When Steve Oney profiled Gregg Allman for Esquire magazine in November, 1984, Allman was seeing hard times.
After riding high in the early 1970s as the leader of the Allman Brothers Band, the highest-paid band in rock ‘n’ roll, things had started to come apart.
Gregg’s brother Duane Allman was dead. Their bass player Berry Oakley was dead. Gregg had slipped into drug addiction and fought back out. The group had disbanded and reunited and disbanded again. While the Allmans had earned $250,000 some nights, Gregg’s solo project was gigging in clubs for $5,000, and he was even playing the occasional Holiday Inn.
He’d had a brief celebrity marriage to Cher that produced a child and a bad album.
Oney, a former staff writer at the Atlanta Journal & Constitution Magazine, caught up with Allman on the road, and turned in a subtle, intimate portrait. At the time, Oney had his doubts that Allman would make it back to the top.
“I thought he’d made some bad records and some bad decisions, but I admired him. He’s the one out of that group that has persevered and prospered,” Oney said recently, in an interview that took place just before Allman’s death. Allman, 69, died Saturday, May, 27, due to complications from liver cancer.
The family seemed doomed, said Oney, beginning with their father, who was shot dead by a hitchhiker. But Gregg kept on keeping on. “I admired his stick-to-it-ive-ness,” said Oney. “He’s a more substantial person than even he realized he was.”
The Bitter Southerner has reprinted Oney’s profile in full, with an introduction by editor-in-chief Chuck Reece. You can find it here.
The profile is also included in “A Man’s World,” a new collection of Oney’s magazine articles published this month by Mercer University Press.