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Former Sarasotan Gregg Allman on upcoming album, film and Dickey Betts

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Gregg Allman guitar 2011 AP

Greg Allman, winner of the 2011 Americana Lifetime Achievement Performer Award, performs at the Americana Music Association awards show on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. The Gregg Allman Band performs Wednesday, January 8, 2014, at the Sailor Circus Arena in Sarasota, Fla. (AP Photo/Joe Howell)

Gregg Allman - a survivor of drug and alcohol abuse, a liver transplant and six marriages - has plenty to be happy about these days. For starters, his Gregg Allman Band homecoming show Jan. 8 at the Sailor Circus Arena sold out two weeks in advance. Then, a couple days after playing Sarasota, the 66-year-old singer who got sober nearly two decades ago, will be honored with the all-star tribute concert called “All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman.” Next up? A movie based on Allman’s bestselling memoir begins filming.

So, yeah, we had a bunch of stuff to discuss when the singer, songwriter, keyboardist and guitarist best known as the leader of the Allman Brothers Band and composer of such classics as “Midnight Rider,” “Melissa” and “Whipping Post” called from his home near Savannah, Ga. He even talked about the possibility of performing with current Sarasotan Dickey Betts. It’s a sticky subject. Gregg and the rest of the founding Allman Brothers Band members fired Betts in 2000.

The last time you performed here, at the 2006 Sarasota Blues Fest, it was a really special show. How do you feel about returning to your old hometown?

It will be good to be back in Sarasota and see all the great fans. I haven’t played there in a long time and I’m happy to return.

Do you have a favorite song you wrote while living here?

I wrote a lot of stuff around there, on Anna Maria Island, sitting on my dock. I wrote most of the stuff from “I’m No Angel” (1986) and “Just Before the Bullets Fly” (1988) when I lived on Bradenton Beach.

Who are you most excited about hearing perform your songs at the Jan. 10 tribute show in Atlanta?

Man, there are so many people on that show I haven’t seen in so long, especially Jackson (Browne). We used to be roommates, not really, but we hung together so much we might’ve been roommates. This was way before either of us were known. We were broke as we could be. But I’m excited about everybody. Taj Mahal, Keb’ Mo’, all of them; Natalie Cole, she’s a good friend of mine.

I read you are returning to the studio with T-Bone Burnett (producer of Allman’s acclaimed 2011 solo album “Low Country Blues,” a collection of mostly old blues songs). What can you tell me about the material you will be recording?

It’s kind of a second half of the last one but we’ve postponed recording to May, just so much stuff going on. There will be classic blues material and stuff I wrote by myself. I got to road test them. You’ll hear them in Sarasota.

Gregg Allman discography: a look at his seven solo albums

In recent years, your Gregg Allman Band shows have included killer performances of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman,” Wilson Pickett’s “I Found a Love” and your guitarist Scott Sharrard’s rocker “Love like Kerosene.” Any of those songs appearing on the upcoming album?

They just might.

But you’re not going to tell me because you want it to be a surprise.

Gregg Allman AP 2011 Vertical

Rock Legend Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band performing in 2011 at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston. (Aynsley Floyd/AP Images for TuneInToHepC.com)

That’s a fact. Wouldn’t be a surprise.

Do you plan on being on set when “Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story” starts shooting later this month?

I’ll be in and out. I’m on tour in January until the 20th but then I should be there.

As an executive producer of the movie, what’s the most important thing you want to see the director and actors get right?

(Laughs) The facts.

Any in particular?

No. Just all of them. This is all very new to me. I can’t say much about the film. I’m still in a crash course learning about all this.

At the funeral for Dan Toler (guitarist in the Allman Brothers Band and Gregg Allman Band) there were all these beautiful photos being projected of you with him and his brother, Frankie Toler (drummer in the Allman Brothers Band and Gregg Allman Band). You made some great music with those guys while living down here. How would you like people to remember the Toler brothers?

Wonderful people and very talented and I miss them so.

Dickey Betts recently sat in with Derek Trucks (current Allman Brothers Band guitarist) and Susan Tedeschi’s band. What would you say if Dickey called you up and asked to sit in with you at your show in Sarasota?

I would tell him it would be fine.

Rumor has it your old pal Neil Larsen (keyboardist who recently toured and recorded with Leonard Cohen) is going to be in Sarasota at the same time as your show. Is there any chance of him sitting in with you?

I’m sure there is if he’s there.

We’ve been waiting a decade now, when might we expect a new Allman Brothers Band studio album?

Not yet.

One of my favorite Duane Allman performances is the Allman Brothers Band’s show at The Warehouse in New Orleans from September of 1971. Any chance of that getting an official release?

Gregg Allman 2010 AP vertical

Greg Allman performs with the Allman Brothers band at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, Sunday, April 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

I don’t know. You can only release so much of that old stuff even though it was a good performance. You can’t just flood the market with board tapes of my brother. We released about as much as we plan to.

How about a second live album from the Gregg Allman Band? It has been a while since the “Gregg Allman Tour” (1974) came out.

There probably will be one next year some time. I’m still building my band. It’s a seven-piece band and I’m shooting for 11 and some horns. When I get it totally complete, I’ll definitely be ready for a live record.

There are so amazing shows out there of the Gregg Allman Band ready for release. You’re quite the perfectionist.

I really am a perfectionist.

Another album with Burnett, finally a second live album, what else do you have planned for your solo career?

I hope to cut a record in Muscle Shoals and call it “All Compositions By” and then just my name. That’s on my dream list. It will be all new songs and the producer will be Don Was. We are old friends and wanted to do this for the longest time.

Do you have the songs written?

I sure as hell hope.

The Gregg Allman Band with opening acts Devon Allman group; Greg Billings Band; 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 8, Sailor Circus Arena, 2075 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota; sold out; 355-9805; circussarasota.org.

The Gregg Allman Band
with opening acts Devon Allman group; Greg Billings Band
7 p.m. Wednesday, January 8, Sailor Circus Arena, 2075 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota; sold out; 355-9805; circussarasota.org.

Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013 Wade Tatangelo has been an entertainment reporter, columnist and reviewer for more than a decade at publications nationwide. He is a Hershey, Pa., native who grew up in Tampa and graduated from the University of South Florida. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune in 2013. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: January 1, 2014
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