Gregg Allman is Back and Better Than Ever

We ask the Georgia rock and roll icon about his new album, life in Macon, and much more

Photo: Peter Yang

“Garden. And. Gun. How ya doing, man?” Gregg Allman sounds just plain giddy, giving a little extra oomph for each word. The last time G&G talked with the rock and roll icon, he was recovering from a liver transplant and the post-op medication he was on had zapped much of his energy. But today, he’s on the good foot: joking and laughing with a sizzle in his voice that is as infectious as it is gravelly from nearly 50 years of being a rock God.

Allman’s vigor is due in large part to the energy of the band that backs him on his new album GREGG ALLMAN LIVE: BACK TO MACON, GA, a recording of a 2014 show in the city where it all began for the Allman Brothers. Featuring Scott Sharrard on guitar, Peter Levin on keyboards, bassist Ron Johnson, drummer Steve Potts, Allman Brothers veteran Marc Quinoñes on drums and percussion, Jay Collins, Art Edmaiston, and Mark Franklin on horns, these eight players, plus special guest, Allman’s son Devon, formed one of the best units Allman had fronted in years. Allman and cohorts will be one the road for much of the fall and will return to Macon in early 2016 for a two-night stand at the city’s Grand Opera House on January 12-13. “We’re all together; focused and alert. It’s really a youthful feeling,” he says. “I walk out on stage and feel like I’m 25 years old again. Yes, sir!”

I gather you’re feeling OK?

I feel on top of it, just fine. The liver is treating me well. Only bad thing is one of these pills I have to take, a side effect is that it lowers your immune system. So I wash my hands all the time, like eight or nine times a day. Gotten to where I detest airports. And I don’t like airplanes either! [laughs]. Give me a tour bus any day.

The band sounds on fire on the new album.

We’re on fire every night, man. Just about. Every night before the show we get together and have a little talk and say, “all right, it’s that time to be again, good part of the day, yay YUH! Let’s just go out there and think of nothing but the blues.’

Can you compare the vibe of this band to when you were with the Allman Brothers?

It took me about seven years to get all of them together and man, they are perfect. I’m so blessed to find eight dudes who are not only my friends, but are able to get stuff done. It feels like when I first joined the Brothers. Jaimoe [Johanson, the ABB drummer] told me once that Duane said the band wasn’t complete until I got there. “Wait ‘til young brother gets here,” he’d say. “Wait ‘til the little brother gets here.” I cherished that because I so admired my older brother.

Macon is such a huge part of your life, but is there a particular memory that stands out?

Man, I have two million memories in Macon. The biggest one is just hanging out and writing songs in the cemetery. It’s a beautiful place, the trees, the valley, there’s a train goes by there twice a day. It’s where my brother lies and where I’m putting my mother. I’ve got 10 more plots. All of us will be in there if they want.

I was sorry to hear about your mother.

Mama A. She was 98 years young. She was a great old girl.

I read that you’re now a vegan.

Gregg Allman

Photo: Danny Clinch

Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman.

Vegan? No. Gluten-free. I can’t get a whole lot of energy if I don’t eat just a little meat. But I love vegetables, I juice every morning. Talk about giving you energy! And it ain’t that energy you get from taking speed or something. It’s natural, something that comes from your core. It used to take me about 45 minutes to get out of bed, get a cup of coffee. Now I shoot out of bed like there was a spring under me. You oughta try it man!

I will! Give me your recipe.

I will tell you my recipe, and dig it; this Breville juice machine thing is 2.3 horsepower. It will grind up a beer bottle into sand! OK, here goes: a handful of kale, two beets, celery, and ginger root. Now you gotta be careful with the ginger, that stuff will burn ya tongue. Add some herbs like cilantro or parsley, two Granny Smith apples and two carrots for the taste. You don’t want to be drinking just kale juice; it won’t make it past your back teeth.

Do you notice an immediate effect?

After about three days, you kinda like it, and after two weeks you can’t leave without it. First gulp let it roll around in your mouth, and then sip it. Don’t guzzle it. Eat something after and thank me later.

Are you working on other projects?

I’m going to do a record in Muscle Shoals at Jimmy Johnson’s studio with Don Was. It will kind of be like my first solo record, Laid Back. Man, I don’t see why the Brothers never went there. The place is magic.

Is there someone you’d like to work with?

Sam Smith. God, he has the most beautiful set of pipes. Me and him and a nice, sad love song would just be dandy. He’s had some problems with his voice and nodes on his vocal cords. You can’t utter a sound after those vocal cords get scraped. I’ve fortunately never been cursed with it. I hope he’s feeling alright.

You live outside of Savannah now, what’s the best part?

I looked up and down the coast at places to live, but a lot of them, you’re too close to your neighbors. It’s too much of a good thing! But I found a place where there’s water on three sides and room for my dogs.

Do you have big dogs?

Ha ha ha, NO! Otis is a Yorkiepoo and Maggie is a red poodle. I was talking to B. B. King once, God bless his soul, and asked “B., do big guys usually have big dogs?” He said, “Gregory, you’ll never know the love of a dog until they sleep between your waist and your elbow.” And that’s right where Otis sleeps. Ha!