Gregg Allman at Fraze Pavilion
This year, Gregg Allman has been an active presence on the music scene. He took his solo band out for a winter tour and is now back on the road for a run of headline shows and some dates where he shares a bill with Hank Williams, Jr. He then has another couple of weeks of shows booked for October. With his long-time group, the Allman Brothers Band, meanwhile, he did the annual three-week run of shows at the Beacon Theatre in New York City in March and will meet up with his bandmates for a tour that runs from Aug. 16-Sept. 7. This sort of tour schedule wouldn’t be that notable, except that it’s a sign that Allman is back healthy after a long and, at times, difficult recovery from a liver transplant in June 2010.
“(They) called me and I was down there in two hours, bip-bop,” Allman said in a recent phone interview. “The damn thing (the liver) didn’t have a chance to get cold. Anyway, I had complications from it. That’s what the hell (happened). That’s why it took three years for me to feel good again. Man, that’s a long time to wait and have pain and no energy. You just can’t hardly get out of bed. They shoot so many damn drugs in you, they had me whacked out on narcotics.”
Allman, 65, needed the liver after being diagnosed in 2007 with Hepatitis C. Many years of drug and alcohol abuse had ravaged his liver to the point that a transplant was the only way to save his life.
“I was getting to be a real sick puppy, I really was, because I had cirrhosis. I had Hep C and I had cancer,” Allman said. “And that is the only way I got on the liver list. I mean, I’d be dying about right now. They told me I had about three and a half years left, and they would have been real sick and real painful.”
He’s also been clean and sober for 19 years and even quit smoking a few years ago. Allman’s improved health and stamina is showing up not only in the busier tour schedule, but in a greater level of activity on the creative front. He’s been busy working with filmmakers Randall Miller and Jody Savin, who are turning Allman’s 2012 autobiography, “My Cross To Bear,” into a movie.
“They’re still working on the screenplay. Casting will be the next thing,” Allman said.
The story of Allman’s life and the Allman Brothers Band is certainly one of rock’s all-time great sagas, filled with tremendous success, major tragedy, breakups and reunions and a catalog of albums that has had a profound influence on rock music.
Formed in 1969 in Jacksonville, Fla., the group’s first four albums – The Allman Brothers Band (1969), Idlewild South (1970), At Fillmore East (1971) and Eat A Peach (1972) – essentially invented the Southern rock form, mixing together rock and blues with hints of country and jazz into a signature sound that survives to this day. But the vibrant beginning for the original band was marred by tragedy, as Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley died in eerily similar motorcycle accidents about a year apart, in October 1971 and November 1972, respectively.
The group overcame those tragedies and stayed together until a split in 1982, but reformed in 1989. The Allman Brothers Band has been together ever since, albeit with a few changes – the most notable being a split with guitarist Dickey Betts in 2000. Today’s lineup includes singer/keyboardist Allman, guitarist Derek Trucks, guitarist Warren Haynes, bassist Oteil Burbridge, drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson and percussionist Marc Quinones.
In addition to the autobiography and movie, Allman has been picking up the pace with his music as well. In 2011, he released his sixth solo studio album, Low Country Blues. A tribute to the blues artists who have influenced him throughout his career, it featured covers of 11 songs by artists such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, “Sleepy” John Estes and Skip James, plus an original song, “Just Anonther Rider,” which was written by Allman and Haynes. Allman also has his sights set on an album of all-original material that he promises will be worth waiting for.
“The title will be All Compositions By … I’m working on it,” Allman said. “That’s going to be my crowning glory because that is at the top of my bucket list, All Compositions By…, and then it will simply have my name.”
For now, Allman is excited to be out on tour with his solo band. Along with solo material, the show figures to include a few Allman Brothers Band songs and possibly covers.
“We do some of all of it, man,” Allman said. “The good thing you’ve got to remember when you’re making out a set list is certain songs bring people back. You heard a song and it takes you right back to a certain moment in your life. So you want the songs to be very recognizable, but also you want them to be different every night. Achieving that is not the simplest thing in the world, but it’s do-able.”
Gregg Allman will perform on Saturday, June 29 at Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd. in Kettering, with Hank Williams, Jr. Gates open at 7:30 p.m. For more information, including ticket prices, visit fraze.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at AlanSculley@DaytonCityPaper.com.