Country legend Charlie Daniels was a musical peer and great admirer of Gregg Allman, the singer and guitarist for The Allman Brothers Band who died Saturday (May 28) at age 69. Here, Daniels talks to Billboard about his memories of Gregg’s one-of-a-kind talent.
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Gregg Allman was the best white blues singer I’ve ever heard. Hands down. There’s a thing about the blues very few people get. People try to sing it, but they don’t really get it — like, the real, sure-enough what it’s supposed to be. Gregg was one of the people that did. I think he was the best singer of any of the southern bands. He just had it.
He was one of a kind. I can’t think of anybody else to even compare with him. People ask me if I listen to radio; I don’t. I can’t tell one song from the other, one artist from the other. The songs all sound the same, the artists all sound the same. But you give me 100 artists and put Gregg Allman in there, and I’ll pick him out for you. That’s how unique he was.
You know, seeing The Allman Brothers was an experience. It wasn’t just going to see a band play for entertainment or something. It was a musical experience. The band was such an incredible unit of musicians together. Whenever I worked with them, I’d listen to them and they played song after song after song. It literally touched you, just caught you up in the music and you were just going along with the music. You’d go one song to the other with them. It hit you right in the heart.
And of course you can’t talk about The Allman Brothers Band without thinking about Gregg’s voice just floating on top of the whole thing, with that magnificent blues voice that he had, just bringing it all together. And his simple style of playing his keyboards, playing organ. He never tried to be Jimmy Smith; he just played and he played so well, and it fit so well with what they did.
The last time I saw Gregg was in Atlanta at a tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Somebody picked “Tuesday’s Gone” for Gregg; I don’t know who did it, but whoever it was did an incredible piece of A&R work, ’cause he just took that song and he made it his. It was like he never heard it before. He made a blues song out of it; it’s not a blues song the way Skynyrd does it, but the way that Gregg Allman did it, it was a blues song. And everything Gregg did, it was like a blues song. It has these little voice variations. You can’t get too technical about the blues; it’s more of a feeling than anything else. But he just had that incredible vocal ability.
My son called and told me about [Allman’s death]. I don’t know how he found out; he’d just been dead a few minutes, and he called me and it really knocked me out. I’ve had better friends and people I’m closer to pass away. But with Gregg Allman, it was like a kick in the head. It was very sad.