Gregg Allman Talks Touring, Returning Home 50 Years Later
Gregg Allman remembers hitting the road for the first time five decades ago this month. "Me and Duane and two other chaps left Daytona Beach, Fla., on July 5, 1965 -- not too long after I graduated from high school," he told Billboard. "We had a big party, then were going out into the word to seek our fortune. My mother had graciously bought us a '65 Chevy station wagon with a .327 engine. We put all of our stuff in it and was ready to go.
"We had long hair by that time and that hadn't quite caught on in the south," Allman continued. "Our first stop was in Mobile, Alabama at a place called The Stork Club. We worked there for two weeks. We ended up playing for twenty-two weeks straight!"
Half a century later and Allman is still making music -- chasing those dreams that started on the pier in Daytona Beach all of those years ago. On Aug. 7, the veteran rocker will release Gregg Allman Live: Back to Macon, Georgia -- a two-disc CD and DVD set that was recorded live at The Grand Opera House Theatre in January 2014. Included in the set are some of the Allman Brothers Band classics such as "Statesboro Blues" and "Midnight Rider."
"It turned out to be a very good record," Allman said. "We were in really good form that night.... It's just a celebration record of my new band and a new beginning. This new band has taken me about seven years to put together, but we've finally got all the pieces in place. The album means a lot to me because this is the finest musical experience I've ever had. I'm just honored to be a part of. This is the kind of band that me and my brother always had."
Allman reflected on those early days when the Allman sound was just getting off of the ground in Daytona Beach, as he and his brother Duane got their start playing at a dance hall on the pier called the Ocean Pier Casino.
"Our first band was called The House Rockers and the Untils," he said. "The House Rockers were the rhythm section -- drums, bass, piano and guitar. The Untils were these three black guys who stood in front of the band, singing. We rocked the house every Friday and Saturday night and every night in the summer time. We only needed one guitar player, so Duane and I would switch off every other night. I made six dollars a night. I was a professional musician, man! You couldn't talk to me."
In May of 1969, the Allman Brothers Band moved to Macon, Ga., where the Allmans' careers really began to pick up. Now, returning to where their musical legacies really took off, made for an emotional night for Gregg, who admitted that he felt Duane's spirit everywhere in the concert hall.
"There were definitely a few floating around in the air. They ended up bringing two of his old guitars," he said.
Allman said that once the band took to the stage, the feeling became very loose and informal -- not what he was expecting: "It totally slipped my mind that we were recording until the next to the last song. There wasn't that sense of worry where you were thinking about it. Everybody just had a good time and played their hearts out."
Still on the road at age 67 -- playing several dates later this year with the Doobie Brothers -- Allman says there is no place he would rather be, but stresses he has to be smart about his pace. Following a liver transplant, he said his medication has lowered his immune system and cold weather will can cause issues with his throat.
"I don't do time off that well. It takes me two weeks at home and I'm ready to get back," he said. "The tours are packages of 10… So, we do those and then come home, then we'll go out again.... I decided to change my contract to nothing above of the Mason-Dixon line from the first of November to the first of April."
Joking, he added, "Maybe we'll wind up going to South America, you never know."