The Untold Truth Of Cher And Gregg Allman's Marriage

Please note: This article contains references to drug use.

When Gregg Allman and Cher became a bonafide power couple in the '70s, they were two of the most famous musicians in the world — but they had taken very different paths to the top.

Gregg Allman reinvented Southern rock with his group the Allman Brothers Band, whose drug-fueled antics inspired the movie "Almost Famous," per the Herald-Tribune. Influenced by blues and country music, their raw style made the albums "At Fillmore East" and "Brothers and Sisters" best-selling hits. They experienced early tragedy, however, when Gregg's guitar-playing older brother Duane Allman crashed his motorcycle and died in 1971, per BBC News. Just over one year later, the band's bassist Berry Oakley was killed in a strikingly similar accident.

Cher was already famous when Gregg's music career was just taking off. She had stormed the charts as part of a double act with husband Sonny Bono in the mid-'60s, cementing her place as an entertainment icon with their enduring earworm "I Got You Babe." After Fred Silverman, the head of programming at CBS at the time, saw one of their nightclub performances, the network offered them a variety show called "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour," per the Archive of American Television. Cher became a beloved household name for her comedy skits and singing performances, so after her marriage to Bono ended, she embarked on her own solo career — and it wasn't long before the glamorous queen of pop met a certain rough-around-the-edges rocker and fell in love.

Inside Cher and Sonny Bono's split

Although Cher had risen to fame alongside husband and singing partner Sonny Bono, the duo split up in 1974. As The New York Times reported, their divorce got messy when Cher accused Bono and his attorney of convincing the "Living in a House Divided" singer to sign a legal document that she didn't seem to fully understand: "a contract giving them all rights to her future earnings." It remained valid even in the event of a divorce or separation. In a lawsuit, Cher argued that they had violated the 13th Amendment by duping her into what she claimed amounted to "involuntary servitude." So Cher and Bono's divorce turned into an ugly public battle between the two beloved singers, who had first met when Cher was only 16.

"He didn't want me to grow up or have any freedom," Cher said while speaking to Parade about her ex in 2010 (Bono died in a 1998 skiing accident). "I wasn't allowed to do anything except work. We worked more than we lived." But that wasn't the only reason that Cher left. According to the "Believe" singer, fame had made Bono "a huge womanizer," and his affairs were getting out of hand. "One woman, or even five, was not enough for him," she revealed, recalling that she once asked her late ex how he juggled so many different lovers. "I was trusting and faithful with him. I'm not sure we should've ever been husband and wife."

She was dating David Geffen when she met Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman and Cher first set eyes on each other at an Allman Brothers concert, but there was one problem. At the time, Cher was dating music tycoon David Geffen, who was working to free her from her contract with Sonny Bono. "I was crazy about him," she said of Geffen in a 2012 interview with Extra, describing herself as "just the right person for him" at that point. Although Geffen was a romantic, Cher was hesitant about committing to the relationship. "I just had been married," she recalled. "I was just so frightened."

Although she came to his concert with Geffen, Allman fell for Cher right away. "I had tunnel vision. I didn't see no one else in the joint but her," he wrote in his autobiography, "My Cross to Bear." "I had met David Geffen on many occasions before, because he used to be Jackson Browne's manager, but I didn't acknowledge him at all — or anyone else, for that matter." Allman recalled being "rude" to Geffen because he was "blinded" by Cher's presence. 

Allman had a message delivered to her expressing his desire for a date, and she gave him her number later. "God, she smelled like I would imagine a mermaid would smell — I've never smelled it since, and I'll never forget it," Allman recalled, adding that after their encounter, he noticed Geffen. "I went, 'Oh f***,' and thanked God that his eyes weren't locked on mine."

