A friend told me Gregg Allman shot himself to avoid serving in Vietnam–is that true?
Gregg Allman celebrated his eighteenth birthday in 1965–not a good year for that moment to come if your plans didn’t include being drafted by the U.S. Army. His older brother Duane was exempt from the draft, being the eldest son in a family without a father; however, Duane was determined that the Army wouldn’t be getting his little brother and musical partner. (Their band at that point was called the Allman Joys; the Allman Brothers Band lineup didn’t come until 1969.)
Gregg remembered, “My brother said, ‘I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do. Just shoot a bullet through your foot.’ I thought he was joking. He wasn’t.” So the night before Gregg’s physical examination, Duane threw him a “foot-shootin’ party,” plying him with speed and whiskey, and inviting over some friends and some girls. Gregg painted a target on his left moccasin. “I didn’t want to hurt myself,” Gregg said. “The long bones in your foot come to a V, and I wanted to hit it right there so it would crack two of them but not really upset anything permanently.”
Faced with the actual act of shooting himself, however, Gregg understandably had second thoughts–but Duane wouldn’t let him back down, calling him “chickenshit” and saying “I invited these nice ladies over here to see a foot-shootin’ and you’re going to let them down?” So Gregg slammed down some more whiskey and called an ambulance. As soon as he could hear the sirens–bang!–he pulled the trigger. Many musicians shoot themselves in the foot metaphorically, but Gregg had pulled off the rare stunt of doing it literally.
“I was bleeding quite a bit because the speed and liquor had my blood pressure going,” Gregg said. In the rush to the hospital, he and Duane forgot the target he had painted on the moccasin–so Duane had to sneak back into the operating room and grab the mangled shoe back, lest somebody report the Allmans to the government. The next day, Gregg showed up at the induction center with a huge bandage and crutches–he was quickly disqualified. Like both Bush and Cheney, Gregg Allman had found a way to avoid Vietnam.
(Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.)