Gregg Allman, his publicist tells me, rarely does phone interviews anymore. And really, who can blame him?
Why would the 67-year-old classic rock icon want to answer another litany of queries about the past and future of the Allman Brothers Band, brother Duane, Berry and Dickey, drugs, health and Hep C, wives and girlfriends, trials, and the recent judgment which sent the director of his now-in-limbo bio film to jail after the negligent death of a crew member?
Anything he presumably wants to say on those matters, he’s said before in countless talks, his autobiography (My Cross to Bear), and the more recent ABB oral history, One Way Out.
And while his last solo effort was 2011’s well-received Low Country Blues, Allman is excited about an upcoming spring and summer tour with his solo band for a variety of reasons.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member agreed to answer some questions via email, and here he discusses the tour, favorite Texas bluesmen, and (yes) the status of the little ol’ band from Macon he co-founded nearly 50 years ago.
Aside from a wider choice of material, what do you enjoy most about doing a solo tour at more intimate venues?
Allman: One of the things I like most about playing with my band is that there’s only one cook in the kitchen, if you know what I mean.
That wasn’t the case with the Allman Brothers, so I really enjoy how relaxed and easy things are when I’m doing solo shows. I’ll tell you, it is nice to play some small venues, because it allows me to get a bit closer to the fans, and I like that feeling. It reminds me of the old days, man.
Tell me a bit about the structure of the show, and what songs you are looking forward to playing most.
Allman: We play a real nice mixture of songs from my solo career, some Allman Brothers tunes that I’ve rearranged to better fit the sound of my band, and a few killer covers as well.
I like playing them all, man, but I know there a few – “Melissa,” “Midnight Rider,” “I’m No Angel,” “Statesboro Blues,” – that the fans expect to hear, and that’s cool.
I really enjoyed the All My Friends DVD of the tribute concert to you last year. How did you first find out about the project, and what made you decide to do it?
Allman: My manager, Michael Lehman, brought the concept to me, and when I saw the list of names – Taj Mahal, Jackson Browne, Keb Mo, Sam Moore – plus the country guys like Eric Church, Trace Adkins, and Zac Brown. Boy, how could I say no?
I was so humbled that night. It truly was one of the highlights of my latter years, no doubt.
Which Texas musician of the past – blues, rock, or otherwise – had the most impact on you growing up and during your early career?
There have been three guys from Texas who influenced me, and I’m proud to say that two of them were dear, dear friends of mine.
The first was Lightnin’ Hopkins. When we were kids, my brother loved his playing, and that’s how I came to find out about Lightnin’. The second was Johnny Winter. Johnny was another big influence on us, and he played with the Allman Brothers from time to time. Johnny sat in with us during the 2009 Beacon run, and he tore it up, boy!
The third was Stevie Ray Vaughan. Good God almighty, nobody played like that man did. We toured together in the mid-’80s, and we had some times back then, let me tell you. Texas has turned out some kick-ass players, no question.
Which contemporary Texas musician do you like most today on a strictly musical level?
Allman: I’d say Doyle Bramhall II; he is a tremendous guitar player, man. Doyle has played with Mr. Clapton and with Derek Trucks, and he added a lot to Low Country Blues. I had heard that Doyle could play, but when he got in the studio with us, he just blew me away.
Many fans were surprised that the Allman Brothers Band seemed to end so abruptly last year with no big farewell to mark the occasion. And comments in the press by yourself and others have not really been clear what, if any, future the band has either as a recording or touring unit. Where do things stand in your view today?
Allman: Right now, the plans are there are no plans. That being said, I learned a long time ago to never say never about the Allman Brothers.
Finally, what are your own future plans? And anything you’d like to add?
Allman: I’m going to keep playing as long as I can; I still love it, man. As I’ve said many times, music is my life’s blood.
A version of this interview originally appeared at http://www.houstonpress.com
For more on Gregg Allman, visit www.greggallman.com