Better Than Ever
Take it easy? Gregg Allman says no thanks.
by Amy Christian
A word of advice: Don’t ask Gregg Allman why he still tours, and don’t even dare suggest that maybe he’s earned the right to take it easy.
“I am taking it easy,” said the 64-year-old rock ‘n’ roll legend from New York City, a little more than a week before he is due to bring his tour to Augusta’s Bell Auditorium. “I love what I do. And retire? Why would you retire? That’s like retiring from Disneyland.”
Allman has definitely had one of the greatest careers in modern music history. One of the founding members of the Allman Brothers Band, he’s also had a successful solo career, was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2006 and garnered No. 70 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers of All Time list.
From “Whipping Post” to “Midnight Rider,” Allman has penned some of the most instantly recognizable songs in the last 40 years of popular music and the Allman Brothers Band’s “At Fillmore East” is widely considered the best live album ever recorded.
But with great highs also came great lows. From his brother Duane’s death in 1971 and his struggles with alcohol and drugs to six marriages and a recent liver transplant, Allman’s adult life hasn’t always been a day at Disneyland.
“I think if I had it all to do over again, I would have steered very, very clear of any drugs or alcohol,” he said when asked about his biggest regret. “It’s a shame that you want to change anything about your life, but I would definitely change that.”
But hand in hand with his biggest regret is his proudest moment.
“It would probably be getting into the Hall of Fame because, that same day, I quite drinking, smoking, snorting… everything. Even cigarettes,” he said. “I did it all in one fell swoop and I’m still off everything. It’s been 18 years.”
Allman said he’s replaced those destructive extracurricular activities with some more constructive ones. Riding his motorcycle continues to be one of Allman’s favorite pastimes, and he said he’s got his eye on a nice little two-lane road that runs between his home in Richmond Hill and Statesboro, one he and his buddies are sure to hop on during some upcoming free time.
Allman’s other hobby might strike some as very un-rock star-ish.
“This is going to sound geekish and mundane, but I collect old gold coins,” he laughed. “I bought one about a year and a half ago for $725 and I just sold it for 23 grand. It’s a really neat thing. You try to find the most unpopular, which means they didn’t print many of them, and go for those. Ten thousand is a small number. It’s not real time consuming and it’s not hanging on the computer all day.”
He also admits a fondness for checking up on the careers of his children. Son Devon plays with the Royal Southern Brotherhood and daughter Layla fronts a band.
“They’re called Picture Me Broken,” he said. “Strange name. Well, you know, it’s hard to name a damn hound dog. I mean, what’s in a name? But she sent me the CD and I listened to it and thought, ‘Wow. That is one of my offspring.’ I love it!”
doesn’t have much time these days to indulge in his hobbies. He’s too busy touring and rehearsing for upcoming shows. Those shows, such as the one at the Bell, will feature a mix of his Allman Brothers Band and solo work, including some blues classics he recorded for last year’s “Low Country Blues.”
“We just had a big, long rehearsal at my house near Savannah most of last week,” he said. “We learned a bunch of new songs, some that I have written and some that other people have, and we’ll be playing a selection of it all. And the band sounds real good, better than ever. This is the first time, just recently, that I have felt that I’m really nicely in recovery from all that surgery. I’m really starting to feel like my old self now, only better.”
Even though the transplant surgery was two years ago, Allman said doctors are still keeping a close eye on him.
“My numbers check out perfect,” he said. “It really worked and they really did a spectacular job of it. The new liver likes me.”
Fans still like Allman too, which is a good thing since he doesn’t show signs of stopping anytime soon.
“I am so blessed for having this passion that I have for music and, coincidentally, it pays the bills,” he said. “You see these people — the majority of them, I would say — trudging back and forth to work. Another day, another dollar, and I’ve never had to do that. Everybody should be just as happy at work as they are at play.
“Retiring? No, I don’t think so.”
Gregg Allman w/ Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band
Wednesday, October 10
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