Passings: Gregg Allman (1947 - 2017)

by VVN Music

Southern rock giant Gregg Allman has died at the age of 69.

While details are still breaking, Allman has had health problems since 2000 when he was diagnosed with hepatitis C and, especially, over the last year which has been a flurry of cancelled tours, rumors of series illness which was denied by the family along with a report of his entering hospice care last month, also denied.

Allman was born in Nashville, the second child (after Duane) of Willis and Geraldine Allman. His father was killed by a hitchhiker before he turned two and he and his brother were sent to a military academy while their mother attended college.

At the age of 11, the family moved to Daytona Beach, FL and, after attending a concert with Jackie Wilson, Otis Redding, B.B. King and Patti LaBelle, he took a keen interest in music.

A cheap guitar that Gregg bought at Sears brought the two brothers together and they eventually formed a band, the Misfits. They continued to play together through numerous bands, taking in all of the musical genres they could find.

After shooting himself in the foot to avoid the Draft, Gregg and Duane formed the Allman Joys which became their first regional success, playing throughout the south-east. In 1967, Bill McEuen (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) took them under his wing and convinced them to move to Los Angeles. Renaming themselves the Hour Glass, they recorded an album for Liberty Records; however, they hated the pop sound they were forced to release and refused to play any of the music in concerts. A second album, Power of Love, was released in early 1968 but the band broke up after Duane told off Liberty executives.

While Duane continued to develop with the aid of Butch Trucks and doing session work at Fame Studios, Gregg went back to Los Angeles to fulfill their contract with Liberty. In early 1969, Duane called Gregg to have him come back to the east where the Allman Brothers Band was formed.

By November of that year, the band had released their debut album which included both blues covers and originals like Whipping Post. It sold poorly and they staked their future on live shows, playing over 300 in 1970 alone.

Gregg became the main writer for the band and, in late 1970, the released their second album, Idlewild South with the classic Midnight Rider and the concert favorite In Memory of Elizabeth Reed (written by Dickie Betts). They followed in mid-1971 with the album that would really put them on the map, At the Fillmore East, which capitalized on their reputation as a live band.

Tragedy struck the group on October 29, 1971 when Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident. After a short hiatus, the remaining members of the band got together and decided to move forward. In February 1972, they released the double album Eat a Peach which included Melissa and Blue Sky followed by a 90 show tour but, on November 11, 1972, tragedy struck again when bassist Berry Oakley was also killed while driving a motorcycle just three blocks from where Duane had lost his life.

Again, the decided to continue, recording Brothers and Sisters which included two of their biggest hits, Ramblin' Man and Jessica. Tensions were high in the band, not only because of rising drug use, but also because Gregg had decided to record a solo album. Laid Back was recorded during the Brothers and Sisters sessions and was released just two months later.

Allman toured behind the set and released a live album of the tour, creating further divides with the band. In 1975, they went in the studio to record Win, Lose or Draw but the process was difficult with Gregg spending more and more time in Los Angles with his girlfriend, Cher.

The Allman Brothers broke up after Gregg testified against a band security man in a drug trial with many in the band considering him a "snitch". Gregg married Cher and moved to Los Angeles where they had their son, Elijah Blue. They collaborated on the album Two the Hard Way, attributed to Allman and Woman, which was not favorably received. Their tour of Europe was cancelled after fights started breaking out between Allman Brothers and Cher fans and, in 1978, they divorced.

It was also in 1978 that the Allman Brothers reformed recording Enlightened Rogues (1979), Reach For the Sky (1980) and Brothers of the Road (1981). They broke up again in 1982 after clashing with label owner Clive Davis. Allman was heavily into alcohol at the time and it wasn't until 1987 that he released his next solo album, I'm No Angel and followed the next year with Just Before the Bullets Fly.

The Allman Brothers reformed in 1989 for what would become a long stint together. They released five albums between 1990 and 1995 and toured often, playing regular residencies at the Beacon Theatre each year in New York.

Gregg released one solo album during the 90's, Searching For Simplicity (1997) but the majority of his time was dedicated to the band. In 2007, he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, which he claimed he received from a dirty tattoo needle. Three years later, he received a liver transplant.

In early 2011, he released the solo album Low Country Blues; however, his health began to deteriorate during a promo tour of Europe.  Developing a lung infection, Allman had to cancel the balance of the tour.

Allman was also diagnosed with an abnormal heart rhythm which gave him a reason to lead a more healthy lifestyle but his life would continue to be tumultuous. In early 2014, a production assistant was killed during the making of a biopic of Allman's life, leading to numerous lawsuits from which Gregg was eventually cleared.

In July 2014, Allman was hospitalized for what was reported as bronchitis. He had also broken his wrist earlier in the year. The stay forced Allman to cancel a number of dates and postpone some of the band's Beacon Theatre shows.

An Allman tour bus ran off the road in April 2016, injuring a number of members of his crew. Then, in August, Allman entered the hospital for what was called a "serious illness". Reportedly in the Mayo Clinic, a report that he was heading home was denied by family members in a rather bizarre series of events that saw social media announcements and comments deleted. Later reports said that he had been suffering from pneumonia.

Earlier this year, it was reported that Allman was in the studio recording a new album, Southern Blood, but a month later, it was announced that Gregg was cancelling all dates for 2017. Late in April, reports surfaced that he had entered hospice care; however, the family once again denied that it was true.

Allman had five children with five different women, Devon, Elijah Blue, Delilah, Michael and Layla.

The statement from the family:

Gregory LeNoir Allman

December 8, 1947 – May 27, 2017

It is with deep sadness that we announce that Gregg Allman, a founding member of The Allman Brothers Band, passed away peacefully at his home in Savannah, Georgia.

Gregg struggled with many health issues over the past several years. During that time, Gregg considered being on the road playing music with his brothers and solo band for his beloved fans, essential medicine for his soul. Playing music lifted him up and kept him going during the toughest of times.

Gregg’s long time manager and close friend, Michael Lehman said, “I have lost a dear friend and the world has lost a brilliant pioneer in music. He was a kind and gentle soul with the best laugh I ever heard. His love for his family and bandmates was passionate as was the love he had for his extraordinary fans. Gregg was an incredible partner and an even better friend. We will all miss him.”

Gregg is survived by his wife, Shannon Allman, his children, Devon, Elijah Blue, Delilah Island Kurtom and Layla Brooklyn Allman; 3 grandchildren, his niece, Galadrielle Allman, lifelong friend Chank Middleton, and a large extended family. The family will release a statement soon, but for now ask for privacy during this very difficult time.

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