Meditation: In Memory of Gregg Allman

Posted: May 29th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Personalities | 11 Comments »

‘Cause time goes by like hurricanes/ And faster things.

Pop up thunder showers this Memorial Day Saturday.

It’s not unusual in my neck of the woods.

So I chose a movie over one or another of a couple minor music fests.

Part of the way through the flick, my phone buzzes with a text, then another, a flurry. Unusual. So I step outside to find out why the commotion?

Gregg Allman. Gone.

He’s now the fourth of the original, iconic, innovative and transcendent Allman Brothers Band to pass, joining his brother Duane, drummer Butch Trucks and bass player Berry Oakley in the rock & roll beyond.

Memories insist. Though I stay the movie becomes an afterthought. I recall there was such a pop up shower that intercepted the first set of Allmans’ music I ever heard, which was, what, wow, just short of a half century ago.

Atlanta Pop. 1970.

The rain interrupted “Mountain Jam,” the loosey goosey but ever euphonious noodling around the band ended sets with back in the day, hooked on the end of “Whipping Post.”

There’s no reason to cite the details, but that interlude allowed for a significant turning point in my life.

In fact, that whole Independence Day weekend was transitional. I had finished law school and taken the bar exam the week before. Not having properly prepped, I figured there was no way I’d pass.

On the threshold of adulthood, I hadn’t the slightest idea what came next in my life. I was without rudder.

Yet there I was reveling about in a musical wonderland at a raceway in deep Georgia. Skinny dipping. Eating nickel peaches. Savoring in their fullest the sounds — Jimi, Col. Bruce, Chambers Bros., Procol Harum, et al — and sensory enhancements of the day.

And at the first evening’s sunset, hearing the band that caused the plates to shift, that was to provide unrequited joy, ballast and succor in the decades to come.

Come what may, though I hardly understood it at the time, there would always be “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” to soothe the savage beast which roared too oft within during times to come.

 * * * * *

“Cause time goes by like pouring rain/ And much faster things.

I am of the opinion that the bands/ music that become our favorites, the ones we go to for a smile or serenity or to help define our feelings, that they resonate due to time, place and circumstance of the listener as much as artistic talent.

The never before heard or heard of Allman Brothers Band were there at that critical moment. Serendipity.

That they were groundbreaking harbingers of several genres of rock was coincidental. Though I must admit their talents and how the six manifested into a melodic, punctuated transformation of blues and jazz and C & W and other played a part.

Two drummers. Jaimo and Butch. Point. Syncopated counter point. Solid bass, foundation. Berry. Twin guitars. Dickey’s harmonious licks. And Duane’s propulsive, symphonious bottle neck.

Plus that baby faced blonde behind the B3, singing at a tender age with a mournfulness belied by his beauty, a growling moan that sounded like too many years of profligate rambling, gamboling and grief.

When Gregg Allman sang “I’ve been run down/ And I’ve been lied to/ And I don’t know why I let that woman make me a fool,” it was devoid of artifice and affectation, it was a lament borne of sad experience.

“She took all my money/ Wrecked my new car/ Now she’s with one of my good time buddies/ Drinking in some crosstown bar.”

When he wrote those words, and when he sang them that night of July 3, 1970, they were requiem, stunning deep-seated, soulful emotions evocatively wrought as if he’d somehow survived several grief-filled lifetimes.

His first howl on the band’s first album, follows Duane’s searing intro: “I have not come to testify/ About our bad, bad misfortune” was a precious lie. Sly. Ironic. For Gregg’s evocations were never far from a break down.

Oh how he and his mates resonated.

So there in ’70 at that precarious moment of my life appeared this music that became essential.

Played by a group eerily, surgically tight, bound as one by their souls.

Rock’s greatest band.

With the best slide guitar player ever.

And the best white blues singer ever.

 * * * * *

“Cause time rolls by like hurricanes/ Runnin’ after the subway train.

This remembrance on the sad but not unexpected occasion of Gregg Allman’s passing shall not linger much longer, nor be especially poetic.

The loss and what it stands for hurt too much for grandiloquence.

It won’t be about how fresh and important the original Allman Brothers Band were or how incredibly they played the four times I heard them when all were alive. Or, the tens of mesmerizing performances I savored through the decades.

It won’t contain any demonstrative explanation why Greg Allman was as good a white blues singer as ever was. Or, how his brother was the best rock guitar player.

Or how innovative and seminal Gregg and his brother Duane and Berry Oakley and Jaimoe and and Butch Trucks and Dickey Betts were as an ensemble.

