Ode to Gregg Allman

The bell has tolled. [Gregg Allman] caught that train ‘n’ gone.

Thank you, Gregg Allman. While I can’t say that I was a big Allman Brothers fan (this Eurocentric, urban Yankee always found southern rock too southern for his tastes) you and the band did open the door for me to become a lifelong fan of the blues. The entryway was the first three songs on the epic At Fillmore East double-album: Statesboro Blues, Done Somebody Wrong, and their slow and steamy-as-a-southern-swamp-in-August version of Stormy Monday.

I spent the next few years on a hit (occasionally) or miss (mostly) chase of blues artists I liked as much as the blues side of the Allman Brothers. What the occasional hits and mostly misses were lacking was the essential ingredient to my enjoyment of the Allman Brothers – the impassioned, gravelly growl of Gregg Allman’s voice and his take-me-straight-to-church soul of his Hammond B-3 organ.

Eventually, I’d get better at the chase and build a large and satisfying collection of classics[1] (e.g. Muddy, Wolf, Kings B.B., Albert and Freddie), currents (like Joe Bonamassa, Joanna Connor, Samantha Fish) and a zillion artists in between. But my fondness and attachment to all those Allman Brothers blues songs remains a constant, thanks to the singular voice of Gregg Allman.

Speaking of which, all of those great songs are contained in the album Martin Scorcese Presents the Blues: The Allman Brothers. And another significant work of note is Gregg’s final studio album Low Country Blues which got a 2012 Grammy nomination. A collection of relatively obscure blues covers, I feel like Low Country Blues was meant to be his personal love letter to the blues. Forty years after At Fillmore East, the voice had lost its range and power but none of its feeling.

R.I.P. to the Midnight Rider. Again, thank you for my lifelong love of the blues.


[1] And spending untold hours in Chicago blues clubs.

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