BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
The life of Gregg Allman will be celebrated this weekend in the city that is synonymous with The Allman Brothers Band.
Allman, who died May 27 at the age of 69 from complications due to liver cancer, will be buried on Saturday alongside his brother Duane and fellow band member Berry Oakley at Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon.
“Gregory’s wishes were to be laid to rest next to his brother. About a year or so ago, a good Samaritan in Macon reached out and said she owned the 10 adjoining plots next to Duane and Berry and offered to sell them at the cost she paid. Gregg was touched by that, so we acquired the 10 slots,” said Michael Lehman, Allman’s manager since 2004.
Prior to the burial, a private 1 p.m. service will be held at Snow’s Memorial Chapel.
Fans, however, are welcome to line the procession route from Snow’s – which also handled Duane Allman’s funeral arrangements in 1971 – to the cemetery.
Bill Snow, owner of the funeral home, said that Cherry Street, in front of the building, will be closed, but those who wish to pay their respects can line the street beginning at the corners of Cherry and First streets. The procession will run from First Street to Riverside Drive.
“We just ask that everybody respect the family’s privacy and give (Gregg) a great sendoff,” Snow said on Tuesday.
Lehman noted that Saturday night, the celebration of Allman’s legacy will continue at the storied Big House in Macon, with about 200-300 close friends and family. Music, naturally, will be the focus, with an outdoor stage being set up. Members of Allman’s solo band will be present, as well as Allman Brothers Band drummer Jaimoe Johanson. Dickey Betts, who has long been estranged from Allman, is expected to attend the funeral.
“He and Gregg connected in the past few months, and (Dickey) indicated he wanted to come,” Lehman said.
There are also early indications that a major concert in Allman’s honor, similar to the “All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs and Voice of Gregg Allman” show held at the Fox Theatre in January 2014, will be arranged for December as a commemoration of what would have been Allman’s 70th birthday.
Lehman wasn’t sure if it would be held in Atlanta or New York – home of the band’s legendary Beacon Theatre concerts – or, perhaps, both.
But fans can look forward to at least two fitting codas to Allman’s life: the album “Southern Blood,” which he recorded last year, will be released in September and the Laid Back Festival, which played Atlanta in October (and turned out to be Allman’s last live performance), will be back with six dates, including an Atlanta return.
“(The album has) Gregg’s special sauce. His voice is raw and pure. The album is beyond beautiful. When you hear it and know where he was in his life’s journey, this elder statesman singing the blues, it’s raw and riveting,” said Lehman. “We’re going to release it before Grammy (eligibility) cutoff so hopefully it will be recognized.”
Among the tracks is a cover of Jackson Browne’s “A Song for Adam,” with Browne.
“(Gregg and Jackson) re-connected in the last several months in a very deep way. Jackson spent a lot of time on the phone with Gregg. He had planned to come down to visit Gregg on Monday, but unfortunately, Gregg passed first,” Lehman said.
Lehman said there was about a six-month period where he, Allman and the musician’s closest circle knew “the end was closing in.”
“I’d visit him in northern Florida, where he rented a place for a few months, or Savannah and he would say, ‘Mikey, Mikey, when are you going to come visit me again?” Thank goodness I did. I probably got to spend 40 or 50 days with him. We shared meals, we sat outside, we walked on the beach in Florida, we told funny stories and talked about life and music,” Lehman said. “When we realized Gregg wasn’t going to bounce back as he has so many times, we started having more serious conversations about preserving his legacy. I always promised him I would do that.”