About a year ago, Radio.com spoke to Galadrielle Allman about Skydog, the box set celebrating the career of her father, the legendary founder of the Allman Brothers Band, Duane Allman. During the interview, she mentioned that she was on a deadline to finish a book about her father, saying, “I’ve learned more about him in the last four years than I ever knew before… I learned that he had a remarkable work ethic. 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.”
That book — Please Be With Me: A Song For My Father, Duane Allman — is in stores today. It’s a moving story about her dad, who died at the young age of 24 ,and doubles as a history of the Allmans told from the perspective someone who was only two at the time of Duane Allman’s death.
Here’s an excerpt from the book’s introduction. Trust us, it’s heartbreaking before chapter one even begins:
My father is killed in the first paragraph of every article ever written about him. His life story is told backward, always beginning at the end: in the road, his motorcycle down, his body broken. People linger over the wreckage as if it says something meaningful about his life. Duane is most often described as a rock star, although he did not live long enough to know how famous he would become. His brief, brilliant life has become mythic, a cautionary tale and a cliché: Live fast, die young.
Duane Allman’s story is more than a tragedy; it is a true romance. He fell in love with his guitar and gave his heart away. At fifteen years old, he often stayed up all night, bent over on the couch, his fingers wandering the frets of his guitar in the dark. His mother would come home late from the restaurant where she worked and find him playing with reddened fingertips and a crick in his neck, deaf to the sound of the front door. She’d go to sleep and wake in the morning to find him in the exact posture he had been in the night before, still playing. When she asked him what he was doing, pushing himself so hard, he said, “Mama, I’m searching for my sound. I’d go hungry to play this guitar.”
The sound he found helped change the way the world perceived the South. White southern boys were most known for backward thinking and racist cruelty. My father’s guitar sang out idealistic, astounding music that tipped that notion over. The Allman Brothers Band made every southerner with a radio proud of himself. Their music described a world of tough towns and darkened woods, men laughing down the length of beer-soaked bars or sitting alone in their rooms, waiting by their telephones. You can hear them yearning in their songs, and growling out their defiance, refusing to be chained. The Allman Brothers took the blues, the root of all American music, and electrified it in a way no American band ever had with an integrated band in the segregated South. It was revolutionary.
Duane played guitar so beautifully the world came to him. Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, King Curtis, Boz ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Scaggs. Famous recording artists sought out this young man to record at FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound in Muscle Shoals, Alabama; Atlantic Records in New York; and Criteria Studios in Miami. His remarkable talent brought him the opportunity to build a band of his own, and he formed a group of players that matched his skill and his commitment to playing, note for note. They raised the bar for one another, each honing his skill against the other, blade against stone. The powerful chemistry between the Brothers came together so fast it seemed magical and destined.
The Allman Brothers Band became known for their epic live performances, six men synched up and improvising in the jazz style. No two shows were the same. Success came to them very quickly. Inside of three years, a private jet replaced their tour bus, which had replaced the Winnebago and their first Econoline van. Dive bars and public parks where they played for free overflowed into beautiful old theaters, until stadiums were packed with thousands of fans. They built their following, playing hundreds of shows from the Fillmore in San Francisco to the Fillmore East in New York City. They called traveling from one coast to the other their commute, no joke. Drugs, decadence, and a growing darkness came along, tucked into their pockets. The Allman Brothers Band was the number-one band in America in 1972, and by then my father was already gone.
From the Book, Please Be With Me by Galadrielle Allman. Copyright © 2014 by Galadrielle Allman.
Reprinted by arrangement with Spiegel & Grau, a division of Random House. All rights reserved.