BRADENTON — A key player of the national Southern rock scene, and a beloved local, has passed.
David “Frankie” Toler — former Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman Band and Marshall Tucker Band drummer — died at 2 p.m. Saturday at Tidewell hospice care in Bradenton after a prolonged illness following a liver transplant.
He was 59.
Marshall Tucker Band lead singer Doug Gray worked with his friend from 1992 to ’94.
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“Frankie’s personality was so big — it stuck out farther than his mighty drumsticks,” Gray said when reached by phone Monday. “I didn’t know anybody who couldn’t talk to him.”
Gray paused and added, “There are a lot of people who love Frankie. I’m just one.”
Mr. Toler is survived by his wife, Marsha; their daughter, Aja Kayle; and his older brother, Dan Toler, who played with Frankie in the Allman Brothers Band, the Gregg Allman Band and several other projects. Dan Toler headlined MacFest in downtown Bradenton on May 14.
“Frankie was absolutely the best drummer I have ever played with in my entire life,” Dan said in a statement.
“He was a part of my life for the past 60 years and to lose him now is just devastating,” he continued. “But I did have the opportunity to grow up with one of the best rock ’n’ roll drummers in the world and it was truly a gift from God. I was blessed to have known him.”
Mr. Toler’s health had been in decline for several years and had prevented him from recording and going on tour. But after receiving a liver transplant two years ago, he had been able to play at some band rehearsals.
His health worsened in recent weeks, though, and he arrived at Tidewell on Wednesday. Marsha Toler remained by her husband’s side the entire time. Dan Toler and Chaz Trippy — percussionist for the Gregg Allman Band, who played next to and roomed with Frankie from 1982 to ’89 — were also present when he passed.
“When we got there Wednesday, Danny rubbed Frankie’s nose like they used to as kids,” Trippy recalled. “Each day, Frankie got worse. “Saturday, Danny arrived and Frankie opened his eyes — they were big, bright blue — and then they closed and he wasn’t breathing. It was like he waited until Danny got there to see him one last time.”
Trippy, who lives in Sarasota and performs with the Gumbo Boogie Band, described Frankie as “the sweetest guy you’d ever want to meet.”
“He was my best friend,” Trippy said. “We had some fun together and he set the world on fire when he played.”
The Toler brothers appeared with Allman at the 1994 Sarasota Blues Fest. Barbara Strauss, the festival’s producer, has cited the huge crowd that year witnessing such a stirring performance by Allman and the Tolers as playing a major role in turning the struggling annual event around. The Sarasota Blues Fest has ranked as the most highly anticipated music bash in Sarasota and Manatee counties ever since.
“It’s a sad day in Sarasota, Bradenton and in the music world in general,” Strauss said. “Danny and Frankie — you always said them in one sentence.
“They’ll always be loved by everyone. Our hearts are broken but there are no words for what Danny and Frankie’s family must be going through.”
Mr. Toler came to national attention as the drummer on Dickey Betts & Great Southern’s 1978 album “Atlanta’s Burning Down” and toured extensively with the group.
He was then asked to be the drummer for the Allman Brothers Band and appeared on their 1981 album “Brothers of the Road,” which featured the Top 40 hit single “Straight from the Heart.”
When Gregg Allman began planning his solo album at the time, he only had one drummer in mind for his new band: Frankie Toler. Mr. Toler recorded two albums with Allman — including the 1986 gold record “I’m No Angel” — and toured as the drummer with The Gregg Allman Band.
“Frankie was a big part of that era of the Brothers,” Gregg Allman told Relix.com after learning of Mr. Toler’s passing. “We had amazing times and we stayed great friends. I’m gonna miss him.”
Mr. Toler told friends and family he did not want a funeral.
Instead, he requested a celebration.
“We’re going to have a big, blast-off jam for him,” Trippy said. “I’m not sure when it’s going to be yet, but it will be a huge one and a good one. It will be hard to keep people from coming down to play for Frankie.”
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at (941) 745-7057. Visit his blog at Bradenton.com/blogs.By WADE TATANGELOwtatangelo@bradenton.com