Guitar legend, Bradenton resident Dan Toler dies

mclear@bradenton.comFebruary 26, 2013 

Two years ago, guitar legend Dan Toler learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, colloquially called Lou Gehrig's disease.

"I do not know how long I have and actually none of us do, but I would say my chances are slim," he told the Bradenton Herald shortly after. "Right now I still have good use of my arms and hands and hopefully will have for a few years, if I'm lucky."

He made that comment through an email, because the disease had already made it almost impossible for him to speak.

Mr. Toler died Monday morning. He was a Braden-ton-area resident who be-came a major force in the Southern rock music scene through his work withthe Allman Brothers Band, the Gregg Allman Band and Dickey Betts & Great Southern.

"Dan Toler passed away

this morning from complications of ALS, at home," his manager, Glen Halverson, said Monday.

Halverson expects to know about memorial arrangements Wednesday.

Mr. Toler was able to play for quite a while after ALS deteriorated his speech. In March 2012, Halverson said, he saw Mr. Toler play a show in Macon, Ga.

"I could barely understand what he was saying," Halverson said. "But as far as I could tell his playing wasn't affected at all."

Among the shows he played after his diagnosis were a series of star-filled benefits in the Bradenton area that his fellow musicians arranged to raise money for his medical care. Mr. Toler once again played alongside Betts and other members of the Allman Brothers Band, Great Southern, the Marshall Tucker Band and Blackhawk.

Dan Toler was a rock guitarist, but he mixed jazz into his playing. Many of his recent projects could be categorized as jazz fusion. He frequently collaborated with John Townsend of the pop-oriented Sanford-Townsend Band (best known for the 1976 hit "Smoke From a Distant Fire").

His last recording was with a band called TGZ that included Toler, Townsend, jazz keyboardist Ron Gary and rock guitarist Ed Zinner.

"He was legendary," Halverson said. "There are plenty of guitarists who worship the ground he walked on."

Mr. Toler also played in several bands with his brother, drummer David "Frankie" Toler. They worked together in the Allman Brothers Band and the Gregg Allman Band, and later formed the Toler Bros., which produced one album in 1994. He was the guitarist on the Gregg Allman Band's biggest hit, "I'm No Angel," in 1987.

His brother died in 2011.

Dan Toler was noted almost as much for his spirit as for his music. "He was very generous, especially with his fans," Halverson said. "He would stay after concerts and sign every autograph and answer every question about the Allman Brothers or whatever people wanted to talk about."

Mr. Toler faced his disease with phenomenal composure, Halverson said.

"I can't say it didn't faze him," he said. "But you couldn't tell. It didn't diminish his spirit. It did not affect the person he was."

Mr. Toler is survived by his wife, Debbie; his daughter, Danielle Franz; his son-in-law, Dan; and his mother-in-law, Louise Rose.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist can be reached at 941-748-0411. ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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