By Brian Ives
“I’m not saying anything negative about the [Allman] Brothers; I’m just very positive about my band.”
Gregg Allman was talking to Radio.com last week about his current ensemble, who has been performing with him on his latest tour, which included a headlining slot at Saturday night’s Laid Back Festival in New York.
But the Allman Brothers Band may have a bit of life in them yet, even though they played their “final” show back in October of 2014. Well, they said it was going to be their last concert ever. But as with all band endings, there’s always a possibility of a reunion if some of the members are still above ground. And the group’s three principals — singer/keyboardist Allman and drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks — are as alive and well, and have all been playing with their own bands.
But even more surprising than the news that Gregg would consider an Allmans reunion less than a year after they retired, is the fact that he’s been talking in the press about reconciling with founding guitarist/singer Dickey Betts, whom the band fired in 2000. Things got ugly, lawyers were involved. But over the years, the Allmans brought some of Betts’ songs back into their repertoire. And recently, Allman has even been playing “Southbound,” which Betts wrote, at his solo shows.
So we spoke to him about Betts and the Allmans, as well as Laid Back last week. Last week we published part one of the interview. Here’s the second half.
In a recent interview, you discussed the possibility of playing with Dickey Betts again, and you seemed amicable to the idea. I think a lot of fans were surprised to hear that.
Well, it makes no sense to hold grudges for the rest of your life, that’s a childish thing. You just gotta let bygones be bygones. You know, there was that time that we were climbing fool’s hill: you know we all gotta climb it! When you have six or seven or eight guys playing together, there’s inevitably going to be some distention between two of them, sooner or later. Especially over that many years. So, you know, you get it fixed and go on! You know? But if nobody says anything and you sit there and don’t talk it out, it simmers and it festers and it simmers and it festers and it gets bigger and bigger and nastier and it’s just not right, you know?
So, the way I heard it, is you were playing “Southbound” with your band and you mentioned to the audience that that was one of the songs that Dickey Betts wrote.
Well, we had an arrangement of it. With that many players [in my band], you can make incredible patterns. When there’s a vocal going on telling the story, you want the people to hear the words and absorb the story. And the music is background music to poetry. Same way with solos: I mean guitar solos. A good guitar player, and I’ve played with them all… they’re not being paid by the note! Therefore, people who play at lightning speed… “Aw, ain’t he fast? Ain’t he got dexterity? Ain’t he cool?” Bulls—! This is an opinion, hoss, this is an opinion. So, a guitar player plays this barrage of notes. Well, what the hell is the sixth note worth? “Well, I don’t know man, it went by so fast!” That’s why I so admire people like Billy Gibbons or David Gilmour or Wayne Bennett from Bobby “Blue” Bland’s band. Wayne Bennett played the solo in “Stormy Monday Blues.” I mean, he had such incredible tone! And he never touches Bobby Bland’s vocals! His fills never touch the vocal; if you do a fill and it runs into the vocal, that’s just sloppy. Like, guitarists like Mr. Clapton: they leave them wanting more. You don’t flood the place with notes. You step up and you play a couple of tasty, tasty notes. And then you back up! And then the listener goes, “Oh, God, I hope he does that again; I’ve got to hear that again!”
But back to Dickey: are you saying you’d perform with him in public, or just get together to jam privately?
I didn’t say whether just me and him would be sitting in a room, having a guitar pull… two writers, two players, and one guitar. We used to do that all the time. And we’d laugh, and we’d marvel at each other’s playing.
For some reason, I was blessed with this. When I look back on my life, and I look back on all those different nights that we played and made people so happy… people come up to you and say, “Thank you man, for helping me get through life.” “Thank you man, for being the theme song to my life.” Now, man, that’s heavy. Or, “Thank you for getting me through Vietnam. I was scared, but I had my music.” For many years, I had no idea of the effect of the Allman Brothers’ music had on people. And the lasting effect. And as I grew older and wiser. I soaked it in and I realized it.
It did anything but give me a big head or make me cocky. I’m on my knees thanking God that He has given me the intestinal fortitude to go forward after so many things that could have held me back. Like deaths in the family. When I say prayers in the morning and night, I thank him for Bill Graham and so many other people, who we’ve lost along the way that were my mentors, my teachers. Every morning, I wake up and I go to the window and I look out and I marvel – I totally marvel – at the fact that I’m still alive.
I hope that you and Dickey get back together, even if you just play in a room with no audience.
I think that you can probably count on it, bro.
That said, if you perform in public, that would probably make a lot of people happy.
If it comes to pass that the Allman Brothers reform for old time’s sake, it won’t be for a night. It’ll be for a whole damn tour of major cities. And if I play with Dickey again, it will be for more than one night. It will be to play in front of all the people who we always played in front of.
So it would be with [drummers] Butch Trucks and Jaimoe?
I would imagine so, yes. But we’re talking about something that you shouldn’t even think about happening before 2017.
I know [bassist] Oteil Burbridge may be busy for a while as well; he’s playing bass for the Dead and Company at their upcoming shows.
I haven’t spoken to him, but I’ve been hearing a lot of really great stuff about him. He’s a fine bass player, and I wish him all the luck in the world. I’m sure he will bring that band up a step or two. I’ve always admired the Grateful Dead… but I admire the Allman Brothers more [laughs].
A few summers ago, I saw Bob Weir open for the Allmans; maybe you could do some shows with them in the future.
That would be wonderful. Bobby Weir is one of my favorite people on this earth. Yes, I think it would be wonderful if we all merged and came up with something brand-new. Not necessarily Grateful Dead songs and Allman Brothers songs, but all-new material.