Gregg Allman’s Longtime Manager Recalls the Singer’s Final Days and Their Career Together (EXCLUSIVE)

Gregg Allman Tour Bus Crash
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Gregg Allman, who passed away Saturday due to complications from liver cancer, was a cofounder of the legendary Allman Brothers band and a peerless pioneer of Southern rock — and by extension the entire jam-band movement.

Yet when he joined forces with his longtime manager Michael Lehman in 2004, his contributions and legacy were under-recognized and his business affairs were not in optimal shape. Lehman got to work on changing that, and over the past dozen-odd years the singer not only toured regularly, both solo and with the Allmans, he released four solo albums — including 2011’s Grammy-nominated “Low Country Blues” and the forthcoming “Southern Blood,” due in September — established the Laid Back music festival in partnership with Live Nation, held the “All My Friends” career-retrospective concert in 2015, and established music scholarships at both the University of Georgia and through Syracuse University’s Bandier Program. In the process the two became not just close business partners but also close friends, and on Sunday Lehman shared memories from those years with Variety.

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What were the last few months with Gregg like?

I last saw him a couple of weeks ago, and we’d spent a lot of time together over the past couple of years in Northern Florida as well as his home in Savannah [Georgia]. We talked about music, friendship, the arts, his relationship with his kids [Allman had four children, all but one of whom are musicians]. A couple of weeks ago we Facetimed with each of them. And as things started to slow down and we knew that his life was coming to a close, we started talking about preserving his legacy, and especially the new record, “Southern Blood” — that made him light up. It was my goal to make sure it would be a big, special album, even though that it became clear that Gregg wasn’t necessarily going to be able to promote it, even if he was here, and that was something we were going to be prepared for.

How long was he working on the album?

He started recording probably a year to two years ago with [producer] Don Was and his solo band, he spent about 12 days at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals [Alabama, where classic songs by Aretha Frankin, Wilson Pickett, the Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd and many others were recorded; Allman’s bandmate and brother Duane, who died in 1971, played on several sessions there]. His health at the time was okay, he was already struggling a little with the recurrence of his liver cancer. He would have good days and bad days and we worked around it as best we could. Some days were better than others but there were enough takes to make something really special. We documented a lot of the recording sessions, so we have a tremendous amount of video footage and still photography from the sessions. Gregg was so happy to be at such an iconic studio, where his brother had recorded and so much incredible music had been made over the years.

Gregg’s longtime friend Jackson Browne duets with him on “Song for Adam,” can you say which other guests are on the album and which songs are on it?

It’s comprised of a bunch of really cool covers and a couple of original tunes, but I really can’t say much more beyond that. Gregg really wanted to keep [information about the album] tight and I have to respect his wishes — he wanted to surprise his friends and his fans. But I think it’s a record that everyone’s really going to be excited to hear — his vocals are so compelling, and hearing them and knowing where he was in his life’s journey, it’s just chilling, honestly.

How did you come to work with Gregg?

I’m an attorney by training, I was doing work for [The Who singer] Roger Daltrey and around 2004 I was referred to Gregg by The Who’s business management, who were also representing the Allman Brothers at the time. Gregg was looking for someone new to take on his business. He was coming to New York for some shows and we met within a few days of the opportunity being presented, we hit it off immediately, I was asked to come to that night’s show and he told me I was hired if I wanted it. I worked with him ever since.

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What was he like to work with?

He was a very warm person. He wanted to be involved in his business and he wanted to be respected. For many years he had neglected a lot of his business affairs; he probably didn’t pay attention because of his various struggles with drugs and alcohol over the years. By the time I met him he was clean, and and really wanted someone fresh that would talk about business with him, share ideas partner with him and give him a real sense of having control. He was a great client to have — super easy to work with because he really wanted to be involved. He’d already had an incredible career but unfortunately from time to time had been neglected.

What are some of the accomplishments you and he are most proud of?

I loved to be able to help him shine: He was so warm and so vulnerable and he had never really been given his due. I just wanted to polish what was already so special.

I got Gregg back into the studio — we made four records, two live ones, “Back to Macon” and the “All My Friends” concert [a 2014 career retrospective concert featuring Allman with most of his bandmates and guest appearances from Eric Church, Dr. John, Jackson Browne, Sam Moore, Zac Brown, Taj Mahal and many others], and the studio albums “Low Country Blues” and the new one. I’m very proud that we were able to clean up and organize his music publishing and tastefully market his songs from commercials: we did commercials for Bank of America, Geico and AT&T and we had placements in a lot of films, so he was really happy his that music was getting out there in a tasteful yet commercial way. Obviously there was a financial reward for doing that, but also giving a lot of songs their proper due that people hadn’t heard for years.

