Me & Gregg, Hanging at the Stone Toad…Or Pony. Whichever.

Laid Back (Gregg Allman album)

Laid Back (Gregg Allman album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was in college, we used to listen to live music at this little dive bar called The Stone Toad, a couple miles outside of Hattiesburg on the highway leading to the coast.  Well, some people called it the Stone Toad and others called it the Stone Pony, but I think the Pony camp was just getting confused with Linda Ronstadt’s band.  The truth is, by the time we were frequenting the place in the early 80s, it was no longer officially named Stone anything, and had changed ownership and names multiple times, but it was forever known by the college crowd as The Stone something.

One night, believe it or not, Gregg Allman gave a concert at the Stone Whatever.  I guess it was a low point in his career.  This was post-Cher, post-Laid Back, pre-the-comeback-with “I’m no Angel”, and pre-people-respecting-what-we-now-call-classic-rock.  The place was packed to the rafters, but there were two contingents in the audience: the people that knew what they were about to receive and were truly grateful, and those that were there just to dance and drink beer.

The “stage”, if you could call it that, was a little homemade-looking structure, barely rising off the floor.  At first, the dancers, oblivious to the greatness before us, actually got out on the tiny dance floor and blocked our view of the great one and company.  The listeners, of which I was obviously a part, slowly infiltrated the dancer-zone and sat on the dance floor immediately in front of Gregg at the edge of the stage.  Eventually, the dancers were either relegated to the perimeter of the floor or they gave up altogether and sat down to listen.  As it wound up, I was situated right in the front with a direct view of Gregg as he performed.  Unbelievable.

During a break, I was stuck in a gridlock of frat boys, trying to get to the bar for a beer, when I turned slightly and spotted, directly behind me, a sheet of long, blond hair.  Turning a little more, I saw, I swear by Odin, the tall, Viking-esque Gregg Allman – scrunched right up behind me; hedged in by the crowd.  He was going to the bar to get a beer too.  That’s right – not a flunky, not some groupie or hanger-on, but Gregg himself was going to the bar, in the midst of a bunch of frat boys (and me) to get his own beer.  Nobody was saying anything to him, no one was hounding him for an autograph – nothing.  Unbelievable again, I know.

So I’m basically crushed right up next to him, looking eye to eye with the man, and I say, startled as heck, “Oh, hey.”

To which he responds, “Hey”.

And from there we have a stilted conversation.  Him being a rock star guy and me being almost stunned speechless, it was kind of rough at first.  I weakly, lamely murmur something like, “I really love your music”.

He comes back with, “Thanks”.  Then he helps me greatly by saying, “Ya goin’ t’school down here?”

At this point, I proceed to bore Gregg Allman with all the details of my major and my future career plans.  I must say, he feigned polite interest very well.  Shortly after my presentation on the field of sociology and its many career opportunities (Ha!  Naïve child.), the crowd shifted and we were separated.  When we were back in our spots, he at his keyboards and me sitting on the floor at the edge of the stage, and he resumed playing, it felt like we were bonded, and we had a lot of eye contact.  Yep.  That’s right.  Extensive eye contact with Gregg Allman.  While he was singing.  Let’s have a moment of silence and just let that sink in.

…………….

So I had come to the Stone Whatever with a group of friends, and the guy that had driven us suddenly got all grouchy and weird acting and made us leave as soon as the concert was over.  Of course, I later figured out that he was a little perturbed because what appeared to be an ancient Nordic love spell had been cast upon all the girls to whom he had so nicely and without ulterior motives (yeah, right) offered a ride.

For a long time, I bitterly regretted that I was snatched from the hand of fate in such a way, but after I read Gregg’s autobiography, I came to terms with the fact that it was probably for the best that somebody got me out of there and quick.  Darn it.  Apparently, Gregg was something of a….ummm…ladies’ man in those days.  Oh well, it makes a great, amazing story with which to bore my teenage daughter as I sit here in my recliner.  And it was without a doubt, one of the best concerts and best evenings of my life.

