Gregg in 1987

Tell me the story about how Red Dog, your roadie, dared you to record an acoustic version of ‘Whipping Post’ for ‘Searching for Simplicity.’

Well, it’s turned into another whole song. It’s quite funky. It was when Clapton came out with the different version of ‘Layla.’ It would be nice to do that to a lot of songs. There’s a lot of songs I’d like to go back and re-record. Maybe someday I’ll do that (laughs). Updated versions.

One of my favorite quotes is when you said that southern rock is like saying rock rock, because rock ‘n’ roll was born in the south. How would you prefer The Allman Brothers Band be described: southern rock, a jam band or neither?

(Laughs) Just a damn good band. How does that go? A damn good, eclectic band. That doesn’t really flow off the tongue, does it (laughs)?

One of the things that always has fascinated me about you is that while you’ve been labeled a Southern rocker, your biggest following always has been in the New York area.

The Brothers have always drawn real well from Chicago east, because we played there more than we played out west. We’re playing more out west now than we ever have. The Fillmore East was up there and Watkins Glen, N.Y. A whole bunch of stuff happened up there in the New York area. But it goes further than that, from Maine to Miami.

I’m glad that I can go and hit the smaller places, like the opera houses instead of all those sheds, because you get more of a closeness with the people. You can contain the sound. We use real small amps and these huge mains. I play a lot of acoustic guitar. The whole thing is just different.

Then after that, I’ll play with the Brothers at the Beacon Theater for 18 nights in March, which is like playing in a place that my band would play with the Brothers. We really try to touch the people. It’s kind of hard to do outside, especially if the wind is blowing. It’s hard to do ‘Stormy Monday’ blues in the sunshine. You know what I’m talking about (laughs)?

You need that smokey intimacy.

There you go. That pool room effect.

You have the distinction of playing to the largest audience in U.S. concert history. What do you remember and what did you enjoy most about the Watkin Glens show with the Dead and The Band?

Leaving. There was a whole sea of folks and it really scared me. The helicopter was my first and last ride. That really scared me. The guy was drunk and just back from Vietnam. He was loaded. God, he did one of those quick U-turns. That was just a bad day for me.

The Brothers and the Dead always have shared an audience but never more so than now, since the death of Jerry Garcia and the break up of the band.

We love it. They’re more than welcomed. Deadheads are more than welcomed.

Well now, there’s Gregg Allman and Friends and there’s Phil Lesh & Friends, which Derek and Warren Haynes are involved with. Since you share so many fans, do you think there ever might be a joint tour between you and Phil, like Phil recently did with Bob Dylan?

I don’t know. I’ve never even really thought about it.

Do you think it would be worthwhile?

It might just be.

This is a tough question for me to ask you. I’ll preface by saying that I’ve spoken to Butch Trucks about how the Brothers used to party hard and how in more recent years, the band’s music and memories are much better now from being sober. You’ve relayed that in a song on ‘Searchin’ for Simplicity’ called ‘Love the Poison.’ Could you comment on your sobriety and how it’s helped you to improve personally and professionally? For instance, if you hadn’t stopped drinking, would you have the energy to enjoy both the Brothers and the Friends the way you do?

If I hadn’t stopped drinking, I’d be dead. It got that bad. I can feel things and see better. All five sense are better, of course. My senses were dulled for a long time. They’re still waking up. Yes, we do collaborate more between us in the Brothers. And with the oncoming of Oteil and Derek Trucks, it’s a big rejuvenation of the whole thing. It’s smooth sailing with the Brothers and my band too. I’m happier than a clam, naturally. And I feel like I deserve it too.

It’s just so cool to see you out there more, talking to folks and getting all the attention you deserve. As far as recordings go, what do you think will be next?

Well, I don’t know. We’re going to get real busy here pretty soon, because we’ve got to go back into the studio with the Brothers. It’s been a couple of years now. We had a couple of live records that came out. The one thing I’ve always been short of is time, but we’ll get it done. I’ll get in the studio with my boys one of these days.

Do you think something will be out by this time next year?

I don’t know, man. It’s like the wine maker. There’ll be no wine till it’s time.

Well, that’s good, because ‘Searching for Simplicity’ came out real good that way, taking your time with it.

It took me a couple of years. After I got the music done, I realized I was too messed up to sing it, so I had to shelve it for almost a year. So the whole damn thing took about two years to do. That’s ridiculous. It won’t happen again.

With Derek and Oteil, you have additional songwriters. Will they come up with songs for the next album?

I’m sure they will. The same thing happened when we got Allen Woody and Warren Haynes. It’s new blood in the game. It just rejuvenates everybody. And you’ve got to keep up with those young guys. You can’t let them pass ya’ (laughs).

It was great to hear about you playing the Fillmore with Gov’t Mule and John Popper. There’s no hard feelings about Allen and Warren leaving the Brothers to pursue the Mule fulltime?

No, not with me. I can only speak for me, bro. The playing that night was so good and tight. It was almost like we rehearsed it. All the biorhythms were on. Everybody knew all the keys. Whoever was going to make the cues in the songs, the rest of the guys kept an eye on him, and bam! It was tighter than a well rope.

What do you think of this young jam band scene that you’ve had such an enormous influence on? Are these young bands and their fans making you proud?

Yes, they really are, man. There’s some real bullshit music out there, but you’ll notice the blues hangs on.

Yeah, the jam scene has a good foundation.

Yes, it does.

I’ve talked with Warren about how the best rock music has a blues foundation. Without it, the music doesn’t last. It’s just another fad.

Made in America, that’s a good foundation (laughs).

What do you think Duane would think of these hundreds of jam bands?

Oh man, Duane would be on fire. Shit yeah.

Do you think he celebrated the band’s 30th anniversary up in rock ‘n’ roll heaven?

I think he’s loving it.

Butch had an excellent quote about Derek. He thinks Duane’s in there somewhere.

You never know.

You’ve loved motorcycles since you were a little kid riding dirt bikes.

I’ve got three of them sitting out in the garage.

What do you love most about riding Harleys?

Well, it starts somewhere between your knees, works on up to your crotch. It’s just that big rumble of power. If you’re cruising, it doesn’t matter how fast you go, they’re so nice and loud. And you’ve got Mother Nature blowing through your hair in some states (laughs) and your helmet in others. Especially where I live now, I mean there’s no traffic. There’s just big oak trees and moss. Ahh, it’s a beautiful place to ride.

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