All My Friends Part III: Jack Pearson, Chank Middleton and Bert Holman
August 10, 2017
Gregg Allman’s bandmates and confidantes reflect on his life and music.
Jack PearsonYou bonded with Gregg on a songwriting level. What were your collaborations like?
Gregg wrote so many great songs, and to get to write with him was amazing. We co-wrote “Come Back and Help Me” with William Howse. It was on Searching for Simplicity. We were on tour and had a day off, and I said, “Hey, man. Listen to this.” I played him the song I had started with William; he dug it, so we finished it in just a few minutes. He loved William, too; they got along great. Gregg was very easy to write with. We also co-wrote “Sailing Across the Devil’s Sea” and “Rockin’ Horse.” We started writing a couple of other songs but never got to finish them.
I first met Gregg in 1993 when I subbed for Dickey in the ABB. He heard some demos of my songs and was very encouraging to me about my songwriting, which meant so much to me. After that tour was over, he invited me to his house in the fall of 1993 to write together. Then, I started playing in Gregg Allman & Friends until 1997, when I was asked to join the Allman Brothers.
Was there an element of Gregg’s playing or personality that surprised you the most when you started performing with him?
The first night I played with him was very intense. But, really every show just being that close to my favorite singer, there’s no words for it—and the way he would smile when the music got good. Gregg has always been my favorite singer—period. And I loved his organ playing, the way he would change the drawbar sounds, building dynamics behind the soloist. I used to go over and stand by him and get close to his Leslie and play rhythm with him behind Dickey’s solos—man, now that was fun. Gregg was funky and grooved hard, and he used the best drawbar sound, changing the organ tone with the mood of the music. For instance, I really enjoyed watching him as he constantly changed the drawbars and chord voicing behind Dickey’s solo on “Ramblin’ Man.” It was so beautiful. Most of those things got buried in the mix out front and on the records, so it was really great to experience it just a few feet away from the source. We would play our acoustic guitars together in hotel rooms—what an experience. I learned so much from him.
We used to hang out a lot together. Sometimes it would be just me and him sitting up front in the bus at 3 a.m. It was peaceful—these nice conversations. We were tight— we would get excited just to get some home-style cooking on the road, little things like that.
I remember very clearly the day Gregg called me and asked me if I wanted to join the Allman Brothers Band. It was such a shock but only took me one second to say, “Yes.” Love my brother dearly. I miss you Gregory.