So, here I am trying to come up with the words to describe my sadness since Gregory Lenoir Allman began his journey into the spiritual realm last week.
Reflecting back to the first time I heard that soul-piercing voice just annihilating Sonny Boy Williamson’s “One Way Out” and punching me in my 15-year-old gut that music was gonna be my road that goes on forever, on the true blue real.
Turning the clock back to the “Enlightened Rogues” tour of ’79 into ’80, on that bus with Red Dog, Buford Smith, Robert the guitar tech and the rest of a road bunch traveling city to city learning the nuts and bolts of the music business loading equipment in and out for the greatest live band that ever took a stage… and smiling remembrance to our sacred mantra, what goes on the road stays on the road.
Stepping back into my buddy’s kitchen after a show in Fort Lauderdale recalling Gregory and I chatting about blues, rough gravelly singing voices, playing music, life in general, and names in his little black book of home phone numbers that included Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, President Jimmy Carter, and Stevie Nicks… “She’s so fine!” I can still hear Gregory vocalize his own star crush on the lovely Ms. Nicks with seven, yes, seven young beautiful ladies who had followed him back to my buddy’s home for a dip in the pool.
Recalling the nickname Gregory tagged on me – Grizz.
Transporting back to that Holiday Inn lounge hanging with the road crew plus Gregory, Dickey, Butch and Danny Toler with a schlock top-40 band on a cheesy tinsel-lighted stage suddenly breaking into “Stormy Monday.” “C’mon, Grizz,” was all I heard as I followed Gregory and Dickey into the first and only takeover of a stage I’ve ever been party to where an awestruck band just surrendered their guitar, keyboard, and drum sticks on the spot.
The last time our paths crossed, in 1994 the very day the Allman Brothers had been told they were being inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame, I had just stepped off Dickey’s bus into a hallway behind the old Sunrise Musical Theater in Fort Lauderdale when I spotted Gregory walking toward the dressing rooms. “What’s happenin’, Grizz?” stopped me in my tracks. Thinking how my idol still remembered me after at least a dozen or so years of meeting thousands of strange faces every night still sends a chill through my soul.
No words needed. Not now, two days into Gregory’s spiritual transition. I’m on my deck at home in South Bend under a beautiful blue sky that Dickey himself may have sung about. Steaks are on the grill, and “Midnight Rider” has just come on Pandora when a little cloud appears directly overhead and shares my tears with a gentle strain of rain drops sprinkling down as if they are meant just for me.
“Keep on keepin’ on, Grizz…”
I’m on it, Brother, in your spirit, gypsy flyin’ from coast to coast…