Tag Archives: Gregg Allman

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”….

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Sting Showdown

In the early nineties, my friend Lisa and I hung out a lot together, walking at the track around the Hattiesburg Methodist Hospital after classes, eating frozen yogurt, and going down to New Orleans on the weekends.  It took me a good while of track walking and yogurt eating to agree to go to New Orleans with her because she kept saying that we could stay with her aunt and uncle for free, and naturally, I didn’t want to do that, because of the awkwardness of staying with strangers and having to smile and make small talk and all that.  But after a couple months I couldn’t think up any more excuses and off to the Big Easy we went.

She had told me that the aunt and uncle were wealthy and had plenty of room, but I was completely unprepared for the majesty and splendor that awaited me at their mansion in the Garden District.  I was stunned almost speechless as we walked through the house to our rooms. Apparently, her uncle was a big shot in the oil industry and had more money than God. Lisa and I had an entire floor to ourselves, each with our own gorgeous bedroom and bathroom, and a lounging/TV area in which a pot of coffee along with pastries and fruit mysteriously appeared every morning.

One of the added benefits of being the guests of rich uncle was that he was somehow connected to a fabulous hotel in the French Quarter, which shall remain unnamed, but it’s possibly the ritziest in the city.  It’s that type of hotel where regular people like me don’t even attempt to glance past the doorman in order to peek in through the beveled glass of the mahogany door.  We just stare straight ahead and keep on walking to the Hampton or the Holiday Inn.  But because of the connected uncle, we were allowed to have our car parked there and use the restroom facilities and so forth.  That came in handy, because it was right in the middle of the action and it was safe and clean.  So Lisa and I spent our days shopping and eating po-boys and our evenings either checking out the bands at Tipitina’s or The Maple Leaf Bar, or having a blast at a karaoke bar in the Quarter, and using the Garden District mansion and the fancy hotel as our headquarters. Pure heaven.

One day in spring, as we were making our way through the fancy hotel to the restroom that we liked to use, walking down a long, wide corridor that was well-lit by a wall of arched windows, I saw two strikingly handsome men approaching from the other direction, wearing sophisticated looking, European style suits. One of the men was of the beefy, bodybuilder variety, and the other one was slim with sandy hair. As we got a little closer and I could see their faces clearly, my brain accessed the massive, virtually useless database compiled through a gazillion hours of MTV watching in the eighties and told me immediately what I was seeing, which as you have already predicted from the title, was Sting and his bodyguard.

Though I’ve never been that much of a fan of Sting or The Police, I had watched that “Every Breath You Take” video ad nauseam and I knew, without any doubt at all in my mind, that I was looking Sting square in the face in this hoity-toity hotel. What’s more, a sustained Sting-Marie eye lock ensued as we walked toward each other.  As you know, I’ve had the eye lock with another major figure in rock before. But that eye lock was different than this one. The Allman-Marie eye lock was of the natural, male-female, tummy-flipping variety that makes life worth living.  This eye lock was a silent challenge – a showdown.  He knew that I had recognized him, and we were in this hotel where people don’t do crass things like approach celebs, but he was still wary, probably thinking something along the lines of “Oh, my God, I just know this little chickie is going to ask for my autograph”.

But he didn’t have to worry.  It would have to be a cold day in summertime New Orleans before I would have asked him for an autograph or in any way fed into the whole celebrity worship thing. And like I said, I wasn’t even all that big of a fan. My own thoughts were something like, “Oh, my God, that’s Sting! What the hell is he doing here? And why is he dressed like that? He looks like an arrogant snob”.  So the eye lock held, neither of us backing down, neither of us smiling, maintaining absolute poker faces, as we got closer and closer.  I think my goal was to let him know that I definitely knew who he was, but that it didn’t hold any water with me.  I guess I was trying to take him down a peg or two.  HA!  Like that could ever happen. Finally, when he got within a few feet of me and the weirdness and tension became unbearable, he broke the lock.  After he passed, I immediately turned to Lisa and whispered, “Do you know who that was?!”  She had been digging in her purse the whole time, had missed the whole thing, and didn’t believe me when I told her that we had just passed Sting. We argued about it in the restroom, but we checked with the concierge on the way out of the hotel, and he confirmed that Sting was in town for a concert at UNO that night.

