On January 12th, 1995, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame hosted their 10th-annual induction ceremony at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel. The year’s class featured a number of universally-renowned performers including Al Green, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Martha and the Vandellas, Neil Young, Frank Zappa, and The Allman Brothers Band. This particular year spawned an array of storylines, from Robert Plant‘s dismissive attitude toward his former bandmates to Lou Reed being booed by the crowd as he inducted the late Frank Zappa. However, likely the most consequential narrative from the 1995 ceremony surrounded Gregg Allman.
Willie Nelson had the honor of introducing the Allmans, and his speech was appropriately reverent. “When the Allman Brothers Band came up on the scene in 1969,” he said, “They created a whole new genre of music and their southern rock was an exciting fusion of rock, jazz country, and blues, and was reflective of the emergence of the new South. And like many of us in those days who came from the South, we grew up in an environment of music that included a bit of everything. Music was not confined to such rigid formats, and the Allman Brothers Band took what moved them and merged it into something unique that audiences love, a sound that redefined the direction of rock and roll and opened the doors to a spirit of experimentation that continues in today’s music. The Allman Brothers Band defined southern rock. They had tremendous influence on the many who followed in their footsteps, and they could be imitated, but never duplicated.”
Willie went on to speak about how the band hit the road “with a vengeance” to spread their southern rock gospel throughout the country, commend their perseverance in pushing through the deaths of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, and more. You can watch Willie Nelson induct the Allman Brothers Band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame below:
Willie Nelson Inducts The Allman Brothers Band At 1995 Rock Hall Induction
[Video: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame]
After Willie’s speech, the band members made their way to the stage to accept their recognition and thank those who helped them. However, for Gregg Allman, this wasn’t a triumphant moment of reflection. Trapped in the throes of alcohol addiction, Allman was a shell of his normal self at the ceremony. When it was his turn to speak, a clearly-inebriated Gregg stepped to the microphone to thank “the greatest friend, brother, guitar player, and inspiration I’ve ever known, my brother, Duane,” adding that “He was always the first to face the fire. He was my greatest motivation.” Gregg did not thank anyone else (unlike most other inductees that evening, like Neil Young).
The Allman Brothers Band – Rock Hall Induction Speeches
[Video: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame]
The sentiment Gregg conveyed was a touching one, but his slurred speech and battered appearance told a different story. In his 2012 memoirs, My Cross To Bear, Gregg refers to the Allmans’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction—and the two high-profile TV spots the band played in the week leading up to it—as his rock bottom.
“It should have been the greatest week of my life, but instead I hit an all-time low,” he explains. “The Allman Brothers Band, the band my brother started, the band with our name on it, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I flat-out missed it. I was physically there, but otherwise I was out of it—mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I was drunk, man, just shitfaced drunk, the entire time. Welcome to the story of my life.” He goes on to explain how he had meant to thank a great number of people, but by the time he got to the podium, he had been drinking for days on end and was unable to muster anything beyond his beleaguered tribute to Duane.
In My Cross To Bear, Allman also speaks of looking back on the pre-ceremony media gigs—one on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and the other on The Late Show with David Letterman—with embarrassment. In remembering the Letterman performance, he notes that he looked “puffy and bloated from the booze” and laments that “I don’t even recognize the guy singing ‘Midnight Rider’.”
While the Allman Brothers’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on this day in 1995 was Gregg’s low point, his embarrassment at his composure prompted him to make an important decision. Once the band’s Hall of Fame duties were completed, Allman checked himself into rehab. He got clean. He went on to record a number of solo albums and revive the Allman Brothers Band with a revamped lineup (including Derek Trucks, Oteil Burbridge and a now-full-time Warren Haynes) for several more successful years.
When Gregg Allman passed away on May 27th, 2017, the music world mourned the loss of a giant who had stood the test of time and battled through countless hardships along the way. Had it not been for the debacle that was the Allman Brothers Band’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, Gregg’s story would likely have been much shorter. On a day when we mark the anniversary of something cringe-worthy and unpleasant, we can still be thankful that it gave Gregg the push he needed to stop going “by the point of caring” and choose to clean up and keep soldiering down that never-ending road.
The Allman Brothers Band – “Midnight Rider” – The Beacon Theatre – 3/7/14
[Originally publish 1/12/19]