Gregg Allman, born Gregory LeNoir Allman in Nashville, Tennessee and anchor of the legendary Southern Rock and Classic Rock band, the Allman Brothers Band, died today of causes disclosed as liver cancer in some reports. Allman, 69, was known to have battled alcohol and drug addictions and was in and out of rehab clinics numerous times before gaining control in the 90s. Allman contracted Hepatitis C and underwent a liver transplant procedure in 2010.
Lead vocalist, guitarist and Hammond B-3 player par excellence, Gregg Allman was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2006, also receiving a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2012.
As is true of many of his contemporaries, Allman’s musical influences tended towards blues artists, which can be unmistakably heard in his vocal qualities. Mr. Allman related in his autobiography “My Cross To Bear”, that one in particular stood out to him, “Little Milton”.
“‘Little Milton’ Campbell had the strongest set of pipes I ever heard on a human being. That man inspired me all my life to get my voice crisper, get my diaphragm harder, use less air and just spit it out. He taught me to be absolutely sure of every note you hit, and to hit it solid.”
Seeing B.B. King, Jackie Wilson and Otis Redding in concert, when he was 12, was also an eye opener for him and older brother Duane. Gregg and Duane both started out on the guitar – Duane becoming a guitar legend. Duane and Gregg spent most of their teen years in the Daytona Beach, Florida area and began forming their own groups.
Most of their early performing was under the moniker, the “Allman Joys”, but their first official recording contract was titled as “Hour Glass”. Gregg and Duane were unhappy, to say the least, with the kind of material Los Angeles based Liberty Records had them recording. When their obligation with the label expired, they began putting the pieces of what would become the Allman Brothers together in late 1968.
The Allman Brothers Band found Macon, Georgia to be an amenable scene from which to launch the band’s successful trajectory. It was the double LP “Live at Fillmore East” that put the group on the map with a Gold record award in 1971. Shortly after that, Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident. Of his brother’s death, Allman wrote, “I still ain’t gotten over it. I don’t know what getting over it means, really. I don’t stand around crying anymore, but I think about him every day of my life.”
The band continued on and produced a highly influential and mostly commercially successful body of work, although they had some misses along with the hits and several falling outs followed by reunions.
Allman also released some solo recordings along the way. One with Cher during their brief marriage, which was as much of a mess as the marriage was. Allman continued periods of touring and solo appearances through 2009. Allman was married 7 times, and leaves behind five children from them.
To get a sense of the excitement Gregg, Duane and the band generated in concert, here is “Whipping Post” from a concert at the Fillmore (East) in 1970: