By Brian Ives
A few weeks back, Radio.com got on the phone with Gregg Allman to discuss the forthcoming release of All My Friends: Celebrating The Songs & Voice Of Gregg Allman, a live document of a tribute concert that took place on January 10 of this year.
We were told not to ask about the future of the Allman Brothers Band, as Gregg had told Relix magazine that the Allmans were calling it a day at the end of 2014. But during the interview, he casually said, unprompted, “As for the rumor of the brothers breaking up after 45 years, in other words, after this year, that is a rumor. We are not breaking up.”
And so we ran with it.
But there was plenty more to the interview. We spoke about his health (the Allmans had recently postponed a few shows, as Gregg was fighting bronchitis), his new diet, his upcoming projects and the All My Friends concert. He even recommended a documentary! Read on.
Radio.com: Gregg, it’s great to talk to you. What’s going on?
Gregg Allman: Just trying to get some morning coffee here, bruh, you know how important that is!
So I think what the fans want to know is, how are you feeling?
Like a million! I have so many angels man, I am so fortunate, and so thankful. I have a thing called a-fib, I’m sure you’ve heard about it. It’s an irregular heart beat. I don’t know if I’ve got too much rhythm or what! Now, the only time your heart rests is between those beats. But I have what’s called a “flutter,” it means my heart is just firing constantly. A regular heartbeat is 60-80 beats [per minute], right now I’m at about 105, but I did go to 147. So I caught this virus, and the virus totally coated the inside of my lungs with mucus. Therefore, the lungs needed more oxygen, and it called for the heart beating more, still. So I woke up Monday before we were supposed to play Tuesday – I don’t know if you’ve ever had symptoms like this, but I just said, “Hey, baby, it’s out of my hands, I got to call the doctor.” The doctor said, “You ain’t playin’ nowhere, you get your ass in a New York hospital!” I stayed there six days, they got my heart [rate] back down, they got my lungs cleared out. I was on antibiotics: I gotta be careful what I take – and I’m sorry this is such a sermon.
No problem. So, you’re better now?
They got me back to normal now, they looked at my schedule ‘til the end of the year and they said, “No wonder, what are you, trying to kill yourself?” And I said, “No, but I’m a transplant [a reference to his 2010 liver transplant] and they’ve not always got the longest to live.” But I feel perfect. I just need to start putting much more thought to my health. As in, 24-7. And so I’m doing that. I’ve done juicing, I’ve gone to health food, I’ve gone vegan, and it’s not easy, man, to find enough to eat. I don’t know what your diet is.
I’m a vegetarian, but not vegan.
Then you know as well as I do, it takes some getting used to! It ain’t biscuits and gravy, you know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout? It’s like, it’s not escargot, it’s not caviar. Not that I’m that high-end! But I happen to love that stuff. I don’t know if you were into caviar, or you think it’s ridiculously priced, but man, it’s almost sexual to me! Now! End of sermon! What do you want to know, brother man?
Well, tell me about the All My Friends tribute show.
Oh, man, you should have been there, and the DVD is done so well. See the movie! The same people who shot and produced and directed and set up Muscle Shoals did this film too. Did you see that movie?
Not yet, it’s on the list.
Oh, brother, see it tonight! Get yourself a big fatty, and some chocolates and your old lady and get on the couch and watch Muscle Shoals, it will be an evening to remember! Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, my brother [are in it], it’s such a tribute, and it shows you exactly when the egg was cracked, and out came southern rock.
I thought you hated the term “southern rock.”
I do hate it, but the only good thing about it was we had our own slot in the record shop. I don’t know why they came up with 72 different f—ing genres of music. Like, alternative. Alternative to what? To music?
How did you feel when you were watching the footage from the All My Friends show?
The first thing comes to my mind is “Gregory. Do. Not. Cry. Do not start crying!” If you watch the part with me and Jackson [Browne], we did “These Days” and “Melissa” and if you look at him during the second verse of “Melissa,” and he was singing and he had a huge f—in’ crocodile tear out of the outside of his eye and I was thinking, “Don’t start, you’ll get me goin’!” And I just happened to look down at the first three or four rows, they were all crying. Everyone in that place. Then, the following Saturday night, with my new [solo] band, with my new horn players, we cut a live show at the Grand Opera House in Macon, Georgia, and it will come out probably toward mid-summer. And that band is a smokin’ motherf—er, I’ve been building it for almost eight years and it is almost complete.