Another great joy was being able to turn his words into a best-selling book [“My Cross to Bear,” a 2013 autobiography written with Alan Light], we did a book tour and Gregg loved meeting thousands of fans up close. Another was the Laid Back festival, a partnership between Gregg, myself and Live Nation. The goal was to create a one-day festival of music for the more mature consumer — mature in age, anyway! — and have an elevated food and beverage experience, with diff VIP experiences for the fans. We did the first one at [New York’s] Jones Beach back in 2015, we had five last year, we have six this year and we’ll continue to grow the model in Gregg’s spirit going forward.

But maybe most of all, as a result of the “All My Friends” concert [and subsequent DVD and television broadcasts], we had raised a decent amount of money and with some of the proceeds we set up two scholarships, one at the University of Georgia’s Hodgson School of Music and the other through the Bandier Program at Syracuse University. Gregg took a real interest in them and we followed the careers of the students in those programs.

It was his wish that if anyone wants to make a donation, that they make it to the Gregg Allman Music Scholarship Endowment at the University of Georgia or the Allman/Lehman Endowed Scholarship at Syracuse.

Apart from the new album, how much material is in the vault and do you plan to release it?

We have a lot of old concerts that we’ll put out over a period of time. We did a five-night run at [New York small venue] City Winery in 2015 and we plan on releasing that — it was an incredibly intimate experience playing for just 400 people each of those nights.

Is there material from earlier in his career?

Yes. There are earlier recordings of the Allmans, I can’t really speak about those, but more specifically there are early recordings from Gregg’s solo career that we’ve been working on, some of them from the early ‘70s. Obviously our first focus will be “Southern Blood” this fall, but there’s a huge trove of incredibly special concerts — Gregg recorded every single show, so we have hundreds on tape.

Who were some of his closest musician friends?

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Gregg was a very private person and he would not necessarily see them often but of the other artists he considered to be close friends, I think at the top is Jackson Browne — they go back to their late teens, when they were both starting to make it in L.A. Keith Urban held a special place for Gregg, Tim McGraw, he and Taj Mahal were very good friends, Keb Mo, Dr., John, Elton John, he had a unique group of friends. And very close to the end, he and Jackson were in communication a lot because they were working on “A Song for Adam,” and Jackson wanted to be there for Gregg.

Did he talk much about Duane?

He would think or talk about Duane almost every day. Duane’s presence was very much felt in the house, with pictures and letters and through Duane’s daughter Galadrielle, who Gregg really treated like another of his children. He loved her — she was an ever-present reminder of Duane. I remember, I guess it was during the Allmans’ 40th anniversary concerts, Eric Clapton guested [Duane famously played on Clapton’s 1970 “Layla” album] and I brought Galadrielle into Clapton’s dressing room to introduce them and the they both just started weeping. It was an incredible moment.

But he talked about the early days a lot. I remember once we were in Nashville, where Gregg was born, and I had always asked him to show me his childhood home, and for one reason or another we’d never had time, but one day six or seven years ago we did. So me and Gregg and his closest friend Huell “Chank” Middleton and a driver found his childhood home, he hadn’t been there since he was 6 or 7 years old, but he remembered how to get there. We rang the doorbell and a mother answered, with a couple of kids getting ready for soccer practice, and we just blew her away, she had no idea he had lived there. Gregg spent about 45 minutes there taking pictures and reminiscing, funny stories — “I can’t believe how small Duane’s and my bedroom was,” “This is the tree where Duane tied me up once,” funny, funny stories. We were there for a concert and we invited the whole family down.

You’ve said he was at peace. Can you talk about that a bit more?

I would say he knew for the last six months that he was getting toward the end of his life, and he became resolved and peaceful. We cancelled [tour] dates when we had to, but we ended up playing through the end of October — we’d hoped to get through the end of the year but he’d had another bout of pneumonia and other respiratory ailments. But for good or bad, he got to be home and relax, even though his true passion was being on the road. He’d listen to music, read books, see his kids, he got married to Shannon in February so he was able to take advantage of that time with her and being at his house, sitting by the pool, playing with his dogs. And thank goodness he did not suffer at the end, he died peacefully at home.

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    1. Shelly says:

      People should get their facts straight before they write an article. Greg had five kids not four. Michael, Devon, Elijah Blue, Delilah Island and Layla Brooklyn. Michael is the oldest and so many articles don’t mention him…..sad.

    2. Carol Starmont says:

      He had 5 kids.

