The Gregg Allman Band Coming to Cone Denim
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“Rambling Man” was obviously the first Allman Brothers song any kid born in the 1970s would have heard on the radio. Dickey Betts’ vocals are great but they’re nothing compared to the raspy grit Gregg Allman brings to the table. By the time you mature and pop in Eat a Peach or Live at Fillmore East, Gregg’s vocals hit you like a mass of humid air across a south Georgia swamp.
Gregg Allman is coming to Greensboro next week to play a show at the Cone Denim Entertainment Center on April 13. I was given the opportunity to trade questions and answers with Allman via his publicist and tour manger. That might have worked out better, because I have this habit of getting tongue tied when in the presence of my idols. I’m used to court cases and county commission meetings. This entertainment reporting is still new fangled to me.
Allman spent time last month at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals recording a new solo album with his road band, something he hadn’t done in 30 years. The Gregg Allman Band began a touring schedule out west a few weeks back, so I decided to ask Gregg how things are going in the now as opposed to asking him to dwell on the past. As it turns out, the past is never very far behind for the Midnight Rider. Just don’t let ’em catch you.
YES! Weekly: Since you’ve moved back from the West Coast a lot of the printed interviews talk about you getting back to your southern roots. Did you ever leave them?
Gregg Allman: No, I never really did.
The West Coast was nice, but I love living in the South; I’ve been in Savannah for about 15 years now, and I’ll never leave again. There’s just something about it – the people, the food, the weather – the South is home to me.
Y!W: What was the thought process that resulted in you working with Don Was at Fame Studio for your recent sessions last month? Why that combination and did the sessions go well for you?
GA: Mr. Was is one of the best in the business, man; he’s worked with everyone that’s anyone, from the Stones to Bob Dylan to Bonnie Raitt. Don was the musical director for the “All my Friends” tribute show we did in Atlanta a few years back, and we just hit it off – what a night that was! It was a true highlight of my recent
years. Anyway, it was clear to me that Don is a person who knows how to communicate, and communication is the key when you’re in the studio, so the decision was made to have him produce the new album. The sessions couldn’t have gone any better – boy, things just flowed. It was the best studio experience I can remember, bar none.
Y!W: What stood out to you during the band’s time in the studio? What was the atmosphere like going to Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals? Did the location contribute to the ideas or artistry at work in the recording dynamic?
GA: What stood out was the fact that I was actually in the studio with my road band, which hadn’t happened in about 30 years; I was so, so happy about that. FAME is special to me, because it’s where my brother first made his mark, cutting those songs with Wilson Pickett and Clarence Carter. The fact that Rick Hall is still there, running the place is pretty cool, too. The vibe was just perfect.
Y!W: In recent years what new artists have caught your ear? Have any surprising new interests in music grabbed your attention or have you been drawn to different styles of music?
GA: Sam Smith, man; no doubt about that. He’s got himself a serious set of pipes, and he knows how to use ’em. Sam is someone I would love to record with someday. When you ride a bus as much as I do, you’re always hearing something new, but I still tend to be drawn to the singer/songwriter type.
Y!W: You mentioned over the years how your solo projects kept you fresh and gave you outlets for new and different ideas apart from the Allman Brothers Band. What themes or emotions are you exploring with your music and songwriting now? How would you describe your songwriting craft over the years?
GA: The thing is, there are as many ways to write a song as there are songs; there is no formula, man – at least not for me. I’m not one of those guys who sit down every day and writes for an hour; never have been. Now, I don’t think you necessarily have to be sad to write a blues song, but maybe what someone else is going through in their life can move you to write something. Sometimes a random thought will just pop in your head, when you least expect it; that’s why I always have a pen and paper with me, because you never know when an idea for a song is gonna hit you.
Y!W: What advice have you given to younger artists like Derek Trucks and Devon Allman on moving forward in their careers? What’s it like to watch those two grow into full-blown artists?
GA: I told them what I tell all young musicians – stick to your guns, and don’t let anybody try to change you. Believe in yourself, and just keep doing what you’re doing. Play as much as you can, wherever you can, for anyone who will listen. That’s what my brother preached to me, and he was right; he never let anything get in the way of his vision for the band. I’m proud of Devon; he’s made his mark because of his talent, not because of his name. A name might open the door, but it’s talent that keeps you in the business. Derek’s come a long, long way, and I know he’s happy with what he’s doing now.
Y!W: My friend John is self-described as the “biggest Allman Brothers fan of alltime.” He wants to know if the Saturday Night before the closing of Fillmore East (6-26-71) was really the best ABB show ever performed and if there really is no recording of it?
GA: I do think it was one of our very best shows – boy, that was quite a night. I remember we played everything we knew, and then some! Apparently the equipment was there, but no one thought to turn it on. We did record the final show, but I don’t know of a tape from the night before.
Y!W: Congratulations on all your deserved accolades and on being inducted to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. What inspires you about playing music for others?
GA: I’ve said this many, many times:
music is my life’s blood. I just love to play, and I love to play for people, because for two hours, they can sing, dance, laugh, forget about their troubles, and then walk out with big ol’ smiles – that is the power of music. God willing, I’m gonna keep doing this for a long time. !
The Gregg Allman Band plays at 8 p.m. on April 13 at the Cone Denim Entertainment Center (117 S. Elm St. Greensboro). Visit cdecgreensboro.com for more information.