Gregg Allman, co-founder of seminal Southern rock band The Allman Brothers, returns to Jacksonville to help ring in the New Year. The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and one of Rolling Stone‘s 100 Greatest Singers of All Time performs at The Florida Theatre as the headliner in a New Year’s Eve concert with Jacksonville natives JJ Grey & Mofro.
Allman took a moment to talk about life on the road with Folio Weekly, but he doesn’t believe in slowing down. Allman discussed past projects as well as some exciting prospects on the horizon.
Folio Weekly: The Allman Brothers are considered by many to be among the leaders of the Southern rock movement of the ’70s. Is it true you’ve never cared for the term “Southern rock”?
Gregg Allman: Not really. Rock ‘n’ roll was born in the South. Rock ‘n’ roll came from the blues, and the blues were born in the South. The blues and rock are the only two musical genres that this country can really claim. Country music wasn’t even born in America; only the blues and rock ‘n’ roll.
F.W.: You and your brother Duane were actually in a band before The Allman Brothers formed called The Hourglass; that band even managed to release an album on the Liberty Records label in the short time it was together. What was it that led to that group disbanding?
G.A.: The record label was fishing for anything they could turn us into that would sell, attempting to turn us into a psychedelic band. They were only interested, as most record companies are, in new acts. “If we do this, put ’em in some different clothes, etc.” They were twisting us in any direction that they could, which they were able to since they had the upper hand, being as new artists are usually broke and naïve; between the two, they tend to be taken advantage of, and that’s exactly what happened to us.
F.W.: You recently appeared in “Muscle Shoals” [shown here last month at Sun-Ray Cinema], the new documentary on the legendary recording studio in Alabama. What are your thoughts on this new attention being focused on Muscle Shoals?
G.A.: I think it’s wonderful. It’s past time for people to find out what happened in that magical place. It’s just as important as Hitsville in Detroit, the old Motown studio that is now a closet from what I understand, or the old Sun Records Studio. It’s right up there with Stax, Sun and Chess Records, all of those old studios. Muscle Shoals is where all the big record companies came with their artists to get their music cut right, instead of New York, where all of the musicians were just like robots. In the South, we just played what felt right.
F.W.: Your solo work has always been interesting, as it is so different from your output with The Allman Brothers. How does your approach differ in the studio for the two projects?
G.A.: That comes from being inside a kitchen that only has one head chef. You don’t need a boss, you just need a focal point for the music. Most people would call that a bandleader. The Allman Brothers does not have this; everyone has a say in where the music might end up.
F.W.: What do you remember of your brother Duane’s life in Jacksonville?
G.A.: He met some boys from there, and this was back in the day when a musician would just crash here and there. That’s where he met some of the boys who would join the band, which would have been Dicky Betts and Berry Oakley. He never owned a house or anything like that in Jacksonville, but he definitely spent some serious time there.
F.W.: In 2012 you released a memoir of your life in music, “My Cross to Bear.” What led to publishing that book?
G.A.: Well, it’s not meant to be taken as an autobiography; it’s actually a journal, one that I started on the road in 1981. I just thought someone might find it interesting. The film rights have actually been sold, and that’s going quite well. The screenplay is finished, so they’re going into casting right now.
F.W.: You’re the subject of a special concert event next year, called “All My Friends.” It’s set to be filmed for DVD release, with an album release as well. Was there anyone who disappointed you by not being able to show up?
G.A.: Everybody has a different schedule, so it’s amazing to me that everyone who signed on for it was able to sign on for it. You’ve got one guy on a tour of Australia, another on a tour of Japan, so to get everyone under one roof for one night isn’t the easiest thing to do. Some of my friends headed up the event, so I had nothing to do with the guest list.