Interview: Gregg Allman

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By Lisa D.

I spoke to Gregory, as his friends call him, on a Thursday afternoon in October. While eating his Georgia peach cobbler, he was proudly telling me about his home on the Georgia bayou and his newest home in Mississippi. He’s a southern gentleman who says he met his soul mate Stacy Fountain 12 years ago and she looks just like Scarlet O’Hara. Now, I know what you’re thinking, Gregg Allman, a southern gentleman? One of the kings of Southern Rock who’s music is synonymous with the freedom and rebellious attitude of the 70’s era? But I quickly realized that this guy’s no cliché, he’s the real deal.

When you hear songs like Midnight Rider and No Way Out etc., you imagine the writer of this music on his Harley, no helmet, long hair flowing in the wind. The music evokes the freedom you feel on your bike, and your image is right on. Gregg tells me that he has a recorder with him while he rides and while his pipes are too loud to get the tune when he’s actually riding, he stops and records when the inspiration hits him.

He has 3 bikes – the custom Fat Boy he’s sitting on in the cover shot, customized and painted by Ron Simms, a Dyna Wide Glide and his newest favorite, his Arlene Ness Chopper with a 40 degree rake.

Although he loves Harley-Davidson, he has had a number of other bikes throughout his life and he remembers every last one of them. He started reminiscing about his first bike, a Cushman Eagle which he rode at 14 years old. Then countless British bikes, BSA Hornet and he’s least favorite, a 750 Norton Commando.

I was quickly realizing that he really knows his bikes. Not only did he ride them, but sounds like he’s done some wrenching. He espoused the virtues of an 11:1 instead of 9:1 compression ratio.

Motorcycles are his great passion and although he loves his Custom Fat Boy with the custom pipes and flames-in-motion custom wheels, he tells me it’s a real “stroker.” With the other two bikes now, especially the chopper, he doesn’t ride the Fat Boy as much and we may just see it on eBAY soon.

I was not surprised to hear that he’s always had motorcycles because it is so clear in his music that he feels the road, in the special way that we do. “I wrote Midnight Rider in 45 minutes, it was in Macon on a Sunday,” says Gregg. He wrote the song after a motorcycle ride and as he says, those just come to him.

Melissa, one of my favorites, was very different, it was a work in progress for over a year. Gregg didn’t even think it was any good for a long time until someone else heard it and disagreed. When I asked him if it was about a little girl, he told me that it started out as a song about his lonely time on the road and all the girls he would meet, but then it progressed into capturing the innocence of one little girl. He told me he couldn’t come up with a name and went through them all, “Sweet Thelma, Sweet Maryanne….” none of them worked. Then, one very early morning in a supermarket, he saw a Spanish grandmother and a 3-year-old toddler. The little girl looked so innocent and beautiful and then he heard her grandmother call out her name, “’Melissa, come here!’ That was it, I wanted to kiss the lady” he said.

He also told me, in a somber voice, that Melissa  was one of his brother Duanne’s favorite songs. “Sing me that song about the little girl,” is what Duane use to say.

Gregg is a real southern boy but he did spend some time out here in CA. He lived in Beverly Hills for a very short time while married to Cher but as he says, he did not belong in Hollywood. He even told me his marriage to Cher may have lasted if they could only have agreed on where to live.

He much preferred Marin County where he lived for several years, but riding in Georgia, St. Simon’s Island and the Georgia Mountains is where he’ll always call home.

Sharing that home are 4 dogs, all of which he described in great detail, showing the love he has for them.

When I asked him who his favorite musician is, he said he’d never been asked that question before. After thinking about it a minute, he said, “Alive or dead?” I said either, and without hesitation, he said, “Ray Charles is where I got my inspiration.” He say’s that soulful music is always in his heart and he feels his music is born from that sound.

His creativity extends to art as well. He’s a closet artist as he says, and painting is a passion. He’s recently taken up Japanese ink painting although he doesn’t think his work is very good. I’m sure it’s just like the song Melissa – he probably doesn’t know how good it really is.

“Gregory” Allman is one of my all time favorites and I enjoyed every moment of talking with him. We’ll all get a chance to see him, at the upcoming Love Ride 24.