By: Anthony James
A black Corvette pulls up and parks curbside directly outside the front doors to the hall. The driver doesn’t care about parking tickets, he intends to get in there, hit the head, and visit the band. He steps out of his car, looks around, instinctively drawn to a giant of a man standing just outside the entrance.
Hogweed is out for a break between sets, enjoying a smoke with the doormen. He looks up and recognizes Gregg on sight, and even though he is as much an Allman brother as I, he’s been my own personal crewmember for years: The man knows better than to glower. Mere size and one lazy eye are quite enough, thanks. Gregg takes notice of the crowd in pursuit, winks, points them out to Hog, and asks him to help quickly get them through to the inside.
They went, Hogweed cutting through the crowd like the New England Clipper he is. First stop, the rest room. Once there, Gregg lets go of Hog’s arm and gets down to business. When they’re done, Gregg says with a smile, “Okay Mr. Hogweed, let’s go ahead and go backstage.”
Rock imposters had duped us in the past. In fact, all had occurred at this same venue. Consequently, the residual embarrassment made us leery of anyone claiming to be a star, especially those wanting to jam, especially here in Daytona. Those bogus occasions, or lessons – depending on where one may stand – make cool and humorous stories in and of themselves. Later…
Gregg and Hog find me backstage, and proper introductions follow. To say I was humbled and pleased to meet Gregg would be a sub-understatement. The spirit and musicianship he, Duane and the Brothers represented to me constitute the very rationale and reason I relocated from New England to the southland in the first place: great, young fusion musicians. Once my new band established itself, and as soon as the group could afford it, I called on a couple of my friends from home to join the production team. Hog was one of them.
Considering the infamous experiences of past, the band remains so spooked, they are hesitant to let Gregg on stage! Though I plead with them, explaining I had seen Gregg so many times that I know it’s him, and that I had heard him speak before, and there was no mistaking that voice, either, they refused to budge. Therefore, consequently, I pulled Gregg aside and privately did what I knew I had to do. After offering a sincere apology and brief explanation, almost shamed, I ask Gregory Lenoir Allman for his ID.
“Look,” he says, handing me his Florida Driver’s License, “It’s cool… I understand. But you got to listen:
“I don’t wait for you, you don’t wait for me.”
We walked back into the dressing room, and began work on a set list. He wanted to play Statesboro Blues, Stormy Monday and Whippin’ Post, but wanted first to play a warm-up song. I offer up Derek and the Dominoes’ “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” in the key of C.
“Yeah, I know that one.”
I knew that. Besides, the Twentieth Anniversary Edition of the “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” records contain the jam sessions between Eric and both Allmans.
”I watched my brother play on that.”
Gregg Allman joins us onstage without introduction (at his own request), and plays uneventfully through Have You Ever Loved a Woman. He shares the vocals on the last verse with the guitarist who’d been singing, takes a sweet Hammond B3 solo, and laughs through a fun piano solo by our keyboardist. By this time, our crowd – along with those hundred-or-so folks who’d been following Gregg around all night long – had caught on. As we brought to end the covetous blues number, they rewarded us, doubtlessly recognizing Gregg, with cheers and applause.
Any lingering doubt from the mates on stage dissipates on the first verse of Statesboro. Gregg merely hits the notes, makes his pitch, and they know it is he. As the moment approaches, Gregg’s not sure whether to attempt the bridge where he declares “My mama died and left me, my papa died and left me.” Our singer jumped to the mic at the last minute and did it, which drove Gregg into droves of laughter, as the band followed right on cue.
May I share with you that first jam with Gregg Allman remains a highlight in my performing career. Plus, I know the man murdered my band! The Stormy Monday jam that immediately follows makes me cry behind my drums, as Gregg sings it like no one else could, except maybe Ray. Gregg smiles at me when I catch his two-finger signal for the double time organ solo.
Neither Gregg nor Kirk would be interested in the second-generation board tape I have of the event, as the quality is substandard. Nevertheless, it is indeed one of my prized possessions, and captures one of my fondest memories. Gregg had fun, too, and rejoined us several times thereafter, whenever he and we found ourselves in Daytona together. Gregg adored Hogweed – the only one able to make it all the way to breakfast with him – as much as I did. He even subsequently offered Weed a job. He wanted to take Hogweed with him! I’ll never know why Hog stuck with me instead, but I’m glad he did. (If you ever read this Gregg, I’m sorry to report that the Hog passed away a few years ago. He was fairly happy when he went.)
Although I’ve jammed on Statesboro, Stormy, and countless other Brothers’ tunes over the years, playing with Gregg naturally raised the bar. You can hear me remark through the kit mics at the end of the set, “I’ve always wanted to play those songs!”
Hey… you never know.