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Goodbye, Gregg Allman

Sarasota Blues Festival producer Barbara Strauss remembers Gregg Allman.

By Barbara Strauss July 26, 2017 Published in the August 2017 issue of Sarasota Magazine

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Gregg Allman

When I was a teenager in Sarasota, the Allman Brothers were God. They’d play on a ranch off Fruitville, or at Robarts Arena. I didn’t know them, but a friend named Thom Doucette, the original harmonica player for the band, used to sneak me into bars so I could listen to the music. Later, when I was living in Atlanta in the 1980s, Thom called and said, ‘Why don’t you come out tonight?’ He was hanging out with Gregg in a dive bar in Sandy Springs. So I decided to go.”

“You heard things about Gregg, and they weren’t always great. People loved his music and his voice, though. At this bar, there was a wedding party. Thom was trying to talk Gregg into going somewhere else, and Gregg said, ‘I can’t. I promised these people [in the wedding party] that I’d sing ‘Melissa’ for them.’ And he did, and he had his picture taken with them. I thought, ‘They will remember this for the rest of their lives.’ So I knew that with this rough-and-tumble guy, there was a very nice heart inside. That was the beginning of our friendship, and it lasted a long time.”

“Later, I started producing the Sarasota Blues Festival. Eventually I did five shows with Gregg here, three at the blues festival, one at Van Wezel, and the last one at the Sailor Circus arena, in 2014. That may have been the best one of all.”

“I went to the funeral in Macon in June; I am good friends with three of Gregg’s kids and they asked me to.”

“There were so many layers to Gregg. He was a bit guarded, which was the reason that people who didn’t know him had an inaccurate sense of who he was. He was very bright, had a bit of Southern gentleman in his wheelhouse, and had an unforgettable laugh. His phrasing, passion and soulful voice touched so many, and thankfully will be around forever.” — as told to Kay Kipling

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