Whether with The Allman Brothers Band or on his own, Gregg Allman epitomized Southern rock. When his brother Duane was killed just a few years after the group’s inception, Gregg was forced to do the almost unthinkable for anyone mourning the loss of a bother, friend and collaborator—carry on and complete the task at hand. Clearly it wasn’t easy; further tragedies, the constant ebb and flow of member musicians and his own struggles with drugs and alcohol might have hampered anyone less determined. Nevertheless, he persevered, both by revitalizing the Allman Brothers Band throughout the ensuing decades and launching a solo career that earned him the respect of fans, critics and contemporaries.
As the years went on, Allman’s image changed—from the fresh-faced (if decidedly world weary) center of the band to a wizened musical master well entitled to sing the blues from a knowing and painful perspective. With blonde hair that once freely flowed over his shoulders tied tightly into a ponytail once he was older, he transformed from a would-be rock god to a revered, yet tarnished masterful musician.
Digging into Paste’s own exclusive archives to honor the man and his legacy, here are eight of Gregg Allman’s most defining live performances.
8. “Whipping Post”
This searing performance of one of the most indelible songs in the Allman Brothers catalogue proves that even more than 20 years after its original incarnation, it still resonates with all the passion and fury shown in its initial inception. The band is at full throttle, but it’s Gregg’s emotive vocals and full organ flourish that forms the core of the band’s drive and determination. Woodstock ’94 may have been mired in controversy, an awkward attempt to commemorate the original, but there’s little doubt that even though the Allmans weren’t there at the original fest, they were still able to capture the emotions and energy the Woodstock embraced the initial time around.
The Allman Brothers are once again tightly in sync on this dynamic performance that took place in Nashville in 1986. Gregg fronts a well-oiled ensemble, one that gives this extended instrumental all the melodic flourish that creates its essence from the first notes. Riveting and relentless, it finds the band, especially its sturdy namesake, at their best.
6. “Come and Go Blues”
This singular acoustic take on the Allman Brothers standard offers an emotional insight into a song that was among the most incisive offerings of their classic catalog. Gregg’s weary vocals are almost apologetic, especially when he reprises the classic line “Baby, I’m too far gone to turn around.” Sung solo, with acoustic guitar accompaniment, the blend of remorse and recrimination offers a touching emotional epitaph.
5. “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed”
No list of Gregg Allman performances would be complete without including this indelible performance in the town that launched the Allmans to wider acclaim. As always, Gregg’s organ work is the lynchpin of this instrumental outlay. Notably, however, this version is slower and less intense than the rampaging rendition that originally appeared on The Allman Brothers Band’s 1970 LP Idlewild South. Still, the frenzy builds as it powers on for more than 16 minutes here. As a result, it emerges as something unexpectedly triumphant, a combination of both drive and determination.
4. “One Way Out”
After a meandering instrumental introduction, the band kicks in with a full, steaming rendition that effectively captures The Allman Brothers’ signature sound. It’s a song flush with desperation, but Gregg’s coarse vocals and unrelenting keyboards help recreate the emotional imprint that resided at the heart of the original. The band doesn’t sway from its iconic arrangement, but the obvious flourishes, particularly Allman’s organ riffs reveal a nuanced approach that’s nicely balanced within that furious rock regimen.
3. “Stormy Monday”
Gregg’s affinity for the blues went well beyond mere dalliance. Taking on a standard like “Stormy Monday” demonstrated the fact that he was indeed a master of the medium, a man with the gruff, gritty demeanor to imbue his own imprint in a song so successfully covered throughout the ages. With Gregg’s wailing vocal and a robust organ workout, it’s prime Allmans at their blustery best.
2. “Midnight Rider”
While the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider”—also from Idlewild South—achieved standards status early on, it was also fitting that Gregg reclaimed it for his first solo outing, aptly entitled Laid Back. Given his history of fighting vices and internal demons, it was his ideal outlaw anthem with lyrics like “I’ve got one more silver dollar / but I’m not gonna let ‘em catch me / no … not gonna let ‘em catch the midnight rider.” It was also appropriate that he should perform it at San Quentin before an audience that could likely relate to that outlaw odyssey. Allman betrays the weariness of the chase in this reflective rendition, simultaneous turning it into both a lesson learned and reflective resolve.
1. “I’m No Angel”
The title states the obvious, given Allman’s bad boy reputation and the unapologetic attitude he maintained throughout much of his life and career. (However, it’s said that after he watched the video of his disheveled former self at the Allmans’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, he convinced himself he had to come clean.) Nevertheless, “I’m No Angel” proved he could move beyond the Allman Brothers banner and establish himself as a singular artist all on his own. This compelling performance from Austin in 1987 provides all the proof needed.