It won’t be about the missionary zeal with which I tried to turn every pal and gal on to the band back in the day.

What I will say is during the exact interlude of my transition into the void of adulthood, the Allman Brothers Band appeared and rewound the helix of my DNA, provided constant stability in troubled waters, and increased the rapture in times of joy.

The Allman Brothers Band was My Band. Still are.

Gregg Allman’s mournful singing is a critical factor. But no more or less than the other parts of the synergistic whole.

Because of my connection with ABB, because of my station in life as it quickens closer to conclusion, because . . . oh just because . . . this loss really hurts.

It is writ that after hooking up with the other members of the group in the late 60s, Duane made the long distance call, demanded his brother return from Cali to join the band in the Southland. That after their first jam together, Duane blocked the door and wouldn’t let anybody leave until they all agreed they were in the band.

None of them left the room.

Nor have I.

For the melodies still resonate, lingering as fragrant as honeysuckle on a Georgia summer’s night.

— c d kaplan

11 Comments on “Meditation: In Memory of Gregg Allman”

  1. 1 John Christensen said at 4:20 pm on May 29th, 2017:

    I experienced a lot of firsts at Atlanta Pop 1970: new lady friend; trying to sleep in a pecan grove; smoking funny cigarettes; and the Allman Brothers Band. Those other things are distant memories, but I never quit on the Allmans. One of my favorite memories is listening to “Elizabeth Reed” one glorious spring afternoon on those life-threatening back steps at your place. Thanks, amigo….

  2. 2 Tyson Schuetze said at 4:29 pm on May 29th, 2017:

    Excellently written. We all have those bands that we adopt as part of us and you (or time and place) chose a great one. Not going to fill the void, but it is comforting/amazing to think of how many bands they spawned.

  3. 3 c d kaplan said at 4:35 pm on May 29th, 2017:

    John, that we survived Atlanta Pop was far from a given. That we survived those back steps, nothing short of a miracle.

  4. 4 Greg "Howdy" Singlust said at 6:00 pm on May 29th, 2017:

    A number of Allman Bros. road trips to Cincy with Chuck, however, the first, at the night club “Reflections,” was the best because it was the original band playing two back to back concerts on a bitterly cold night. At one point an electrical problem caused an interruption in one of the shows. Duane apologized by playing solo for at least 15 minutes. That night the band was “hittin’ the note.”

  5. 5 Dinah said at 6:43 pm on May 29th, 2017:

    Blessed with a daughter who knows my music well enough to know this would hit me deep in the heart. She said “I know how much you love him”…How I do love those guys and their music… somehow, like you say, it got in the DNA. I’m grateful I got to see them a couple of times in person…

  6. 6 Patrick Whelan said at 9:06 am on May 30th, 2017:


  7. 7 Ben Isaacs said at 9:10 am on May 30th, 2017:

    In the rising of the sun and it’s going down – we remember them –
    In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of winter – we remember them –
    In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn – we remember them –
    When we are weary and in need of strength – we remember them –
    So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us – as we remember them –

  8. 8 Julie Tichenor said at 10:58 am on May 30th, 2017:

    The first time I saw them was on the beach in Jacksonville Fla. I was in 6th or 7th grade, around 1969 I think. I was probably too young to understand just how great they were to be and how much I would love them. But when it came to your fav rock band in the 70’s they ruled and they were the greatest!! I got to meet Greg, his mother and his grandmother at a show in Nashville. One of those moments you never forget. I’ve been weepy all weekend. Thanks for your thoughts CD. We will miss that sweet Georgia Peach.

  9. 9 Greg Singlust said at 10:30 am on June 2nd, 2017:

    Gregg singing “Down in My Own Tears” on the Derek Trucks cd, Soul Serenade.

    Serious chills…

  10. 10 Dave Sipes said at 10:04 pm on July 23rd, 2017:

    So many losses to music that shaped my life over the past year or so. But the ABB…I had good times, and I had bad…but they were an awesome band. I kick myself for not making a Big East tournament and skipping games to see them in their annual show run at the Beacon. RIP Gregg

  11. 11 c d kaplan said at 6:11 am on July 24th, 2017:

    Dave Sipes, I just this past Wednesday heard Tedeschi Trucks Band in Indy. They did “Statesboro Blues” for an encore. It was eery. Derek’s entire solo — power, nuance, intonation, rhythm, finger movements, notes — was as if Duane was on stage. I had to close my eyes I was so shaken. I was scared I would see the specter of Sky Dog on stage almost a half century after his death.

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