Many longtime Manatee County residents remember Gregg Allman from when he lived on Anna Maria Island in the late 1970s. The rock star notoriously partied at places such as the old Oar House. Meanwhile, Devon Allman grew up in Texas and Missouri, never really knowing his famous father.
The two men share the same blond hair and facial features. Devon’s husky voice recalls that of his father’s, minus the Southern drawl. Gregg is in his early 60s and has been sober since the mid-’90s. He’s still very active as leader of the Allman Brothers Band and his namesake solo group. Devon is about half his dad’s age and leading Honeytribe.
Music, in large part, finally united father and son. Attendees at the 2006 Sarasota Blues Festival witnessed that bond first hand. Honeytribe performed an impressive set of blues-rock originals and an emotive cover of the Bob Marley classic “No Woman, No Cry” during an afternoon set. Later that day, Gregg Allman led his outstanding solo group through a killer homecoming performance that elated the audience of thousands. A major highlight came when Devon lent his voice to his dad’s signature song “Midnight Rider.” After the number ended, father and son shared a big hug while the crowd roared.
“Growing up, he was super busy,” Devon said via phone from his St. Louis home. “Now, I’m super-busy. It’s rare for us to be able to do a song together. So, when we do, it’s very poignant.”
Devon returns to Sarasota to play Pastimes Pub on Sunday, June 7. Honeytribe will perform material from its debut album, “Torch,” which came out in 2006. Devon has also written fresh tunes for a new disc tentatively titled “Space Age Blues.”
He plans to debut songs from it and then pepper the set with more familiar stuff.
The singer/songwriter has been known to do fierce renditions of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses,” and, yes, “Midnight Rider.”
“I don’t want to divulge which ones we’ll play,” Devon said with laugh. “We don’t make set lists. Our shows have a real spontaneous feel. It’s fun to keep it fresh.”
The day before performing in Sarasota, Devon’s Honeytribe plays the Wanee Festival in Live Oak. The Allman Brothers Band has headlined the event every year except 2008, because of Gregg’s bout with hepatitis C. The Allman Brothers Band returns this year along with Buddy Guy, Gov’t Mule, The Doobie Brothers, Little Feat, Susan Tedeschi, Drive-By Truckers and numerous other acts that fall into the blues, roots, alt-country, jam band classic rock categories.
“It’s a totally family vibe there,” Devon said. “It’s pretty sacred and we’re really happy to be a part of it.”
This year marks the Allman Brothers Band’s 40th anniversary. Not too many rock acts — especially one’s with such strong reputations for past hard living — last that long. Devon aspires to follow in his dad’s footsteps and play for as many years as possible. “Luckily, we play the kind of music that doesn’t look stupid to be played by a 70-year-old,” Devon said. “The old man is, what, 62 (years old)? And looks great. I can’t see him stopping. That’s my inspiration.”
Plus, Devon hasn’t had the infamous battles with alcohol and drug addiction that periodically crippled and nearly killed Gregg Allman. It’s a sticky subject and Devon laughed nervously when confronted with it. He then related what his dad told him.
“If I went through that crap to keep my offspring out of it then I didn’t go down that road in vain,” Devon recalled his father saying. “I’m the perfect example of what not to do.’”
“I did have a run with drinking but realized it didn’t make me a loving member of society,” Devon continued.
“I don’t do drugs and I don’t do drink. I play guitar and drink Starbucks. I’ve broken the chain (of substance and alcohol abuse) and hope my son follows.”