The news of Gregg Allman’s death sent shockwaves of sorrow throughout the entire rock-loving community on Saturday afternoon. The lead singer of the mighty Allman Brothers Band had reportedly been in ill health for quite some time, but his passing still hit like a right hook to the gut. He was an indelible figure; a legend who used his voice and his Hammond organ to change the sound and shape of popular music across the last five decades. He will be sincerely missed.
It’s really hard to overstate the impact of The Allman Brothers Band. As a group, they all but invented the Southern Rock genre that first came to prominence in the early 1970s. Rock had always been a Southern thing, going back to the time of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly, but by the 1960s, it had increasingly become the dominion of big name bands coming out of England, California, and the Midwest. The Allmans reclaimed rock for the region of its birth.
Their distinctive sound was characterized by hard blues, hard booze, furious bottleneck slide solos, and a certain soulfulness and twang that was missing from the records produced by their Northern and British contemporaries. They were also one of the earliest proponents of the onstage jam, regularly stretching songs that existed as tight, three and four-minute tracks on record into 20 or 30-minute marathons of musical transcendence. That overall vibe and aesthetic continues to reverberate through the work of prominent, modern bands like Drive By Truckers, My Morning Jacket, Alabama Shakes, and many, many more.