Gregg Allman talks about his winding road ahead of Lake Tahoe show
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
If you go ...
What: Gregg Allman
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday Oct. 3
Where: Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
An interview with Gregg Allman can easily go off topic, which in this case meant several intended questions — including those about his new concert CD/DVD, “Gregg Allman Live: Back To Macon, GA,” and the status of “Midnight Rider,” the movie biopic about the Allman Brothers that was shelved after a train accident on the set left one dead and six injured — went unasked.
Allman has a way of starting to answer a question, only to have his thoughts take him down a whole different path. That’s not a bad thing because Allman’s answers sometimes lead to stories (or even revelations) that are easily as interesting as anything he might have said had he stayed on point with the original question.
For instance, a query about what has been a busy year of touring for Allman and his road band quickly turned to his immediate plans for 2016.
“That’s the way it is when you have new bands,” Allman said about his decision to tour extensively during 2015. “You want to get out and get as many people to check out your bands as you can. And in February, we plan to go straight to Muscle Shoals with Mr. Don Was (producing) and cut all new material.”
And there it was, a simple break-the-ice opening question led to his revealing plans to make a new studio album, working with a producer in Was whose many credits include projects with the Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Paul Westerberg, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, in one of music’s most iconic studios.
Allman, in earlier interviews, has talked about plans to someday make a solo album of all-original material titled “All Compositions By….”
Apparently, the next album will not be that project.
“There are so many (tunes) I want to cut,” Allman said. “There’s like four different Jackson Browne songs that I have all different kinds of arrangements to, and there are some old, old, ancient blues songs. There’s one that’s on the new record (“Back To Macon, GA”) that came out called ‘Kerosene.’ That one will be on that – well it may be or maybe not. It’s already on this (live) record, so if we run out of space (it could get left off the next album). I usually like to go in and cut 20 and pick from that because I always like to put as close to a dozen as I can (on an album). Then you wind up with plenty in the can in case you, if there’s a call for them, even the next year. That’s the way the Brothers used to do it.”
Right there, Allman’s thoughts turned to a potential project that would undoubtedly create plenty of curiosity and anticipation among Allman Brothers Band fans if it ever happens — a compilation of the group’s unreleased material.
“I was thinking about that the other day, if I could round up all of that stuff, I mean, there’s great stuff on outtakes (by the Allman Brothers). I would love to have (that released),” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff, actually.”
But rather than continuing that train of thought and elaborating on some of the unreleased Allman Brothers recordings, Allman quickly moved on to mentioning an album of the group’s demos that was compiled by a former roadie for the band and briefly released — without the group’s consent.
“I had it called back,” Allman said. “So now it’s become a collector’s item.”
Allman was getting on a roll by this time. A question about the song set he and his eight-piece band (including a three-man horn section) will play on its September and October dates somehow turned into a brief discussion about his distaste for Spotify, the online service that streams music by thousands of artists, but, he said, pays artists next to nothing for the rights to play their music.
“Making records anymore, with things like Spotify, is a joke as compared to the way it used to be — because it’s free,” Allman said. “Usually they pay us, but not Spotify. I’m thinking seriously about yanking all of my stuff off of that station. I mean, a lot of people have, and one by one, every day someone yanks their stuff off of it because they don’t even pay the writer.”
As the conversation continued, Allman touched on a disparate range of other topics.
He praised his excellent touring band, which sounds potent and tight on the “Back To Macon, GA” CD/DVD as they back an energized Allman on 16 songs that range from solo tunes to blues covers to several Allman Brothers Band classics reinvented with horn arrangements (“Whipping Post,” “One Way Out” and “Statesboro Blues”).
He told the story of how he fell in love with the guitar — and music in general — after watching a childhood friend play “She’ll Be Coming Around The Mountain” on a Sears Roebuck Bell Tone guitar in 1960.
He looked back on his days with his late brother, Duane, before they founded the Allman Brothers Band in 1969. Gregg, who is now famous for playing organ and singing, started out as the lead guitarist, but Duane quickly surpassed him as a player and took over lead guitar duties. It was after this that Duane forcefully advised his brother that he had better start singing or he might just get fired from the band.
“By this time we had the Allman Joys,” Allman recalled, mentioning their mid-1960s group. “So I said ‘I started this band. You ain’t going to throw me out of it.’ He said, ‘Well then sing, man.’ So I started singing. Now I have at home a recording of about the third night. It is atrocious.”
Apparently Allman’s first vocal efforts were less than stellar. But he obviously improved quickly because, by the time of the Allman Brothers Band’s 1969 self-titled first album, his husky voice had become perfectly suited to the blend of Southern-tinged blues and rock (with elements of jazz, country and soul mixed in) that the group was creating.
Finally, story-telling time had to end, and that left one last question – about the Allman Brothers Band’s final shows last October.
Unlike other swan song concerts (think the Band’s “Last Waltz”), the Allmans didn’t make the Beacon shows into an extravaganza. There were no special guests, no filming, just the final lineup of the group playing six shows that culminated on Oct. 28 with a marathon four-hour set drawn from the classic first five albums released by the group from 1969 to 1973.
By 1973, the group had seen both Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley die in separate motorcycle accidents but had pressed on, revamping its lineup and making one of its best albums, 1973’s “Brothers and Sisters.” The Allman Brothers Band went on to endure three breakups before reforming for a final time in 1997 and enjoying another fruitful run that saw Derek Trucks (who had replaced original guitarist Dickey Betts) paired with Warren Haynes to create a guitar tandem on par with original guitarists Duane Allman and Betts.
“Man, that was a real magic six nights, it really was,” Allman said of the final Beacon shows. “Each night, we were smoking, man. It was very good. You could almost change your mind about it being the last (show). But it was a very beautiful thing, 45 years, with all its changes and ups and downs. If I could do it over again, I don’t think I’d change much of anything.”
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