It's been a bad year for what's left of the Allman Brothers, with drummer Butch Trucks committing suicide on Jan. 24 and, five months later, Gregg Allman's passing away from liver cancer on May 27. Tragedy has long dogged the band, dating to the back-to-back motorcycle accident deaths of Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley in 1971 and 1972.
I was fortunate to catch the Brothers before both Duane and Berry died. I wrote about it in High Times in 1995:
"On June 25, 1971, I was 16 years old, cutting my teeth on the tail end of the psychedelic revolution. I had just finished high school and as a graduation present received tickets for the Allman Brothers Band, who were headlining the final weekend at the legendary Fillmore East."
Albert King and J. Geils Band opened the second show, which began at 11:30 pm. The Brothers took the stage at 2 am. They played for the next five hours. Here's how Trucks remembered the show in Scott Freeman's 1995 book, Midnight Riders:
"It was one of those nights where everything was perfect. The communication was just incredible. We came back for the encore, I guess around 4:30, and we quit at seven that morning. That was, musically, the high point of my life. I keep running into people who were there that night. It's something they'll never forget and we'll never forget."
In 1989, I interviewed Gregg, Butch and guitarist Dicky Betts for Newsday when the band reunited. Butch recalled the Fillmore show as "the night we played until after the sun came up." Gregg joked, "Now you can't do that. For some reason the whole world seems to have turned to a.m."
Gregg also said in that interview:
"I'm not a reckless as I used to be. I finally got through this drug thing. I had my last drink the first day of this year. It looks like I've pretty well got it beat."
Due to intravenous drug use (heroin), he was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2007. Three years later, Gregg had a liver transplant.
Tragedy struck the Brothers again in 2000 when bassist Allen Woody died of a heroin overdose.
The Brothers called it quits in 2014. Several weeks ago, a story about Gregg going into hospice care was squashed by his management; it was actually true.
Without Gregg, it's hard imagine a Brothers comeback minus both of the original Allmans, who formed the band in 1969.
At least I can say I saw that what Freeman has called "the greatest performance the Allman Brothers ever gave."