Their terrible first date

Although Gregg Allman was smitten right away, he didn't show Cher a great time on their first date. In "My Cross to Bear," he recalled how they hopped in Cher's blue Ferrari and drove to a mutual friend's house, where Allman ended up doing heroin. Cher was left downstairs while he "nodded out" in the bathroom. When he snapped out of his drug-induced sedated state about 20 minutes later, the rocker asked her what she wanted to do next. "I want to get the f*** out of here as fast as I can," Cher replied. She later described their entire first date as "just awful," according to Josiah Howard, author of the biography "Cher: Strong Enough."

Allman worked up the nerve to call her the next day, however. "Wait, before you say anything — that was possibly the worst f***ing date in the history of mankind," he said when Cher got on the phone, per his memoir. "We might be ready for the 'Guinness Book of World Records.'" Arguing that it could only get better from there, he persuaded her to go on another date.

This time, they went disco dancing. "She had one drink, while I had my twenty-one, of course," Allman recalled. "When we got back to her place, she took me out to her rose garden, and all the roses were just starting to bloom." Cher left her beaded Bob Mackie shirt in the garden before they headed upstairs to make "some serious love."

Gregg Allman's drug addiction

Although Gregg Allman's heroin use had ruined their first date, Cher still remained unaware of how heavily he relied on drugs. So in the early honeymoon period of their romance, the musician decided to come clean.

"There was one problem: she didn't realize that I was a hop-head," he wrote in "My Cross to Bear." "So I woke up one morning and told her, 'Look, I've got to tell you something. I'm addicted to narcotics.'" Cher responded by coming up with a plan to help him kick his drug habit: They would get him some Quaaludes using a prescription from a "doctor friend," and he could "just sleep through" any withdrawal symptoms. Her treatment idea was a failure, as Allman noted, but Cher was still "quite elated" that he had been honest with her. "She was real positive," he recalled, adding that she vowed to stick with him despite his drug problem. 

"Before I knew Gregg, I used to feel that drug addicts were on the same level as murderers," Cher would later muse, according to "Cher: Strong Enough." She described her younger self as "totally ignorant" about the real impact of drugs on an individual. "Now I know that the person they harm the most is themselves," she said.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The singers' Las Vegas wedding

One Sunday morning, Cher decided to pop the question. "Well, listen — Mr. Harrah, who's a good friend of mine, has sent us down his private jet. I was thinking we'd fly over to Vegas and get married," she suggested to a half-asleep Gregg Allman, according to "My Cross to Bear." "I was awake then, let me tell you!" he added.

Cher's sister was her maid of honor, per the biography "Totally uninhibited: The Life and Wild Times of Cher," and both of the singers' managers were witnesses at the spontaneous wedding, which took place at Caesar's Palace. The lovebirds tried to stay "as low profile as possible" according to Allman, despite being one of the most famous couples in America. To help them out, their team spread a rumor that the wedding of another big celebrity, "My Way" crooner Frank Sinatra, was going to take place on another floor of the hotel and casino. The press was distracted and looking for Ol' Blue Eyes, so Cher and Allman were able to get their marriage license and sneak upstairs for the ceremony.

Although Allman described the wedding itself as awkward (it didn't help that the rocker tried to correct the priest when he referred to "legal matrimony" instead of "holy matrimony"), there was one perk: the musician tried caviar for the first time and loved it so much that he had to be dragged away to get married.

Cher and Gregg Allman separated after nine days

The hasty Las Vegas wedding between Cher and Gregg Allman made headlines, and they just kept coming when the "Dark Lady" herself filed for divorce while her fans were still processing her marriage news. Even for a celebrity marriage, this one was short-lived. According to "My Cross to Bear," it angered Cher when she found the "rig" Allman used to take heroin, and she took off immediately to have divorce papers drawn up. According to Maclean's, she filed the papers after nine days of marriage, but Allman claimed that it only took her four days to decide that she was done. "Gregg and I have made a mistake," she told the press, explaining why they had already called it quits. "And I have always believed it best to admit one's mistakes as quickly as possible."  

