"Man, I'm trying to get a solid band that is going to be together and stay together every year," says legendary rock 'n' roll veteran Gregg Allman, 58, speaking from his home in Savannah. "I want to hit the studio with everyone this year. I already have enough material, just about. We all got together for six days of rehearsal."
With just a few weeks off after the completion of the Allman Brothers Band's lengthy summer tour, the singer, organist, and part-time guitarist is set to return to the road this week. He and his new group hit Myrtle Beach on Sun. Oct. 22 at the House of Blues with support from singer/guitarist Danielia Cotton, who's touring on a new one titled Small White Town.
"This tour is in three sections," Allman says. "The way I rigged it like that for the tour is in order for us to arrive two days early and rehearse again. You see, the Brothers don't do it like that. The only time the Brothers rehearse is when we get ready to cut a new record [laughs]."
Allman's current touring band includes guitarist Jack Pearson, bassist Jerry Jemmott, keyboardist Neil Larson, percussionist/vocalist Floyd Miles, and drummer Steve Potts.
"Jerry Jemmott has played bass with everyone from Otis Rush and Jimmy McGriff to Lightnin' Hopkins and B.B. King ... him and my brother were the best of friends," says the bandleader. "I finally met him like the year before last at the Beacon Theatre [Allman and Friends perform an annual string of March shows at the Beacon Theatre in New York]. I got the guts to go up and ask if he wanted to be in my band — and he said 'yeah!' I couldn't believe it. Steve Potts just lays it down. He has a thick snare drum — like a parade drum — and he lambasts that boy."
If the new assemblage of the "Friends" has a secret weapon, it's probably Floyd Miles, with whom Allman has been a musical companion and friends since he was 12 years old. As young teens, they played together in the rhythm section of an R&B group called The Houserockers & The Untils.
"I was with Floyd and my brother," says Allman. "Duane and I switched off-and-on every night. It was in 1963 or so. The Untils were the three black singers in front — Tootie, Floyd, and Elmo. If it wasn't for Floyd, I might not be talking to you right now; I might not even be in the music business. He took me over to his part of town to this store where they had this big bin full of LPs. He said, 'Now, this is B.B. King, and this is Jimmy Reed, and this is James Brown, and this is Lightnin' Hopkins ... Otis Rush, Bobby Bland, Ray Charles ... they were two bucks apiece. Man, every time I got two bucks, I'd go over and buy another damn record! Floyd just turned me on to rhythm and blues. That was something I could really sink my teeth into. It just had more substance than a lot of what we were already playing. Floyd helps me out with singing and also plays percussion. He's a little bit older than me and he's always giving me advice. And I listen to him."
Fans can be sure to enjoy Allman's smooth chops on the keys during this trip, but they may be surprised to see and hear him on the guitar as much as he plans to play.
"I am playing some electric guitar this time, which I haven't done in about 20 years," he says. "I'm doing a lot of finger pickin' with steel picks on — like on 'Midnight Rider,' which I used to play with just my fingers. I just practiced and practiced and got it sounding pretty good. I'm bringing three guitars, each tuned differently.
"We're doing a solo of the popular songs off my solo records [from 1973's Laid Back and 1986's No Angel through '89's Next of Kin and the recent Searching for Simplicity], and a few from Floyd's three solo records, too," he adds. "I think it sounds pretty good right now. We've been doing Dylan's 'Just Like a Woman' with our own arrangement to it. The first half of the song is just me on the Hammond, then they bust in on the second verse. We're doing a lot of songs that I wrote and that the Allman Brothers play, but they've been pretty much rearranged. We do 'Whipping Post,' but it's real funky — more Junior Walker & The All-Stars, you know what I mean? We do the same thing to 'Statesboro Blues,' too. I'm not going to tell you much more than that [laughs]."