Gregg Allman was happy to be back.
During a phone conversation on a Friday afternoon in late September, he was settling in after a trip to visit his 96-year-old mother in Florida.
"She's as healthy as can be," Allman said.
But he said it was nice to return to Georgia, the place he moved to ride his motorcycle.
Born in Tennessee, Allman and his brother, Duane, were raised in Florida. They both fell in love with blues music and bikes. Allman remembers riding in the back seat of the family car -- back before major highways -- and passing a Harley-Davidson shop near Savannah.
"Someday," Allman recalled thinking, "I'm going to love it here."
But the blues kept calling and, eventually birthed The Allman Brothers Band. Just after the band broke out in 1971, Duane died in a motorcycle accident. Allman carried on with the blues music and the bikes. Allman Brothers earned several gold and platinum albums, and in 1995, landed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Allman lived near San Francisco for a while, but it was sometimes a hassle to ride, so he moved back down south in 1999. And, after multiple improvement and landscaping projects, he now has his own oasis.
But he doesn't mind leaving it to see new places, especially when a factory tour might be involved. When he learned about the Harley plant in York County -- about 40 minutes from his Sunday concert at Hershey Theatre -- he considered changing his schedule to check it out.
"That's a drag to go to a town and leave," he added.
But that's just part of life on the road -- a subject of many Allman tunes. He said he's written most of them at hotel pianos.
"When (musical inspiration) hits you, no matter where you are, you have to lay it down," he said.
The itch has hauled him out of bed at night so many times, he now keeps an iPhone nearby so he can jot down notes.
And, after a July 2010 liver transplant, Allman was spending more time in bed than on stage.
Suffering from cancer, cirrhosis and Hepatitis C, he had been ready to bow out before the surgery.
But he said he "made out like a bandit" when doctors removed most of the disease with his liver. Still, the recovery was slow.
"It wasn't until Christmas of 2012 that I stopped hurting," he said. "I didn't have any energy; I was in pain. I had my tour starting the day after Christmas, and I was starting to sweat. You know if you have enough sauce to do it. You can't go out there and fake it."
But around Dec. 23, something changed.
"I came out of bed like a spring," he said. "God saved me. I should have been gone long ago. Now, it seems that with each measure of time, I get more passionate about the music."
It had always been in the background, but digging back into the blues has re-energized Allman, 65. He said the genre and its dedicated disciples have led to Allman Brothers' longevity -- about 45 years and running. The group might or might not have fathered southern rock, but it did spawned Gov't Mule and Tedeschi Trucks Band. Allman also tours solo, which is what brings him to Hershey this weekend.
At some point in the journey, he decided to stop and take some notes. Almost by accident, that turned into "My Cross to Bear," Allman's unabashed memoir released last year.
"That was my journal,"' he said. "I started it in '81."
He figured that it would be an entertaining read when he was an old fogey rocking on his porch.
After filling several pages, he decided to dictate the rest. The hardest part, he added, was staying in chronological order. His road crew helped prompt him with dates.
Not too long ago, Allman's manager stopped in and noticed a lumpy duffle bag in a corner.
"That's my life," Allman told him. The bag was filled with about 70 pounds of tape, which eventually became the memoir.
"We had to "¦ take out some personal stuff," Allman added. "Some of it's a little risque. There is so much untold stuff. I could write another book."
But first, Allman said, pausing while plotting his next journey, he's working on some other recordings -- musical ones.
Contact Erin McCracken at 717-771-2051.
If you go
After wrapping a tour with his classic blues/rock group The Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman is on a solo tour. Hear him 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, at The Hershey Theatre, 15 E. Caracas Ave., Hershey. Tickets cost $45, $59 and $99. For details and tickets, call 717-534-3405 or visit www.hersheytheatre.com.
Gregg Allman: www.greggallman.com.
The Allman Brothers Band: www.allmanbrothersband.com
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