For his first-ever book tour – promoting his first-ever book – Gregg Allman received a hero’s welcome.
Hundreds of people snaked through the bookshelves and corridors at the Barnes & Noble in Buckhead Tuesday afternoon as the ponytailed Allman Brothers legend carefully inscribed the inside page of his recently released memoir, “My Cross to Bear,” for book-bearing fans.
The two-and-a-half-hour signing, the first stop on a tour that includes another Atlanta date Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Eagle Eye Bookshop in Decatur, as well as Nashville, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles and wraps in Macon June 3, understandably exhausted the musician, who lives in Savannah and has deep ties to Macon.
Though he told fans who inquired about his health that he was feeling good, by the time he wound through the back room of the bookstore into a waiting black car, a drained-looking (and hungry) Allman said he was, “Tired. Very tired.”
Asked what he thought of the turnout, Allman, clad in black jeans and a loose dark gray T-shirt, simply said, “This is my first [signing], so I have nothing to compare it to. But…it was fantastic.”
The book recounts the numerous tragedies in Allman’s life – notably the death of brother Duane – as well as the musical highlights, his marriage to Cher and his battle with hepatitis C, which he discussed with the AJC last year, and subsequent liver transplant.
After Tuesday’s signing, Allman professed no regrets about exposing some of the more intimate aspects of his life.
“I knew before I put it out there that it would be out there,” he said.
The Barnes & Noble crowd – which began assembling at 7 a.m., five and a half hours before Allman’s scheduled arrival – was a big one for the bookstore. All copies of “My Cross to Bear” – more than 350 – sold out for the signing.
“We are overwhelmed by the tremendous response by Gregg’s fans,” said Karen Kirk, community relations manager at Barnes & Noble. “They obviously adore him.”
For much of the afternoon, Allman was flanked by Chank Middleton, his friend for more than four decades and one whom many Allman Brothers fans recognized.
Those assembled fans ranged from longhairs in faded Allman Brothers Band T-shirts to businessmen in ties to twentysomething girls, for whom Allman always had a smile. Most took a quick snapshot, inquired about his health or used their 10-second encounter to share a concert story (“I saw you at the Fox back in…”) or disclose a personal connection.
One such link came when the uncle of Tommy Tucker, a long-ago bandmate of Allman’s, introduced himself.
Allman stood to shake his hand.