Southern rock music star Gregg Allman dies at 69

Gregg Allman, whose soulful vocals made the Allman Brothers Band one of rock’s top acts in the 1970s with songs such as “Ramblin’ Man” in a career also marred by tragedy and drug abuse, died Saturday at 69, his official website said.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce that Gregg Allman, a founding member of The Allman Brothers Band, passed away peacefully at his home in Savannah, Georgia,” it said.

Drummer Butch Trucks, another founding member of the band, died at age 60 on Jan. 24.

The Allman Brothers Band was started in Macon, Ga., in the late 1960s by Gregg and his older brother Duane, who became the band’s guiding force and one of rock’s most revered guitarists before he was killed in a motorcycle accident at age 24. In its heyday, the band was a staple on radio stations and its albums ranked among the best in rock history.

Gregg was the band’s lead singer, keyboardist and a key songwriter as it put out a string of hits. He wrote several of them – “Whipping Post,” “It’s Not My Cross to Bear,” “Midnight Rider,” “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” and “Melissa” – while others were renditions of old blues songs, including “One Way Out” and “Statesboro Blues.”

The band was an early progenitor of what became known as Southern rock. “He sounded like he’d already lived a thousand lifetimes,” singer Sheryl Crow told Rolling Stone magazine.

After unfulfilling experiences with the music industry in Los Angeles, Gregg and Duane ended up in Macon, Ga. – hometown of Little Richard and Otis Redding – in 1969 and brought together the Allman Brothers Band.

The band’s first three albums – including “At Fillmore East,” considered a ground-breaking live recording at the time – made them stars, but shortly after that, Duane had his fatal motorcycle crash in Macon in 1971.

The band carried on but fell into the trap of rock star excess. By the mid-’70s the cloud over the band grew darker as Gregg became a heroin addict and Dickey Betts assumed leadership. When Allman’s valet, Scooter Herring, was arrested for drug dealing in 1976, Allman, then married to singer-actress Cher, accepted immunity and testified to a grand jury against the man who acquired drugs for him.

The group split up over what was seen as Allman’s betrayal. He would go on to a solo career, also taking part in reformations of the Allman Brothers before bringing down the curtain on the group in 2014 in New York with original members Trucks and Jai Johanny Johanson.

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 but Allman said he was too drunk to enjoy it.

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