By Shawn Ryan – 6-1-17


It was 1994 and Gregg Allman sat on a bench in front of a baby grand piano in Birmingham, Ala.

He was set to perform a few days later with musicians from the famed Muscle Shoals music scene as part of the Birmingham Jam, an annual threeday festival of blues, jazz and gospel.

Doing an interview for the local paper, he was gracious, gentlemanly and warm. In any conversation with Allman, who died this past weekend at age 69, he always brought up his brother, Duane, who died in 1971, whether prompted or not. He continued the habit that day.

A few months earlier, Allman had played some songs with Muscle Shoals guys as part of the induction ceremonies for the Alabama Hall of Fame. Knocked out by how much fun he had, Allman agreed to do a full, 90-minute show with them at the Birmingham Jam.

But, Allman being Allman, and still having some of his issues with various substances, vanished for a day or so while in Birmingham. Vanished as in nobody could find him.

They eventually located him — but not without some serious consternation from the folks who were putting on the music festival — and he made the gig with the Muscle Shoals musicians, dubbed the Alabama All Star Soul Revue for the night. You could tell that he was having a blast playing some of the nuggets that the Muscle Shoals musicians had played, songs by Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Arthur Alexander, James and Bobby Purifoy and so many others.

When I was growing up in the 1970s in Atlanta, the Allman Brothers were unavoidable. The band had moved to Atlanta in the late 1960s and were one of the first bands signed to Capricorn Records, headquartered in Macon, Ga. Even though they’d grown up in Jacksonville, Fla., the band was Georgian and that was that.

In those days, someone somewhere had “At Fillmore East” or “Eat a Peach.” “Brothers and Sisters” came out in 1973, and you couldn’t escape “Ramblin’ Man” if you tried.

I saw the Allman Brothers several times in concert in the 1980s and ’90s and, while I’m not a fan of jam bands, there was always something in each show that rose to a higher level. Maybe it was Gregg Allman’s slurry drawl on “Melissa” or the instrumental interplay on “Jessica,” but there were always highlights.

We’ve lost a lot of musical stars in the last 18 months — you can quit anytime you’d like, universe — but Allman’s death hits closer to home than most. Let’s hope he and Duane are back together somewhere.


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