Gregg Allman has no regrets in life, career
By Randall G. Mielke For Sun-Times Media October 17, 2013 11:50AM
Gregg Allman will be at the Rialto Square Theatre on Oct. 19. | File photo
♦ 8 p.m. Oct. 19
♦ Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet
♦ Tickets, $35-$95
♦ (815) 726-6600;
Updated: November 19, 2013 6:12AM
For millions of Gregg Allman fans, the dental profession’s loss is rock music’s gain.
“I was going to go into the medical field to be a dental surgeon,” said Allman about his early days in rock music. “I was already accepted to medical school.”
But fate, or more specifically, Allman’s older brother, Duane, intervened, and the legendary Allman Brothers Band was formed instead.
“I told Duane, ‘We’ll never make enough money to pay the rent,’ ” Allman said. “My brother said, ‘We are better than the rest of the bands out there.’ I said, ‘I’ll give it two years and then I go back to medical school.’ ”
Medical school is still waiting. Meanwhile, the rock and blues singer-songwriter, keyboardist and guitarist will perform Oct. 19 at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet.
“I actually started it,” said Allman about first playing music in the family.
“I bought a guitar. I said it was MY guitar and the fight started. So Mama had to buy another one for Duane. My brother, Duane, could not sing. He said, ‘You have to learn to do something.’ So I started to sing. I have a reel-to-reel tape recording of my third night attempting to sing. It sounded atrocious.”
But Allman’s voice improved and Duane’s guitar playing excelled and the Allman Brothers Band was formed in 1969. The group, which was based in the southeastern United States, incorporated a fusion of rock, blues and country music, which became known as Southern rock.
In 1971, the band released a live double album, “At Fillmore East.” The album became the band’s breakthrough and is often cited as setting the standard for live rock recordings.
A few months later, Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident. And the following year, the band’s bass player, Berry Oakley, also died in a motorcycle accident.
The band continued to tour and record, and with replacement members the Allman Brothers Band achieved commercial success in 1973 with the album “Brothers and Sisters,” which included the hit single “Ramblin‘ Man.” Other Allman Brothers Band hits include “Whipping Post,” “Melissa” and “Midnight Rider.”
But internal dissension in the band caused the original group to dissolve in 1976. Since then, multiple personnel changes have occurred over the years and the Allman Brothers Band still tours, but usually without Allman, who said he prefers to go it alone to develop his solo career.
“I never tour with them,” Allman said. “There are some spin-off groups of guys who played with the brothers, but I am not part of that.”
Allman’s most recent solo album, “Low Country Blues,” a collection of lesser-known blues songs, was released in 2011.
For the Rialto show, Allman, backed by a nine-piece band, will perform many of his solo songs and Allman Brothers hits.
In addition to his songwriting and performing, Allman wrote a best-selling memoir titled, “My Cross to Bear” (HarperCollins Publishers), which was released in 2012. The memoir touches on the performer’s history of drug and alcohol abuse. He has been clean and sober since 1995, which was, coincidentally, the year the Allman Brothers Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Overall, Allman said he is pleased with the way his life in music has turned out.
“When you first get into it, you are into it body, mind and soul,” the 65-year-old Allman said. “That’s all you ever want to do. Fortunately, that’s the way it’s been for me all my life.”
Randall G. Mielke is a local freelance writer.