The Allman Brothers Band lost its lead singer and co-founder Gregg Allman in his battle with liver cancer on May 27, 2017. He was 69. The singer-songwriter and musician along with his brother made it to the list of America’s top bands between the 1960s to the 1970s. The band enjoyed the peak of its heydays charting songs that gave life to radio bandwidth and concert halls for many years. The fame and lifestyle that came with the band’s success also paved the way for several bad choices for the lead singer. In 2007, he contracted Hepatitis C attributed to a contaminated tattooing needle. This was the start of an arduous journey of health issues that led to Gregg Allman’s liver transplant in June 2010.
His Back Story
According to his memoir, My Cross to Bear, published in 2012 — the singer spoke of his endless struggle with his addictions to heroin and alcohol during his entire career in the music industry.
They were the stuff that put Southern rock on the music genre map and gave the rockstar lifestyle its guts and glory. Gregg’s brother Duane was the other half of the Allman Brothers Band. Sadly, he died in 1971 from a tragic motorcycle accident. A few years after, Gregg went into a spiral after being arrested in 1976 due to drug charges involving heroin. His manager was also sentenced to 75 years in the clink for narcotics distribution.
Gregg Allman spent more than half of his life on the road living the ultimate rockstar life. Being a famous musician, this meant a lot of hard work, practice, travel, and exposure to many influential people and women willing to sleep with him at a drop of a hat. Allman’s nickname at the time was Coitus Maximus, taken from his long list of sexual encounters. That included as many as four different women in one night, Gregg was living a high-risk lifestyle which could have exposed him to various infections. He was married six times and fathered five children from different women who were not even among his wives.
Finding Out He Had Hepatitis C
It was when Gregg started to feel tired even after just waking up in the mornings. The constant fatigue and lethargy became too much that he could not even find the energy to do anything. After being advised to take an extensive health checkup – his doctor broke the news on Hepatitis C. Gregg went into treatment for 26 weeks, however, it recurred. Turns out, he was a little too late for the treatment, since he had contracted Hepatitis C at the age of 20 when he got his second tattoo. That was the time when there were no laws that required tattoo shops to use new and sealed needles for each client.
The virus had laid dormant in Gregg’s system all those years until he was 50, and his unstoppable lifestyle with alcohol made it easier for the virus to lay waste to his liver. Gregg’s consumption of drugs and alcohol gave way to liver damage and liver cancer-related issues.
A Late-Life Liver Transplant
While preparing for a music festival hosted by Eric Clapton in Chicago, a long-anticipated call from Allman’s doctor came through. After being on a four-month waiting list, he finally had a matching liver donor. Allman’s waiting time took twice as long as the average wait time for the region is listed as the shortest in the entire country.
Unfazed by his health conditions, Gregg Allman decided to undergo a liver transplant in June 2010 at the age of 62 with his doctors’ recommendation. Despite having atrial fibrillation and being a late-life liver transplant recipient — Allman was determined to push through the surgery and make the most of his remaining years
The procedure was done at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, and was a success. Allman was discharged after seven days but had to remain near the hospital vicinity for another 2 to 4 weeks for monitoring and testing. The rate of rejection for liver transplants has drastically dropped a mere 5% over the years due to medical advancements in immunosuppressant drugs.
Although, some scheduled engagements needed to be canceled to enable Allman’s recovery. Having his surgery done in Jacksonville provided him with proximity to his home and a sort of nostalgic homecoming. The Allman Brothers began in Jacksonville before shooting themselves into success and the rock and roll hall of fame. Everyone was hoping for his new lease in life and for him to continue to perform.
Life After A Liver Transplant
Post-surgery, Allman was worried his voice could be affected as the operation was done just right around the area that plays a role in one’s singing voice. However, just a few days after his transplant, Gregg was able to find his old voice.
Life post-liver transplant was not much of a big change for the rockstar as he had already been living clean after being diagnosed with Hepatitis C. He recounts not being able to eat certain things especially ones that are served raw. The chemo side effects took a toll on his hair but the singer was thankful that his hair fell out in a pattern that still made him look good. Allman needed to maintain a variety of medications to ensure his new liver remained happy in its new home. The only thing that made them tricky was that the pills would weaken his immune system.
A liver transplant is not a cure for Hepatitis C Patients with new livers need to continue medications to treat the existing virus in the system and the chances of recurrence are highly likely.
Did He Have Any Regrets?
During his earlier interviews post-surgery, the musician said he had no time nor room for regret. However, if there was anything he could change, it would boil down to his alcohol and drug abuse. He amplified that all drugs and alcohol were just a big lie. He was proud to have kicked the habit and was sober since 1996.
When asked if his addictions were part of his way of coping and dealing with his brother Duane’s untimely death, the singer only emphasized that talking about it does not change anything.
His Last Days
Along with his newfound liver and his new lease in life, the singer did benefit shows with the help of the American Liver Foundation and Merck Pharmaceuticals to help spread awareness of Hepatitis C.
Gregg Allman played his last song on stage in October 2016. Recurring health problems forced him to cancel other shows until he finally announced he was canceling all his performances for 2017 citing serious health issues.
Gregg Allman was laid to rest according to his wishes — in Rose Hill Cemetery< Macon alongside his brother, Duane Allman.