NEW ORLEANS - When Sidney Smith was just 15-years-old, he fell in with a really good crowd.
The burgeoning photographer met the Allman Brothers Band during one of the legendary Southern rock band’s frequent trips to New Orleans, beginning a decades-long friendship documented in thousands of photos.
“The Allman Brothers Band was the first band I ever met and worked closely with,” Smith said. “I just kind of latched on to them. I don’t think they had any idea how young I was.”
In the early days, Gregg Allman would pay Smith to send pictures to his grandmother in Florida, just one of the many ways the young photographer partnered up with the Allmans.
When Gregg Allman began working on his autobiography, which came out in 2012, he called up Smith to supply pictures for the book.
“He was very grateful for that,” Smith said. “The Allman Brothers manager has written a book, and I supplied photos for that. Other members have written books, and I supplied their photos, but with Gregg’s book, it was a special book. He really spoke from the heart, and my photos were there to illustrate the book.”
The band, even at the height of its success, was always under what Smith refers to as a “black cloud.”
Duane Allman died in a tragic motorcycle accident at the age of 24, one year before another motorcycle accident took the life of founding bassist Berry Oakley.
This year has been almost as tragic, with founding member Butch Trucks committing suicide in January and Gregg Allman passing away on May 27 at the age of 69.
“It’s been a tough year for all of us,” Smith said. “For the past 20 years, Gregg has been really clean and focused. He made really good music up until the end.”
Gregg Allman will be laid to rest on June 3 in a private cemetery next to his brother Duane.