Dan Toler’s death on Monday morning after his two-year battle with ALS is not only mourned by his wife and his daughters but also by the fans of the guitar legend. When Dan Toler found out two years ago that he had ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, he said that “I do not know how long I have and actually none of us do, but I would say my chances are slim.”
On Feb. 25, 2013, Dan Toler’s website announced that the former Allman Brothers lead Guitarist “Dangerous” Dan Toler passed.
“Legendary Southern Rock Guitarist Dan Toler died this morning February 25th 2013 at his home in Sarasota Florida. Dan passed away after a long battle against ALS.”
For those who are not too young to remember, Dan Toler was celebrated in the late 1970s for his astonishing guitar work as a member of the Dickey Betts & Great Southern band.
From 1979 to 1982, Dan Toler became a member of The Allman Brothers Band and was featured on their 1979 hit album “Enlightened Rogues,” the 1980 album “Reach for the Sky,” and the 1981 album “Brothers of the Road.”
In the 1980s, both Dan Toler and his brother David became members of the Gregg Allman Band and had feature album hits like “I’m No Angel” in 1987 and “Just Before The Bullets Fly” in 1988.
In the early 1990s, Dan, his brother David, John Townsend, Bruce Waibel and Mark Pettey created the Townsend Toler Band. Together the band went on tours along the eastern United States, including shows in New York City. After playing in the Townsend Toler Band, Dan Toler joined The Renegades of Southern Rock.
In 2009, Dan Toler played again with John Townsend in the Toler/Townsend Band and released their self-titled album “The Toler/Townsend Band.”
In 2011, David, Dan Toler’s brother, died and Dan was diagnosed with ALS.
Shortly after his diagnosis with ALS, Dan Toler told the Bradenton Herald that “I do not know how long I have and actually none of us do, but I would say my chances are slim. … Right now I still have good use of my arms and hands and hopefully will have for a few years, if I’m lucky.”
When Dan Toler communicated with the Bradenton Herald it was through email. ALS had already made it too difficult to speak. Despite the loss of his speech abilities, however, Dan continued to play and in March of 2012, he played in a show in Macon, Ga.
“I could barely understand what he was saying,” said Dan Toler’s manager, Glen Halverson. “But as far as I could tell his playing wasn’t affected at all.”
According to a Feb. 26, 2013, Bradenton Herald report, “Among the shows he played after his diagnosis were a series of star-filled benefits in the Bradenton area that his fellow musicians arranged to raise money for his medical care. Mr. Toler once again played alongside Betts and other members of the Allman Brothers Band, Great Southern, the Marshall Tucker Band and Blackhawk.”
ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is one of five motor neuron diseases that is characterized by rapidly progressive weakness, muscle atrophy, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing , and eventually difficulty breathing. Most people with ALS die from respiratory failure, usually within three to five years from the onset of symptoms.
In ALS patients under the age of 40, ALS tends to progress slower. Dan Toler, who was born on Sept. 23, 1948, however, was already more than 60 years old when he was diagnosed.
The best-known person with ALS, Stephen Hawking, has lived with the disease for more than 50 years, though this is an unusual case. Stephen William Hawking, who was born on Jan. 8, 1942, is a British theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author and was diagnosed with ALS when he was 21 years old.
Dan Toler seems to have known that after his diagnosis with ALS he would not be a long-time survivor. Dan was too spiritual to know otherwise. Listening to Dan’s guitar playing reflects not only his musical talent as a guitarist but also his spirit.
It is Dan Toler’s combination as a talented rock jazz guitarist with a legendary spirit that fans are mourning.
“Dan Toler was noted almost as much for his spirit as for his music. ‘He was very generous, especially with his fans,’ Halverson said. ‘He would stay after concerts and sign every autograph and answer every question about the Allman Brothers or whatever people wanted to talk about’.”
Despite the battle with ALS during the past two years, Dan Toler’s manager said that,
“I can’t say it didn’t faze him,” he said. “But you couldn’t tell. It didn’t diminish his spirit. It did not affect the person he was.”