    3. Gregory Winkle says:

      My life was forever altered in 1975 when I was introduced to the ABB. Live at Fillmore East, Eat a Peach, and Brothers and Sisters albums set the daily tones for my cousins and myself. We were part of the ABB extended family, and will be forever. We saw every show of ABB and The Gregg Allman Band in the Bay Area since 1989. Many show were seen at the Beacon, traveling across country just for the shows, by my cousins. When i fought cancer twice, hearing the soulful music gave me the groove to push forward. Long live the ABB and the family it has created.

    4. Rick Daniels says:

      Gregg’s music is the soundtrack of my entire life. I thought a great deal of this man. I will miss him but will always have his music for memories.

    5. pete garl says:

      After haven’t cancer my self with a major surgery 2 years ago. If it wasn’t for the southern rock like gregg and b a nds like lynard skinard. I’m not sure I would of made it this long. Never seen either band in concert It would of been great to have to. But that’s life

    6. George D Oliphant says:

      My name is George Oliphant from Annapolis, Maryland. I used to be Night Manager at Loews Hotel. We used to do all the housing for Ramshead Onstage shows. Gregg came into the hotel . His show at the Ramshead had been sold out for 6 months. Anyway we had several lengthy conversations, then he asked me…”would you like to go to the show at the Ramshead Thursday night? “Of course I said yes, but I reminded him that it had been sold out for quite some time. He said ” let me see what I can do”. On the afternoon of the show he was waiting for me in the lobby. He waved me over and said that he got me in to the show and I could bring a guest. Incredible that he would do that for me!!! Truly just an incredibly nice human being!!! We’ll miss you in Annapolis!!!!

    7. Rick johnson says:

      Gregg was the best he had a heard for southern blues my gurl christina told me am waiting on Gregg allman at lives seafood 2012 I told her tell Gregg I lk to meet him she did he said o yea and told her my friend Dave run pawn ship richmanhill he said yea I been there before she all so seen him at Walmart 17 she ash for a pic he said sure she sent it to me other day you be very missed man you send me a friend request face bk 5wks ago and now I never met u here but god has you now man ur at peace my Palm was from macon GA to I rember the good old days watching sonny cher lived um to rest in peace bro slickrick midway GA

    8. His music will keep him alive forever! He left a legend !!!! Sad

    9. Karan says:

      The Allman Brothers Music will forever live on and Gregg’s solo Music will as well. I have alot of memories with certain songs and music will always be my personal favorite form of “Therapy” GODSPEED Gregg Allman till we all meet again!!

    10. Shannon Spoto says:

      Gregg has 5 children!! Michael Sean Allman is his son too!

    11. Don Plaisance says:

      Gregg and Duane Allman: the greatest artists of the rock era, excluding the Beatles.

    12. Southern Boy says:

      “Wake up Mama, turn your lamp down low.” And so sang Gregg, at the beginning of four of the greatest minutes of live music in history: I am referring, of course, to “Statesboro Blues,” the first track on the “Fillmore East” album, that serves as a foretaste of what is to come over the next couple of hours.

      Who would have known? The entire album makes you shake your head in wonder: How could that much amazing music have come together in one set of performances? Truly it has stood the test of time.

      And so did Gregg as well. The recognition he is receiving is a testament to what he and the rest of the band created – not just that night, but over the course of over 40 years.

    13. Shcott says:

      Well, I do feel bad, but at least he doesn’t have to live in a world anymore where Donald Trump is President.

    14. Bob says:

      Does anyone know if there was ‘bad blood’ between Robbie Robertson and Gregg? Robbie usually posts goodbyes to fellow musician/performances on his website but not Gregg’s. Just wonderin…

    15. mark johnson says:

      I’ll never forget the band had played in Macon Ga. . Had been a while back in early 90’s. it was at 548 Broadway next store to Capricorn studio. Alan Walden ‘s office, any way , we had a post party jam and I was on drums , we had a Yamaha dx7 for him to play . he took one look and said ain’t no B 3 !?! gimmie a guitar ! Loose Change . The Wall , Stillwater got ready to play ” Done Somebody Wrong ” he turns and looks at me and says : What’s the first line ???? LOL I told him and halfway thru it he say’s oh yea yea yea . we nailed it ! and all I could see was that long blonde hair …. it was a good night

    16. Mike says:

      The Allman Brothers Band shaped my musical taste as a youngster. I was fortunate enough to have been able to see them several times…Never with Duane I was too young. I love Gregg and will miss him dearly as an iconic musician and warm person that he appeared to be. Its difficult just knowing that I’ll never be able to watch him live again…I was planning trip back east to see him prior to him canceling his tour…God be kind to Gregg as he was very kind to all of us!

