Sunday, 08 September 2013 07:48

The Allman Brothers are here!

Written by 
Kevin Land in the kitchen of the Roundtable Restaurant a year before The Allman Brothers dropped by the restaurant. Kevin Land in the kitchen of the Roundtable Restaurant a year before The Allman Brothers dropped by the restaurant. John Neiman

Every once in a while someone says, "You're a rock star." It is funny to hear. The compliment usually comes after completing some project at work with a ridiculous deadline. Those words are hard to take seriously since way back in 1979 I met a rock star, and based on that chance encounter, I am anything but a rock star.

On a Friday night in 1979 at the restaurant where I worked at the time, a cook blurted out, "Hey John! The Allman Brothers came in for lunch! They were snortin' cocaine on the dining room tables! They're stayin' at the motor lodge." I had just stepped into the steamy kitchen at the Roundtable Restaurant and couldn't believe it. The band was playing at the Mississippi River Festival that night and somehow got kicked out of the Edwardsville Holiday Inn. At least that was the rumor that was floating around the waitress station. The band was staying at the motor lodge, a stone's throw away from the restaurant. By that year I had seen a bunch of concerts but had never gotten that close to a band. I was fired up they were so close, but kind of bummed I hadn't gotten there earlier so I could have asked any of them if I could take their plate or refill their water glass. The restauran wasn't too busy, but I still needed an excuse to go down to the motor lodge. It wasn't too long before I had my shot.

One of my duties as a busboy at the restaurant was to take carry-out to the motel. Within an hour, some guy called in an order for a cheeseburger and fries. Fifteen minutes later, I hiked past the grease pit to deliver the food. Trouble was, I didn't know what anyone in the band looked like, 'cept for Gregg. I knocked on the door and was greeted by some dude who had dark curly hair and a mustache. I eagerly told him the news, "Hey, did ya know the Allman Brothers are staying here in the motel?" He looked at me and said, "Yeah, I'm Butch Trucks." I was stunned. "HOLY SHIT, I'm talkin' to an ALLMAN BROTHER!!!" My wired brain went from collecting a tip to collecting an autograph. Then mental overload hit and my mind went blank. "Uhhh, Do you mmmind sssi-signing an autograph?" I stammered. "No problem," he answered, but the only paper I had was the receipt for the food. He politely signed it and handed it back. I couldn't wait to get back to the restaurant to show off my souvenir.

On the way back to the restuarant I noticed a well-dressed black man outside the lobby. He was wearing a cap so I figured he was the band's limo driver. "Hey, do ya know when Gregg is heading to the show?" I asked. He smiled and said, "No, sure don't." I thought about it for a second and rephrased the question, "Well... do you know about when he might be going to the show?" He told me to come back around 6 o'clock. I headed back to the restaurant and kept my eye on the time for the next hour or so. Fortunately it still wasn't busy so when it got close to 6 o'clock, I hit the bartender up for a bottle of beer and headed back down to the motel.

There in front of the motel lobby was a black limo and standing near the entrance to the lodge was the driver. I pestered him again. "Hey, do you know when Gregg is gonna show up?" He smiled once again. "No, but you can wait around if you want," he answered. For about 10 minutes I waited with the cold bottle of Busch beer sweating in my hand. I was nervous. If I stayed away from the dining room too long, I might find myself in trouble from the restaurant manager. That fear was alleviated when all of a sudden the lobby door opened and Gregg walked straight to the limo. I froze for a couple seconds and before I knew it, the driver had the door open and Gregg was in the car. Walking quickly up to the car, I thrust the beer bottle towards the legendary singer. "Hey Gregg, think you could autograph this?" I asked trying to keep my cool. He took the bottle and a pen and tried to sign the label. But by then the bottle was soaked. He tried a couple times but no luck. "Sorry man, it won't write," he said and handed me back the bottle. The driver closed the door and the car slowly moved out of the lot as I made my way back to the restaurant. I kind of had a story to tell to the waitresses and cooks but it wasn't the one I hoped to tell.

It was a little over a year before I got close to the Allman Brothers. They were the headliner for KSHE's Birthday Party in November of 1980. Unfortunately I was stuck 27 rows from the stage on the main floor. The moment the lights went out, the crowd stood on the chairs. The rest of the night, my view was the backs of a few thousand heads. Thirty years would pass before I met Gregg Allman again. Ironically, it was at the place I currently work at. But that's another story and it will be on the blog in a couple weeks.