one thick book.
Ross CAT-Do you have a working title for the book yet?
ALLMAN-No I really don’t yet, what I will tell you is that it won’t be a song title.