    17. Elaine Mc. says:

      Gregg will be missed. I am so sad he is gone, but he has another journey to take. My brother was the original fan, and when I listened to the Allman Bros music, I fell in love with the style. Rest well my friend! Thank you for making such wonderful music that lit up the world!

    18. Gerry Wand says:

      My oldest brother, Dave, turned me on to the Allman Brothers when I was 12, and I was blown away! I saw them for the first time in 1969 at the former Expo 67 site in Montreal, and again at the Watkins Glenn concert with the Band and the Grateful Dead, and whenever or wherever I could. My 3 brothers and I were lifelong fans. The joy I feel whenever I listen to Les Brers in their various incarnations, or solo work, is amazing. Losing Gregg so soon after Butch passed away hurts, but we will always have the music to pull us through. RIP brother, go join that great big band in the sky, and thank you for all the joy you brought to us with your music.
      G. Wand, Montreal, Canada

    19. Mike Magouirk says:

      Lynyrd Skynyrd didn’t record at Fame Studios; but at the “spin-off” Muscle Shoals Studios which was started by the Fame “House Band” The Swampers. Remember the lyric in Sweet Home Alabama? Muscle Shoals has the Swampers,…

    20. funkifiyo says:

      My heart goes out to Gregg’s family and friends. The Allman brothers changed my life and I’m so thankful I got to see them close to 30 times over the years. As well as Gregg solo a few times. He was a consummate musician and will be terribly missed by so many people. He was truly one of the greatest singer’s and organ player’s ever in rock..and certainly helped create what we know as Southern rock..as well as inspire the entire jamband scene! It’s nice to know that he didn’t suffer in the end as well as had a bunch of good talks with Dickie Betts..really cool that they settled their differences. Would have been great if that happened sooner cause I’d have done anything to see them play together again but can’t have everything. RIP BROTHER GREGG ALLMAN. You’ve certainly earned it!! His music will live on forever and he may be gone but he’ll never be forgotten!

    21. ….and the silence of the band was deafening. RIP Mr. Allman. The space you held on this earth will be forever preserved, no one could fill it.

    22. Mark Byrne says:

      GOD BLESS. R.I.P. Thank you for all your music and this story I just read. Byrne

    23. Sal Mineo II says:

      You’re trumpeting this as an “exclusive?” Lehman’s given this interview about 75 times since Saturday. You’re not fooling anyone.

      • Kenny Hensley says:

        Wow. It’d be nice, if you must comment, to please follow Wheaton’s First Law…”Don’t be a dick.” There was no reason for you to bash this article, and if you’ve read something similar somewhere else, don’t click. Simple.

    24. misconduckt says:

      i am 61, been listening to the Allmans since I was 15, theirs was the music to my life. Thank you, rest easy sir

    25. Thomas costello says:

      Rest easy Mr.Gregg

    26. My beautiful sister Annita Musto Price disappeared in 1974 and has never been found. She loved the song #MIDNIGHTRIDER and so do I! It has helped me through a lot of long, lonely, sad nights, I have posted it all over my FB page for many yrs. Thank you #GREGGALLMAN and God Speed, I hope you sing it in heaven and I hope she is there to hear it. The Midnight Rider rides away!

    27. Craig Dietrich says:

      Funny not one mention of Dickey Betts, Dickey was a driving force and wrote a performed many of The Allman Brothers hits, and not one word about him???

      • funkifiyo says:

        I mentioned Dickey in my comment but why should this article mention him when we’re talking about Gregg, his life and his last days? Jeez man..one of the greatest just passes away and you’re complaining about Betts not being mentioned? Neither was Berry Oakley or Butch Trucks. Ain’t about anyone besides Gregg and the article isn’t long.

    28. Denise Byrd says:

      I feel as if a member of my family has passed. My brother just home from Viet Nam, took me to a concert in Birmingham, AL in 1971 and it was amazing. The music will live on forever!

    29. Alice Searcy says:

      God love him. I saw every show i could when he came to the area. The last place I saw him was Shreveport Municipal Auditorium. He can come and linger with the spirits there if he wants to. God bless him and I cant wait for the new album.

    30. cowgirldiva says:

      R.I.P. Son of the South…..You will be missed…!! Your music WILL live on..!!

    31. Ray says:

      He was one of kind and will be missed

    32. Last time I saw Gregg play was with ABB at the Beacon during one of their last legendary runs there. And before that it was the Low Country Blues tour (I was on the street team). What a body of work he create! And that voice! This article was very thoughtful and I think the author did a great job. Finally, I am glad he married Shannon. She was there for him and there was great love. That’s priceless. Peace to you, Gregg Allman. Condolences to the family.

