Gregg Allman’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Marked a Devastating All-Time Low Instead of a Career High

An induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame typically marks a high point in an artist’s career, but for the Allman Brothers Band’s Gregg Allman, it signaled a heartbreaking all-time low that would mark a turning point in his life.

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Allman was deep in the throes of alcoholism when his band accepted their induction into the prestigious Hall of Fame in 1995. As he later explained in his memoir My Cross to Bear, he had become so intoxicated that Willie Nelson, who was presenting the band with their award, went up to Allman as he approached the stage and asked, “You all right, Gregory?”

The musician replied that he wasn’t. He would describe the minutes immediately afterward as one of the most embarrassing moments of his life.

Gregg Allman’s Speech Didn’t Come Out The Way He Expected

Wobbly on his feet and with his hat pulled low across his brow, Gregg Allman approached the podium, intently staring at a small notepad in his hands. The musician had written down ideas for whom to thank in his speech: his mother, concert promoter, and lifelong Allman Brothers fan Bill Graham, the fans. Instead, Allman slurred out a single thank you to his late brother, Duane Allman.

“Thank you, folks,” Allman slurred. “In honor of the greatest friend, brother, guitar player, and inspiration I’ve ever known. My brother, Duane. He was always the first to face the fire. He was my greatest motivation. Thank you.”

Allman later wrote in his memoir, “It should have been the greatest week of my life. The Allman Brothers Band, the band my brother started, the band with our name on it, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I flat-out missed it. I was physically there, but otherwise, I was out of it—mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You might say that I had the experience but missed the meaning. Why? The answer is plain and simple: alcohol. I was drunk, man.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony’s Effect on Gregg Allman

By the time the Allman Brothers Band took the stage at the Waldorf-Astoria Grand Ballroom in January 1995, they were rock legends. They had also suffered countless tragedies, including the deaths of founding members Duane Allman and Berry Oakley. Struggling under the weight of grief and fame, Gregg Allman began taking pills, chain-smoking, and drinking a fifth of vodka every day.

Gregg went to rehab nearly 20 times, but none of them stuck. That internal switch didn’t flip until he watched the footage of himself swaying onstage during his acceptance speech. But rather than trying his hand at rehab or Alcoholics Anonymous yet again, Allman hired two live-in nurses to stay with him round-the-clock. The nurses supervised the rock icon for 12-hour shifts while he quit drugs and alcohol cold turkey.

Gregg Allman’s Ongoing Health Struggles In His Later Years

Gregg Allman’s self-induced, at-home detox after that fateful Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony was arduous, but it worked…for a while. He suffered another health setback in 2007 when he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Shortly after that, he was diagnosed with liver cancer. He had a liver transplant in 2010 and lung surgery in 2011. By 2012, he was back in rehab due to the medications he received following his procedures. 

Allman died from complications from liver cancer in his Richmond Hill, Georgia, home on May 27, 2017. He reflected on his overwhelmingly successful, albeit tumultuous, career in his 2012 memoir. 

“Music is my life’s blood,” he wrote. “When it’s all said and done, I’ll go to my grave, and my brother will greet me, saying, ‘Nice work, little brother. You did alright.’ I must have said this a million times, but if I died today, I have had me a blast.”

Photo by David Becker/WireImage

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