I have to admit, there was more than just an air of excitement as Sande Caplin and I waited in the low- lighted, atmospheric bar at Aces. I had grown up listening to the Allman Brothers and was lucky enough to see Duane Allman’s last performance in Richmond, Va., but I knew this had little to do with the other Allmans…that this was going to be about Michael and Michael, alone. He is not walking in anyone’s shadow. Michael casts his own shadow, to be sure!
Michael arrived with some of his entourage, and with his woman, the lovely Lady Jane. I am calling her that because she is a most extraordinary woman with countless talents and an enthusiasm that keeps Michael on his toes. In fact, when I played the interview back in the privacy of my own home, I’d find snippets of Jane and me talking about purses, eye makeup and how beautiful her eyes are. It was easy to get off track with Lady Jane….besides her very glamorous appearance and style, she is so positive and extremely modest about being a retired pharmacist, as was her father, and a concert-level pianist. What could be more perfect for this couple than sharing their love of music and communicating through it? “I grew up in the Pentecostal church in Kentucky. Our genres don’t fit, musically, but I’m learning to love Southern Rock.” Janie has a great personality, and although they only met 10 months ago, they’ve been together ever since. They met in a club and Janie requested they play Stairway to Heaven. Michael said “no” but he was intrigued by her anyway. Like any other couple, they do fight here and there. Then they have makeup sex, and I’m not talking lipstick and mascara! (I know I will hear about this!)
Meeting Michael was a trip. He has this tough-guy exterior and he’s about 3 feet taller than I am, so until I got on a bar stool next to him I was getting whiplash trying to look up to him. To me he was a gentle giant; he told me he’s an open book and nothing I write will hurt him in any way. Why would I want to hurt this giant Teddy Bear? Michael never had the benefit of riding on his father’s coat tails. Gregg Allman was consistently absent from Michael’s life with the exception of the year Mike spent living with Gregg at age 17 on Anna Maria Island, where he got tight with Danny Toler and so many other musicians hanging out on AMI at Gregg’s.
I wanted to take a leap of faith and ask Michael about him having survived cancer and he was so open to share that dark time. Living with ex- wife and his children at the time, he says he called every possible private and public source of medical care and was refused treatment for his cancer by them all. He finally got enough money together for surgery, due to the grace and compassion of a state health worker. He refused radiation or chemo. He had seen his mother’s cancer, beginning with her breasts, and spreading all through her body. She is still alive, luckily, and you can tell Michael knows the real responsibilities of a hard life, having his mother so ill with cancer and raising his twin siblings. Brings to mind the sentence in John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery”…”to believe in this living is just a hard way to go.” Amen to that.
Doctors recently did a full workup and there are no signs of cancer, and his doc told Michael he made the right choice, refusing chemo. Michael’s Mom must be on chemo forever. She lives in Georgia.
The Michael Allman Band performs all over Florida, on and the Jersey shore, in North Carolina and parts unknown, spontaneously. He loves to help young-uns, he says. He loves to mentor up-and-coming young artists. He spoke of Cassidy Diana, a 13 year old who he (under duress) let up on stage. She had overheard Michael saying to the stage manager, “this better be good” and she blew his mind, then went home and wrote the song “This Better Be Good.” Michael says she will be a star and is an unbelievable songwriter as well as vocalist and guitar player. She has now gone to Nashville and is recording there. Her Dad went to war and came home, thankfully, in one piece. The link to “This Better Be Good” is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR7YZ4QkvAo
Do you play instruments, I asked. “I stink at drums and tried guitar and I don’t have it but respect it.” So Michael’s instrument is his bluesy, gravel-like voice. Is Warren Smith your drummer? Yes he is. We’ve only been together 10 months and already we have a tight sound and a band of guys that are all on the same page. Right hand man Mark Shane, plays lead guitar and vocals, and is the coordinator, or glue, that keeps the band in the right place at the right time. He is definitely the organizer. They hit it off instantly. Shawn Paige is an amazing guitarist who did his first performance at age 9.. Marc Diaz is incredible. He still has an innocence about him and is very kind. In fact, the band protects him like big brothers. He gets very excited and is getting the attention that he deserves, musically. Lonny Sarao is the keyboardist extraordinaire and collaborates with Mark Shane. Mark Smith is second drummer in the process but had to go to Ca. The Band’s third rehearsal was the day before this interview! Michael and Janie’s home base is Newport Richie. We briefly mentioned the Florida Blues Brothers, who drop in on the spur of the moment at the band’s performances and since The Michael Allman Band knows three of their tunes they don’t need to use their music track to get their beat on.
Favorite towns and clubs for the band are Aces and The Funky Biscuit. Intimate dining, great food, stage, staff and lighting. Boondocs is another place they love, but Michael says “I’ll go any place I’m invited back. I have a weird and crazy reputation. Years ago I was a carpenter and my voice wasn’t ready.” So I said “You had to drink a lot and smoke for years to get this voice: the frog- in-the- throat, sexy-bluesy voice.” He tried to tell me that the sound has something to do with saliva on the back of your tongue and what you do with said saliva. We were laughing out-of-control!