Rocker Gregg Allman has died at age 69
SAVANNAH — Gregg Allman, a survivor of tragedy, knew the blues musically and in a painfully personal way.
Raised by a single mother after his father was shot to death, he idolized his guitar-slinging older brother Duane and became his musical partner. They formed the nucleus of The Allman Brothers Band, which helped define the Southern rock sound of the 1970s.
Their songs such as “Whipping Post,” “Ramblin’ Man” and “Midnight Rider” laid the foundation for the genre and opened the doors for groups like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Marshall Tucker Band.
Gregg Allman, whose bluesy vocals and soulful touch on the Hammond B-3 organ helped propel the Allman Brothers Band to superstardom, died Saturday. He was 69.
Allman died peacefully and surrounded by loved ones at his home near Savannah, Georgia, his manager, Michael Lehman, told The Associated Press. He blamed cancer for Allman’s death.
“It’s a result of his reoccurrence of liver cancer that had come back five years ago,” Lehman said in an interview. “He kept it very private because he wanted to continue to play music until he couldn’t.”
Allman played his last concert in October as health problems forced him to cancel other 2016 shows. He announced Aug. 5 that he was “under his doctor’s care at the Mayo Clinic” due to “serious health issues.” Later that year, he canceled more dates, citing a throat injury. In March, he canceled performances for the rest of 2017.
Born in Nashville, Tennessee, the rock star known for his long blond hair was raised in Florida.
In his 2012 memoir, “My Cross to Bear,” Allman described how his older brother was a central figure in his life in the years after their father was murdered by a man he met in a bar. The two boys endured a spell in a military school before being swept up in rock music in their teens. Although Gregg was the first to pick up a guitar, it was Duane who excelled at it. So Gregg later switched to the organ.
They spent years in bands together, but failed to crack success until they formed The Allman Brothers Band in 1969. It featured extended jams, tight guitar harmonies by Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, rhythms from a pair of drummers and the smoky blues inflected voice of Gregg Allman.
Based in Macon, Georgia, the group also had drummers Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson and Butch Trucks and bassist Berry Oakley. They reached the pinnacle of the burgeoning music scene, partying to excess while defining a sound that still excites millions.
Their self- titled debut album came out in 1969, but it was their seminal live album “At Fillmore East” in 1971 that catapulted the band to stardom. Considered one of the greatest live albums ever made, the two LP record opened with their version of Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues,” with Duane Allman on slide guitar. The album introduced fans to their fusion of blues, rock and jazz.
Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident in October 1971, just months after recording the Fillmore shows.