"On Saturday, we all lost an icon of true rock and roll musical expression. Gregg Allman and his visionary brother Duane, created the band that was essentially the Beatles for every kid in America that wanted to play the blues, and beyond…The Allmans were the big bang moment for me. Their concerts and albums were a regular fixture of my childhood in the late 80s and into the 90s. Their band has always been the template for a seamless fusion of groove, improvisational propulsion, incendiary hook laden song craft and of course, those world weary and iconic vocals of our man Gregg. Does anyone doubt that he is the greatest white blues singer of all time? I certainly do not.
But to the end, Gregg and I would have endless listening sessions, Howling Wolf or Muddy or Bobby Bland blasting over his speakers, and Gregg would still marvel at that mastery. He was a humble and dedicated song craftsmen and song interpreter to the bitter end. And that is the key. I have so many personal thoughts and memories at this time. Over the last few years, we became very close. Sure I started out as a fan, then his guitarist, but our relationship grew to become songwriters, band leaders and friends together. There were many many laughs and late-night conversations either on that bus blazing down another lost highway, or on his back porch in Savannah with a raging red sunset over the boat slip as our backdrop. Those talks would veer all over but one of our themes was the state of music in the last several years.
There were always signs of hope but the general feel from this musical master who participated in one of our greatest moments in the American musical renaissance was that we had to all find our way back to being an original. Gregg was not just obsessed with blues, by the way. We would also often listen to Pharaoh Sanders, he adored Tim Buckley and played just about the most heart renching version of “Once I Was” you could ever imagine.
With each passing legend from our musical renaissance, I end up asking “what now?” and again and again the lesson is clear. If you’re a fan, buy a record or a ticket. If you’re an executive in entertainment help a band, a band with their own sound who needs some real help, and not another hollow tribute to what was, but what can be.
And, if you’re a musician and you really want to pay tribute to this great man, his brother and their bands legacy, learn every precious note of the masters and then go your own way. Also remember, Gregg was all about the song and capturing the beauty and expression in a perfect lyric, chord change, voicing and groove. We need more of that spirit in our creations.
As much as the guitar solos of this music were life changing epic improvisations, without the compositions and the groove they mean nothing. I’m sure Duane knew that. After all, he was the shining star for all the men of the Allmans. He was a master curator and deep philosophical searcher from what I've heard. My sole comfort today in losing my friend is that he is back with his brother and beloved Mama A. Play the big and true notes and support them with all your heart, hug and love those around you every day, even the ones with whom you disagree. What these men did was rain truth daggers of love and unity in every salvo of sound from the stage. One true note can slice into every heart. I truly believe this was Gregg’s goal every time he took the stage or stepped to a mic, I never saw him miss."
September 25, 2016: Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO (Photo Credit: Jim Mimna)