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The Time Gregg Allman Surprised a High School With a Free Concert

Tom Hill, Getty Images
Tom Hill, Getty Images

Wracked with grief, struggling with substance abuse, and at loose ends following the breakup of the Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman sought treatment in Buffalo in 1976 — and ended up leaving the student body of a local high school with some incredible memories while he was in town.

As reported by the Buffalo News in a touching story that’s well worth a complete read, Allman’s Buffalo legend started when some students at Canisius High School reached out to him in the hopes that he’d pay their campus a visit. While it was undoubtedly far from the first such letter he’d received since the Allmans made it big — and although he was obviously visiting Buffalo for decidedly non-musical reasons — something about the letter struck a chord, and he ended up phoning the student who’d sent it, senior Brian Procknal.

Procknal, assuming the call was from a manager at the local McDonald’s where he’d applied, had to be convinced he was actually speaking with Gregg Allman. But once the shock wore off, plans were underway for Allman to perform at Canisius — although there were some considerable obstacles to overcome first, not the least of which was convincing administrators at the school to give permission.

Thanks to a forward-thinking principal who admired his students’ initiative, the kids got the green light, and the school scheduled a mysterious assembly featuring an “acoustical science” demonstration led by their surprise guest, who ran through a set list that included some Allmans classics while his then-wife Cher and their infant daughter looked on. It was all more than a little surreal for those in attendance, but the afternoon seemed to have a lasting impact on Allman too.

The News‘ report illustrates how much the unusual gig affected Allman with a sweet postscript from an interview conducted years later, during which he was presented with a Canisius yearbook containing photos from the show. Telling his interviewer the show was “really important” to him at a low point in his life, he asked to sign it — and inscribed his photo with the caption “I remember every note of this.”

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