Gregg Allman, Influential Force Behind the Allman Brothers Band, Dies at 69

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Gregg Allman, a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, the incendiary group that inspired and gave shape to both the Southern rock and jam-band movements, died on Saturday at his home in Savannah, Ga. He was 69.

His death was announced in a statement on Mr. Allman’s official website. No cause was given, but the statement said he had “struggled with many health issues over the past several years.”

The band’s lead singer and keyboardist, Mr. Allman was one of the principal architects of a taut, improvisatory fusion of blues, jazz, country and rock that — streamlined by inheritors like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Marshall Tucker Band — became the Southern rock of the 1970s.

The group, which originally featured Mr. Allman’s older brother, Duane, on lead and slide guitar, was also a precursor to a generation of popular jam bands, like Widespread Panic and Phish, whose music features labyrinthine instrumental exchanges.

Mr. Allman’s percussive Hammond B-3 organ playing helped anchor the Allman Brothers’ rhythm section and provided a chuffing counterpoint to the often heated musical interplay between his brother and the band’s other lead guitarist, Dickey Betts.

Gregg Allman’s vocals, by turns squalling and brooding, took their cue from the anguished emoting of down-home blues singers like Elmore James, as well as from more sophisticated ones like Bobby Bland. Foremost among Mr. Allman’s influences as a vocalist, though, was the Mississippi-born blues and soul singer and guitarist known as Little Milton.

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Gregg Allman had one of the most recognizable voices of his generation. And he always felt like a blues artist — one who was haunted by losses that propelled some of the most memorable music of the 1970s. Allman died Saturday due to complications of liver cancer. He was 69.

Gregg Allman and his older brother, Duane, were born in Nashville, Tenn., but raised in northern Florida. They were children of the South, where a blend of country, blues and gospel could always be heard on the radio and in the air. Gregg Allman’s voice reflected all of those influences.

“Growing up in the South at that time, there was a proximity to a lot of different kinds of music,” says Alan Light, co-author of Allman’s autobiography, My Cross To Bear. “There were different influences that enabled you to draw on a spectrum of sounds and different emotions — that in other parts of the country, you just wouldn’t be exposed to in the same way.”

Gregg Allman was just one year younger than Duane. They formed a close-knit bond after their father was murdered when Gregg was 2. As teenagers, they formed various bands that mimicked the sound of the British Invasion.

But when Duane Allman left behind a lucrative gig as a session musician in Muscle Shoals, Ala., he called his younger brother to join a band with two lead guitarists and two drummers. That’s how a collection of friends and former bandmates coalesced into The Allman Brothers Band, which released its first album in 1969.

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