Peter Frampton‘s friendship with Gregg Allman stretches back to the late ’90s, when they first met, but he’s admired and been a fan of the late Southern rock icon, who passed away Saturday at the age of 69, since the late ’60s. That was when The Allman Brothers Band emerged while Frampton was playing in Humble Pie — which, of course, recorded and released its own landmark live set Performance Rockin’ The Fillmore within months of the Allmans’ legendary At Fillmore East back in ’71.
Frampton and Allman became close friends and emailing buddies and even touring partners, and here he tells Billboard about that relationship.
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Obviously the Allman Brothers were becoming enormous before I even moved to America. With the live album [1971’s At Fillmore East] and also all their early stuff, I was aware of them pretty soon, so I was always a huge fan. And then Laid Back [Gregg Allman’s 1973 solo debut LP] came out and I realized that there was another side of him as well, a phenomenal songwriter, and just that voice. So much soul; I mean, he dripped soul, just oozed soul.
And then in the early ’70s, I was living in New York, and I would go to places when they were playing outside. One day I got on stage — you know how they sort of had half the audience on stage, the Allmans. I was sitting behind [Gregg], or standing behind him on stage, and just got the feel of it, and just was even more of a fan. I guess in the late ’90s, we were playing a date together and I got to meet him finally and just really liked him as a person. There was a connection there; I really did enjoy his company. You never really think, “Well, one day I’m gonna be friends or play with someone” who’s been a hero of yours. But it happened with Gregg.
When I was doing my Fingerprints instrumental album in 2004, I asked Warren Haynes if he would play on a track and he said, “Can you bring the track up to New York? ‘Cause I’m playing with The Allman Brothers at the Beacon.” “Oh, fantastic.” Then he said, “Would you like to sit in?” “Oh…OK.” [Laughs.]
So I came in, we did the (“Fingerprints”) track together and it was phenomenal. And then the following day, I go to the Beacon and I get to sit in with The Allman Brothers, which is sort of the holy grail to me — with Warren and obviously with all of them. That was the first time I actually played with Gregg, and got to play a couple of numbers, I believe, and then I did it a second time.
And then the Allmans were over, and Gregg started doing dates on his own, so I did the [tribute] to Lynyrd Skynyrd and our dressing rooms were next to each other right at the top of the theater. And we got to hang out and talk, and he had just had his surgery, liver replacement and we spent a lot of time together that day just hanging out, finding tea and just chatting and stuff. So I got to know him and just really hit it off with him. Such a genuine, laid back, all-about-the-music kind of guy and it was just a thrill for me.
We did some shows together, and I got to sit in and play “Dreams” with him and his band, and that was probably just as phenomenal as playing with the Allmans. I just remember after my solo looking around at him, and he gave me this big, beaming smile and pointed at me,
We emailed over the past couple years because I knew his health was up and down, and we’d speak on email and then the final email I really didn’t get a response — the first time I didn’t get a response. And I obviously was thinking the worst. I thought he was on the mend but obviously they kept it quiet there.
Y’know, when you meet him, you meet what you see — very quiet, genuine, very down-to-earth guy, just very easy to talk to and just one of the lads. You always hope that. Nine times out of 10 I’m very lucky the people like him that I’ve met meet up to my expectations and have blown me away. And Gregg definitely did.