    33. Brenda says:

      RIP Gregg. I cant wait to hear the new band in heaven.

    34. Liz says:

      His aura was ubiquitous with the Holy Spirit, walk with angels and feel eternal peace with your brother, Father and Lord in heaven. Amen❤️🙏😇

    35. crazyhawk58 says:

      Like Kat said, he had five children. I don’t know why everyone’s forgetting his oldest son, Michael. Please change the story. Gregory, baby, I miss you so.

    36. Michele says:

      It Really Does Sound Like Mr. Michael Lehman Gregg Allman’s Manager Was More Than Just A Manager But A Friend That Truly Cared About Gregg Allman.

    37. Kat says:

      He had 5 children…do your research

      • Shelly says:

        Yes, 5 kids not 4…. 3 boys and 2 girls. Seems many articles I’ve read mention only 4 kids. I think they forget or don’t know about Michael, his oldest son. I’ve also read some articles that mention his 3 sons, but only 1 daughter, instead of two. All are musicians except 1. There is a duet online with his youngest daughter Layla Brooklyn (who goes by Brooklyn) singing The Sky is Cryin…so good, they sound great together.

    38. James Temple says:

      I went to two of those shows at City Winery in NYC at the end of 2015 and they were amazingly good. I actually enjoyed them more than the last few times that I saw the AB at The Beacon as it was all Gregg and more soulful. He seemed so happy and played a lot of guitar in addition to organ. I’m happy that they are considering releasing music from that run. RIP to one of the best!

      • funkifiyo says:

        Really wish I went to the city winery gigs. I’ve seen The Allman brothers and Gregg alot but that would have been sweet in such an intimate place. Saw his gtr player Scott Sharrard last night at a beer garden in coney island. He really wasn’t up for playing but he sucked it up and played his ass off. No Allman tunes but I understood why.. Definitely too painful for him. Looking forward to the album when it comes out. Can’t believe I’ll never see Gregg play again.

    39. Dunstan says:

      During a cross-country trip the summer of ’67, I was fortunate to see Duane’s and Gregg’s earlier band, the HourGlass. They opened for Canned Heat at the Whiskey on the strip.

      A few years later, shortly after the release of “Idlewild South,” The Allmans played my college. They did two shows in our very funky and small gym and they were amazing.

      Prior to that show, some kid, who was completely whacked on one or more drugs, jumped up on the stage and tried to swipe one of their amp tops. In seconds, their roadies were on this kid, with one, Kim (a former Macon, GA cop) beating the living daylights out of him. It took four other guys to pull him off of that kid.

      For years I’d wished that a live recording of that college show was available. And then, decades later, the AB released that very show on CD as the first of many archival live recordings. That particular concert was only a few weeks prior to the legendary Fillmore East shows, memorialized on the “Live at Fillmore East” double vinyl albums.

      So long, Gregg. And thanks for the music.

      • funkifiyo says:

        Oh man I’m so jealous you got to see them that early. My 1st show of their’s was around ’84/’85. I should have been born earlier for sure! More than any other gtr player I wish I could have seen Duane!! As well as Berry Oakley.

    40. Bruce kretch says:

      We lost a real Legend! Loved his book which really gave you a good insight to him as a person and the life he led. Just amazing his passion for live shows and how tireless he was. He gave music and his fans everything they could have ever want! RIP GREGG! We all love you!

    41. Doris Bloch says:

      What a fabulous interview with great insight as to what a good person Gregg was and how lucky he was to find a manager like Michael Lehman. It sounds like they were really friends too, which was so nice for both of them. D.E.L.

    42. Andy says:

      Indeed a very nice interview. We know Gregg was private and those around him undoubtedly respected that. Thank you for finding the balance and sharing your thoughts.

    43. RIP, Gregg Allman. You are the author of some of the greatest American music and the namesake head man in one of the greatest jam bands anyone has ever heard. Let’s put ‘Jessica’ on an endless loop.

      • Steve says:

        Jessica was written by Dickey Betts about his daughter. The ABB didn’t play the song after Dickey got kicked out.

        • aiko says:

          actually the brothers did play “jessica” post-betts and on a regular basis.
          the last performance of that song was october 25, 2014 at the beacon in nyc.

    44. Ann in Los Angeles says:

      Thank you, what a wonderful interview. And the last line says it all. Blessings Gregg. And to your loved ones too.

    45. Shelly says:

      Meant Layla Brooklyn not Kayla

    46. Shelly says:

      Greg Allman had 5 kids not 4 – Michael, Devon, Elijah, Delilah Island and Layla Brooklyn. He was a music icon and will be missed RIP.

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