“Gregg Allman was not only a friend and brother, but he was a strong inspiration to me very early on in my career,” Leavell wrote.
Like in Warren Haynes’ tribute, Leavell, an Alabama native, reflected on how the Allman Brothers Band’s unique blend of Southern rock inspired him and countless other musicians below the Mason-Dixon line.
“That first record [Allman Brothers Band] was groundbreaking and a new style of music, Southern Rock, was born,” he continued. “Little did I think at the time that I would be so fortunate to eventually be a part of it. I was just a fan and admirer of what he, Duane [Allman] and the rest of the band had done. Opening up for the ABB in 1970 and ’71 when I was with Alex Taylor and later with Dr. John, I would hang around after our performance and listen to them.”
Following Duane Allman’s death in 1971 and the release of Eat a Peach, Leavell performed with Gregg Allman on the 1972 solo LP Laid Back. When the Allman Brothers Band reformed for 1973’s Brothers & Sisters, Leavell was part of the lineup, with the keyboardist most notably contributing to the Allman favorite “Jessica.”
“During that time, Gregg was much like a big brother to me,” Leavell wrote. “Gregg was always gracious to me… making sure I was included in everything from photo sessions to various parties and events… and even sometimes asking me to accompany him to events not related to the band’s duties. We finished recording Laid Back, and soon after, Brothers and Sisters… and these are probably the two records that I am most proud to have my name on.”
Although Leavell parted ways with Allman Brothers Band before the release of the 1976 live LP Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas, he remained part of the band’s orbit, performing alongside Dickey Betts and Gov’t Mule. In 2014, Leavell took part in a Gregg Allman tribute concert in Atlanta.
“That was one of the most special and memorable shows I’ve ever done, and Gregg’s participation certainly made it a major event. That just shows the kind of friend Gregg was. He certainly didn’t have to do that, and he didn’t take a dime for his participation,” Leavell wrote.
“Thank you, Gregg…for your inspiration, for your talent, for your loyal friendship and for the amazing human being you are. I am forever grateful for my relationship with you, for sharing the stage with you so many times, for the honor of recording with you on some records that have stood the test of time. You will always be my hero and I am your biggest fan.”