The Allman Brothers Band

Gregg Allman, Yo-Yo Collector

By David Lindquist
The Indianapolis News/Indianapolis Star

It’s fitting — and perhaps also surprising — that Gregg Allman collects yo-yos.

The “Midnight Rider” rock star knows ups and downs, ranging from drug arrests and a stormy marriage to Cher to transcendent performances with the Allman Brothers Band and induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Whenever the going gets low, the rough-and-tumble survivor bounces back to the top.

The 55-year-old sings about life on the run and being mistreated by hard-living women. He’s crafted a persona easily matched to a hobby such as collecting knives. (He does, in fact, own a machete made from a helicopter blade.)

At the same time, he’s seriously infatuated by toys on a string.

“I have a yo-yo that will spin for 30 seconds,” he says. “This guy really goes.”

Allman says balance is crucial to the performance of this marathon model, which was marketed by Harley-Davidson.

A fan once mailed him a silver yo-yo adorned by the singer’s initials and a black silk string. Unfortunately, it’s “too heavy to come back up,” Allman says. Among his most prized is a Duncan yo-yo from 1955, the first year the company made a plastic model.

In a series of interviews this year with The Indianapolis Star, Allman and other star musicians talked about their personal souvenirs.

Some collections are sources of inspiration, others are lighthearted diversions, and a few are status symbols of the rich and famous.

* The pastime of hard-rock bass player Jason Newsted fits all of these categories.

Newsted, an ex-member of Metallica who most recently played with Voivod and Echobrain, says he has the fifth-largest collection of Elvis Presley movie memorabilia in the United States.

The stockpile includes every full-sized poster and 11-inch-by-14-inch lobby card used to promote Presley’s 31 feature films.

“I started collecting on a whim, and then it went crazy,” Newsted says.

As a musician, the King ranks as “the most pivotal figure” and “the beginning of everything we do now,” according to Newsted.

As an actor, Presley’s movie career spanned from 1956’s “Love Me Tender” to 1969’s “Change of Habit.”

Newsted cites 1957’s “Jailhouse Rock” as his personal favorite. A poolside performance of “You’re So Square” highlights one memorable scene.

“Elvis is wearing a sweater out in the sunshine; everybody else is in bikinis,” Newsted says. “It’s questionable, but chicks dig it.”

* Yes, Elvis attracted women the way automobiles seduced Sammy Hagar .

“I was born with a love of cars,” says “Red Rocker” Hagar, who burnished his gearhead reputation with the 1984 hit “I Can’t Drive 55.”

“When I learned to ride a bicycle, one of the first ventures I took across my town was to the Ford dealership,” Hagar says. “I would spend the whole day on car lots.”

But money was tight while the future member of Van Halen was raised in a single-parent household in the 1950s. Hagar amassed his fleet of luxurious rides only after attaining celebrity.

In a new DVD titled “The Long Road to Cabo,” Hagar shows off a warehouse filled with his sports cars.

However, the singer says two of his favorite speedsters — a Ferrari 456 GT and a Jaguar XKE convertible — were left on the cutting-room floor.

* While Hagar may spend tens of thousands of dollars on his collection, Chingy doesn’t dedicate a dime to his.

The St. Louis-based rapper, who scored hit singles this year with “Right Thurr” and “Holidae In,” picks up seashells when he visits a coast.

And because Chingy (born Howard Bailey) carries his beach finds on tour, he prefers medium-sized shells to large ones.

“I keep them for good luck,” he says.

* Curiosity led to the small-change hobby of Anderson native Kris Roe , the creative force behind the Ataris — one of 2003’s breakout rock bands.

The Ataris recently reached No. 24 on Billboard magazine’s albums chart with “So Long, Astoria.” The band’s rendition of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” peaked at No. 20 on the singles chart.

Back when a teenaged Roe worked the cash register at Claire’s Boutique at Glendale Mall, he bristled at people who turned over handfuls of coins in relatively small transactions.

But after one customer gave Roe vintage dollar bills — silver certificates, in fact — the singer-guitarist wanted to know more about rare currency.

A coin collection was born, and Roe now pursues double-died or “misprinted” pennies from the 1950s.

“Look at your pennies,” he says. “You never know. It’s like hitting the lottery.”

* Alien Ant Farm vocalist Dryden Mitchell says the best comic book in his collection is the No. 16 edition of “Amazing Spider-Man,” which sold for 12 cents in September 1964.

Today, experts value the comic at $500.

Mitchell, whose band released its “TruANT” album this year, says he’d rather save his collection for a future generation than cash in now.

“Whether or not a son or daughter is into it the way I was, I want to at least show them that these little pieces of nothing are art,” he says. “To me, comics are like music — someone’s expression of the pop world and pop culture.”

* As violin player in the hard-touring Dave Matthews Band, Boyd Tinsley can be forgiven for acting like a tourist when it comes to souvenirs.

Tinsley, who issued his debut solo album “True Reflections” in June, says he can’t resist opportunities to buy shades.

“I look at some sunglasses I’ve collected over the years and say, ‘What was I thinking about when I picked these up?’ ” Tinsley says. “A lot of times, I’ll buy several pairs at a time. Some of them are little bit more conservative, and some are a little bit more wild and out there.”

* Few musicians had a busier year than Perry Farrell , who relaunched his musical carnival Lollapalooza and also made a reunion album with landmark modern-rock band Jane’s Addiction.

The album “Strays” looked different from previous Jane’s efforts because a straightforward photograph of the musicians replaced provocative sculptures that appeared on 1988’s “Nothing’s Shocking” and 1990’s “Ritual de lo Habitual.”

“I liked the idea of us being on the cover, because we never were before,” Farrell explains simply.

Which brings us to the singer’s current habit of collecting clothes. He says it’s a natural byproduct of countless photo shoots.

Farrell cites Jay Lindeberg, formerly of Diesel, as one of his favorite designers of the moment.

“I also like going vintage because it was always tailored so well,” Farrell says. “You don’t get that tailoring these days.”

* ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons is a quintessential Texan, but he admits to leaving his heart in Africa.

The vocalist-guitarist lived there for two years and continues to own a house in South Africa. Gibbons, an avid explorer of Mali and Ivory Coast on the continent’s western edge, even ditched the baseball cap from his MTV heyday and now is frequently seen wearing a micro-dreadlocked hat from Cameroon.

The 53-year-old appreciates the connection between African art he collects and the intense music that spread from the Mississippi Delta.

“These little icons serve as a very strong reminder of just what it is that got us going in this direction in the first place,” Gibbons says. “It’s a visual focus. You put some fierce-looking figure in the doorway of your recording studio, and it’s hard to forget that ‘Oh, yeah, we’re supposed to play them blues.’ ”

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