Music legend Gregg Allman dies at 69

(Last Updated On: May 30, 2017)


By Igiri, Michael James

Gregg Allman, a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band who

overcame family tragedy, drug addiction and health problems to become a

grizzled elder statesman for the blues music he loved, has died. He was


Allman died due to liver cancer complications at his home in Savannah,

Georgia, and he was “surrounded by his family and friends,” Michael

Lehman, Allman’s longtime manager and close friend, told CNN.

He will be buried at Rose Hill cemetery in Macon, Georgia, though a funeral

date has not yet been set, Lehman said. Two other founding members of

the Allman Brothers — guitarist Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley —

are also buried at Rose Hill Cemetery.

Allman had been working on a yet-to- be-released solo album entitled

“Southern Blood.” Lehman said Allman was very enthusiastic about the

project and was listening to tracks from the album just last night. A release

date for “Southern Blood” has not yet been announced.

Cher, to whom Allman was briefly married in the 1970s, reacted on Twitter

Saturday afternoon.

“I’ve tried … words are impossible,” she wrote.

Beatles drummer Ringo Starr tweeted: “Rest in peace Greg Allman peace

and love to all the family”

Allman — along with older brother Duane and a handful of other musicians

including guitarist Dickey Betts and drummer Butch Trucks, who died in

January also at the age of 69 — helped form the eponymous Southern band

whose blend of rock, blues, country and jazz made them one of the biggest

and most influential touring acts of the 1970s.

Gregg Allman played the Hammond organ, sang lead vocals and wrote

some of the band’s signature songs, including “Midnight Rider” and

“Wasted Words,” the ballad “Melissa,” and the blues epic “Whipping Post.”

He and Betts took over leadership of the band after Duane was killed in a

motorcycle accident in 1971 and before the band broke up for the first time

in the late ’70s.

Allman continued recording and touring, both with reunited versions of the

Allmans Brothers Band and with his own bands, for some 40 years. The

Allman Brothers — inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 —

won new legions of fans in recent years with the reorganized group’s epic

live shows, especially their unprecedented string of 238 sold-out concerts

at New York’s Beacon Theater.

“My love of playing is still the same as when I was 24. In fact, I appreciate it

all more and understand it much better,” Allman told the Wall Street

Journal in 2015. “I’m grateful for every gold record, good review and award

I’ve ever received, but I’m just so into what I’m doing and that’s where my

focus is.”

Gregg Allman was born in Nashville in 1947, a year after brother Duane.

Tragedy struck the family early; their father, Willis Allman, was shot and

killed by a hitchhiker when Gregg was 2.

When the boys were adolescents their mother moved with the kids to

Daytona Beach, Florida, where Gregg bought his first guitar at a Sears

store with money he earned from his paper route.

“I … proceeded to wear that son of a b***h out,” Allman later told Rolling

Stone. “I wouldn’t eat or sleep or drink or anything. Just play that damn


Duane got his own guitar too, and learned how to play it by picking along to

songs on R&B radio. Soon the brothers were playing in local bands before

forming their own outfit, the Allman Joys.

After promising live gigs around the South and a disastrous stint in Los

Angeles, where a record label tried to mold them into a psychedelic rock

band, the Allman Brothers formed in earnest in Jacksonville, Florida, in


Gregg became the band’s chief songwriter, while Duane, who had played

on records by Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett as a session picker in

Muscle Shoals, Alabama, was its guitar whiz and de facto leader. The band

moved to Macon, Georgia, where they jammed daily and consumed large

amounts of alcohol and drugs.

“My generation were heavy drug users,” Gregg Allman told the Daily

Telegraph in 2011. “We didn’t know no different, we didn’t know no other


Their first record flopped, but the Allmans built a regional following through

constant touring. So they put out a live album, “At Fillmore East,” recorded

over two nights at a New York club. Buoyed by long, freewheeling solos

that captured the band’s energy onstage, it went gold.

Three months after its 1971 release, and just as the band was becoming

nationally known, Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident in

Macon. Gregg was devastated, but he and the other band members agreed

they should push on.

The next few years saw the Allman Brothers become arguably the most

popular American band in the country. Albums “Eat a Peach” and “Brothers

and Sisters” were huge critical and commercial successes, spawning such

radio hits as “Melissa,” “Blue Sky” and “Ramblin’ Man,” and the band’s live

shows drew raves.

Many of their songs were marked by Allman’s soulful, weathered voice,

which even in his early recordings, said Sheryl Crow, “sounded like he’d

already lived a thousand lifetimes.”

But tragedy was never far away. Bassist Oakley was killed in a motorcycle

accident in 1972, and the band gradually succumbed to drug abuse and

internal bickering. Gregg Allman alienated bandmates when he testified

against a band employee on trial for drug charges, and the Allman Brothers

split up in 1976.

By this time Gregg Allman was married to Cher — the third of his six wives –

– with whom he spent three turbulent years. The two had a son, musician

Elijah Blue Allman, and were frequent celebrity tabloid fodder before

divorcing in 1978.

Allman kept a low profile for much of the 1980s — his gritty sound didn’t fit

the synth-pop trends of that era — although he made a comeback with his

1987 album “I’m No Angel,” which became a surprise hit on rock radio.

The Allman Brothers reunited in 1989 and would tour on and off over the

next 25 years.

In the 1990s Gregg Allman moved to California and dabbled in acting,

appearing as a drug lord in the 1991 movie, “Rush.” After decades of drug

and alcohol abuse, he finally got clean in 1995 after being embarrassed by

his drunken acceptance speech at the Allman Brothers’ Rock and Roll Hall

of Fame induction ceremony.

Allman moved in 2000 to Savannah, Georgia, where he spent the

remaining years of his life recording music, touring and battling health

problems. He contracted Hepatitis C in 2007, blaming it on the use of a

dirty needle while getting a tattoo. In 2010, Allman received a liver


In 2012, at age 64, he made headlines when he was briefly engaged to a

24-year- old.

Actor William Hurt was set to play Gregg Allman in a biopic, “Midnight

Rider,” but filming was suspended in 2014 when an assistant camera

operator was struck and killed by a train on the movie’s rural Georgia set.

Despite this setback, his substance abuse, stormy romantic history and

other difficulties, Allman sounded at peace with himself in his 2012 memoir.

“If I fell over dead right now,” he wrote, “I have led some kind of life.”

CNN’s Shawn Nottingham and Chloe Melas contributed to this report