'Baybrah' Gregg Allman Talks Duane, NYC, 'My Cross to Bear'
In his New York Times best seller "My Cross to Bear" ( currently No. 4), Gregg Allman tells his amazing life story. From his humble beginnings growing up in the South with big brother Duane, raising hell and drifting from band to band until finally they formed the legendary Allman Brothers Band in 1969. Allman, 64, holds nothing back -- he writes candidly about the pain of losing his beloved brother to his long time struggles with substance abuse -- including eleven stints in rehab -- and his numerous marriages, including his ill-fated union with Cher. (After we spoke in May, Allman revealed he's engaged to Shannon Williams, 24.)
The book lays it all out there; the trouble is, Allman wasn't too keen to discuss the contents of the book in a quick chat with Billboard.com, but we did get his take on NYC's love affair with the band, what he thought of "Almost Famous" what his big brother Duane would be calling him if he were still alive.
It was a long process. Atlanta used to be our kind of town and then after we met Bill Graham, he had us going from coast to coast. We would just go from the West to the East, they were both dynamite places but see the music is free. All we get paid for is traveling and anyway... I just woke up; I'm trying to get the cobwebs out of my head. (Sips some coffee). What was the question?
Why do you think New York audiences have embraced the Allman Brothers?
When it comes to the music part of it, they're getting the real uncut version of what we do and people know they're not going to be left wanting more. We're not going to do 50 minutes and split, usually we're up there close to three hours. Just over the years it's built up and built up. We played just as hard this year as back in the Fillmore days.
How much of the movie "Almost Famous" is based on the Allmans?
That was very interesting to me when I first watched 'The Last Waltz.' Is that what you're talking about?
No, the Cameron Crowe movie.
(Laughs) That was a bunch of us in there. Quite a bit. Duane jumped into a swimming pool off a two story Travel Lodge in San Francisco.
So, the book covers your interesting history with women. You've been married six times, for starters.
Why are you making me feel like a monkey in a cage? When you're lonely you do some strange things.
You're a rock and roll guy! It's not uncommon to travel and get groupies and be married a bunch of times! It's different for other people...
I think it's what you make of it. Everybody's an individual, even rock and roll guys as you put it (laughs). I've never compared my life to anybody else's. I worked really, really hard for everything I've got. I gave them their damned money's worth for sure and I still am.
Obviously you loved your brother very much but I loved in the book how you also wrote about the things he did that drove you nuts.
What drove me nuts?
You wrote that when he felt sick he would complain and drive everyone crazy.
Now you're really digging for some smut ain't you?
No! Not at all. I thought that was sweet, normal brother stuff. I love my brothers but I can tell you ten things off the bat that they do to annoy me.
Well growing up he was pretty much a bully to baybrah, that's what he called me, which is short for baby brother. He always called me that and if we lived to me being 95 and him being 96 I'd still be the baby brother.
You must be so proud that Duane's legacy still lives on.
It does, it really does. It's almost unbelievable what a footprint he made in the short time he lived. I'm very proud.
You've become more spiritual since becoming sober 17 years ago. Do you consider yourself born again or just more spiritual?
I don't know about this born again. You just have to open up your heart and let Christ in. I've never understood the phrase born again. People can call it what they want. I pray every day. It gives me great comfort.
You have four children.
Three are musicians and one's a physician's assistant.
Did you try to discourage them from becoming musicians? It's such a tough business…
Did I discourage them? I must not have done a very good job (laughs). No, I don't discourage any of my kids on something like that. They can do whatever they want to do. I tell them try to be the best at whatever you do.
You write about how you struggled with drugs for a long time. What was your moment of clarity?
I don't know man. Can we talk about something happy?
I think becoming sober is a pretty fantastic thing.
Well let's just say I got real sick of the whole, all this stuff that comes with it, and I'm glad I did, I really am.
Yeah and now you get to enjoy being a grandfather!
Oh yeah, it's very fulfilling. You get the grandbabies and you hold them till they get wet and then you pass 'em on.