In an interview with Motion Picture (via Cher: Strong Enough), Cher admitted that she'd "really screwed up this time," revealing that she was regretful and unhappy. "Let's face it; men have been making all my decisions for me all my life. Now I'm finally on my own ... I'm bound to make a mistake here and there. Marrying Gregg was, as it turned out, a mistake," she confessed. "I guess he makes a much better boyfriend than a husband."

In his autobiography, Allman revealed that Cher "withdrew the divorce papers" after he convinced her that he wanted to make things right by agreeing to go to rehab, and they reconciled. 

Gregg Allman's band broke up

As People observed in 1976, fans of the Allman Brothers Band never warmed up to Cher. Many even accused her of becoming a "Yoko" figure who broke up Gregg Allman's group, although he defended his wife against such speculation. In reality, his drug use and the band's money problems played a role in their breakup, while his testimony against their former road manager, Scooter Herring, seemingly sealed the deal, as the other band members considered Allman a "narc" for telling a courtroom that Herring had given them drugs.

"They weren't there to see the pressure," Allman complained to Rolling Stone in November 1976, revealing that the other members of the band had stopped speaking to him. "They weren't there to see the cat holding my manuscript right in my nose just daring me, just f***ing daring me, to swerve off of it just enough to get me on a perjury charge." Allman also told People that the situation was "heavy in there," claiming that his own freedom was at stake. "If I had refused to say anything, they were going to make me do a couple of years," he said, lamenting that he was "the fall guy for this whole thing."

"Gregory makes a great villain because he's taken drugs," Cher added. "They acted as if he had turned his road manager into a drug dealer when it was the other way around. People don't want to think it's happening all over the U.S., but it is." 

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The return of Sonny & Cher

In 1976, Cher's professional life put a strain on her marriage to Gregg Allman when she teamed up with Sonny Bono again. Their second variety hour, "The Sonny and Cher Show," showed the reunited exes performing the same style of sketches as its previous iteration and provided them with a new opportunity to joke on-screen about their divorce. However, it only lasted two seasons.

Allman didn't seem to be the biggest fan of Bono. In "My Cross to Bear," the rock musician accused the other man of seeing a "gold mine in" Cher and using her to build his career. "Without her, he would have been nothing — he certainly never would have become a congressman," Allman claimed, dismissing Bono's own musical talent. However, Bono reportedly approved of the new man in Cher's life, saying of Allman, "Gregg is not the bad guy," per "Totally Uninhibited: The Life and Wild Times of Cher."

Cher's variety show with her ex ultimately "proved too weird even for Allman," according to Entertainment Weekly. Allman and Cher's marriage came to the brink yet again as he turned the tables by filing for divorce from Cher, but the news that she was expecting a baby boy brought them back together.

Cher and Gregg Allman's son Elijah Blue

In 1976, Gregg Allman and Cher welcomed their son Elijah Blue Allman. Now an adult, Elijah is a musician, too. According to HuffPost, Kiss frontman Gene Simmons — who dated Cher in the late '70s — gave him his first guitar when he was 13 years old.

Although he followed in his parents' footsteps, Elijah has been open about how his childhood wasn't perfect. "When you go to boarding school at 7 years old, it's kind of hard to feel like you're not being shunned," he explained to ET, recalling his resentment at being sent away. "But I'm at an age where I'm making peace with it because you just have to ... it doesn't mean it's right."

Elijah also discussed how he would spend his unsupervised weekends in New York. "Me and my friends would go up to Harlem and get into all kinds of trouble," he admitted. "It's actually shocking to think about myself at like 11 years old buying drugs in Harlem. It's pretty crazy." He later became addicted to heroin, revealing during a 2006 appearance on "The Howard Stern Show" that Cher convinced him to go to rehab. He also said that he and his dad "didn't have much of a relationship" at the time. To ET, he confessed that he "didn't appreciate" his charmed life when he was younger and was meeting celebrities including Andy Warhol and Val Kilmer, who gifted him with "a human scalp," he told Stern.  

