It’s been nearly 50 years since America’s beloved Allman Brothers Band formed down in Macon, Georgia, and turned their southern bluesy rock sound into three platinum albums. Since then, Gregg Allman has forged an entire solo career, different iterations of his self-titled band, briefly reunited The Allman Brothers, and gone solo again. Just this year, he’s recorded a new album that he says has a different feel from his other albums. Below, he talks about how it all came about.
How’s the tour going?
It gets better every night! My band is so tight. It took me seven years to collect all these guys and find everybody. I started back when we celebrated 40 years of The Allman Brothers. That’s about when I started, and I found Jay Collins, one of my tenor players, and so he turned me onto Scott Sharrard, my guitar player, so the three of us found Steve Potts, the drummer. And it was a different bass player, we had Jerry Jemmott, who, goodness, he played with everybody. He played with, he was Whitney Houston’s bass player. He played with a lot of people. He played with Winona Judd for a long time. I don’t know, he’s from Memphis, and he’s very very funky. And he’s a black man, and he has huge forearms, we call him Popeye.
Anyway, so the four of us went looking for the fifth, and so on, so on, so on, seven years later, we only had to change out two people, one horn player and one bass player. But these guys are the most incredible music experience I have ever been fortunate enough to be involved with. (Laughs) You didn’t think I was gonna take a step down from The Allman Brothers!
What makes it better than The Allman Brothers?
I’ve got horns—there’s a lot more going on, it’s a lot more rehearsed, it’s a lot more tight, but then it gets to certain places and we jam on. In other words, you kinda just pick a key, someone lights a fuse, and you just go. That’s real fun, there. … You get on your gear, and just rehearse, that’s my favorite.
I’ve been asked so many times by interviewers like yourself, “Which do you like better, playing live or in the studio?” And I had to tell ‘em, well, there’s one you forgot, and that’s playing and rehearsal, and that’s where all the magic happens. That’s where things gel or don’t gel, or you fix them until they do gel. Or you just, y’all have a good laugh and start on another one. So rehearsal is my thing, really.
And now we’ve got a whole new record cut, we cut it in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Fame Studios. It was the first one that was ever there, and I’ll tell you there’s something magical about that place, for sure. It’d been my second time recording there, and my band’s first time. Why The Allman Brothers never came to Muscle Shoals to record, is totally beyond me. But because our producer, Tommy Dowd, god rest him, he lived in Miami and he worked out of Criteria Studios, that’s where they did all kinds of records—oh, they did “Layla,” they did Eat A Peach, they did—well, we did all of them until Tommy passed away.
Anyway, so now I’m working with Don Was, who’s like a very young Tom Dowd. Course, you never—it’s hard to tell how old people are nowadays without a program. I mean, like Tommy Dowd, I had no idea how old he was, he could’ve been 60, 90—anyway, I knew him for probably 30 years, 35.
And uh, the producer is—we’ll write the songs, rehearse ‘em, rearrange ‘em, you get ‘em just right, and then you turn a band onto ‘em, they learn, you know, and you get it alright, and you get enough for a whole record. And you get to a studio and there’s a new guy in the band, and he calls himself a producer. Well, his fate is that: he either makes it by sundown or he’s gone back home. You know long before then, because he comes to earlier rehearsals, concerts, you know, laying down basic tracks, did you see how everything’s gonna fit. And then you take them on the road, that’s called road testing, and that’s what you need to do with every song. Because my theory is that you’re under the gun with the audience, and that makes you get it right for some reason, the thing falls, falls in place.
I remember a song me and Allen Woody wrote, “Good Clean Fun,” and that was the single for The Brothers. But we had the damndest time and it came out. The thing is, we were trying to clutter it up. You ever need a song cluttered up, hey, bring it to me.
Anything different about the new album?
The producers always brought someone else in, this is my band from start to finish. And, so that’s—that’s different. We arranged all of it, quite a bit of it. Just a nice, relaxed record man. The environment, I mean, you couldn’t mail order a better environment. Just good vibes.
Catch Gregg Allman July 23 at the Nikon At Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, NY for the Laid Back Festival, Aug. 26 at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, NJ, and Sept. 1 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ. For more information, visit his site: greggallman.com.