Gregg Allman--An appreciation

May 31, 2017

 Gregg Allman--"It Ain't No Use"

 

Gregg Allman, who died Saturday at 69, was a "pioneering force in American music," as Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow noted in a statement.

 

"As a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman helped give birth to Southern rock, blazing a trail for a generation of musicians who were equally influenced by the blues, Southern soul, and rock," said Portnow. "His earthy vocals graced songs that have become rock standards, including 'Midnight Rider' and 'Whipping Post,' in addition to his own solo records."

 

Portnow cited the Allmans' Grammy win in 1995 for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for "Jessica," their Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, and the induction of their 1971 album At Fillmore East into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999. Maria Milito, the veteran classic rock DJ at New York classic rock station Q104.3--where the Allman Brothers catalog remains a mainstay--cut to the core: "Gregg successfully mixed the blues and southern rock like no other."

 

Milito always hosted the first show of the Allman Brothers' annual run of shows at New York's Beacon Theatre.

 

"When they ended it in 2014, it chipped off a piece of my heart," she says, "and now, with the passing of Gregg, my heart is broken. Another one of our legends gone too soon. Thankfully we have his songs and voice to live on forever."

 

ZZ Top's Billy F Gibbons, in a statement, said Allman "will be remembered as someone who made a big difference in the lives of many and whose sonic legacy continues that memorable course.”

 

Allman's sudden passing, continued Gibbons, "leaves us at a loss, yet at the same time, we stand alongside the millions thankful that Gregg was in our lives. Gregg was, of course, a brilliant and intuitive player with a depth of soul reflected in his works in a truly moving manner. Brother Gregg was generous with his talent, his spirit and, of course, his great voice. We were fortunate enough to have been touched by him and those moments remain treasured encounters. Some truly positive, uplifting experiences."

 

Producer Russ Titelman, whose credits include the likes of Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood, also praises Allman's voice.

 

"It was so deep and powerful, and in terms of phrasing, he was just a natural," says Titelman, who co-produced Allman's 1977 album Playin' Up a Storm with Lenny Waronker. He points to the album's track "It Ain't No Use," which they patterned after '60s soul singer Lou Johnson's Burt Bacharach-produced arrangement.

 

"Lenny says it's the saddest performance, absolutely heartbreaking and extraordinary like a great R&B record by Chuck Jackson or Joe Simon—the best singers in the world," Titelman relates. "There are singers with inherent quality and tone that you can't ask for—they either have it or they don't, and Gregg had it. He was a sophisticated singer, but raw and emotional—you could see why people connected to him. And he was also a monstrously great B3 [Hammond organ] player, I dare say, like a southern American version of Steve Winwood, but deeper, in a way."

 

As Mark Wenner, who played with Allman as frontman of the venerable D.C.-based harmonica blues/roots band the Nighthawks, summarized, "He was a really good-hearted guy who was totally immersed in the music."

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