Gregg Allman and Friends
Allman is an icon. He has not only survived multiple tragedies and the trappings of a rock lifestyle, but has kept his head above water and kept himself moving forward both personally and artistically. A true artist who loves to paint musical portraits with all the colors that life has to offer, Allman's brush is his distinctive voice and his pallet is his wonderfully brilliant talent on keyboards and guitar.
The history of Gregg Allman is like a Who's Who of the music industry. From his first professional group with his brother Duane called the Allman Joys, through Rock And Roll Hall of Fame honorees the Allman Brothers Band, he helped forge a sound that changed the music scene forever. His career is one of the richest and most vibrant of any contemporary artist.
The Brothers have continued to score platinum and gold throughout their 30-year career. They have been among the country's top ten highest-grossing touring acts every summer since the ABB's reunion in 1989. And despite the early deaths of both Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley, Greg—always the shy one—has dedicated himself to his music. He has re-leased six solo albums including Laid Back, The Gregg Allman Tour '74, Playin' Up A Storm, I'm No Angel (featuring the 1987 No. 1 Album Radio title hit), Just Before The Bullets Fly, and now Searching For Simplicity. Not bad for a guy who thought he would be better off as a dentist.
"It's been almost ten years since my last solo record," says Gregg. "I really took my time with this one—it took three years just to write some songs and gather the material. I told the record company up front that I would take my time to do it right, because the music was important to me.
"It started out with me jamming with these great San Francisco musicians called the Alameda All-Stars, and one thing led to another. So I put the record together in a such a manner that each tune knocked my socks off."
Indeed, the lineup of material on Searching For Simplicity is a sterling mix of original tunes penned by Gregg, plus some great collaborations. There are also classics like "I've Got News For You," (a No. 1 R&B hit for Ray Charles in 1961; "Neighbor Neighbor," the 1966 Jimmy Hughes hit, which reached No. 4 on the R&B chart; and the Southern soul master-piece, "Dark End Of The Street." The last-named ballad, written by Dan Penn and Chips Moman and previously cut by artists from Aretha Franklin to the Flying Burrito Brothers, "was one of my brother's favorite songs," Gregg recalls. "At times during the session, I'd have to stop singing it because I'd get so emotionally into it that I would start to break down."
There's also a fresh and surprisingly funky arrangement of the Allman Brothers Band classic, "Whipping Post."
"I did that almost on a dare, actually," chuckles Gregg. "Because this 'Unplugged' craze came out, right, and Clapton had just redone 'Layla.' So one of the Allman Brothers roadies, the infamous Red Dog, said to me, 'Shit, Gregory, you oughta do one of your tunes like that, like 'Whipping Post.' I said, 'You're out of your mind, Dog.' So he said back to me, 'Well, I guess when people get older, they just don't wanna try much more.'
"He pushed a few buttons for sure, 'cause I sat down a few moments later and just pounded out the chords! The arrangement hasn't changed so much, but there's a whole different feel to the song."
Keeping the Allman Brothers Band connection going, Gregg enlisted ABB guitarist Jack Pearson to play on Searching For Simplicity. Pearson joined the ABB in the spring of 1997 an d co-wrote "Come Back And Help Me" for this album. Bassist Oteil Burbridge, another recent addition to the ABB, joins in on "Love The Poison." Derek Trucks, nephew of ABB drummer Butch Trucks, contributes slide guitar to "Wolf's A-Howlin,'" which Gregg co-wrote with Searching For Simplicity's producer, Johnny Sandlin. Sandlin, a veteran of the Muscle Shoals studios, makes a full-circle journey with Gregg on this project: He was involved in Allman's quintessential first solo record, Laid Back. Rounding out the album are several other Muscle Shoals stalwarts, including David Hood, Roger Hawkins, Mickey Buckins, and Clayton Ivey—all of whom have played on classic recordings by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter, and many others.
Even with the familiar faces surrounding him on Searching For Simplicity, there's still a major difference for Gregg between this project, the Gregg Allman Band albums, and the Allman Brothers Band efforts. "There's only one cook in the kitchen," he says. "Only one chief. I let the soloists do their thing—you've gotta let a man do a solo the way he wants—but as far as picking the tunes and working on the arrangements, I take full responsibility for it."
Gregg Allman now lives in Northern California with a great woman, his daughter, two dogs, one "cherry" Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and his prized Corvette.