Over the weekend, Jimmy Carter helped award an honorary doctorate to Gregg Allman at Mercer University’s commencement ceremony in Macon.
But the relationship between the former president and the hall of fame rocker goes back much farther. And it even involves Cher.
Last fall, Carter attended the annual banquet of the Carter Political Items Collectors held on the weekend of the Plains Peanut Festival. He and his wife, Rosalyn, make it to the dinner most years and the fact that he’d recently begun brain cancer treatment wasn’t about to stop them. After the Carters had carried their own trays through the buffet line at the Americus Days Inn, they took part in a lively Q & A with CPIC members. This time, the theme was life in the White House.
Who were your most interesting guests in the White House, one of the pre-submitted questions read?
“Cher?” someone wisecracked in the back of the room.
“Yeah, Cher came with Gregg Allman,” he said, then dropped the scoop that the founding member of the Allman Brothers Band was going to receive the honorary degree from Mercer and “I’m going to be there.
“Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers just about put me in the White House,” he continued. “They were the best fundraisers that we had. In those days, they would charge somebody $15 to come hear them play. And we were getting the whole $15 plus 15 more matching dollars! So we got $30 every time someone came to hear the Allman Brothers Band play. And Cher came along with Gregg … They were married for a brief time as you may remember.”
The generosity didn’t just flow one way: In 1974, Carter invited Allman to a party he was hosting for Bob Dylan at the Governor’s Mansion on West Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead. And in January 1977, the Allman Brothers Band were guests at Carters’ Inaugural Ball in Washington D.C.
Meanwhile, while you let your mind run wild over the fact that you could snag a ticket to see the Allman Brothers perform for a mere $15 in the mid-1970s, consider another music-centric answer Carter gave to a different question at the CPIC dinner:
What was your favorite room in the White House?
“My favorite room was where Lincoln had his cabinet meetings,” Carter responded. “But the room that was next to the bedroom was also a very good room for me. That’s where Harry Truman had his bedroom. He didn’t stay in the same room with his wife — I did, by the way. (Cue much laughter in the room and a slight roll of the eyes from Rosalyn Carter sitting near her husband).
“But I used to tie flies,” Carter went on. “I’m a fly tier. I used to tie flies and listen to Willie Nelson. That was where I relaxed between my crises that I had to address around the world. I would tie flies for fishing and listen to Willie.”
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