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| posted on 5/20/2010 at 04:13 PM|
|Headline: Gregg Allman: Then and now|
By TIMOTHY FINN
The Kansas City Star
He was still in high school when he joined the band that would make him famous.
Back then, Gregg Allman had little faith in the prospects of success.
"I was the one who always told my brother, 'We're not gonna make any money doing this," Allman said recently. "I'd say, 'The Beatles were out and no pun, but everybody and his brother has a band. We're not gonna make squat doing this. You're freaking dreaming.' And he'd say, 'Yeah, but it's a good dream. You want to come along?' "
So while his older brother, Duane Allman, formed bands that would evolve into the Allman Brothers, Gregg pursued a more practical future.
"I said I had to finish high school," he said. "I wanted to become an oral surgeon. I was serious about it, man."
Instead, he became the lead singer in a group that eventually became the Beatles of Southern rock. The Allman Brothers are still a touring entity, but Gregg Allman is also a solo performer. On Friday night, he'll perform at the VooDoo Lounge in Harrah's casino. From his home in Savannah, Ga., he spoke about his new record, his solo work and what 40-plus years of the rock life have taught him.
Q. Tell us about the record: Who is on it and when will it come out?
A. Well, it's very old school. T-Bone Burnett produced it. We did 11 songs in 15 days. It was a real magical time. There's no electric bass; it's all upright. Dr. John plays piano on it. The last time I recorded with him was back in '76 on "Playing Up a Storm."
It's got some really, really old songs on it -- Billie Holiday-old songs. Somewhere (Burnett) got ahold of a (mp3 player) that had 10,000 songs on it. He handed it to me and said, 'Hey, man, pick out some you like. So I picked some and he picked some, and we came out with some really great ones, and we laid those bad boys down and recorded them. And it came out real nice.
Had you ever worked with T-Bone before?
I never had.
What made you want to?
Well, nothing at first. Then I met him. After (producer) Tommy (Dowd) died, I thought, "What the hell am I gonna do now?" I met T-Bone in Memphis, and the first thing he said to me was, "Man, wasn't Tommy Dowd the end-all and be-all?" I thought, "Oh, what do we got here?" That connection to Tommy was very important.
Why are you waiting until January to release it?
There are two real good times to release a record. It's an age-old thing: One is June, and one is January, January being that when Christmas is over and people have gotten their different music for Christmas and all of that and are through with it, they want to hear something else by January. So it seems like a good time to release it.
What are your objectives when you go into a studio these days?
You don't want to make a record you're gonna wince at. There's nothing worse than being at a friend's house, and he puts on your record, and you start talking louder when this part or that part comes on. That's a terrible feeling. I have a couple of those out, older records, of course. Still, they're a drag.
What is more rewarding for you, playing live or recording?
I'll tell you what. Of the two, my favorite is rehearsal. That's where the orgasmic end of the whole thing comes through. That's where it all happens.
So your favorite thing is to perform live where no one else can hear it?
Exactly. When we hit on something, it's like, "Oh, man. That's it." I have a studio built on my house. I get guys to come down here and rehearse down here. It's beautiful. I have 300-year-old oak trees in the yard. It's really nice. We have a natural ball. We eat barbecue and watermelon. We go fishing and do all kinds of stuff, then go play.
Can you re-create that magic again when you go on the road?
Well, you can, yes, but the first time you get it is usually at rehearsal, and that's when it's really happening.
What makes you decide to cover a song?
Hearing it a different way that makes you think, "What if I took a crack at this?" Or if I'm always humming it or it keeps coming back to me. You develop a thing for it, and you can't quite let it go so you think, "I'm gonna record this son of a gun."
But sometimes you get into the studio and try it out and it doesn't work. I tried to record the Jimmy Cliff song "Too Many Rivers to Cross." Man, I don't know. It just wasn't in my throat, so I figured I'd stick to listening to his version of it and leave it alone.
You recorded my favorite version of Jackson Browne's "These Days," which was on your "Laid Back" album. Do you still sing that?
You know, I don't, but I should. I need to get back to doing that.
