When word of the grievous, but not entirely unanticipated demise of road-tested rocker Gregg Allman hit news feeds on Saturday, two generations of music fans wept in unison. Allman has died at age 69, and the music world mourns. Among the musical luminaries to express grief and gratitude was John Popper, who humbly and honestly noted that Gregg Allman had a lot to do with his musical career as well as the success of Blues Traveler.
Blues Traveler frontman respectfully remembers Gregg Allman
John Popper said that warming up the crowd for the Allman Brothers Band in 1989 was like “going to school” and that he could scarcely imagine the conversation that surely ensued when music promoter, Bill Graham, approached the ABB about the new opening act he had in mind. Popper explained that Blues Traveler were simultaneously afraid of and in awe of the headlining band members, especially Gregg Allman, who had a certain unapproachable light about him “like Billy [sic] Holiday or something.”
Gregg was some two decades older than John, yet the pair shared an instant affinity for one another’s musical chops. It didn’t take long, posted Popper on his public Facebook page, before Allman invited the 22-year-old harp slinger to sit in with his band during a live performance of the ABB classic, “One Way Out.” Earlier today, the Blues Traveler frontman described the first time Gregg Allman invited him to sit in as an experience akin to walking on the moon.
Popper explains that at first, it was difficult to get to know Allman on a personal level, due to the fact that Gregg was closely monitored by handlers hired to ensure his sobriety. By the time the musicians met in 1989, four marriages and three divorces combined with years of hard living had taken more than its fair toll on the middle-aged Southern rock innovator. Gregg did, however, manage to “give his handlers the slip” now and then, said Popper. When that happened, and the two had a chance to hang out, Allman affected young Popper in ways he construed as both personal and peripheral. Popper remembers how “utterly mind-blowing and reality distorting” it was that Gregg Allman even knew his name. The Blues Traveler frontman provides additional anecdotes about the Allman Brothers and other adventures in his 2016 memoir, Suck and Blow: And Other Stories I’m Not Supposed to Tell.
Half a century ago
In 1967, John Popper was born Chardon, Ohio, just a couple of months after the first Human Be-In happened in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. That same year, Gregg Allman and his year-older brother, slide guitar wizard Duane “Skydog” Allman, were discovered while playing the St. Louis bar circuit as the Allman Joys, along with bassist Berry Oakley, guitar maestro Dickey Betts, and drummers Butch Trucks and Johnny Lee “Jaimoe” Johnson. After a 1968 sojourn to Los Angeles yielded little more than a demo recording of the hauntingly post-apocalyptic folk song, “Morning Dew,” Duane and Gregg packed it up, moved to Macon, put the band back together and quite fittingly dubbed themselves The Allman Brothers Band.
Gregory LeNoir Allman, Ph.D.
In May of last year, Gregg Allman received an honorary Ph.D. in humanities from Mercer University of Macon, Georgia. The honor was presented to Allman by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
One month ago, the Inquisitr assured readers that Gregg Allman had not entered a hospice facility. The report was accurate. Gregg died at his Savannah residence on May 27, 2017. He was 69-years-old.
[Feature image by RT/Media Punch/AP Images]