“Our whole world as we knew it was shot to ratshit.  I ought to write a soap opera.” 


Being a child of the ’70s, the one over-riding vibe stuck in my memory is that it felt messy. Very messy. Nothing felt solid, like it could all collapse at any given time. Maybe we were all dealing with the after effect of the ’60s free love, drugs, rock & roll deal– only now there were kids, complicated relationships, and worldly responsibilities popping-up that we didn’t feel ready for and certainly didn’t fully embrace. Still hanging on to our freedom– no one wanted to admit it was time to grow up and get real. We graduated from pot to cocaine and hard drugs, and went back to our father’s crutch– booze. Too much.

Looking back on these pics of Gregg Allman and Cher, I’m struck by that feeling. Two messy lives, neither one able to get out of their own way, coming together for an epic meltdown. People magazine, and the like, would have all the coked-out celebrity fodder ever needed to fill the racks at the supermarket checkout lines. Business was strong. Life felt cheap. You better at least look fucking fabulous if you want to survive.

Cher, smoking in bed, in the grip of a 1,000 yard stare… The Allman Brothers Band (and  fans) did not have kind words for Cher– likening her to their own ‘Yoko Ono’ for distracting Gregg and the resulting disintegration of the group. Truth is, Allman was seriously coked-out and a mess.  His weight dropping down to 125 lbs at one point. His head was all fucked-up from the loss of his beloved brother Duane Allman in a motorcycle wreck. Then, unthinkably, almost exactly a year after Duane’s tragic passing–  ABB bassist Berry Oakley also died in a motorcycle wreck only about a block away.   

1973, San Francisco– Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band –Image © Neal Preston/Corbis. While with Cher, Gregg Allman found himself labeled a snitch for testifying against ABB’s road manager Scooter Herring in exchange for his own immunity in a drug case. Seems Scooter was busted for supplying Gregg with 1/2 gram of cocaine a day– he reportedly even saved Allman’s life once by resuscitating him during an overdose. Cher stood by her man claiming, “Gregory makes a great villain because he’s taken drugs. They acted as if he had turned his road manager into a drug dealer when it was the other way around.” Most folks didn’t see it Cher’s way. Allman’s name became mud in Macon– death threats were flying and the locals wanted his head. Even the federal judge on the case smelled a rat stating, “the person who ought to be prosecuted is Mr. Allman.” Gregg claimed things were cool between he and Scooter, and that they both understood what Allman had to say and do to escape a prison sentence. It was all cool. In Allman’s mind, if anyone was the fall guy it was him. Somewhere in the middle there lies the truth.

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Duane Allman Brothers

October 16th, 1971, inside of two weeks before Duane’s death on Oct. 29th. Gregg Allman, Duane Allman, & Berry Oakley above. Duane and Berry died in separate motorcycle accidents– Duane in 1971 and Berry in 1972. 


There’s an overwhelming feeling of worldly injustice and “what could’ve been”, when someone so gifted and young is taken from us like Duane Allman was.  The only consolation we have (and a sweet one it is), are the incredible tracks he laid down with The Allman Brothers Band, Derek and the Dominoes, and his session works in the studio with great artists like Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, B.B. King, and Clarence Carter.  And if you think he was just a great slide player and string bender– check out the blistering lead work on You Don’t Love Me.

I can’t believe that 38 years have already passed since the day Duane Allman hopped on his Harley after a party in Macon, Georgia– not knowing it would be for the last time.  He only got a few miles down the road, when a truck turned in front of him and Duane clipped it’s back end.  Allman lost control, and the Harley landed on top of him, sustaining injuries that would take his life within a few short hours. The lead guitarist of the Allman Brothers Band, who was gaining huge acclaim for his exciting and innovative sound and style, was dead at age 24.

Jerry Wexler’s eulogy for Duane sums it up best: “This young and beautiful man who we love so dearly but who is not lost to us, because we have his music, and the music is imperishable.”

Amen, brother.  Amen.

November 24th, 1969, Muscle Shoals, Alabama– Wilson Pickett and Duane Allman.

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