Since his move back to Georgia from the West Coast, many Bryan County residents have encountered Gregg Allman living a normal life and generally doing the same things everyone else does in the course of a typical day.
As with most things about Allman, it boils down to what you see is what you get. The simple fact is that Allman feels at home in Georgia, and his personality reflects that.
Gregg Allman and Friends will perform in Savannah at the Johnny Mercer Theater on Oct. 24. The recent Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductee took some time to speak to us recently about that performance, living in coastal Georgia, and the ups and downs of his long and storied career.
Connect Savannah: Tell us a little bit about what drew you to Bryan County and your thoughts on the community now that you’ve been here a little while. A day in the life, per se, of Gregg Allman. What do you think about where you’ve ended up, here in Bryan County.
Gregg Allman: I’ve found my place. This is the first house I’ve built, and it will probably be the last one. I just assume live my days on out here in Richmond Hill, as long as they don’t build too many people around us. I don’t think they can do that where I live as it’s a private cul-de-sac and gated community which is a long road with only about 8 houses.
Connect Savannah: I heard you have a place near the docks. Do you ever go out in the water?
Gregg Allman: My wife has a jet ski and she skis a lot. All my friends - like Dr. Gene Wallace, he was the first person I met when I got here and who is the nicest cat I’ve met here thus far - him and Dr. Chris Kuettner - two of the best fishermen in Bryan County (laughs), at least that I’ve been out with. There’s another man named Joe Weed - we all go fishing together.
Connect Savannah: Do you come into town much?
Gregg Allman: I do. More than I used to. I go into downtown Savannah as well. I just went down to Broughton Street. An old friend of mine from Macon came down to see me. He’s really into Bob Marley, so we went down to the African shop there. You know, Broughton Street is amazing. That new place that’s in the old Woolworth’s building, the Clipper Trading Company - everybody ought to go there. There is something there for everybody, and that could be said for the downtown area as a whole.
Anyway, you asked me how I got here, and, well, I lived in the San Francisco area for ten years to the month - from November 1989 to November 1999. At which time, I thought about getting back down south. In San Francisco, I couldn’t find a black-eyed pea; I couldn’t find any cornbread - little luxuries like that. I mean, I grew up on collard greens and sweet cornbread and banana pudding and stuff like that - you can’t find that in California.
Connect Savannah: You got married in South Carolina, you and Stacey?
Gregg Allman: We got married at Hunting Island, right under the lighthouse. It was a beautiful service. Just the two of us and three of our friends and our dog Jasmine.
Connect Savannah: You still got Jasmine?
Gregg Allman: That particular one passed away last December.
Connect Savannah: I’m sorry to hear that.
Gregg Allman: We were on the road this summer and we just happened to be in Maryland where we found this dog named Dawn. She was named that because she was going to be gassed the next morning. She looks just like our old dog - she’s a grey poodle. When I say poodle, I don’t mean like the ones you see on TV with the little pom pom haircut. She doesn’t have that, her hair is just natural - more like Benji.
She is just as sweet as she can be. She was a pound pup, so we saved her life. She’d been out on the road for a long time, so we had to shave her, but she’s getting her hair back now. We got her this summer and she has really brought some happiness, some more happiness, into our life. I would recommend anybody to rescue an animal like that. We support the ASPCA and organizations like that. There are a lot of different people around here, like this lady we know named Dana who works at Ella’s on Ford Ave. - she takes in a lot of sick animals and brings them back to health.
Anyway, we always try to donate to things like that, and me and my wife are big animal lovers. We have the T-shirts and everything. Instead of Grateful Dead t-shirts, we’ve got on animal shirts that say “one buck will change their luck”.
Connect Savannah: You’re quite a motorcycle rider, right?
Gregg Allman: Oh yeah, I love motorcycles. I have since I was 14. I have a garage full of Harleys. And I love to fish - there are some incredible fishing holes around here. I go with Dr. Wallace, Dr. Kuettner, and Joe Weed - we go fishing all the time.
There’s another good friend of mine - Tattoo Pete up here on Edsel Street. For tattoos, that’s where you go. He’s not only the best tattoo artist in Bryan County, he’s the only one. By default, but he’s really good and a really good dude and we hang together a bit. We have cook-outs and things like that. Of course, he rides motorcycles too.
When we came here looking for a house, they took us to South Carolina. They had all these big, beautiful houses, but they were all pushed up right together. Here we’ve got big oak trees and about half a football field between me and my neighbor. I’ll tell you what, we looked and we looked - and during this time I’m commuting back and forth from California, and I guess we made somewhere between five and eight trips here.
Finally, I remember one day when we were out with our realtor, Lynn Butler-Baynes, and I told her to take me to a place where I can be left alone and is just totally the opposite of Times Square and won’t cost me more than a million. By God, she brought me right here.
Connect Savannah: Did you know right away once you saw the place?
Gregg Allman: Right away. We didn’t even have to go into the house. Me and my wife pretty well designed the house. I’ve got a recording studio here, and I’ve got a room that I paint in, and she’s got her office here - I mean it’s really a beautiful house; it’s really comfortable.
You know, you go out on the road and every night is Saturday night. You come home, and everything is nice and calm, and I just kick back. You take so much New York and so much Saturday night, and then you come home and all you hear is birds. I don’t hear one car where I live. I don’t care if it’s the biggest truck they make, we’re too far away from 95 or any other main road. I can’t even hear the Fed Ex truck until it comes right up here to the house.
