The Allman Brothers Band

Gregg Allman – The Godfather of Fusion

Larry Rodgers

The Arizona Republic

Nov. 01, 2001 12:00:00

It’s becoming the rule rather than the exception in pop music for bands to mix musical genres. Whether it’s the rap-metal of Papa Roach, the country-rock of Lonestar or the jazzy hip-hop of Common, today’s musicians are creating fresh sounds by blurring borders. Gregg Allman, meanwhile, has been doing it for three decades.

First with the legendary Allman Brothers Band and later through a string of solo albums, this master of the keyboard has melded rock, blues, soul and jazz in his Southern-hued musical ramblings.

“I like a whole lot of kinds of music, and that’s how this stuff got formed – by putting a bunch of them together,” Allman says in his laid-back drawl via phone from Florida. But Allman would just as soon pass when it comes to crediting extended Allman Brothers instrumental numbers, such as In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, with influencing such modern jam bands as Phish and Widespread Panic.

“We are a band that jams, instead of a jam band,” says Allman, 53, who plays a gig in Tempe Thursday, Nov. 1.

He speaks of the Allman Brothers in the present tense because the band continues to be a popular summertime draw at amphitheaters and will record a new album in December. Allman’s most recent solo material has favored the blues: “Playing the blues is a good release, not that I have the blues. It’s poignant, something you can sink your teeth into.”

He now pours his bluesy keyboard work from a Hammond B-3 organ, choosing to let Danny Lewis play piano in his revamped backing band. “I don’t play attack keyboards,” Allman says. “I just kind of put the gravy on the meat.”

He says he recently realized that the man who influenced his understated organ playing is Booker T. Jones of Booker T. & the MG’s: “Booker T. just kind of played what needed to be played.”

Allman credits his new wife, Stacey, with helping him conquer his well-documented drug and alcohol abuse and remain sober for nearly six years. “The whole thing (substance abuse) is a big lie, a big trap,” he says, adding that he hopes to “save just one person from the pitfalls of this stuff.”

One thing that may not be salvaged is his relationship with former Allman Brothers guitarist Dickey Betts, who was fired last year after recurring drinking problems. Betts and the band are in court as a result. Although he sees no possibility of Betts rejoining the group, Allman voices no ill feelings: “I don’t wish him any harm, I wish him only the best. We spent many years playing together, and you don’t forget that in an afternoon.”

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