So that will be a new live album?
It’s a live record of my new band. It is absolutely smoking! As for the rumor of the Allman Brothers breaking up after forty-five years, in other words, after this year, that is a rumor. We are not breaking up. We are replacing Derek Trucks.
What new guitarists are you looking at?
[laughs] I ain’t gonna let you in on all of it, brother! You wanna try out?
Warren and Derek are hard to replace though.
It’s like this: No one is the ‘best.’ They’re all different. One is tiramisu, one is crème brûlée. They’re all just sexually delicious. As far as being fast, that doesn’t even enter it. It’s what you say and how you say it. I think I’ve strayed of the beaten path, you probably have questions written down that you want to ask me.
Yeah! Tell me about Eric Church’s performance at All My Friends.
He sang ‘Win Lose or Draw.’ He tore that up. Please print this: it’s hard to say who did the best job of what. They were all so wonderful. That song, that was the last song that I wrote for the Brothers. We were not in a good way. Remember, after [1975’s] Win, Lose or Draw, we broke up. Before that, for [1973’s] Brothers and Sisters, I showed them a song called “Queen of Hearts.” And they flat turned it down, man. Their words were, quote, “Man, it just ain’t sayin’ nothin’,” unquote. I won’t tell you who said it, because they’re still alive.
I think I can figure it out.
Well, all that’s left are me and two drummers! [ed. Gregg neglects to acknowledge former Allmans guitarist/singer, Dickey Betts, here; Betts was fired from the band in 2000]. Anyway, that is the best thing that could have ever happened to me, because I went just f—ing ballistic. I said, ‘Do you remember me, I’m the f—er who brought you ‘Whipping Post’ and ‘Midnight Rider,’ shall I go on? A little more than three fourths of all the rest of the songs. And you’re gonna give me s—. I said, ‘Look, at worst, we can try it and have a killer laugh!’ That’s the way I look at things! And then we could say, ‘This is the worst piece of s— we have ever rung the bell on!’ No big thing, back to the drawing board, right? But nooo… we didn’t even try. So I got on the first f—ing thing smoking to Miami, and thus was hatched Laid Back. It probably would have never happened had he not said that. I can’t mention any names but his initials were Butch Trucks! Cut me to the f—ing bone, man. Some things take a long time to get rid of! [laughs].
OK, back to All My Friends, what else did you enjoy from the show?
I caught a little bit of Sam Moore doing ‘Please Call Home,’ [from 1970’s Idlewild South] man, and oh my God. Oh my God! As he walked on the stage, I said, ‘Well, now we’re about to get a lesson in how to sing that song right.’ Sure enough, he said, “I threw a little gospel in there, I hope you don’t mind!” (laughs). I said, “Man, whatever you threw in there is fine!” To have Sam, from Sam & Dave, to even have him come, just to attend… if he just came to watch the show, I would have been so elated, man. It also reaffirms something to me that is so, so valuable to me. That man is eighty four years old, and he’s just got chops! Chops on top of chops! And he sounds just as good as he did when he sang ‘Hold On! I’m Comin’!’ If, God willing, I make it to that age, I hope I can still sing and play.
Looking forward, are you still going to do a follow-up to your 2011 album, Low County Blues with T-Bone Burnett?
I’m supposed to do another half of that album. I also have one to cut in Muscle Shoals with Don Was, and that’s a record I’ve long been pre-meditating, maybe thirty years, and the title will be All Compositions By… my name. Hey man, they just brought me something to eat, I gotta cut it.
So are you guys actually going to reschedule the shows at the Beacon Theatre in New York that you postponed in March?
Yes we are. In October, and we’re adding two, so it will be a Friday and a Saturday, a Tuesday and a Wednesday, and another Friday and another Saturday. So it will be two weekends, and two shows in the middle.
What about the rumor that you guys were going to do one big show at Madison Square Garden?
We decided that’s a bad idea. Of all the big rooms, that one’s got the best sound, but nothing sounds like the Beacon.