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Gregg Allman talks health, love & The Allman Brothers Band

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Unpublished excerpts from our 2012 interview with the late rocker

When the news broke on May 27 that Gregg Allman had lost his battle with liver cancer at age 69, I was sitting in my parked car in Bar Harbor. After some quiet reflection on the wealth of timeless music he left behind, I flashed back to a 2012 interview with the influential musician that I was fortunate to conduct for a cover story in The Maine Edge. At the time, Allman was promoting his autobiography “My Cross to Bear” (William Morrow), co-written with journalist Alan Light.

The interview was granted with no strings attached. I was not asked to steer clear of certain topics that might make Allman uncomfortable. His publicist knew that I had read his memoir and that was enough for her to give me the green light and the appointed day and time on which he could expect my call.

Space limitations dictated that we couldn’t fit the entire interview into the story – “Gregg Allman - Such a wonderful life” was published on July 25, 2012.

What follows are portions of the interview cut from the first piece.

TME: How is your health these days, exactly two years after your liver transplant? Are you feeling good these days?

Allman: I do. I do feel good. Yes, sir.

TME: I’ve truly been enjoying your most recent solo record “Low Country Blues.” I love the songs and I love the sound of it and I’m looking forward to your next one. I was wondering if you’ve ever considered doing an album of collaborations with some of your favorite players? I would be very interested to find out who would be on there.

Allman: I’ve never really thought about that. It would be nice, though. First, I’d like to get the Brothers back in the studio.

TME: That was my next question. For my money, “Hittin’ the Note” (2003 – the most recent Allman Brothers Band studio album) is the best Brothers album since “Eat a Peach.”

Allman: There is no doubt that there will be another Allman Brothers Band album. (Note: If Allman did gather the band in the studio post-2012, we have yet to hear the results.)

TME: Have you been doing some writing?

Allman: Yes, sir. I have been writing – yes.

TME: I’d like to ask you for your thoughts about (legendary engineer, producer and pioneer in multi-track recording) Tommy Dowd and how important he was to The Allman Brothers Band.

Allman: Oh man – he was our guru. He was the other member of The Allman Brothers (laughs). You painstakingly write these songs and put them together and you get them all tweaked out. You play them a million times so you think you’ve got the parts exactly right – (the parts) that you want to be there and stay there because they’re going to be immortalized when you put them on tape. Then you get to the studio and you’re all ready to go and there’s a new guy in the band! What’s the deal (laughing)? And let me tell you – he either makes it or breaks it by nightfall. It is so difficult to find a good one, I’m telling you. It’s like a Catch-22 thing, man. It’s like, you’re not a good producer unless you have some real big albums under your belt, right? Until you get some big albums under your belt, you’re not going to be a producer. So, how do you get there, you know (laughing)?

TME: He was such an amazing producer and listener. And you could tell he was a fan of the band. He always captured such a great sound with you guys.

Allman: And he was a hell of an artist. He played classical piano – I mean, just incredible. I only got to hear him play one time. This was something rare – I got to the studio early one day (laughing) and heard this incredible piano music. This was at Criteria Studios in Miami. I got there and started looking around trying to find out where this incredible music was coming from. We were working in Studio B which is now just a shop – I don’t know why they turned it into a work-room – that was the best studio. That’s where they cut “Layla” (Derek and The Dominos). So we were in Studio A – the basketball court, I call it. It’s a big, huge place. Inside, there was one of those 12-foot Bosendorf pianos from Germany and man, he was in there just wailing on that thing. I sat there as long as I could and just listened.

TME: That must have been something else.

Allman: It really was. I don’t how many people have heard him play but thank goodness I have.

TME: Congratulations on your recent engagement to Shannon. Can you tell us a little bit about her? What convinced you to give marriage one more try?

Allman: I found the right one. Well, I didn’t find her – she just popped up. She was just there. She’s the right one. I feel like she’s my first wife, you know? It’s altogether different. I can trust her. It’s wonderful – it is really wonderful.

(Gregg Allman died at his home in Savannah, Georgia. He is survived by his wife, Shannon, children Devon, Elijah Blue, Delilah Island Kurtom, Layla Brooklyn Allman and three grandchildren. He was buried on June 3, next to his brother (founding Allman Brothers Band guitarist) Duane, at Rose Hill cemetery in Macon.) 

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