Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Cross To Bear

I know the hits by the Allman Brothers Band.  I haven’t listened to Live at the Fillmore all the way through. I always felt like I should.  After reading My Cross To Bear, I need to make it to the Beacon in March. 

Gregg Allman’s style is conversational.  You know this is coming from him.  There is humor.  His southern descriptions of incidents are amusing and I found myself laughing out loud a few times.  This is not a kiss and tell scandal book, which adds to its greatness.  

The message of the book:  do something you love and make it happen.  Once Gregg picked up a guitar, (he taught Duane how to play) he never wanted to do anything else.  He did originally toy with the idea of being a dental surgeon.  He didn’t care how many people he played in front of as long as he was playing.  It was all about the music.  His brother bullied him into the band and staying with it.  His brother bullied him about a lot of things, but was also his biggest defender.

There is no whining in this book. No blame to pass around. Gregg doesn’t rely on demons to justify his well-documented drug and alcohol abuse.  He opens the book with the murder of his father.  He was two when it happened; Duane was three. He thinks the reason he was married so many times (he‘s engaged to the 7th future Mrs Allman) is that he was looking for a friend.  He hates being lonely. The title of the book, My Cross To Bear is a bit misleading. I know it’s a play on the song It's Not My Cross To Bear from their first album.  I thought it might be full of self-loathing. Thankfully it’s not. 

The brothers started out in cover bands.  In one of their earlier incarnations, The Escorts, they opened for the Beach Boys in 1965 in Florida.   Duane and Gregg played in several bands before The Allman Brothers Band came to be.  Gregg started writing songs and it gelled.  They didn’t look or sound like any other band out there.  They loved the blues.  Gregg has a snide disdain for the “British Blues”. 

This autobiography has mass appeal. For music lovers it’s a must read.  I knew the basics about the Allmans (although I did think that Duane was killed by a peach truck, which is rumor and not fact) and didn’t listen to them growing up. I still loved this book. What resonated the most was the dedication, time and practice that went into the music.  If anyone wants to make it as a musician today, read this book, follow their music regiment (skip the drug/alcohol phases).  How many rookie musicians can you think of today that would just set up shop in a park and play just so they can play? 

Yes, he touches on his marriage to Cher. No he doesn’t malign her. Did you hear Chaz on Howard Stern tell the story of Gregg picking her up from school one day and not bringing her home until 11pm because he couldn’t remember how to get there?  This was before cell phones and I’m sure Cher was freaking out. 

The heart of the book is the music and it’s that love that makes this book work.  

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