Jamming With Gregg Allman On Christmas Eve
The Christmas of 1997 I was home for the holidays after a 300 city tour of the US. My band came home for a few days before hitting the road again.
Early that morning I was in the small town of Mendocino, California grabbing some coffee from the local bakery when I notice a dark, blue VW bug drive by with someone that showed a remarkable resemblance to Gregg Allman from the Allman Brothers sitting in the passenger seat.
Thinking nothing of it, I went on about my day and visited with friends and family until later that night when I stopped by the local, seaside bar called Dicks. The place was packed considering it was Christmas eve and I ordered a drink and chatted with friends that were there who I had not seen for a long time.
Just as I ordered my third of fourth drink a friend of mine burst through the door like a gangster from an old Western movie and walked right up to me and said, "Hey man, you got to come next door to the hotel. Gregg Allman is sitting at the piano in the lobby and is about to play some songs."
I downed my beer, paid my bill and walked next door to the hotel and sure enough, there was Gregg Allman sitting at the piano with a group of about a dozen excited people waiting for him to start playing.
He had a young lady with him clutching a small puppy with a red bow around its collar, apparently a Christmas gift given to her by him and she looked annoyed.
He was on the piano bench waiting for people to calm down so he could start playing.
It's strange how people react sometimes when famous people are around. Somehow they lose their minds and composure for reasons unbeknownst to me. Strange behavior to say the least.
I've been around many famous people in my life and never felt the way some people seem to feel like they have lost their minds and overcome with excitement.
I don't ask for autographs or take pictures and because of that I actually get to hang out and sometimes get to know them. If I told you how many famous people I have hung out with you probably wouldn't believe me and I probably can't remember them all off the top of my head.
The hotel had cordoned off the lobby to give him some privacy, but somehow these dozen or so people were there and wouldn't shut up about being in the same room with Gregg Allman.
He waited patiently for their cacophony to settle down before playing and I tried unsuccessfully a few times to get them to shut up so we can hear him play. I finally decided to lead by example and sat down on a bar stool, not saying a word and waited for others to follow.
They didn't. They were like little kids meeting Santa Claus for the first time and he and I waited for at least 30 minutes for them to calm down so he could start playing.
Meanwhile. his girlfriend was getting more upset by the minute and she looked over at him and said, "You promised. You promised it would be just me and you for Christmas."
He spun around in his seat and said to her as calm as could be, "Baby, this is what I do.", and she grabbed the puppy and stormed out of the hotel.
The small crowd still were carrying on making idiots of themselves and he and I were the only one's not saying a word until he swung around again and looked me right in the eye and said, "You know, my dad used to say that it's the quiet one's you got to keep your eye on, because they're the one's taking it all in."
All eyes turned to me as it was obvious I was the only quiet person in the room at that moment and you could hear a pin drop as silence enveloped the lobby.
The silence was broken by the first note of him playing the piano and the music wrapped around us like a Christmas sweater.
The moment he finished the song he got up and walked right up to me and said, "You play music I take it?" "Yes.", I replied. "You got a recording studio around here somewhere?, he said. "Just down the street, walking distance.", I said. "Let's go.", he said and off we went.
We walked a few blocks to a recording studio I had the key to and we set up some mics and started playing. He asked me if I could get some musicians and an engineer together and I said I'd try, but it was Christmas eve so they may not come.
"Call them up and see if you can get them down here, but if I hear you drop my name I'm out of here.", he said. I made few calls, never mentioning that Gregg Allman was here in the studio with me and to their credit, some people showed up and an engineer, but once they arrived and saw who was there, they reacted to his fame just as ridiculously as the people at the hotel did. This was not working. I wanted so bad to make some music, but it was not possible.
So he leans over to me and says, "You got some place we can hang out and jam without all this silly shit?" I did. So we locked up the studio, thanked everyone for coming down and split to a friends house.
My friend is not a musician himself but has a bunch of musical instruments at his house that he's bought from struggling musicians when they needed the money and is a supporter of the arts one could say. Pianos and guitars all over his house.
We arrive and when he saw Gregg Allman was with me he didn't miss a beat, offered us a drink and we started playing. We played all night until the sun came up on Christmas morning and then I gave him a ride back to his hotel and dropped him off.
Two things stood out in my mind from the experience. One was hearing him bring my original songs to life on a piano, reworking the rhythm and melodies and making them sound so good.
The other was so funny to me. My friend's nephew was there that night, a sixteen-year-old kid who grew up on a bus with his parents and 9 siblings touring around the US in a total hippy lifestyle. Gregg offered him a job going on the road with him on his next tour and the kid looks at him and says, "Thanks, but no thanks. I been on the road all my life and I kind of want to hang out in a house for a while."
To me that was the coolest response ever. Most kids would have jumped at the chance to tour with Gregg Allman, but this kid already knew what life on the road is like and it's not as glamorous as it seems on the surface.
Hoped you like my story and thanks for reading.