Gregg Allman, one of the most distinctive vocalists of the Rock Era and a towering figure in the Southern-rock genre, died today at the age of 69.
According to a message on GreggAllman.com, he “passed away peacefully” at his home in Savannah, Ga.
The message also stated: “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. … The family suggests that tributes to Gregg can be made to the Gregg Allman Scholarship Fund at The University of Georgia or the Allman/Lehman Endowed Scholarship at Syracuse University.”
Allman co-founded the Allman Brothers Band with his older brother Duane (who died in 1971), and wrote or co-wrote many of the band’s best-known songs, including “Whipping Post,” “Midnight Rider,” “Melissa” and “It’s Not My Cross to Bear.” He suffered from hepatitis C and underwent a liver transplant in 2010. The cause of death has not been announced yet, though.
Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks died a little more than four month ago, also at 69.
I was lucky enough to see Allman perform, both with the Allman Brothers Band and his own Gregg Allman Band, many times. I admire many rock vocalists, of course, but he was one of the few who could routinely inspire a sense of wonder, just with the raw power of his voice.
I started seeing him in the mid-’80s, when the Allman Brothers Band were no longer touring together. I remember one show at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic that featured The Gregg Allman Band, The Dickey Betts Band, and The Band (soon after the death of Richard Manuel). Allman and Betts and members of their bands jammed together at the end of the show, of course.
I also saw the Gregg Allman Band double billed with B.B. King at the Ritz (now Webster Hall) in New York and with the Dickey Betts Band, again, at Club Manhattan in Spring Valley, N.Y. Later, after they reunited, I saw the Allman Brothers Band frequently at the Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel, the Beacon Theatre in New York and elsewhere.
I also interviewed Allman several times, and always found him soft-spoken, friendly and thoughtful.
Here is a complete 1979 Allman Brothers Band concert at the Capitol Theatre, in 1979 — a remarkable show that was broadcast live on WNEW-FM, and featured a surprise appearance by John Belushi.