Book review by Jane Self
Duane Allman was a great example of the Baby Boomer generation – independent, feisty, rebellious, exploring, headstrong, challenging authority, experimental, courageous and basically unstoppable when he went after something.
He just also happened to be a brilliant and creative musician, touted by many, including Rolling Stone magazine, as one of the best guitarists ever.
Born in November 1946 to Bill and Geraldine Allman after Bill returned from his service during World War II, Duane started playing the guitar when his younger brother by almost 13 months, Gregg, bought one.
Duane was about a month shy of 14 at the time.
To keep him from dominating his brother’s guitar, their mother bought Duane his own for Christmas a few months later.
It didn’t take long for music to become his life. Duane spent less and less time at school, eventually dropping out of high school altogether.
He and Gregg started numerous bands while still in their teens and played at parties and clubs around Daytona Beach, Fl, where they lived.
Many books and articles have been written about the Allman Brothers Band over the years, including Gregg’s 2012 memoir, “My Cross to Bear.”
But “Please Be With Me: A Song for My Father, Duane Allman,” by Galadrielle Allman brings a fresh perspective to the story many fans think they already know.
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Named by her father for a character in “Lord of the Rings,” Galadrielle was 2 years old when Duane was killed on a motorcycle in Macon, Georgia, in October 1971.
In her own attempt to get to know the man behind the music, she spent five years researching the music her father played, interviewing her family, members of the band, their wives, friends and fans and other musicians who had played with Duane Allman.
Although she had attended Allman Brothers Band concerts every year with her mother, Donna Roosman, and spent time with her Uncle Gregg and grandmother Jerry (Geraldine Allman), she didn’t have any knowledge or experience of who her father really was.
“I learned that he had a remarkable work ethic,” she told Radio.com while still working on the book, which was released in March 2014.
“He had a fire in his belly to keep getting better. He loved to be challenged by the people around him.
"That’s inspiring even if you’re not a musician.”
She also discovered that they shared the tragedy of growing up without a father – a hitchhiker shot and killed Bill Allman when Duane was only 3. Neither Duane’s mother nor Galadrielle’s mother ever remarried.
The book is well written, pulling the reader into the world of Southern rock bands, their music and life on the road. Galadrielle has an extraordinary gift with words, describing her own longing to know her father as well as the sounds he created with his guitar in ways that one can almost share the experience.
It certainly makes readers, even if not particularly a fan, appreciate the music, the passion and the creativity.
Perhaps the biggest contribution Galadrielle Allman makes with her poignant story is to give the women a voice. Their stories haven’t been heard in the other writings.
“I was especially curious about the stories that the women around me had to tell,” she wrote in her introduction. “Their lives were nowhere in evidence in magazines or books. The men’s life on the road was fairly well documented, but I knew it wasn’t the whole story.”
She had the courage to tell the ugly side as well as the beauty of the music. She didn’t hide the drugs or womanizing that went on with the band and she didn’t cover up the occasional cruel acts of her father.
Just nine months before he was killed, Duane got mad and made Donna and Galadrielle leave the “Big House” in Macon where many of the band members and their families lived.
Even so, she still managed to pay a great tribute to her father and his legacy as a talented musician, although he had not even begun to reach his potential.
“A missing piece that I thought could only be had by knowing him has been returned to me, assembled from all the gathered fragments, word by word. This story is my song of love, built around the lost chord.”