If you’re a fan of the Allman Brothers, I think you’d dig reading this biography by Gregg Allman. For 378 pages, Gregg recounts in detail his life and career, and he talks frankly about his drug use, alcoholism, sex life, his marriage to Cher and five other women, his liver transplant, and all the famous musicians he has known and played with. Just published earlier this year, even if you’re a die-hard Allman Brothers fan, you’re bound to find out things you never knew.
One of the best things about the book is its conversational approach. Reading the bio, you feel like you’re sitting there with Gregg listening to him pour out the story of his life. And considering the massive amounts of booze and drugs he consumed, his memory of things that happened decades ago is both sharp and focused. Of course, in telling his life story, Gregg can’t help but tell the story of the Allman Brothers Band, his brother Duane, and the other bandmates like Dickie Betts, Butch Trucks, Berry Oakley, Jaimoe, Derek Trucks, and Warren Haines.
Other famous folks who have cameo appearances include Eric Clapton, Jackson Brown, Jim Morrison, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, Jimmy Carter, Jeff Beck, Bill Graham, Buddy Guy, Steve Winwood, Marshall Tucker, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Stephen Stills and Aretha Franklin, and, as they say, many, many more.
You’ll also be surprised as some of Gregg’s opinions of other legendary rockers, and he doesn’t pull any punches and says some nasty things about some iconic bands. He also shares his take on everything from God to education.
Another plus is that the book is lavishly illustrated with photos that begin in Gregg’s childhood and follow him and the band to the present.
Personally, I’ve been a big Allman Brothers fan since the 1970s, and I have a collection of vinyl that I’m proud, of, much of it played so much it’s just about worn out. But there were revelations in this biography that floored me. I could tell you what they are, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.
I have to say I was impressed with Gregg’s openness. He’s willing to talk about things that many celebrities wouldn’t touch. The only place the book disappointed me was that Gregg didn’t really elaborate on the motorcycle wreck that killed his brother Duane. There have been so many legends that have grown up around that event and I thought he might set the record straight. Of course, he does talk about it, but he doesn’t go over how the wreck happened. But I can’t fault him for leaving that out. It was probably the most painful event of his life, and the fact that he’s willing to talk about it at all is to his credit.
To me, the most interesting part of the book was about how the band struggled before they hit the big time. Their determination, dedication and sheer guts in sticking to playing the kind of music they believed in is an inspiration to anyone trying to make it in the arts.
The book also can be seen as a comment on the celebrity lifestyle and its dangers and how the temptations brought on by fame and money have killed so many in the music business. Over and over in the book, people die from drugs and alcohol, or commit suicide.
It’s rare to get this kind of inside look at the private world of someone who was on the front lines of rock and roll history. It’s probably the closest you can come to knowing what it was like without actually having been there in person.