Gregg Allman, singer, songwriter, and founding member of the legendary Allman Brothers Band has died. He was 69.
A statement on Allman’s official site reads:
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.
Allman, who had been married and divorced six times, leaves behind five children, including musicians Elijah Blue Allman (his child with Cher), and Devon Allman.
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Gregg his brother, legendary lead guitarist Duane Allman, formed the Allman Joys in the mid-’60s before moving from Florida to Los Angeles to form the Hour Glass. But it was their third group — the Allman Brothers Band — that made them stars and legends. Along with guitarist Dickey Betts, bassist Berry Oakley and drummers Jai Johanny Johanson (aka Jaimoe) and Butch Trucks — they would go on to be one of the most influential bands in southern rock (along with Lynyrd Skynyrd) and in the jam band scene (along with the Grateful Dead and Santana).
The band’s 1969 self-titled debut saw the band split the difference between covers (Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More,” the Spencer Davis Group’s “Don’t Want You No More”) and originals. Although Duane was the band’s leader, Gregg was the songwriter, penning ABB classics “Dreams” and “Whipping Post” for the debut. 1970’s Idlewild South continued in that vein, but it also featured an acoustic song written by Gregg,”Midnight Rider,” that would be one of his defining moments (and which pre-dated the mellow west coast country rock scene by a few years).
But it was 1971’s classic double live album, At Fillmore East that made them superstars. Eschewing their hits the album saw the band improvising on blues covers, and stretching Allman’s “Whipping Post” — the studio version was five minutes and seventeen seconds — to a twenty-three minute epic, taking up all of side four of the album. As uncommercial as that seems, it was their first album to be certified platinum.
Sadly, just months after its release, Duane Allman died in a motorcycle crash; Gregg and the band continued on with 1972’s Eat a Peach featured some more of his iconic hits, “Melissa” and “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More.” Soon after, Berry Oakley died, also in a motorcycle accident.
In 1973, as the Allmans worked on Brothers and Sisters, Gregg also worked on his solo debut, Laid Back, which featured a different arrangement of “Midnight Rider” as well as Allman’s cover of Jackson Browne’s “These Days.”
Allman married Cher in 1975, the Allmans broke up in 1976, and in 1977, Allman released his second solo album, Playin’ Up a Storm. Later that year, Allman and Cher released a duo album as “Allman and Woman,” Two the Hard Way. Allman and Cher divorced in 1978; also in ’78, the Allman Brothers Band reunited for an ill-fated stint on Arista Records; they would break up again in 1982.
The ’80s wasn’t a great era for southern rock, but things started turning around by the end of the decade; 1987’s I’m No Angel was a surprise hit, and the title track topped the Billboard album rock charts (a bit deal at the time) and is probably Allman’s most recognizable solo hit.
In 1989, the Allmans reunited again with their four surviving principal members – Allman, Betts, Jaimoe and Trucks – along with new guitarist/singer Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody. Since reuniting the band released four albums — 1990’s Seven Turns, 1991’s Shades of Two Worlds, 1994’s Where It All Begins and 2003’s Hittin’ the Note. During this time, there were a number of lineup changes – most notably, Betts was kicked out of the band in 2000. But it was in the ’90s that the band became a major touring attraction, playing amphitheaters nearly every summer, and doing a string of dates at New York’s Beacon Theater nearly every March (known as “March Madness” to their faithful fans). Thanks to the burgeoning “jam band” scene, the Allmans began pulling huge crowds, and were seen as a link between the genre’s past and future, thanks to younger members like Haynes (who fronts Gov’t Mule) and guitarist Derek Trucks, who joined in 1999 (and who co-fronts the Tedeschi Trucks Band with his wife, Susan Tedeschi).
In recent years, he’d struggled with health problems, notably Hepatitis C, and he had a liver transplant in 2010. More recently, he dealt with atrial fibrillation, which he discussed in a Radio.com interview, where he also cheerily talked about his vegan diet. More recently, producer Don Was told Radio.com that he and Allman finished work on a new Gregg Allman solo album.