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TRUE BLUE from Ellis Kell

from Ellis Kell
July 28, 1998

True Blue: You have so much soul in your organ playing, your voice, just as your brother Duane did on guitar. Who did you both listen to in particular early on, that influenced your style as both a keyboard player and vocalist, and for Duane as a guitarist?

Gregg AllmanGregg Allman: Of course you pick your favorites, you know, throughout your musical career. Everything musically that hits you has an influence on your style, but it takes something heavy to affect your basic style. Until my brother (Duane) heard Jessie Ed Davis playin’ slide on the first Taj Mahal album, he’d never really heard anyone play slide guitar. I took him out horseback riding, and he broke his elbow. Guess you know whose fault that was… (Allman says, with a warm smile in his voice). He had his arm up in a sling, and I gave him a bottle of Coricidin pills and that record. He poured out the pills, washed off the label, and listened to that record all weekend...

(Note: Slide guitar players have long used Coricidan pill bottles for glass finger slides.)

”Tone-wise and lick-wise there is only one organ player alive…Jimmy Smith. Of course, it wasn’t that many years ago, until I played on the same stage with the man, that I realized how Booker T. (of Booker T. & the MG’s fame) probably had the most influence on my playing. Just kinda’ puttin’ the gravy on the meat, you know...“

True Blue: The ABB was really the first band to blend southern rock and the blues into a new original signature style, before the blues had attained the widespread popularity it enjoys now. What’s your take on the blues scene today, and the young artists out there performing the music? Any particular favorites?

Gregg Allman: Kenny Wayne Shepherd - I'm tellin' you...he's good! And these other three young, little guys in Hanson...they sing and play...I was just sittin' here watchin' 'em on TV. All that talent, just pourin' out, and there aint twenty years between 'em! It's incredible...that little drummer is kickin' some fast-back drums. He's kickin' some Memphis-type stuff there, man. They're not messin' around!

True Blue: I first met you back in 1986, when the GAB played here in Davenport on a show with Stevie Ray Vaughan. Stevie Ray was almost a year clean and sober at the time, and had a totally different outlook on his life and his music. How are things different now for Gregg Allman than they were, say back then, in ’86?

Gregg Allman: I got sober, man…that’s what happened. And it helped - I tell you what. I guess the liquor is what really got me…like a whole lot of vodka a day. The worse thing it did was make it so I didn’t care if we played or not. I started losin’ my interest in playing. The realization of that hit me one day, and that’s probably what did it. (That one day was Oct. 29, 1996, to be exact - and was also the 25th Anniversary of his brother Duane’s death…) I had all the music cut for ”Searching for Simplicity,“ but I had to put it on the shelf for a while - because (emotionally) I just couldn’t sing it. It took almost two and one half years to complete.

True Blue: What future plans are there for recording and/or continued touring for the Allman Brothers Band, and the Gregg Allman Band?

Gregg Allman: It’s back and forth between the Allman Brothers and my band until New Year’s Eve…then I’m takin’ a couple of months off. After that, I’ll probably be heading back into the studio to work on music for a new Allman Brothers album.

True Blue: Is there anyone in particular you’d like to do a collaborative effort with that you’ve never had the chance to work with?

Gregg Allman: Someone else asked me that just the other day, and I told them it would probably be Jackson Browne…we’re old friends. But we’re both short of time. Maybe sometime…

True Blue: My favorite lyric off the ”Searching for Simplicity“ album is from the cut ”Wolf’s A Howlin’“…where you sing, ”…it’s hard to live your life in color, and tell the truth in black and white…“ That’s got to be a new classic Gregg Allman line. What’s it really mean to you?

Greg Allman: That’s the truth, brother! But, you can’t talk about nasty stuff like that here… (Allman laughs under his breath)… No, let me see…how can I best put it? It’s about people sayin’ one thing, and meanin’ the other…you know.

True Blue: Any advance message to all the Allman Brothers fans of the midwest, who are waiting to see you at the MARK on August 4th?

Gregg Allman: We’re lookin’ forward to bein’ there…and to playin’ for y’all!

True Blue (and Red Hot) Bar-b-que…
True Blue would like to get things rolling this month by welcoming Red, Hot & Blue to the Quad Cities. Taking their name from Dewey Phillips’ legendary WHBQ Memphis radio show of the 1950’s, the first Red, Hot & Blue opened in 1988 in Arlington, Virginia. The rhythm-n-blues-n-bar-b-que-bistro was the brainchild of four Washington, D.C. businessmen, including former Tennessee Congressman and Governor Don Sundquist. Lee Atwater was also among the original 50 investors who helped turn the Red, Hot & Blue idea into reality.

Davenport R, H & Blue manager Kevin Klute says, ”we are bringing the Quad Cities southern hospitality, and an upbeat atmosphere of blues & fun for everyone, including the entire family.“ R, H & B feature ”Memphis-style pit bar-b-que,“ including both ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ pork and beef, along with a variety of sandwiches, appetizers and desserts. The restaurants feature recorded blues and early R&B, and are decorated with early music posters and memorabilia. R, H & B offers eat-in for lunch and dinner, carry-out, banquet and catering services, and feature a carry-out window and full bar. The bar also serves its own micro-brewed ale, Red, Hot & Blue Brew.

