MACON, Georgia (AP) — Legions of fans lined the streets of Macon, Georgia, on Saturday to honor music legend Gregg Allman as he’s carried to his final resting place in the same cemetery where he and his band members used to hang out and write songs amid the tombstones.
The Saturday afternoon service is private, with only about 100 people expected to attend inside a small chapel. Mourners filed past white columns into the peach-colored building as five black stretch limousines waited outside.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter confirmed Friday that he would attend, honoring The Allman Brothers Band keyboardist who drew large crowds to campaign events during his 1976 presidential race.
Police closed downtown streets to accommodate the crush of fans coming to watch Allman’s body being taken from the chapel to Rose Hill Cemetery, where he will be buried near his late brother, guitarist Duane Allman.
Their band began its rise to fame in the central Georgia city 90 miles south of Atlanta about five decades ago, and used to write songs while hanging out in the cemetery, Alan Paul wrote in “One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band.”
“He’s somebody who has been in my life first as an artist and later as a real person since I was about 8 years old, and so it’s shocking to think of the world without him,” said Paul, 50, who interviewed Allman many times for his book.
Allman, who blazed a trail for many southern rock groups, died May 27 at the age of 69 at his home near Savannah, Georgia, said Michael Lehman, the rock star’s manager. He blamed liver cancer.
Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Allman was raised in Florida by a single mother. Allman idolized his older brother, Duane, eventually joining a series of bands with him. Together they formed the heart of The Allman Brothers Band before Duane died in a motorcycle crash in 1971, just as they were reaching stardom.
In his 2012 memoir, “My Cross to Bear,” Allman said he finally felt “brand new” at 50 after years of overindulging in women, drugs and alcohol. But hepatitis C ruined his liver, and after getting a transplant, it was music that helped him recover. Allman felt that being on the road playing music for his fans was “essential medicine for his soul,” according to a statement from the Big House, the Macon museum dedicated to the band.
Lehman said he spoke with Allman the night before he died.
“He said the last few days he was just, you know, tired,” Lehman said.
The night before he passed away, Allman was able to listen to some of the tracks being produced for his final record, “Southern Blood,” Lehman said. The album is scheduled to be released in the fall.
“He was looking forward to sharing it with the world and that dream is going to be realized,” Lehman said. “I told him that his legacy is going to be protected, and the gift that he gave to the music world will continue to live on forever.”
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