The Road Goes On Forever: My Top Ten Gregg Allman Songs
He's no angel but he's one hell of a musician.
In honor of Gregg Allman's upcoming show Friday night at The Gathering Of The Vibes Festival in Bridgeport, these are the ten Gregg Allman songs I like to jam out to:
This was the very first single released from the 1972 'Eat A Peach' album. With the death of Gregg's brother Duane coming during the recording of the album there was a difficult decision to be made - Continue on with the band or go there separate ways. This song written by Gregg answered that question and the 'Eat A Peach' album would prove that the surviving members had much more to prove.
Gregg Allman has never been a musician who tries to write hit singles which is why this song going top 50 on the Billboard 500 back in 1987 was one he didn't see coming. Written by Tony Colton and Phil Palmer and recorded by Allman, this was the song that saved his career and set the stage for the return of The Allman Brothers Band a few years later.
By the time 1991's 'Shades Of Two Worlds' was recorded Gregg Allman had begun to feel the effects of a hard life lived. Now in his 40s he knew it was time to clean himself up or it would be the end of the line:
"Oh, when I think about the old days,
Lord, it sends chills up and down my spine,
Yeah life ain't what it seems, on the boulevard of broken dreams,
Guess I opened my eyes in the nick of time,
'Cause it sure felt like the end of the line"
Founding member and guitarist Dickey Betts ended his long run with The Allman Brothers Band on a bad note and hasn't been with the band since 2000. It's unfortunate since Betts and Allman could make magic together and this is one of those moments. A song written by Betts and sung by Allman in his perfectly weathered voice.
The brothers Gregg and Duane loved their blues music and they could do it some real justice when they decided to cover the classics. This one was originally written by Blind Willie McTell but it's the version I know and love best thanks to Gregg's voice and Duane's guitar. Heavenly.
Although it was released on 1972's 'Eat A Peach' this song's origins go back as far as 1967 and has a special connection between Gregg and his late brother Duane.
The first time Gregg played "Melissa" for the band was when they were staying in Macon, Georgia. It was a spring day, Greg and the guys were hanging out on the front porch when he started playing just a little bit of the song. Duane immediately loved it and made his little brother play it every night from that point on.
Gregg ended up recording it in tribute to his older brother after his passing.
Here's another blues song done over by The Allman Brothers Band in a way that makes you forget there was a version that came before it.
Most blues songs have a mystery surrounding it's beginnings. This one was likely first recorded and released in the early-mid-1960s by Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James. Both had passed away by the time The Allman Brothers' version was recorded but chances are they were smiling down from the heavens when they heard this version.
This is the quintessential Gregg Allman song. A soulful voice singing some of the coolest lyrics in rock history:
"I've got one more silver dollar,
But I'm not gonna let 'em catch me, no ...
Not gonna let 'em catch
The midnight rider"
Now that's bad ass...
Gregg and the band were living at a house in a suburb of Jacksonville, Florida called Arlington in 1968 when this song was written. The house belonged to his brother Duane’s girlfriend. Gregg wrote "Whipping Post" his first night there.
He was sleeping when the song came to him. It was pitch dark but he found his way to the kitchen. Feeling around for a light switch he touched an ironing board. He couldn’t find paper and pencil anywhere but did find a box of kitchen matches as car lights went by and illuminated the kitchen for long enough for him to notice them.
Gregg knew from doing some art that you can write with the charcoal in the matches. He then struck a match, blew it out, used the charcoal tip to write with, then struck another one. He did that until he got all the lyrics and song structure on the ironing board cover.
Duane’s girlfriend gave Gregg hell the next morning for ruining her ironing board but Gregg didn’t care, he had a song and, as it turns out, one of the greatest rock songs of all time.
Every music fan has that Wizard of Oz moment. Ya know what I'm talking about. That moment when you hear a song and you feel like Dorothy opening the door and suddenly everything goes from black and white to technicolor? Hearing "Dreams" was that moment for me.
It was during my first Allman's concert in Hartford at The Meadows on a summer night in 1997. I was mesmerized.
Every now and then if I hear this song in just the right place at just the right moment I feel like I'm back there with the warm summer night breeze and no where to be but under the stars with the sound of the great Gregg Allman's voice filling the night.