June 3, 2012

Gregg Allman—Proving He's "No Angel" In His New Autobiography!

Book jacket photo courtesy HarperCollins Publishers.
By Anne M. Raso

I just completed reading Gregg Allman's My Cross To Bear (co-authored by Alan Light), published by HarperCollins. I have to say that maybe since he already was know for not exactly being an angel (the song "I'm No Angel"was obviously based on his own life), he was able to let loose and tell all.

Allman is not someone who had to preserve a pristine image, so he lets loose in this thick tome.  I interviewed him back in 1986 and he was a man of few words and still seems that was today when doing the TV talk show and radio station rounds to promote the book. Apparently, co-author Light culled through all of Allman's rock and roll tales of excess to come up with the real "plums" for this book I strongly recommend the book whether you're an Allman Brothers Band fan or not because it's hard to believe someone has lived through over 30 years of hard drug and alcohol use, a liver transplant, operations related to Hepatitis C and respiratory problems, five children (not all of which he got to see a lot due to methadone program parental visit restrictions), being on the road 200 plus nights per year, driving fast motorcycles and--at the very beginning--the death of his military dad when he was only two years old. I didn't even get around to mentioning testifying in the trial of road manager Scooter heroin who not only got Allman he drugs but sold them on the side, the death of legendary axeman older brother Duane and bassist Berry Oakley in the early 70s, or the band's rip-off by unscrupulous record company presidents and managers.  And then there' the four letter word--CHER--six other wives, and one fiancee, 40 years his junior.

Thanks to publicists Sharyn Rosenbloom at HarperCollins and Samantha Bowman at Sirius I was lucky enough to sit in on Meg Griffin's wonderful Sirius Radio interview the last week of May when Allman was on a whirlwind week of promotions in New York (he continued on to several other towns to do interviews, appearances and signings). Griffin, a legend of NYC classic rock radio was above board and didn't ask about Cher, his young fiancee (who was sitting in the Sirius studio) or even much about Allman's rock and roll lifetime. Between Griffin's interview and the book itself, there's a lot of stuff to digest--and with My Cross To Bear, the reader won't be bored for a second.

Entertainment journalist Anne Raso and Allman after his Sirius Radio interview in NYC, late May 2012. Photo By David Rubin/Courtesy Sirius Radio.

So here's what you will read about--with Allman's wonder Southern spin on everything. He knows how to weave a tale, and as you read you can hear him telling these stories in his unique, deep Southern drawl. The biggest surprises in My Cross To Bear are as follows:

*Duane bossed younger brother Gregg around and he didn't seems to mind it. Later on, after Duane passed away, guitarist Dickey Betts took over the control freak role to not as much success
*Contrary to popular belief, Gregg only dated  porn star Savannah (nee Shannon Wilsey) before she was in the skin flick business and did not turn her on to heroin— she was already on it when he started dating her at age 18
*He told Cher on the second date that he had a narcotics problem and she acted like it didn't bother her--but it did later when she realized he was shooting heroin and not just snorting coke (her estranged father was a junkie so it really hit home)
*He says that he's sure he contradicted Hepatitis C from his very first tattoo which he got in the early 70s in San Francisco
*He feels his son Elijah Blue is chronically depressed  and feels that his Goth inspired music is bizarre
*He's always been a mama's boy but like mother; like son--Mama A was also an alcoholic drinking a quart of Canadian Club per day
*He liked Jimmy Carter and would do anything for him because he seemed like "an old hippie" who was "forced to cut his hair"
*Duane almost hung Gregg when he was a little kid--it was a sick version of a practical joke
*Gregg was valedictorian of his high school class twice but once he discovered music, he grades went straight downhill
*Gregg originally played guitar and Duane sang--and Gregg says Duane had dreadful vocal abilities
*Gregg admits that he only was in love with two of his wives and only keeps in touch with two of them (one being Cher)--he said he just did not ever lie being alone and hoped that friendship would turn into a successful marriage
*He's embarrassed to watch footage of the 1995 Allman Brothers induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame because he was so drunk--the next day he checked into a rehab in Pennsylvania after an intervention at the Waldorf Astoria and never looked back (although he took all the mini-liquor bottles out of his Waldorf Hotel minibar with him as he rode down there in a Lincoln town car
*He had a dream which he considers a near death experience during recovery from his liver transplant--he starts and ends the book with it, and he's on a bridge and a figure appearing to be Duane tells him that it's "not his time" yet
Gregg Allman during his interview with Meg Griffin at Sirius Studios in midtown Manhattan. Photo by David Rubin/Courtesy Sirius Radio.
                                           
What would I rate my Cross To Bear? How about an A on a scale of A to F? It's that good and I haven't been an ABB fan since I was 15 and saw them at the now razed Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City (Cher was sitting onstage just five feet from her husband and I can remember the show like it was yesterday). My Cross To Bear simply leaves you scratching your head and wondering how this man lived to tell this tale!
Recent portrait shot of Gregg Allman by legendary rock photographer Danny Clinch (whose work is available for sale at the Morrison Hotel Gallery). Photo  courtesy HarperCollins Publishers.

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