Connect Savannah: Your solo work, whether recorded or live, has a more soulful quality than your music with the Brothers. The “Friends” shows seem to amplify this, with a horn section and a lot of blues covers. Do you consciously approach these projects to make them distinctly different?
Gregg Allman: Well, you know, there’s certain songs that I’ve written for the Brothers that the people want to hear. For instance, we’ve got to play “Midnight Rider”; we’ve got to play “Whipping Post”. In my solo band, the songs have been rearranged. We do “Statesboro Blues”, but we do it real funky. Same thing with “Whipping Post”.
Connect Savannah: Kind of an unplugged version when I saw you do it.
Gregg Allman: Well, just kind of a different slant on the same song, but it kind of turns it into another song. The doors are wide open with your solo band. You’re the guy calling the shots. Hey - if you want to play “Georgia on My Mind,” by God we’ll play it.
Connect Savannah: Do you have any preference over one or the other -- Allman Brothers versus solo -- or is it just different?
Gregg Allman: Not at all. It’s just like Richmond Hill as compared to Times Square - one balances the other one out. There’s a real good pace to both, and your life is kind of balanced out. I mean you come home - it takes a little while because it’s kind of environmental shock. But you kick back and go out to a fishing hole. Things will be kind of real quiet. I get out and work in the yard - my wife has really got a green thumb. We just do little things around here just kind of making our house better. We’re always doing something to it.
It’s really a pleasure. I’m so thankful to God and my fans that I was able to pay off my mother’s house and buy my own place. I’m 10 years sober now which is great because, until you get sober, you can’t start saving any money.
Connect Savannah: You’ve had some well-publicized bouts with addiction. What brought you to your current state of sobriety?
Gregg Allman: I just got tired of it, man. Alcohol was my worst enemy. Of course, you can get it anywhere; it’s legal. Some people can do it, you know. They can do it in moderation, and they’re fine. It’s actually been proven that it’s an inherited gene. My father was like that. My grandfather was like that. It’s especially passed from father to son.
Luckily, my kids didn’t fall into that trap. I have two daughters. My oldest daughter went to college in San Rafael, California, and got a degree. I’m real proud of her. I think she’s going to move back east here to be a little closer to dear old dad.
Connect Savannah: Now, two of your children, Elijah Blue and Devon, have each followed your footsteps and joined rock bands. Do you ever give them advice on the business and their music?
Gregg Allman: Well, they didn’t join them - they built them. They’re band leaders and I had nothing to do with it whatsoever. Devon and his band Honeytribe just had a new release called “Torch” which is a very good record. They’ll be doing some touring with us on the second leg of our upcoming tour. It’ll be kind of a father and son thing and I’m going to have some T-shirts made up for it.
Connect Savannah: Is this the first time you’ve done something like that?
Gregg Allman: Yes it is, and I’m really, really proud of it because his band is killer. The only advice I ever gave him was when he asked for it and he said why isn’t it working and I said because you haven’t been out on the road and paid your dues to get around and let people hear you. They’re not just going to put you on MTV tomorrow because you ask them.
Connect Savannah: You’ve got to bring it to them.
Gregg Allman: That’s right - play free and get your name out there. They’ve both done that, and are both seeing some success. Elijah was here last night as a matter of fact. He was just passing through with his band Deadsy - they’re playing Tampa tonight. They’re on tour with Korn.
Connect Savannah: When you play here locally, is the feeling any different? For example, when you play Savannah, you get to go home at night which has to be a plus.
Gregg Allman: (laughs) It depends on where you’re going to be the next day on whether you go home or not. I like to keep everybody together. When I come here to play, actually I don’t stay in my house. I might pop in to check in on things and grab some clothes.
Connect Savannah: The Allman Brothers, as a band, were one of the first to fuse rock, jazz, and blues. What inspired that kind of music?
Gregg Allman: Well, it all came from different places. Like Jaimoe, the drummer, used to play with Otis Redding and a lot of rhythm and blues band. That’s where I came from, was the blues. Dickey (Betts, original guitarist/vocalist) came from kind of a country thing. Now that he’s not here anymore, there’s not much country left in the Allman Brothers. It was a combination of what everybody brought to the table. It was and is straight-on rock and roll with blues-jazz influence - leaning heavily towards the blues.
Connect Savannah: How are things with you and Dickey? Do you foresee any future collaboration?
Gregg Allman: Absolutely not.
Connect Savannah: It’s pretty strained between you guys?
Gregg Allman: It’s just a done deal, man.
Connect Savannah: Who are you listening to these days?
Gregg Allman: Well, there’s a guy named Ray LaMontagne. He is really good. He’s got a real big hit out called “Trouble,” and he’s just releasing his second record. I’m just wild about his music. The lyrics are incredible. It’s kind of bluesy, kind of folksy - it’s hard to explain.
Connect Savannah: Are you working on any current album projects, whether solo or with the Brothers, right now?
Gregg Allman: I constantly work on stuff, and, when it comes time to come into the studio, we usually know it. We just get it together and go.
Connect Savannah: How is the music industry different now compared with the early days? It’s a whole different animal isn’t it?
Gregg Allman: It’s gotten more dog-eat-dog. Some of these big corporations... well I hate to mention names because I have to do business with some of them. You got stuff like Napster and that whole thing with everybody stealing music. You never get the same sound quality that way, and you don’t get the package where you can read lyrics and stuff. I always put lyrics on my records, and I’ve always tried to get the Brothers to do that, but we never had enough room or something (laughs). ç
Gregg Allman and Friends perform Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the Johnny Mercer Theatre. For tix call 651-6556 or visit
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