While no cause of death is immediately available as of this writing, 100.9 The Creek can confirm the passing of Hewell Middleton Jr., better known to friends and legions of admirers as simply “Chank”.
Middleton was born on August 14th, 1950, and raised in West Macon’s Bellevue neighborhood. In 1969, he was shining shoes outside of a downtown barber shop when he got his first glimpse of the newly minted Allman Brothers Band, the legendary rock act whose mythology, which according to writer Candice Dyer, would include Chank as the band’s “muse, crisis responder, aide-de-camp, valet, wing-man, and confidante.”
In a Facebook post from 2019, Chank remembered that fateful Spring day fifty years later, writing, “Macon had never seen anything like these guys. Before the next two weeks would pass, we all had formed a lifelong friendship. They accepted me as part of their family and I accepted them as part of mine.”
After the tragic 1971 motorcycle accident that killed guitarist Duane Allman, Chank’s friendship with younger brother Gregg Allman (who Middleton would always refer to as “Gregory”) grew exponentially. The two were inseparable– and unfortunately, often immersed in the excess and never-ending party of rock n’ roll. In 1974, after spending the better part of a year on a chain gang over a drug conviction, Chank joined Gregg on the West Coast, where according to lore, he wrote the “love note” that introduced Allman to future wife Cher.
Chank entered rehab in 1976 for the last time, kicking his addiction to heroin, and going to work full-time at Macon’s Brown & Williamson plant– a job he’d hold for 30 years until he retired– but throughout, Middleton remained a loyal friend and brother to Gregg, a refuge from the outside world of tours, studios, and expectations.
In 2014, Chank told Candice Dyer stories of originally meeting the Allmans and of Duane’s protectiveness of his younger sibling. “He was always asking me and everybody else to look after his little brother,” remembered Chank– a charge he’d maintain across five decades, ending at Gregg’s deathbed in Savannah in May of 2017.
Chank has been immortalized in at least two songs, ‘Win, Lose Or Draw” (written by Gregg and inspired by Middleton’s prison experience) from the 1975 ABB album of the same name, and Col. Bruce Hampton’s “Give Thanks To Chank”.
Chank Middleton’s place in rock n’ roll history is reserved for the small few who remain connected to the truth behind the larger-than-life heroes the rest of us know only through albums, books, and second-hand hyperbole. He was a lifeline home and a walking, breathing almanac of an era and the players that defined it, and though not a performer, Middleton is as important to the musical story of Macon, Georgia as Little Richard, Otis Redding, Johnny Jenkins, Capricorn Studios, and of course, the Allman Brothers Band.
The Creek extends our deepest sympathies to the many, many brothers and sisters of Chank Middleton.