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Influential Voice In Southern Rock, Gregg Allman Dies At 69


In 1969, Gregg Allman and his older brother Duane Allman formed The Allman Brothers Band. It was one of the era's most popular concert bands. Gregg Allman's signature bluesy voice and his skills on the keyboard made The Allman Brothers one of the most influential groups in southern rock with classics like "Midnight Rider," "Melissa" and "Whipping Post." Gregg Allman died today at his home in Savannah, Ga., at 69 years old. Joining us to tell us more about him is music journalist Amanda Petrusich. Welcome. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

AMANDA PETRUSICH: Thank you so much for having me.

MARTIN: What made him such an influential figure?

PETRUSICH: Well, one of the things that I think is most remarkable about The Allman Brothers - The Allman Brothers Band and, of course, Gregg is that they were founded in Macon, Ga., in 1969. The band's original drummer, the great Jaimoe Johanson, was black, and the other five members of the group were these skinny, long-haired hippies who wore bellbottoms and silver jewelry and unbuttoned their shirts too far and had grown up listening to soul and rhythm and blues records.

So for me, the idea that a band like this existed and thrived in a small southern town at the end of the 1960s is just truly remarkable. I mean, even independent of all of the incredible things that they did musically, it was just such an act of dissent from the start. And what's funny, I think, is that the Allmans were so instrumental in the genesis of what we now call southern rock - you know, a genre that's associated perhaps unfairly with Confederate flags and pickup trucks and all this sort of iconography that suggests, you know, an unwelcoming or an outdated worldview - that it's easy to forget they were revolutionary inclusive at the time.

You know, I mean, 1969, it's a year after Martin Luther King was assassinated. It's, you know, a time in which many American school districts had yet to be desegregated. So while their musical legacy is vast and I think Gregg's work as a musician, you know, will be remembered and re-remembered in the days to come, this is such an important part of their history, too, for me.

MARTIN: Thank you so much for telling us about this. I mean, we only have a couple of seconds left. Tell us what the song that you must listen to. What's the one song, if you miss any other, what you have to - what do you have to hear?

PETRUSICH: Sure. For me it's "Whipping Post." I mean, Gregg wrote some amazing songs, but I think that's the one.

MARTIN: All right. That's music journalist Amanda Petrusich joining us from her home in Brooklyn, N.Y., talking about musician Gregg Allman, who died today at the age of 69 in Savannah, Ga. Amanda, thank you so much for speaking with us.

PETRUSICH: Thank you.


THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND: (Singing) Silver dollar. But I'm not going to let them catch me, no, not going to let them catch the... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.