And I want to say that Gregg Allman was the nicest, most polite, down to earth and approachable “rock god” imaginable.  As you may know, my dear follower, I read a lot of biographies of musicians, and I always enjoy learning about the people that make the music I love, but Gregg’s autobiography, “My Cross to Bear”,  was one of the most enjoyable for me – because it seemed like it could have been written by the guy next door.  In fact, I discovered that our paths have sort of crossed quite a few times over the years.  For instance, it seems that Gregg wrote “Melissa” at the little crummy “fishing motel” where I used to stay with my parents as a kid when we went deep sea fishing.  Very cool.

gregg allman book

You may recall that in an earlier post, I mentioned that my three favorite British blues-rock singers are the Marriott-Plant-Rodgers trinity.  Well, as far as American blues-rock singers, there’s only one that stands head and shoulders above all, and that’s Gregg Allman…and the Allman Brothers Band is my favorite American band, hands down…and my mousepad has a picture of Duane Allman playing slide guitar on it…

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I think that says it all.

I can’t listen to this beautiful song now without thinking about that little dumpy fishing motel where it was written, and the night I was almost another notch…I mean that fantastic concert.  With the marvelous Dickey Betts and the supremely talented Warren Haynes…here’s “Melissa”….

Questions? Comments? Please share!

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “Me & Gregg, Hanging at the Stone Toad…Or Pony. Whichever.

  1. I have a somewhat odd double album from 1974 of ‘The Gregg Allman Band on Tour’ that I do not play very often, mainly because of the ’24 piece orchestra’. I’m guessing that the string section was missing from your Stone Whatever gig. Pity. Though it would have made getting a drink even harder. Those cello players can really put it away, I’ve heard.

    [Lovely post, Marie. High smile/chuckle quotient and that is ALWAYS good]

    • Hi Bruce, how strange to think of Gregg singing with strings in the background. Bizarre! I’ll have to see if I can hunt that down. It really was a great night – you shoulda been there! I just know you would have been a key figure in our movement to take over the dance floor for up-close viewing/listening, heh heh! I’m glad you liked the post – thanks so much for commenting!

    • Thanks, Matt! I think this was one of my best music-related memories. I’ve been saving it up for a while as sort of my ace in the hole, heh heh. Now it’s going to be all boring, inane old-fogey ramblings about the sorry state of modern music from this point forward. Ha! Just kidding – I wouldn’t do that to ya, my brother.

      Oh, and I love your new blog! Very nice! I don’t even know how to make my blog all fancy like that. I’m impressed!

      • Thanks! I’ll tell you all about it if you want me to. One time I was in Vegas playing a slot machine and a woman came up and told me I looked like Gregg Allman. I was engaged in a goatee growing contest at the time. LOL

  2. Per above, I’ll tell you about how I did the new blog. That may not have been clear. TTYL!

    • That was quite a compliment you got from the Vegas lady, Matt. I miss the mutton chop sideburns like Duane wore. I wish they would come back around. I have a couple of redneck cousins that sported mutton chops through the late eighties, but I haven’t seen them since, I don’t think.

      Thanks for offering to help me on the blog set-up. I might take you up on that one day. For now I’ll just leave it plain and bland. I’m doing this strictly as a pastime/hobby/way to yammer on about music, and I don’t want to strain my brain or spend any money on it, ha ha! That might change in the future though.

      Hey, wow – “Yammer On” would have been a great title for my blog. Darn.

  3. Speaking of awesome.He and the Brothers were a religion for me

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  6. Dennis

    That Live album with the strings is awesome. I had tickets to see him that tour in Philadelphia. Drove down from Albany NY to find out it was canceled ditto for Cornell in Ithaca. Finally got to see the show in Syracuse. String orchestra and all! Fabulous. If you don’t have the double CD Try It One More Time, get a copy. Also terrific.

  7. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    REMINDS ME OF THE BLACK HORSE PUB, IN THAT SWINGING COLLEGE TOWN OF CORTLAND, NY!!!

  8. Rusty, as usual that was one hell of post, and I do believe that you are right that hanging out with “Greg” that night might have changed your destiny a bit too much at such an early innocent age 😉

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