Gregg Allman's Restless Soul
With his first solo album in fourteen years, the spiritual leader of the Allman Brothers is feeling the blues—in a good way
“C’mon, you can do it!”
Duane Allman was goading his younger brother, Gregg, in the backyard of their house in Daytona Beach, Florida. Duane had been drinking all day, and he was growing impatient. “Well, you’re just a chicken,” he scoffed.
It was 1965, and Gregg and Duane were at a crossroads. Not even twenty, they had crisscrossed the South playing in a band called the Allman Joys. They did gigs at rough joints like the Stork Club in Mobile, Alabama, where they played six nights a week, five sets a night, forty-five minutes per set. Gregg was weary of the road and ready to give up and go to dental school—after a week of playing the Stork, he and Duane each pocketed only $111—but if he pursued dentistry, he would be in debt and stay in debt. He decided to continue with the band. The only problem was, Gregg was eighteen and about to get drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. Duane—who was exempt because their father was dead and he was the oldest son—had cooked up a scheme to get his young brother out of the draft: have Gregg shoot himself in the foot in order to get a medical pass.
“I’ve invited these nice ladies over here to see a foot shooting and you’re going to let them down?” Duane screamed. The girls began to cry. Gregg had drawn a target on his moccasin, placing it carefully between two of the bones in his foot so as to cause minimal damage. After more berating by Duane, Gregg slammed down two more shots of whiskey, made a quick phone call, and came back outside with his Saturday night special handgun. In the distance, a siren wailed. Then, BAM! Gregg had done it. In a remarkable moment of lucidity, he had called the ambulance before he pulled the trigger. The next day, he hobbled into the Army recruitment office and got his medical exemption. The Allman Brothers Band was born.