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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.

Published in Previews

This Friday at the Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino, swing will be the thing.

“Swing” is the name the ABC Recovery Center’s Annual Firestone Award Gala, starring the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, and honoring John Schwarzlose, the CEO of the Betty Ford Center.

Kate Burke, of the ABC Recovery Center, said the event is part-fundraiser, part-celebration, and part-awareness-raiser—and the fact that this is the center’s 50th anniversary makes the event even more significant.

“We want to say, ‘Look, over 50 years, we’ve become a trusted member of the recovery community,” she said. … “This work is blood, sweat and tears. There plenty of tragedies in our line of work. People don’t work here for the money; they work in recovery because there’s hope, and lives can be saved.”

The Firestone Award—named after Ambassador Leonard K. Firestone, a co-founder of the Betty Ford Center, and a major contributor to the expansion of ABC—was first given to Betty Ford back in 1999. Therefore, it makes sense to now honor Schwarzlose, a friend of the late Ambassador Firestone.

“It seems only fitting, given the 30th anniversary of the Betty Ford Center and ABC Recovery Center's 50th, that John's tireless commitment to recovery would be honored,” said ABC president and CEO J. David Likens in a news release. “ABC has had a very special kinship with the Betty Ford Center over the past 30 years; and that is something to celebrate!"

The event starts at 6 p.m., Friday, March 15, with dinner and the silent auction. (Actually, that’s only partially correct; the silent auction is already under way at abcrecoverycenter.org.) Music and dancing get going at 7:30 p.m., courtesy of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, who were at the front of the ’90s swing revival with their big hit, “Zoot Suit Riot.”

The event takes place at the Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway in Indio. Tickets are $100, and are available by calling 342-6616.

Attendees will also have a chance to participate in a “Perinatal Auction,” in which bidders can fund baby showers for new mothers who are in recovery at ABC.

“We want to embrace the spirit of Ambassador Firestone in giving out this award,” Burke said. 

Published in Local Fun

If you walk by Allan Havey on the street, chances are he’ll look familiar—but you won’t know why he looks familiar.

Here’s why: Over his long and varied career, he’s been in a TV show, in a movie or on a talk show (or three) you’ve seen.

He played himself on Louie C.K.’s groundbreaking show Louie. He was on an episode of Up All Night last year. He encountered Kramer on an episode of Seinfeld, and threatened to kick Larry David’s ass for throwing something in his trash can on Curb Your Enthusiasm. He had a non-trivial role as an FBI agent who convinced Matt Damon’s Mark Whitacre to wear a wire in the 2009 film The Informant!

You may have also seen him on Letterman, or in Will Smith’s Hancock, or as a commentator on Countdown With Keith Olbermann, or even hosting his own show, Night After Night With Allan Havey, for three years on the cable channel that would later become Comedy Central.

But despite all these varied (and undeniably cool) roles, Havey says his favorite thing to do, career-wise, has always been standup comedy.

“I really like performing live,” says Havey, who will be bringing his brand of personal, observational comedy to The Improv at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino tonight (Friday, Feb. 22) and tomorrow (Saturday, Feb. 23). “I enjoy the ease. I mean, it’s not easy, but it’s uncomplicated. I don’t have to depend on anyone else.”

The St. Louis native says he always wanted to be in show business, and went to Miami-Dade Community College to learn about acting. He says his first-ever acting role came in a musical version of Frankenstein at the college.

“I went to all Catholic, white schools growing up,” he says. “At college in Miami, the diversity was amazing.”

While Havey cites comedy as his primary love, he says he’s always tried to keep his time on the club circuit down to 12 to 15 weeks per year. For example, after this weekend’s shows at Fantasy Springs, he’ll be off for a month before his next show, at The Improv at Harrah’s Las Vegas, according to his website.

“I make less money, but I am able to audition for parts, and work on my act, and enjoy life,” he says.

He also says that these days, it’s tougher for an established-but-not-big-name comedian to get good club gigs.

“No matter who good you are, there are always younger comedians,” says Havey, 58. “And club owners—not all club owners—say, ‘Why should I pay this guy three grand when I can pay a kid $1,250?, and get the same crowd?' But the shows aren’t as good.”

Havey says he’s played Fantasy Springs before, and that he’s always enjoyed the audience there.

“It’s a great crowd,” he says. “It’s a good mix of people. Any time you’re in a casino, you get a good mix of people. There are young, old—it’s a good demographic.”

When Havey is asked what the audience can expect from him this weekend, he declines to offer any “sneak previews.”

“You’re gonna laugh,” he says. “It’s a good show.”

Allan Havey performs with Brant von Hoffman and Dylan Mandlsohn at The Improv Comedy Club at Fantasy Springs, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway in Indio, on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22 and 23. Shows at The Improv take place every Friday at 9 p.m.; and Saturday at 8 and 10 p.m., through Saturday, April 13. Tickets are $20. For tickets and a complete schedule of upcoming shows, visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com, or call (800) 827-2946.

Published in Comedy

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