Sea Level Guitarist Jimmy Nalls Dead at 66
Guitarist Jimmy Nalls, who rose to prominence as a co-founding member of the Allman Brothers Band splinter group Sea Level, has died at the age of 66.
Nalls' passing was reported by the Allman Brothers Band Facebook page, where an update offers a tribute that begins by acknowledging that the Allmans community is still reeling from the recent deaths of Butch Trucks and Gregg Allman, both of whom died earlier this year. Calling Nalls "a tremendously talented guitarist and wonderful friend," the post outlined the health issues that led to his death while honoring his continued perseverance.
"Jimmy has fought a valiant battle since 1995 with Parkinson’s Disease causing him to have poor balance, tremors and muscle related difficulties," continues the post. "In spite of this he continued to make amazing music. He died today in his home in Nashville as the result of one final fall. The Allman Brothers Band will miss our old pal Jimmy Nalls."
Born May 31, 1951, in Washington D.C., Nalls embarked on a busy session career in the early '70s, joining singer/songwriter Alex Taylor's band while Taylor was a Capricorn Records label mate of the Allmans'. It was during this period that Nalls first worked with future Allmans keyboardist Chuck Leavell, an association that would prove fruitful for both musicians after the Allmans' 1976 split.
Alongside fellow Allmans vets Lamar Williams and Jaimoe, Leavell decided to start a new group after the Allman Brothers Band folded, enlisting Nalls for the band he'd dubbed Sea Level — a play on C. Leavell. While they never achieved the same level of commercial success as the Allmans, they toured and recorded steadily over the next five years, completing five albums before folding in 1981.
Following Sea Level's breakup, Nall performed with a number of acts, spending a period as a Nashville session player in the '80s and working with artists such as Bodyworks and B.J. Thomas. He started the '90s by joining singer T. Graham Brown's touring band, and remained in the lineup until shortly after receiving his Parkinson's diagnosis in 1994.
While his symptoms made it difficult to continue performing, Nall kept playing, releasing the solo album Ain't No Stranger in 1999. He released a follow-up album just this week featuring several famous guest stars like Brad Whitford, Joe Bonamassa, Robben Ford, Warren Haynes, Larry Carlton and Leavell.
"There are times that I get really depressed," Nalls told Gabriel J. Hernandez of Collectible Guitar in 2014. "And sometimes I do feel like a burden to my family. I used to be the alpha male of this family … the top dog. I was traveling the world, going to places like Australia and Japan, Europe, pretty much all over the world. And when I lost it all of course it was devastating, to say the least. But my wife still loves me, even after 39 years of marriage, and I have my kids and grandkids."