Ramblin’ man Gregg Allman might have set down roots in Richmond Hill, but he’s a long way from settling down.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is still actively touring and recording with both the legendary Allman Brothers Band and as a solo artist. His latest album, "Low Country Blues," released in 2011, reached No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart and No. 1 on the Billboard Top Blues chart.
“Through age and experience, I’ve learned how to do it right,” said the 65-year-old rocker. “I just came off the best tour I’ve ever done. My band and I are just on another level now. Life is good.”
He laid bare the details of that life last May in his memoir, “My Cross to Bear.” In its first week, the title jumped to the No. 2 spot on the New York Times nonfiction best-sellers list, due largely to Allman’s honest and unflinching portrayal of the kaleidoscopic world of sex, drugs and rock and roll.
In the book, Allman candidly recounts the highs and lows of his 50-year career — from the death of his brother Duane, to a brief marriage to Cher and a rocky road paved with addiction and illness.
The constant through it all, he said, has been his music.
“It’s what I was born for. I need to play so bad. It sounds strange, but I find it hard to hold onto reality if I can’t play. It’s like, what is it that I do, besides take up space and food and water, if I can’t play?”
Allman will be a featured local author at the 2013 Savannah Book Festival. He will be on hand from noon-2 p.m. Feb. 16 in Telfair Square to autograph copies of “My Cross to Bear.” The public is encouraged to attend. To find out more, visit www.savannahbookfestival.org.
Allman lives in Richmond Hill with his two dogs, Maggie and Otis. When he's not on the road he enjoys riding his motorcycles, painting and being on the water.
In an interview at his home, Allman chatted with Life on the Hill about his memoir and living in Bryan County:
Why did you decide to write a book?
It was just a journal at first. It was never supposed to be a book until my manager got hold of it. I started it about 1985 and figured by the time I got to be 70 or 80, I’d go back through and relive it all.
Was it hard to hold the mirror up to your life?
Not really. It was more just remembering the fun you had and reflecting on the experiences.
In going back over your life, did you discover anything new about yourself?
Oh, that’s a good question. I did. I learned that I’m a patient man. Never knew that about myself before.
How does it feel, knowing that anyone with a library card can be privy to the most intimate details of your life?
(Laughs) Well, did you have to put it like that? You know, there’s nothing in there that I don’t mind people knowing. There’s actually a whole lot I chose not to put in there.
As someone who’s been the subject of a lot of media attention, is it different being the author of your own story, rather than reading what others say about you?
Quite different. In a good way. They just write for the sake of writing, and the first place they go for is below the belt. It’s really a drag. It’s a shame that they can write something about you, get your name wrong and not be held accountable for it.
Has there been any talk about making a movie based on your book?
Well, my manager called me a little while ago and said so-and-so from so-and-so pictures wants to come and talk to you about a movie. ... So the guy came, and he was really into it, but you never know with these Hollywood producers if it’s on the level or not. So we’ll see.
What do you want people to take away from your story?
My book is just a plaything. It’s just something to read and enjoy, to peek in on another man’s life. I’ve had a real fun life, and every day is a new experience and a new bucket of laughs.
Has anyone come up to you and told you how your book affected them?
Oh man, they’ll bring tears to your eyes with the stories they tell. Any time you think you’ve got it rough, just line up a bunch of people (at a book signing) and really talk to them.
What does it mean to be a local author at this year’s book festival?
I don’t know yet. This is the first one I’ve been to. Should be fun though.
Is it different signing a book than an album?
It’s different from signing stuff after a show. You have more time. It’s more settled. You can get to know your fans deeper.
Do you have a favorite book or author?
I like Mitch Albom. I just finished “Tuesdays with Morrie.” I also really like fantasy. “The Hobbit,” for example.
Why did you decide to move to Richmond Hill?
The year I started playing music, I was 10 years old. My mother, my brother and me — my father was killed when I was 2 — rode through Savannah. I remember going down this road that was like a tube with the oak trees, and at the end of this road was a Harley Davidson. I thought, man, this is paradise. I promised myself I’d be back here someday. And here I am.
What’s your favorite thing about living in Bryan County?
The peace and solitude. When I moved here, I told my realtor, ‘Listen, I want a place that’s just the opposite of Times Square.’ And that’s just what I found here.
Do you have any favorite hangouts?
I’m pretty much a stay-at-home kind of guy. I like to get out on the water when I have a chance, go fishing.
What does the next chapter of your life hold?
The guy I worked with on my last album, T Bone Burnett, wants to cut an album with the Allman Brothers, and I definitely want to get them back in the studio. For my next solo project, I want to do an album where I write the whole thing.
If you’d followed your original plans and become Gregg Allman the dentist instead of Gregg Allman the rock star, where do you think you’d be today?
Oh, I’d be the same. It would have dragged me back — the music, the lifestyle. I’d have seen my brother doing what he was doing and come around.