When you examine the career of Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band, one word comes to mind: longevity.
After largely taking 14 years off from his solo career, Allman, now 65, blew off the dust to record Low Country Blues, and he’s finally taking it on the road after its 2011 release, including a show at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Saturday, May 25.
Thanks to a career that is approaching five decades, Allman is an icon, both as the front man of the Allman Brothers Band and on his own. There have been lows as well, such as his well-documented battles with addiction, lifelong health problems, band disputes, and the death of his band mate and older brother Duane Allman in 1971.
Despite the hardships, he’s continued on, racking up hit records and playing sold-out concerts around the world.
When the Allmans founded the Allman Brothers Band in 1969, Gregg was uncertain about his future as a musician; he originally intended to become a dental surgeon, but Duane convinced him to give music a try, and he hasn’t looked back since.
When I asked Allman in a recent phone interview why it took 14 years to hear him on his own again, following 1997’s One More Try: An Anthology, Allman said it was mostly due to the death of longtime Allman Brothers Band producer Tom Dowd in 2002.
“He was more than a producer; he was a father figure,” he said. “After he died in 2002, when the idea of recording would come up, I would just change the subject.”
However, when the opportunity came to work with T-Bone Burnett in the producer’s chair, Allman decided to give it a try—although he was hesitant at first.
“Of course (Burnett) is famous for all this other stuff, and you can take all of that into consideration before you work with the guy, but it’s how the two of you get along musically and socially,” he said.
Allman was satisfied with the results.
“He was a wonderful producer. He was so much like Tommy (Dowd), but different in his own way.”
Low Country Blues became Allman’s triumphant return to solo recording, reaching No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and receiving a Grammy Award nomination for Best Blues Album. He also released his autobiography, My Cross to Bear, in 2012. The reviews for both were mostly positive.
However, Allman was too busy to celebrate: He was dealing with the after-effects of a liver transplant that he underwent before the album’s release.
“I had never dreamt that anything could be so horrendous and painful. I couldn’t play or tour,” he said about the June 2010 transplant.
In time, however, his strength returned.
“I had a tour booked the day after Christmas in 2012. When I woke up on Dec. 23, something had changed. I had strength; I had motivation. I felt like my old self, and I still feel that way. I’m so thankful to God that he gave me another chance.”
When I asked him what his future looks like, he told me that he has another solo album currently in the works, but didn’t reveal any other details. There’s also a biopic that’s in the early stages based on My Cross to Bear.
When I asked him if he’s excited about a rare appearance in the Coachella Valley, he said: “Absolutely!”
“I think that the Allman Brothers have slighted the West Coast of America terribly,” he said. “In the next three to four years, I plan to make up for all of that. I’m going to bust my ass now that I feel like the old me. I’m going to be doing some extensive touring over the next 10 years, I hope.”
Gregg Allman performs at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 25, at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio. Tickets are $29 to $69. Call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com for more information.