By: Keith Loria
For The Stamford Times
It's hard to believe, but the legendary Gregg Allman, who has been performing professionally since a gig with his brother Duane on March 26, 1969, started the Allman Brothers towards Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame status, gets stage fright when he goes out to perform.
"The stage fright lasts until you get one, two, three, four, then bam, you know you have them right in the palm of your hand and you stop thinking about the people out there and you play for God and at the end of everything, it's like you've been on another planet," Allman says. "I have passion for the music and passion for the great warm energy that comes off the people when you walk off from that stage. It's what keeps me coming back and I'll do it until I drop."
When the Allman Brothers first started, they were catalysts for the Southern Rock movement and quickly developed a reputation for their outstanding live shows.
"I remember after we first played, we were like, what now? We don't play Top 40; we don't play the Beatles. Where are we going to get a job?" Allman reflects. But the jobs came as hits such as "Whipping Post" and "Dreams" found their way on the radio.
Tragically, in 1971, Duane Allman passed away but Gregg made a promise to himself to keep the music alive.
"Absolutely, I still feel his presence," Allman says. "Especially when we played the Beacon last year."
Looking back to those first few years in the music business with his brother, Allman believes that it was their perseverance that made the Allman Brothers' music special.
"I remember in 1970 we worked 306 nights and we would play a big town on Saturday night and on Sunday we would go and look for the nearest park to play for free, and an hour later there would be 1,000-1,500 people there," he recalls. "If we played longer, it would be a mob."
During the last 40 years, Allman has continued to play music from and inspired by the Allman Brothers, and he reveals that he does feel the spirit of his brother with him. Whether it's fronting the Allman Brothers Band, a solo project or leading Gregg Allman and friends, the singer has loved every day in the business.
Allman is proud to point out that he is now 13 years and 2 months sober, and he believes that making this lifestyle change has helped him enjoy the music business even more.
"Now you remember where you go and when you get there, you feel good and you love the people and the guys in the band, but the main thing is the music," he says. "Music has to stay new and it's important to remember that and not rely on what you've done in the past."
He recently cut a new record with 14 songs and calls the collection "the best thing I have ever had anything to do with."
While the Allman Brothers Band is scheduled for very few gigs this year, Allman himself plans to tour aggressively and even hopes to bring the music from his new album over to Europe.
When Allman comes to the Ridgefield Playhouse on Jan. 12 and 13, he promises to play a mixture of both old and new, so anyone coming to see him will still hear "Melissa" and "I'm No Angel," but also get one of the first listens of what will be on the new CD.
Allman and his band have played the hit songs tens of thousands of times throughout his career, but he doesn't get tired of them; instead, he likes to offer a different spin on them.
"I know what the people want to hear, and we mix in some surprises," he says. "We sometimes do versions of songs that changes things up but the music is there and we all have a good time."
Already enshrined in the Hall of Fame, Allman hopes his music will live on and that he will be remembered as "A person who cared and had a passion for music and never sold anyone short."
Gregg Allman comes to the Ridgefield Playhouse, 80 East Ridge, Ridgefield, at 8 p.m. Jan. 12 and 13. Tickets are $90. Call (203) 438-5795