Reflecting back on this brief, silent encounter, it’s really not surprising that the vibes I got weren’t all that great, because I never really liked his music all that much. Conversely, in the Allman encounter, the vibes were fun and positive, and his music is right up there among my very favorite and most loved.  Funny, huh?  Make of it what you will, but that’s how it was.  Not to get too metaphysical, and I’m sure I’ve alluded to this before, but there’s something very strange and wonderful about the power and meaning of music, and how we are drawn to (and sometimes repelled by) others through it, and how it can affect our perceptions and feelings and moods.

Of course, I don’t want to say that Sting isn’t a nice guy or anything like that, because I don’t know anything about his life or personality – he may be, and probably is, a perfectly decent human being.  But I’m still glad I won the showdown.

Now Jeff Lynne I can dig. She came to me like a friend, she blew in on a southern wind, now my heart is turned to stone again, there’s gonna be a showdown…heh heh heh…

Okay, I feel a little bad for kinda doggin’ Sting, so as a token of my (guarded) respect, here’s one I do like, from before his suit days.

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Here’s Your Proof

In thinking back over all the stories I’ve told you over the past eight months since I started this blog, it occurred to me that you have no way of knowing if all of this is true. For example, how do you know I actually met and hung out with Gregg Allman in a dive bar in south Mississippi in the early eighties? Unfortunately, I have no proof of that, though heaven knows, I wish I did, so you’ll just have to take my word on that one.

But that got me started thinking – before we tread into even deeper waters of my silly, music-obsessed memoirs, maybe you, as my faithful reader, deserve to have some form of proof that I’m not just lying my head off here.  So I scrounged through my shoe box of old photos and found a few that are at least partially related to the things I’ve been talking about. Okay, so without further unnecessary explanation and wavering, let’s start with this little gem…

Christmas Morning, 1972

“Hey, look at this neat radio!  You open it up and its got a dial…wait…it’s GOT FM!”

Radio

 

Birthday, mid-seventies, skating rink era.

“I know the Holmes boys are going to make fun of me when I practice this hula hoop in the driveway, but I really dig this bean bag chair.  I’m going to keep it in the family room and watch Midnight Special in it every weekend.”

Bean Bag

High School Marching Band

“I look like such a dork in this stupid uniform, especially with this terrible haircut.  No wonder I have to be the third wheel and sit in the backseat when I go cruising with the majorette and her cute Senior boyfriend.”

Band2

This next one has nothing to do with any stories I’ve told so far, but it relates to today’s music, so I had to post it. Christmas, 1974.  I know it was 1974, because Elvis came to Jackson that year, and I wore this dress to the concert.  That’s right.  I wore a full-length, Christmas-themed velvet and taffeta dress to the Elvis concert.  It was a fat Elvis as opposed to a young Elvis concert, but my parents got to see young Elvis in the fifties at the McComb High School Auditorium.  I, however, only got fat Elvis, but it was still cool, though we were sitting behind the stage and all I really got to see was his cape.

“I can’t wait to wear this to the Elvis concert!  That’ll be bitchin’!”

Dress

So now that you know I’m not just a lying hound dog (nothing against hound dogs, though, I really love dogs), let’s hear some young Elvis…

This is actually my favorite Elvis song…”Mystery Train”.  My mother still has the record shown in this clip – the original Sun recording on a 78.

My next post, which I plan to do between Christmas and New Year’s Day, will be my wrap up of this year’s foolishness, including the “Marie Awards” for best YouTube videos and songs and such that I talked about in 2013!  Don’t miss it!  Let’s go out on my favorite Christmas clip ever – Bowie and Bing doing one of my favorite Christmas songs from my childhood, “Little Drummer Boy”.   I watched this in my bean bag chair in the family room when it came on Bing’s Christmas Special, circa 1977.  I remember showing my parents, so proudly, that one of my “rock stars” was a relatively normal guy and accepted by Bing, ha ha!

“Okay, you gotta be kidding me…Santa’s not even bothering to look at me or the camera.  Just get me outta here.”

Santa

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my wonderful friends and followers in blogland!

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