The Mississippi Business Journal says R, H & B’s fare is ”…judiciously seasoned, artistically pampered, blessedly meaty, lovingly lean ribs.“ Philadelphia (magazine) says R, H & B serves up ”food that you eat with your hands and music that you feel with your heart.“ Davenport’s new Red, Hot & Blue, at 4200 -North Brady Street, is the latest addition to the national franchise chain, which includes locations throughout the eastern, southeastern and midwestern United States. Cedar Rapids and Des Moines already have franchise locations in place. R, H & B opens for business in the Quad Cities on Monday, August 3rd. For more information, phone (319) 391-2222.

Jazz Just Around the Bend…
Q.C. jazz homeboy Bill Allred and The Bill Allred Classic Jazz Band return for one show only on Tuesday, August 4th at Wells Fargo/Highland Park, 4204 23rd Ave., Moline. This eight-piece powerhouse jazz ensemble features Bill and son John Allred, Charlie Bertini, Bob Pickwood, Terry Myers, Randy Morris, Warren Sauer and Jay Mueller. This is the only Quad Cities appearance Allred & Co. will be making this year, and their show will feature new tunes from their new, upcoming album as well as the band’s signature favorites. Admission to the August 4th concert is first-come, first served, with no reservations. Tickets are $10.00 per person at the door. For more information on Bill Allred’s Classic Jazz Band, phone 407-291-9080, or e-mail Bill and the band at via the web.

Rock Island Brewing Co. welcomes back ‘The Blue Band’ for their first outdoor RIBCO appearance in some time on August 22nd…RIBCO also brings the modern swing of ‘The New Morti Show’ in on Thursday, August 6th.

Sydney’s Restaurant & Bar continues to present top local and regional blues and houserockin’ bands on Saturday nights, with ‘New Complexion Band’ returning on August 8, ‘Gyspy Blue’ on August 15, 'Mojo Risin’ back on August 22, and ‘Shane Johnson’s Blue Train’ on August 29.

True Blue Reviews…

  1. ”Deep Blues,“ Frank Frost (Evidence Music - original release on Appaloosa) The title of this CD pretty much says it all, when it comes to describing the music of Frank Frost. From the original Nighthawks to the Jelly Roll Kings with Sam Carr and Big Jack Johnson, Frank Frost’s blues harp and vocals come from the heart and soul of true blues heritage. With guitarist/producer Fred James at the helm of the band Sam Carr says is, ”the Blues-playingest while folks I’ve ever seen,“ Frank Frost & Co. just fire it up and go on this collection. True Blue Track: ”Deep Blues“…get me some bar-b-que, get me some brew, and somebody make sure I get to church in the morning!

    Of Special Note: Evidence Music, Inc. presents classic blues selections , and currently also offers re-mastered collections from blues greats such as James ”Son“ Thomas, Cephas & Wiggins, Big Joe Williams and others. For their complete catalog and further information write: Evidence Music, 1100 E. Hector Street, Suite 392, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, 19428.

  2. ”On the Dark Slide,“ Tom Hubbard (Pyramid Records) This Georgia gentleman lays it down with a nod to the original stylings of the old Delta bluesmen from whom he first learned the technique. Tom Hubbard, along with drummer Pete Christ and Paul Welch on bass serves up the real-deal spooky delta tones and tunes. As Tom says, ”it (the delta blues) keeps a deep rooted devotion to what you are doing within your soul… ” It shows on this collection. True Blue Track: ”The Hitman“…aint nobody safe on the street, whilst this man’s loose!

  3. ”Sing and Make Melody Unto the Lord,“ The Harps of Melody (HMG/Hightone Records) Originally formed in 1950, The Harps of Melody continued to perform their classic a cappella Memphis gospel well into the 1990’s, before finally coming to rest with founder Clara Anderson’s passing in 1998. These recordings, originally made in 1985, were not released until just a few days before Ms. Anderson’s death. This collection therefore preserves as tribute and remembrance to the angels of the gospels who, for at least a lifetime, sang for us here on earth. True Blue Track: Nobody Knows the Trouble That I’ve Seen…a classic interpretation of a gospel classic.

Further on up the road…
Lest we forget the true blue meaning of this music they call the Blues…

"Blues is not only sorrow, heartache and woe, just as blues is not just some old guy sitting on his porch shuffling and moaning. Yes, blues is the rent late, your woman leaving you. It’s when the thrill is gone. But blues is also dealing with those things and making it through. Blues is when you’re standing in the darkness but you know - you know - that you are going to get back in that light."

Howard Stovall, Executive Director The Blues Foundation

I can’t add nary one thing to that, so, until we meet again at this crossroads…

Blues to ‘ya!

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