Gregg Allman: A Southern Songbook

A shot of Gregg Allman on stage

Whipping Post - The Allman Brothers Band, 1969

Initially conceived as a slow blues, Gregg’s existential ballad took on new levels of intensity in the hands of the Allman Brothers, who transformed it into cathartic rock’n’roll on their debut album and, on the live At Fillmore East, a 23-minute epic. ‘Good Lord, I feel like I’m dyin’!’ howls Allman.

It’s Not My Cross To Bear - The Allman Brothers Band, 1969

This early classic was written in LA for Gregg’s aborted solo album, prior to forming the Allman Brothers with elder brother Duane. It’s remarkable to consider that Gregg was only 22 when he delivered it, his anguished vocals imbued with all the sorrow and rage of a much more weathered soul.

Dreams - The Allman Brothers Band, 1969

‘I’m hung up on dreams I’ll never see/Help me baby/Or this surely will be the end of me,’ Allman pleads over a jazz-scented figure and traces of swampy blues. The Allman Brothers gave the song an added psychedelic jolt, but Gregg’s organ lines grounded it firmly in southern dirt.

Ain’t Wastin’ No More Time - Eat A Peach, 1972

Allman Brothers bassist Berry Oakley pushed Gregg to finish this song, partly inspired by soldiers returning from duty in Vietnam. It ended up as a glorious eulogy for brother Duane, killed in a motorcycle accident during the sessions for Eat A Peach. Gregg’s gospel piano riff dominates, flanked by Dickey Betts’s slide guitar.

Melissa - Eat A Peach, 1972

Gregg supposedly thought so little of this ballad, first recorded with pre-Allmans band The 31st Of February, that he sold his publishing rights to it to buy a plane ticket. It was revived five years later for Eat A Peach (in honour of Duane, who adored the song) as a soulful acoustic beauty with a yearning vocal.

Wasted Words - Brothers And Sisters, 1973

Ditched in favour of Ramblin’ Man as the lead single from Brothers And Sisters, the Allmans’ first album post-Duane, Wasted Words weds a delicious piano boogie to slide guitar and serves as Gregg’s kiss-off to a fractious lover. ‘I ain’t no saint and you sure as hell ain’t no saviour,’ he growls.

Midnight Rider - Laid Back, 1973

On his solo debut, Laid Back, Gregg recast his signature tune first recorded for the Allman Brothers’ Idlewild South three years earlier. Both versions are exquisite, although this one packs added punch due to a horn section and some haunted southern swampiness. It also landed him a Top 20 hit in the States.

Come And Go Blues - Playin’ Up A Storm, 1977

In contrast to the pugnacious live take on the Allman Brothers’ Wipe The Windows, Check The Oil, Dollar Gas the previous year, this studio version of Come And Go Blues (credited to the Gregg Allman Band) has a resigned delicacy that showcases its introspective tone. Wonderfully understated vocal, too.

Just Ain’t Easy - Enlightened Rogues, 1979

Three years after splitting up amid much rancour, most of it aimed at Gregg over his involvement in the drugs conviction of security man Scooter Herring, the Allman Brothers reconvened for 1979’s drily titled Enlightened Rogues. A highlight was this spoonful of tormented despair, written in the wake of his failed marriage to Cher.

I’m No Angel - I’m No Angel, 1987

Never mind the glossy 80s production values or the fatuous Wild West video that accompanied it, Gregg’s cover of Bill Medley’s I’m No Angel (written by Tony Colton and Phil Palmer) is a droll send-up of his hellraising persona. Sometime Allman Brother Dan Toler adds squealing guitar, but it’s Gregg’s gruff bravado that provides the kick.

Good Clean Fun - Seven Turns, 1990

Encouraged by the solo commercial success of I’m No Angel, the Allman Brothers were again back on the agenda by 1990, re-forming for Seven Turns, with Warren Haynes sharing lead guitar with Dickey Betts. Gregg co-wrote this brutish rocker, a throwback to the classic Allmans sound of the early 70s.

Old Before My Time - Hittin’ The Note, 2003

A minor classic from the Allman Brothers’ last stand, on which Gregg alludes to Midnight Rider in his lyrical sentiments (‘There is a long hard road, it lies so far behind me’) as his protagonist weighs up a lifetime of dashed dreams and restless wandering. Above it all he remains steadfastly defiant.

High Cost Of Low Living - Hittin’ The Note, 2003

Guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks lay down the bedrock of this mini-epic from the Allman Brothers’ final studio album, Hittin’ The Note, edged by Gregg’s Hammond B-3 organ. It’s the latter’s valiant voice that steals the show, however, essaying the life of a survivor whose victories come at a heavy price.

Just Another Rider - Low Country Blues, 2011

Gregg’s stirring 2011 comeback, Low Country Blues bore the scars of an eventful life that had survived six marriages, a liver transplant and multiple spells in rehab. At 63 years of age his voice was fully seasoned too, not least on this terrific co-write with Warren Haynes that plays loose with southern R&B and brassy soul.

Floating Bridge - Low Country Blues, 2011

Sleepy John Estes’s pre-war tale of cheated death had already been covered by both Eric Clapton and former Groundhogs guitarist Tony McPhee by the time Gregg came to it for Low Country Blues, but its funky southern chug and stoic sense of resilience lent itself perfectly to the trials of his own experience.

Gregg Allman: December 8, 1947 – May 27, 2017

Gregg Allman dead at 69

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