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Published: 2017/05/30

Warren Haynes Shares Some Final Thoughts on Gregg Allman

The Allman Brothers Band take their final bow at the Beacon in 2014

Gregg Allman, founding Allman Brothers Band leader and legendary musician, died this past Saturday at his home in Savannah, and following an outpouring of love and memories from around the music world, Warren Haynes, who played with Allman in the final iteration of that band that called it quits in an expansive fall 2014 run at New York’s Beacon Theatre, has spoken with Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke in an extended interview about his late friend and bandmate.

Haynes begins by remembering the last time he saw Allman in person, during a visit prior to last month’s Wanee Festival. The guitarist calls the meeting “very bittersweet” and says Allman “was hanging in there. But you knew that he’s dodged so many bullets in his life. He could have held on for a long time, or he could have gone pretty quickly – as we saw.”

The conversation then turns to Haynes’ time with the Allman Brothers Band, with whom he played for 25 years. He remembers the stories Allman and drummer Jaimoe (who is now one of two surviving original ABB members with Dickey Betts) would tell of the old days and late founding guitarist Duane Allman, along with the first time Haynes’ ever experienced the Allman Brothers’ music. “I remember Gregg’s voice, being captivated by it,” he says. “I was nine years old. I had not picked up a guitar yet. But I was already listening to soul music and singing. I was just focusing on his voice. It was captivating.”

Haynes also speaks on Allman’s role in the band, which he says was that of a reluctant leader. While he was “very comfortable with Duane having that role from the very beginning,” Haynes notes that Allman had to take more control after his brothers death, but still “always liked to see things just happen” with the music.

The subject of Allman’s longtime health problems – which included a liver transplant in 2010 – led Haynes to call the singer a “trooper” on the road, as Allman never wanted to stop performing, even when it was difficult for him. “There were several times early on – and many times later on – when a lot of us felt like he should spend more time off the road,” Haynes says. “But he couldn’t deal with being off the road. He loved being on stage and that connection [to the audience].”

Haynes spoke about writing with Allman, who he says was keen on letting songs sit and not pushing to finish them before they were ready. “There were a lot of songs we wrote together where the song was almost finished but not quite, and he would come up with one small thing that made it so much better.” Haynes also notes that “Desdemona,” off the Allman Brothers’ 2003 album Hittin’ the Note, is “one of those [he’s] most proud of.”

The conversation ends with Haynes talking about the Allman Brothers Band’s final show at the Beacon in 2014, saying that Allman “sang his ass off that night. He was having fun.”

“He was a shy, kind soul,” Haynes continues. “He hated the thought of anybody being hurt. And he had an uncannily deep connection with losing people at such an early age that manifested itself in the way he sang and the way he chose his words in the songs he wrote. He lived a lot of life when he was still a young man – most of that before I ever met him. But he was just a unique, natural talent. When he opened his mouth and started singing, especially his own songs, there was this honesty that made a connection with people that was undeniable.”

Read the full interview here.

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