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Their joint album

After becoming one of the most well-known couples in the music industry, Cher and Gregg Allman started wondering whether they should unite their talents. And in 1977, they decided to do just that by releasing the album "Two the Hard Way." The pair billed themself as "Allman and Woman," a pun that didn't win over fans of either Cher or the Allman Brothers. The 1979 Rolling Stone Record Guide (via BBC News) shared a scathing review, writing, "It's hard to imagine a more inappropriate combination ... It's the bottom of the barrel after a long fall for Gregg, and more of the same for Cher."

Allman didn't mince his words when it came to the album, either. In "My Cross to Bear," he admitted that it "sucked" as a record. "It bit the dirt, and it didn't sell worth a s**t," the musician wrote, declaring that besides "one, maybe two decent songs," he found it unlistenable. He also confessed that he didn't enjoy Cher's voice. "I was really glad that she never asked me what I thought of her singing, because I'm sorry, but she's not a very good singer," Allman wrote. "When she talks, she has the sexiest-sounding voice, and I tried to tell her that that's the way she ought to let it out when she sings. If she sang like she talked, good God."

Why Cher and Gregg Allman had to end their tour early

After releasing "Two the Hard Way," Cher and Gregg Allman went on a tour that was complicated by constant fights between their fans, as well as his drug and alcohol habits. In "My Cross to Bear," Allman described the stark difference between his crowd, who would turn up to the shows in denim clothing and backpacks, and Cher fans, who dressed in formal attire and expected a vaudeville-style show in the style of her Sonny Bono days. "It was right after that — the tuxedos against the backpacks, because I think the Allman Brothers outnumbered the Sonny and Chers — that Cher came to me, and the poor thing was just crying," he remembered, describing what would be the last night of the tour.

"I asked her what was wrong, and she told me, 'We've got to cancel the rest of the tour, because I can't stand the fighting,'" Allman continued, recalling how they decided to stop "halfway through" their planned dates. "We went home the next day, and that was the last time I ever played with her." Their marriage fell apart at the same time because of Allman's drinking, which ended up killing their relationship for good. "There was no future for us because she has that constant paranoia of (my) going back to alcohol," he later commented, according to Entertainment Weekly.

They remained friends after their divorce

Despite the chaos of their marriage, Cher and Gregg Allman spoke about each other affectionately over the years. As he revealed in "My Cross to Bear," Allman was married six times and stayed in contact with only two of his ex-wives. "I still talk to Cher now and then," he wrote in 2012, calling her "really a sweetheart" and explaining why he found her so easy to open up to. "She has a very broad mind, a very open mind, and we were really in love too. But it's been hard for me to have a relationship like that with my other wives," he revealed. 

In a 2020 interview with The Guardian, Cher admitted that alongside Robert Camilletti, aka "Bagel Boy," Allman was probably the love of her life. "Gregory was a special man," she insisted, pointing out that he did try to break free from his addiction. "Well, look, he was a southern gentleman who happened to do drugs. It was that simple," the singer explained. "One time we were going to a rehab and I said: 'I'm so tired of doing this,' and he said: 'So am I. And I keep doing it for you.'"

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Cher paid tribute after Gregg Allman's 2017 death

In 2017, Gregg Allman died from liver cancer at age 69. As Rolling Stone reported, the singer's family announced that he had "passed away peacefully at his home in Savannah, Georgia" after years of struggling with his health. "During that time, Gregg considered being on the road playing music with his brothers and solo band for his beloved fans, essential medicine for his soul," they wrote. "Playing music lifted him up and kept him going during the toughest of times."

The woman he had once played music alongside also paid tribute to Allman after his death. Cher tweeted that words were "impossible" after Allman died, referring to the musician by her nickname for him, "Gui Gui," and ending with his nickname for her, "Chooch." She also attended his funeral to pay her respects, and Extra published photos of her sitting beside their son Elijah at the service in Macon, Georgia. "2day we were with our beloved Gregory,tomorrow we say goodbye," Cher wrote on Twitter before the funeral, describing an "immeasurable" collective grief. "He was shy.He Was a KIND,LOVING man."