How did you find that song?
He and I used to be kind of roommates. I learned a lot about songwriting from the guy. What a wonderful dude.
I heard it when he was writing it. I always admired it, so I thought, "I'm gonna record it." I thought he'd already recorded it when I did. Then his album ("For Everyman") came out the same year, he gave me thanks for "getting me off my ass to record my own song," which was cool."
You'll be in Kansas City soon. Talk about your live show and your band.
On bass I have Jerry Jemmott, who has played bass with Aretha (Franklin) and King Curtis. He was with the Atlantic staff along with my brother, who always told me about him.
Then one night at the Beacon, this big black dude walks up to me and says, "Man, you even kind of look like him." I said, "Excuse me, but I'm at a bit of a disadvantage here." He said, "I'm sorry. I'm Jerry Jemmott." I grabbed him and hugged him and thought, "What the hell? All he can say is no." So I asked him to be in my band, and he said, "I'd be honored." That was in about '06; he's been with me since.
We also have Booker T's drummer, Steve Potts, and Scott Sharrard on guitar. We have Jay Collins, who has played with Levon Helm. As a matter of fact, he married his daughter and they have a little boy. He plays tenor and baritone (saxophone) and flute. And we have Bruce Katz on piano.
Bruce, Steve and Scott all live in Woodstock (N.Y.), so I can send them all something and they can get together and work it out. It's an all-round good thing.
I go to a lot of live shows, and the Allman Brothers come up frequently, like at a recent Hank Williams Jr. show. Are you aware of your legacy?
I don't really dwell on it because it reminds me of how old I am. We started in the chitlin circuit, the club circuit around the gulf -- Pensacola and Panama City and Mobile, Ala. That's where we started in July of '65 when I got out of high school. I was always the youngest guy in the band. Now, in my own band, I'm the oldest sumbitch. But, really, I'm grateful for it all. I have been really blessed. I think it's just wonderful.
Is there anything you no longer take for granted that you used to?
You take care of it .
Yes I do. I go to the gym at least four times a week. Fifteen years ago, I cut out all the bad habits, everything at once: the smoking, drinking, coking, heroin. All of it. I really don't remember it, either. There was a period of about a month that was really terrible. I came out of it very weak for a while, but then I started feeling together. And that was exceptional. I loved that part of it.
Clarity is great. When I hear someone say, "Hey, man, remember this?" and I dig into that memory -- and I have a real good one -- and it's something I can't remember, I think, 'You stupid bastard. ' "
Anybody out there reading this: Drugs are a (bleeping) cop-out. I remember that ad they used to have out about cocaine that said "Cocaine is a lie." Well, it's all a lie. Liquor: You figure your prefrontal lobe is the first part of your brain that alcohol affects. That's also the part of your brain that decides whether you're gonna take another drink or not. So it's just a loaded game.
I see all these college kids pouring that (stuff) down and I think, "Man, you're gonna be so sorry, let me tell you." But there ain't nothing you can tell them. They haven't experienced it.
I must sound like a damn goody-two-shoes, but I've been clean 15 years in November, and I've never felt better in my life.
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| posted on 5/20/2010 at 04:21 PM|
|Great article - thanks for posting it. Seeing Gregg on Saturday night. |
Front feet doin' the shuffle, back feet too, love them good ol' Georgia blues
(46279 all sites)
| posted on 5/20/2010 at 04:28 PM|
|Great interview. I've met Tim Finn, the writer, several times. Outstanding music writer with a ton of knowledge. He keeps a great blog at the Star's website.|
Some interesting comments in the comment section...
"Live every week like it's Shark Week." - Tracy Jordan
(18594 all sites)
| posted on 5/20/2010 at 05:35 PM|
|Great article (and thanks for that link, Jerry ... read the comments)|
"Come on down to the Mermaid Cafe and I will buy you a bottle of wine, and we'll laugh and toast to nothing and smash our empty glasses down..."
(1431 all sites)
| posted on 5/21/2010 at 06:27 AM|
|On of the more insightful interviews with Gregg. Thanks for posting.|
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