Over the past two days, after we published a column recalling Gregg Allman's against-all-odds surprise concert for several hundred stunned teenagers during a Canisius High School "assembly" in 1976, many readers have asked the same question:
Where can they hear a recording of the performance at the heart of the piece, in which Allman was backed up by a band called "The Freeze?"
Canisius High School solved the problem. Mike Militello, class president in 1976 and the catalyst behind the appearance by Allman, supplied the school with a copy of the tape – and it's posted here, on the school website, where visitors can listen. Militello said he made the tape with a small cassette recorder that he put down next to the mixing board.
One of the first songs you'll hear on that recording is Allman's haunting version of "Melissa," an Allman Brothers classic. He later offers a touching introduction to Cher, his wife at that time, who attended the show with Elijah Blue, the couple's infant son, and Cher's daughter Chastity, now Chaz.
As for the story itself, it just keeps getting better. We're hearing new details that only add to the wonder of the tale about Allman, who did an unexpected performance at what the school billed as a typical afternoon assembly. We'll add to the saga with an update later this week, including accounts from Militello and others that provide new and beautiful details about Allman at Canisius – as well as a note about a youthful effort in the 1950s by Rev. Joseph Papaj, the school's principal in 1976, that helps explain why he was so quick to approve Allman's request to play the surprise show at Canisius.
For all those involved, the memories take on particular poignancy because of the passing of Allman, whose funeral was Saturday. He died from complications related to liver cancer.