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Gregg Allman talks set lists, health and upcoming film


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It’s just past noon, but Gregg Allman is putting the finishing chews on his breakfast at his home outside of Savannah.

He’s in a lively mood, immediately asking his interviewer if her first name – which shares itself with the title of a popular Allman Brothers song – was inspired by the band and then launching good-naturedly into an unprovoked account about the dozen pills he takes twice daily to maintain his health.

Allman, 65, underwent a liver transplant three years ago and, prior to that, was diagnosed with Hepatitis C.

But even when in vulnerable physical shape, Allman managed to sustain a touring schedule and release a well-received autobiography, “My Cross to Bear,” which is being turned into a movie for release in spring 2014.

This summer, he’s a double presence in Atlanta – first on Friday with his buddy Hank Williams Jr., and then Sept. 2 with the Allmans. Both shows are at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta.

Allman had plenty to say during a recent chat – about set lists, his health and who his daughter thinks should play him in the film version of his book – so we’ll get out of his way.

 Q: You’re here twice this summer – first with Hank Jr. and then the Allmans. How far back do you and Hank go?

 A: Oh, quite a ways. He cut three of my songs on the “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound” record and we just became good buds. We’ve been that way for a long, long time.

 Q: How did this show come about?

 A: I think his manager called mine. It wasn’t me who came up with it.

 Q: Are you playing together or two separate sets?

A: We do separate sets, it’s equal billing. I’ll open some nights, him some nights.

Q: What’s it like playing with your solo band compared to the Allmans – is one more comfortable than the other?

A: It’s a real breath of fresh air to go from one to the other – one is one thing, one is another. The Brothers, there seem to be a lot of head chefs in the kitchen. In any kind of organization you have a group of people and they’re all trying to attain the same goal. There has to be not necessarily a leader, but a focal point, a place to start everything. I’ve been asked many times do I like playing live or recording more? And it’s neither. It’s rehearsal. That’s when the magic happens, the spontaneity. My stuff is pretty much pre-meditated – my band doesn’t jam that much.

Q: You mean compared to the Allmans?

A: The Brothers are not a jam band – we’re a band that jams. I’ve heard that damn expression so many times. It’s b.s. There has to be some semblance of order, otherwise you’ll sound like the Grateful Dead.

Q: What kind of set list do you cobble together for these solo dates?

A: We try to do a little of all of my solo catalog. I do a lot of songs I wrote for the Brothers, but in the way they were written. If it is the same song that the Brothers do, it is totally redone and totally rearranged. We do “Whipping Post” and I play guitar on it. I’ve got an eight-piece (band) now. I need two more horn players and I’ll be complete.

Q: Do you have any pre-show rituals?

A: I stand there with the guys. I get them all pumped up, kind of like a pep talk and say, “Listen, this is why we came out here. Let’s get out there and have as much fun as we can, try to stay in the lines and have a good time.

Q: When do you do the set list for each show?

A: Usually the morning of the show. I’ve always found that’s better for me so I don’t get hung up on something. I have someone else in the band make out the set list. I usually pick one person who is an arranger themselves, so in my band it would be Jay Collins, he’s a horn arranger, and before we go on I OK it. With the Allmans, (Warren) Haynes does it. I change it from time to time (laughs). I cannot stand redundancy. That’s why I dig Russell Crowe so much. When he got his first Oscar, he looked at the people and said God bless originality and left.

Q: So your autobiography (“My Cross to Bear”) is being turned into a movie. How do you feel about that?

A: Oh God, I’m scared to death. I never thought any of this stuff would happen. A movie is in your face, so don’t want it to be the least bit mundane. You figure of all the damn autobiographies out there, how many of them have done movies? “Ray,” that’s about it. It’s kinda like whoo, we’re doing something no one else is doing. Is that cool or not cool? It can turn out either way.

Q: You’re executive producer, right?

A: Yes. I have last say so, the last OK on everything. We had to put that in the contract. I couldn’t live with myself if there was a movie out there that might offend someone or made me look like a dork.

Q: Do you have any regrets about writing the book?

A: Nope, not at all.

Q: Do you have any ideas about who you’d like to play you?

A: I’m gonna leave casting to the others (producers). They’re pretty well versed in that.

Q: C’mon, you haven’t even given it a thought?

A: My daughter picked the guy from “Sons of Anarchy,” Charlie something (Hunnam). She said, “Daddy, he looks like you when you were young.” I might do a cameo, sweeping up the floor or something.

Q: How have you been feeling?

A: I finally healed up after all the surgeries. I had a tour booked for the day after last Christmas and on the 23rd (of December) I woke up, the pain was gone and I had energy. It was like, finally how I thought I was going to feel after the surgery.

Q: Are you still working on two new records?

A: I am. I’m in the midst of writing a bunch of different stuff. I’d like to get the buzz back in the studio, so I’ll be going back in after the Allmans tour. What’s on my bucket list is a record I want to call “All Compositions By…” but I have to get the damn songs written. I do write a lot when I’m listening to music, it primes the pump.

Q: What’s the plan after September’s Allmans shows? Are you guys already thinking about the Beacon?

A: Oh yeah. Everything you learn new goes into the Beacon shows. I suppose we’ll do it as long as we can.

Gregg Allman and Hank Williams Jr. perform at 8 p.m. Friday. $19.50-$99.50. Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park, Alpharetta. Also 6 p.m. Sept. 2 at the same venue with the Allman Brothers Band and Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. $29.50-$99.50. 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com

[I'm on with my rock 'n' roll pal Kaedy Kiely at 97.1 The River every Wednesday at 6:50 and 7:50 a.m. to talk about the latest rock news. Tune in to hear what's up!]

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