LAS VEGAS, Nev., — Gregg Allman has high praise for Keith Richards’ autobiography:
“His book is lightnin’ man.”
Fortunately, Allman read it after his own memoir, “My Cross to Bear,” was finished. “While it’s at the printer, I’m reading Keith Richards’ book (‘Life’) and thinking, ‘What did I even put out a book for?’ “
But Allman’s book is also a tribute to rock ‘n’ roll survival, as is a solo tour featuring the 65-year-old voice (and the fingers on the Hammond B-3) of the Allman Brothers Band
After a liver transplant in mid-2010, Allman rebounded with both the 2011 solo album, “Low Country Blues” and last year’s autobiography.
“I just take it day by day,” he says. “Nobody likes to wrinkle all up and everything, but that’s kind of part of it.
“Unless you stay in a gym every other day, which I must say I tried and I never could,” he adds. “I used to go to the gym quite often and in the last three years I’m either healing up from something or getting ready to have another procedure done. Now it is all over and I’m just starting to feel like my old self.”
Allman’s shows with a six-man band — including Floyd Miles, the singer who first hired Gregg and brother Duane as high-school teens — is a side trip from the Allman Brothers catalog.
“It’s totally different, totally. Well, not totally,” he amends. “Probably a little more blues than the Brothers play. But it’s fun. They balance out nicely.” The set list is flavored with “a little country blues,” including songs from “Low Country Blues,” the album of blues standards.
“I had renewed energy, it was just a kick. I had so much fun cuttin’ that record,” Allman says of the project helmed by T Bone Burnett, known for his mastery of roots rock and vintage Americana.
“He does it the old-fashioned way, and I just loved it and I’m crazy about him,” Allman says, calling Burnett “a meat and taters type of producer. And that’s good, because he wants to get that meat and taters just perfect. There’s a man listens to vinyl. A huge collection, and couple of turntables I think.”
Since getting sober in 1996, Allman says he has “been taking on a new life,” including last year’s announced engagement to a 24-year-old woman. But the book snuck up on him.
At first, he figured, “if I ever had to spend most of my time in the rocking chair on the front porch, I could thumb through the pages and relive what a great life I’ve had.
“The writing part – I couldn’t find the time to do it — so I would just get a little recorder and just talk into it. At the beginning of the tape I would say, a verbal ‘re’… I’d say what it was all about: ‘The subject of today will be … ’ “
When it was all done, “I had 67 1/2 pounds of cassette tapes.”
The book doesn’t hold back, covering everything from his drug-addled Las Vegas wedding to Cher in 1975 (“God, she smelled like I would imagine a mermaid would smell — I’ve never smelled it since, and I’ll never forget it,” he recalls of their first meeting) to his eventual sobriety.
Waylon Jennings told him that although it was too disruptive for he and Johnny Cash to attend Alcoholics Anonymous, “All you need to have an AA meeting is two drunks, and a coffee pot, and that big book.”
The book ends with him saying he wouldn’t trade his life for another person’s, “but I don’t know if I’d do it again. If somebody offered me a second round, I think I’d have to pass on it.”
But this one isn’t over yet, and Allman doesn’t sound ready for that rocking chair. “I feel better than I have since 2009,” he says. “I’m doin’ fine and ready to take it on.”
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Mike Weatherford is an entertainment writer at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com