We’ve lost another great musician too young. Gregg Allman, the surviving Allman brother of the Allman Brothers Band, passed away today at age 69. He had been ill for some time, so the news was not surprising, but it was still shocking and sad.
From the 1960’s until recently, the ABB was among the elite American rock groups, mixing blues, jazz and good old Southern rock into a unique sound that grabbed you hard and wouldn’t let you go. Originally formed with his brother, the late slide guitar virtuoso Gregg, guitarist Dickie Betts and others, the Allman Brothers Band produced masterpieces like “Whipping Post,” “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” “Statesboro Blues,” “Jessica,” “Melissa,” and “Blue Sky.” Gregg Allman played a ghostly-sounding organ and growled his lead vocals, intertwining with extended guitar solos and a rock-solid rhythm section in mesmerizing jam sessions.
Duane died in a motorcycle accident at a very young age, leaving Betts to take over the lead guitar duties. In later years, Betts left the band and Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes very ably took over the guitar duties. I saw the ABB play at Saratoga Springs in 2005, and they sounded as fresh and vibrant as they did on their classic Live at the Fillmore East album from 1971. They played all the classic songs, including Gregg’s “Midnight Rider” and a cover of Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla” (a song that Duane played on as a part-time member of that group.) It’s a memory I treasure.
Drummer Butch Trucks (Derek’s uncle) passed away not long ago, and today Gregg has joined him, Duane and original bassist Berry Oakley in the afterlife. I sometimes feel like this blog is a series of obituaries for the musicians I’ve loved all my life. Today, Gregg Allman assumes his place in my hall of fame. I share with you this video to give you a glimpse of his greatness. He left us a superb body of music. Selfishly, I only wish he could have left more.
So long, Midnight Rider. Rest in peace.