When I was 12 years old, the Allman Brothers Band released their Live at Fillmore East album. Young musicians heard a fresh challenge and a raw energy in those records—a 2-record, 4-sided LP set with 7 total songs. It was different, unique. It was clearly a new style of rock but the level of improvisation was more like jazz. Some songs went on for over 20 minutes but felt like 2. And this was back when artists simply created music for the music.
My parents both worked and I was what they call a latch key kid. I walked home from school and was alone until they got off work a couple of hours later. But at 12, I came straight home, put on the vinyl of ABB at the Fillmore, clamped down the headphones, sat down at my drum kit, and would play the entire 2 albums through before my parents got home. No breaks. Just like the concert. The voice on that record was Gregg Allman with his signature grit and soul like nobody else on the planet. I was pretty proud within a few months when I could hold my own through the entire set with Gregg, Duane, Jaimoe, and Butch and not miss a lick. Well, in my 12-year-old mind, at least. Because in my house the Allman Brothers had three drummers.
In Gregg’s autobiography entitled My Cross to Bear released in 2012, in the final chapter talking about his current days, he states, “I do believe in God because somebody had to plan all this—stuff like this just doesn’t happen. I didn’t always feel that way though. For a long time, I didn’t really believe in God. … Thankfully, by the time everything started going on with my liver, I’d been thinking differently about all that for a while. … A big part of my getting straight with God had to do with sobering up. As I got sober, because I was so sick of missing out, I finally reached out and prayed. Before then I’d been praying for a long time, but I never seemed to get any kind of answer. Later on, though, it became clear to me and kinda hit me at once. It was such a revelation, man. Basically, what I did, in one big fell swoop was surrender, and with that came all the rest. … He’ll help you if you ask Him. If you show a little, God will show a lot. If you just do what you can, He’ll do the rest.”
It’s a strange thing when you feel you have a 45-year history with a total stranger and you grieve when they die. And I’m not claiming to know Gregg Allman’s relationship with Jesus. But when I read these quotes and I read the encounter between Christ and the thief on the cross, I do get a very similar feeling.
The key word here for us all is surrender. Rock star, repairman, or writer, without surrender, it’s just not going to work.