On May 27, just months after we lost the Allman Brothers Band’s drummer Butch Trucks, we lost Gregg Allman. We remember him with the flip side of his solo Top 40 hit.
By Warren Kurtz
Flip side: Multi-Colored Lady
A side: Midnight Rider
Top 100 debut: December 22, 1973
Peak position: 18
Capricorn CPR 0035
1974 photo: Gregg Allman and Tommy Talton courtesy of Tommy Talton
Gregg Allman graduated from Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1965. With his studies behind him, he could spend more time focusing on music with his older brother Duane with their local band the Allman Joys. After that band, they headed to Los Angeles and formed the Hour Glass, with albums in 1967 and 1968 on Liberty. In 1969, they were back in the southeast with the small Capricorn label out of Macon, Georgia for the self-titled debut album for the Allman Brothers Band, beginning the southern rock sound, with Capricorn being a key part of it. Gregg Allman was the vocalist, organist and composer for a majority of the album’s seven songs including “Dreams” and the powerful finale “Whipping Post.” He also wrote a majority of the songs for their second album in 1970, “Idlewild South,” including “Midnight Rider” and “Please Call Home.”
Double albums followed in the next two years, first with the live “At Fillmore East” in 1971. That fall, guitarist Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident. 1972 brought “Eat a Peach,” and that fall, bassist Berry Oakley also died in a motorcycle accident. During the early ‘70s, with the growth of FM rock radio stations, the Allman Brothers Band had a building audience, as the band continued, surviving the loss of some of its key founding members.
After the success of the two double albums, in February of 1973, Capricorn re-issued the first two Allman Brothers Band albums as a double album set called “Beginnings.” It still didn’t bring any hits to the Top 40, but the biggest advantage of “Beginnings” was that their first two albums were now available on one 8-track tape and became a best seller for music to drive by. By late summer of 1973, when the group’s fifth album, “Brothers and Sisters” was released, Top 40 radio was finally ready for the group and “Ramblin’ Man” entered the Top 40, ultimately going all the way to the number two position. This was a lively composition by Dickey Betts with his vocals and lengthy guitar parts, and sounded less like the Gregg Allman blues songs the band was known for in their earlier years. Gregg Allman felt the time was right for a solo project and enlisted Johnny Sandlin as a co-producer for the album “Laid Back.” The musicians included a few members of the Capricorn southern rock act Cowboy, featuring guitarist Tommy Talton who told Goldmine, “I knew Gregg from ’66 when we were both in Florida bands. I remember a show we did in Cocoa Beach. I was in We the People and he and Duane were in the Allman Joys.”
The “Laid Back” album brought a new version of the Allman Brothers Band’s “Midnight Rider,” filled with orchestral strings and horns to the Top 20, as Gregg Allman’s only solo Top 40 hit. Tommy Talton described the session, “This was my first time being recorded with a slide. I laid a Fender Stratocaster in my lap and played it lying down, like a pedal steel.” The flip side, also from the album, was “Multi-Colored Lady.” Tommy Talton shared, “It is a beautiful song. I started it off with an acoustic guitar introduction leading to Gregg’s vocals.” Gregg Allman sang a tale of a bus ride from Memphis to Rome, Georgia where he met a “broken hearted bride.” By the end of the song he was inviting her to his home in Rome. The melody and tender delivery was on par with Rod Stewart’s version of “Handbags and Gladrags.” Chuck Leavell provided a gentle piano sound surrounded by orchestral strings.
Another Gregg Allman composition from the “Idlewild South” album, remade for “Laid Back,” was the tender, bluesy “Please Call Come,” which also served as the flip side of the album’s second single “Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing” in April of 1974.
Tommy Talton pointed out, “The album also included what I think is one of Gregg’s most beautiful compositions ‘Queen of Hearts.’ We also featured it on the 1974 album “The Gregg Allman Tour.” “I was very pleased to be on that tour. To this day people come up to me and say it was one of the best concerts of their life.”
Regarding Gregg Allman, Tommy Talton concluded, “The music world has lost one of the best ever, and I have lost a friend who I shared many wonderful musical moments and life highlights with.”
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, known for “Fabulous Flip Sides” along with interviews, CD, DVD and book reviews. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, around 9:05-9:25 a.m. Eastern time, on WVCR.com as part of “Moments to Remember.”