How Gregg Allman Helped Elect President Jimmy Carter
In the ‘70s, as with today, it takes a massive amount of money to reach the White House, and Carter’s campaign was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt when the Allman Brothers Band stepped in. Their campaign support show in 1975 raised over $64,000, which Carter was able to double thanks to recent legislation that matched public donations with government money. The arrangement continued with further benefit shows.
“Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers just about put me in the White House,” Carter said in 2015. “They were the best fundraisers that we had. In those days, they would charge somebody $15 to come hear them play. And we were getting the whole $15 plus 15 more matching dollars! So we got $30 every time someone came to hear the Allman Brothers Band play.”
Guitarist Dickey Betts, who recalled that Carter used to visit him in the studio, shared his own account of the fundraising activities with Rolling Stone, saying: “The way he explained it, ‘The government had this program that will match any funds someone donates to me. And there is a way I want to work this, which is totally legitimate. I don’t want you guys to donate any funds to me; I want you guys to donate your time to me and whatever money we can raise, the government has to match it.’ We raised millions of dollars, which back then was a lot of goddamn money.”
Betts added that “the reason we did it is because he totally changed the attitude about Georgia.” Not only did Carter promote the state’s music, he also passed legislation as governor that helped in the battle against bootleg recordings. During the campaign, he’d said, “Anyone who doesn’t want a President who likes this kind of music and who is proud of his friendships with the people who make that music can go vote for somebody else.”
“We didn’t feel like we were making any sacrifice by being close to a politician,” music executive Alex Hodges said. “Jimmy was pretty deep in his appreciation of music, not just the hit songs but the full musical content that was out there. With our bands, he was a real fan.”
In 2016, Carter presented Allman with an honorary degree, and attended the musician’s funeral the following year.