Interview: Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band — "Bruce Willis is a very good harmonica player!"
Thu, 22 Apr 2010 09:43:14
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"I'm getting ready to go to Macon, Georgia," says Gregg Allman with a smile.
In no way is the first time that the legendary Allman Brothers Band frontman will be heading to Macon. In fact, Macon is as important to the band's legacy as "Whipping Post" or "Midnight Rider." The band called an old Victorian mansion in Macon, affectionately dubbed "The Big House," their home base for many seminal years. Now, "The Big House" been reopened as the official Allman Brothers Band Museum, and Gregg's on his way to play the band's first gig in the town in over two decades.
The Big House: The Allman Brothers Band Museum features a myriad of one-of-a-kind memorabilia deep within the heart of where it all began. So not only can visiting fans see a variety of Allman Brothers artifacts, but they can walk through the very rooms that Gregg and Co. lived in. It's the ultimate Allman Brothers experience.
Tomorrow, Friday April 23, 2010, The Allman Brothers will hit the stage for a very special show at the Macon City Auditorium. It sold out immediately, and it's the first Macon show since the museum opened its doors.
The Allman Brothers Band mainman Gregg Allman sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about his favorite memories from "The Big House," jamming with Bruce Willis in Los Angeles and an unforgettable run-in with a night patrolman in the '70s…
So this is the first Macon show in 20 years?
I'm afraid so. With a shamed face, I say, "Yeah!" [Laughs] I tried. I jumped up and down and hollered at them last year for the 40th anniversary of The Allman Brothers Band. I said, "Hey man, we've got to book Macon or at least Atlanta. How about the state of Georgia somewhere? Remember where we started? Duh!" [Laughs] They didn't seem to catch it. Last year was a very hectic year. Don't get me wrong, it was a very good year, but it was hectic. That was one of the times the promoters were calling constantly. Our booking agent didn't have to call them [Laughs]. Everybody and his brother will be there tomorrow though 41 years after it all started.
Better late than never, right?
It sold out in 12 minutes! [Laughs] That'll give you an idea about "Better Late than Never!"
What is it about the Big House that's so special to you?
Well, at a time in my life, it was a place I called, "Home." It was also a place that we all got together that wasn't on stage. It was a place where we sorted out any problems that were in the band. There can be all kinds problems outside of the organization and you can fend them off because there's safety in numbers. However, when you get something going on inside of the band, that's pretty much the beginning of the end. You have to nip that kind of stuff in the bud, which we've always done. That's why we're sitting here 41 years later talking about The Allman Brothers Band. That was our meeting house-slash-courthouse, if you will. You know how The Little Rascals had their club house? Well, that was ours! Berry Oakley's wife found the place. My brother [Duane] and his common law wife lived there for a spell and then he moved out. I lived there too, at that particular time; I think I was going with Mr. Oakley's sister. The house meant a lot to us. It's a big old Victorian house with many rooms over three floors, well, four counting the basement. Now, they've got it tricked out, man. They've totally refurbished the whole place. It was pushing 100-years-old when we rented it. Now, somebody's bought it, and it's gotten into the right hands and they're doing it right. It's just a real good thing.
What interests you the most about the Museum itself? Is there a certain artifact or relic that conjures a lot of memories?
Listen, I can walk through there, and the place itself is the relic that gets me because I need to go there. It makes you remember who you were and who you still are. The only things that have changed are a few years, a few dollars, a lot more music and a lot more artistry. It's a great place to go because I can feel both my brother and Oakley in there. I can feel them all in there. I'd never even seen some of the posters and memorabilia that they have in there. Of course, I brought them a couple of things that they'd never seen before! It's just beautiful, and it's run by a bunch of really nice people. I would advise anybody within the area of central Georgia to take a few hour detour and make it over to Macon and check it out. It's not Graceland, as a matter of fact, I think it's a lot nicer than Graceland except there aren't any airplanes parked out back [Laughs]. It's a shame that we didn't keep all of our old machines. We'd have motorcycles and cars and all kinds of good stuff. Some of them fell by the wayside and some of them got traded off. We never really knew this was going to come about. They've been working on this for about 20 years! All of the grounds are really beautiful. There's a big pond out front, and it's real clear. There are two humongous goldfish in there—one named Oakley and one named Duane. It's really cool, man. If you're ever down that way, go see it!
Does a warm feeling just wash over you when you walk in?
Oh, it really does. After I moved out of the place, I could show you where I came in and crashed some nights. That was back in the days of, "Hey man, can I crash here?" You'd be sleeping on the couch in your clothes [Laughs]. It was kind of a wayward place. We didn't take in any strays or anything like that—well, a certain amount of them, I guess [Laughs]. There's a huge dining room, and we used to have some incredible meals in there. All of our girlfriends would get together and cook. Think about it. The fastest way to a traveling musician's heart is a home-cooked meal. It's not something we get a lot of.
Do you have a favorite memory from the Big House? Anything with Duane?
I have a string of them. Duane was very much involved. One night at around 4am, the darkest part of the day, we were out on our motorcycles. There were about five of us. We all drove Triumphs; we couldn't afford Harley Davidson's back then. Plus, I don't think Harley made anything for a young guy to drive. It was before Harley got really big. They had the Sportster and that was about it. Anyway, I had this TT Special Triumph—the one that comes without headlights. It has no mufflers either. It's a racing model, and it was really loud! All of them were. I remember we were turning into the Big House, and this cop lighted us up. So we all stopped and we cut him off one-by-one by the time he got to us. He slams the door of the cop car and he goes, "When in the Hell are ya'll gonna cut another record!?" [Laughs] I said, "Well, we were on the way, man. That's why we were going so fast, you know?" I thought we were done for. I think I had a couple of joints on me. Back in the good old days…it was about this time of year too! His main concern was when we were going to cut another record!
Last summer in L.A., Bruce Willis jammed with you guys. Do you have an ongoing musical relationship with him?
We have a very good relationship with him. I'd like to tell you he's my friend. He's played with us many times; he was there for the 40th anniversary and he's a very good harmonica player. It really is cool, man.
Is there a lot of pressure with a big hometown show like this?
Most entertainers have a certain amount of stage fright. Not too many of them will admit it. I'm going to have a little bit; I can already feel it coming. For the most part, it's going to be really fun. Stage fright's over after you hear that, "One, two, three, four…" It's a ridiculous syndrome but, hey, it don't hurt that bad.
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Will you be at the show tomorrow?