Gregg Allman’s bandmates and confidantes reflect on his life and music.
You and Gregg wrote many songs together during the past few decades. What was your creative process like?
Some of my fondest memories are of us writing songs together. He was a rare, old-school individual, who was never in a hurry to finish a song. If it didn’t look like it was going to be finished today, then maybe we could look at it tomorrow— and if it didn’t look like it was meant to be finished tomorrow, then maybe we’d look at it next week. But he always came up with certain little changes that I would never think of on my own, which is quite ironic, considering how long I’ve known him and how much I loved and studied his music before I even met him. He always had a way of making things seem complete when they finally were. Until that point, he always felt a song wasn’t finished. Our process varied from song to song: Sometimes he would write more of the music and I’d write more of the lyrics, and sometimes it was vice versa.
What struck you the first time you saw Gregg perform live?
I never saw the original Allman Brothers because Duane died when I was 9 years old. The first time I saw Gregg was in a club when I was in my 20s, and he had not yet signed to Epic, which was his comeback with I’m No Angel. I remember seeing him several times around then and he always sang his ass off. The band at that time was really good as well—Dan Toler, a fantastic player, was on guitar and his brother Frankie was a wonderful drummer. I heard them do “I’m No Angel” quite a long time before he ever recorded it and I remember commenting then: “That’s a great song.”
We first met in 1981 and played together a couple of times, but then I didn’t see him a lot until he recorded Just Before the Bullets Fly, which contained my song as the title track. And, about a year later, they invited me to join the Allman Brothers, which is really when he and I started becoming close friends.
Gregg often downplayed his musicality, but he was a great organ player. Describe his approach.
Gregg’s voice will go down as one of the great voices in rock history. His organ playing was very understated, but it was always perfectly placed. What he played fit the music as well as anything possibly could. He had an uncanny sense of being able to fit in with the two guitars and stay out of the way, while still contributing in an extremely valid way. The sounds he got out of a B-3 were always impeccable, which is really the most important element of organ playing— being able to capture a great sound. And he was also a great fingerpicker on the acoustic guitar. I loved to sit around and watch him tune the guitar to open G and get into his folk side, which was always one of my favorite things about his musicality—the melodic, sweet side of him that was so beautiful.