Leave My Blues at Home

Gregg Allman on stage, 1971.
 

Gregg Allman changed music forever—and the longtime Savannah local always ordered the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich at Clary’s Café. For our exclusive September/October cover story, Savannah magazine went inside the rock legend’s coastal home and sat down for a lengthy conversation with his widow, Shannon Allman. We also spoke with others from Gregg’s inner circle, including his best friend Chank Middleton, his longtime manager Michael Lehman and his solo band’s lead guitarist and music director Scott Sharrard. Here, a few nuggets from those interviews.

For the full story, pick up a copy of the September/October Savannah magazine, now on newsstands and at shopsavannahmagazine.com.

Shannon Allman, Gregg Allman’s widow

On meeting his fans …
“During his book signings, I marveled at his ability to really listen to people and absorb what they were saying. It takes so much energy, and he would do it over and over again. By the end of hundreds of people saying things like, ‘I lost my husband and I listened to your music’ or ‘I was in the war and I listened to your music,’ I would be completely spent, and I just sat there listening to it all. He actually connected with everyone and he was really proud of that.”

On his outlook on life … 
“He always saw the good in the world. Sometimes I’d be practically leaping off the couch about something in the news. I’d say, ‘How can we be happy when there’s so many people in so much pain?’ He’d say, ‘There’s also so much beauty happening.’”

On his personal style …
“He was always so stylish. Even if he was just wearing a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, it was going to be creased jeans and a crisp T-shirt, along with the ponytail, the jewelry and the cologne. Anybody who got near him will tell you that he always smelled so good.”

On his cooking …
“He didn’t do much, but he could do certain things really well. He could make perfect scrambled eggs.”

Chank Middleton, Gregg Allman’s best friend

On the early days …
“I first toured with the Allman Brothers Band from 1974 to 1976, but I’m gonna be honest: I didn’t do nothing for them. The roadies would complain to Gregg about it, so he came to me and said, ‘They’re telling me you don’t do any work. Do you think you can tune my guitar?’ I said, ‘Yeah I can tune it but you won’t be able to play it because I’m not a musician.’ So then he said, ‘All right, how about you just carry my guitar for me every night?’ And that’s what I did.”

On their friendship …
“I’ve got five brothers, one sister and a host of cousins. But I loved Gregg more than I loved any of them. We were like two extremely close brothers—we may as well have been identical twins.”

Michael Lehman, Gregg Allman’s longtime manager and close friend

On his final months …
“Chank [Middleton] and I visited him many times together—we’d laugh and cry and eat and tell stories. I’d say goodbye and he’d say, ‘When are you coming back, Mikey?’ I’d come back every week. He gave me a plan for the record, and how to talk about his legacy. I promised him I would preserve it and protect it.”

On live shows …
“He loved playing small venues because he got to look into everyone’s eyes. So every tour, we would always try to find a 500-seater for him. That would give him the intimate connection with his fans.”

On his driving …
“Gregg was a Corvette connoisseur, and over his life he had an excess of 15 of them. He drove them way too fast, way too many times. I’ll never forget one day in Savannah when he picked me up. It was misty and wet, and we were going 110 miles per hour. He was laughing and I was hanging on for dear life. After that I said to him, ‘I will never drive with you again!’”

On his personality …
“He was a shy Southern gentleman but when he got to know you, he was funny and vulnerable and had the greatest laugh—this big hearty laugh. He had it until the end.”

Scott Sharrard, lead guitarist and music director for Gregg Allman’s
solo band

On his music … 
“As a kid in the 1990s, the Allman Brothers Band was basically my Beatles. These guys were pure musicians—no smoke machines or dancers or any of that B.S. They came to play. Old tube amplifiers cranked up all the way, Gibson guitars, Gregg’s giant, ancient-looking B-3 organ and a sea of drums and percussion with that bass rumbling underneath. It was like a freight train of soul with no boundaries or rules.”

On rehearsals …
“Gregg knew how to relax, chill and settle into a groove—both musically and personally—better than anyone I’ve ever known. The man didn’t call his first album ‘Laid Back’ for nothing! Rehearsals at his house were always, first and foremost, a good time. Sometimes the Smokin’ Pig would cater—Gregg loved their pulled pork sandwich. And sometimes his buddy would come by with a seafood haul and make us a Lowcountry boil. Gregg spoiled us silly with genuine hospitality—it never felt like we were going to work.”

More from Sarah Taylor Asquith

On the Dark Side

If ever there was a date to take a road trip this...
Read More