In 2009 Gregg Allman flew to Los Angeles to record his first solo album in fourteen years. The producer was the famous T Bone Burnett. “It started off so quick,” Allman says from his home on the Georgia coast. “Right away we had four tunes. Some were first takes. There were no interruptions, no strife, no drama.”
The drama came later, when Allman saw his doctors. “They diagnosed me with cancer,” he says. “That was the scariest part—three malignant tumors on my liver. I saw my funeral flash before my eyes. [But] it was not my time, and thank God.”
Allman’s years of hard living are no secret. (I once met him for breakfast in a motel bar; he ordered a screwdriver.) But while the years of alcohol abuse had done nothing to help his liver, it was hepatitis C that made it vulnerable to cancer. Allman suspects he caught the disease through a contaminated needle four decades ago. Treated successfully in 1999, the disease flared again in 2009. On June 23, 2010, Allman underwent a successful transplant. Today he is a spokesman with the American Liver Foundation, raising awareness about the disease that almost killed him.
It’s been a watershed year for the sixty-three-year-old. The solo album with Burnett, Low Country Blues, debuted in January at number five on the Billboard Top 200. He wants to record a new Allman Brothers Band album. He hasn’t touched alcohol or drugs in fifteen years and now has the liver of a thirty-year-old.
Declares Allman in a voice strong and sober: “This is an absolute second chance.”
Photograph by Danny Clinch