Galadrielle Allman Makes Room for Daddy Duane Allman in New Memoir
Galadrielle Allman never really got to know her father, Allman Brothers Band great Duane Allman, and that turned out to provide the impetus to write her memoir, Please Be with Me.
Duane's daughter spoke to a full auditorium at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art last night as a guest of the Writers Bloc, a literary group founded by Andrea Grossman, that organizes author talks in L.A., and late last year included a session with Robert Hilburn for his Johnny Cash biography that featured Kris Kristofferson.
After reading excerpts from her book, Allman was prompted with questions by writer Mikal Gilmore, a well-known rock 'n' roll journalist for Rolling Stone magazine, among others, but also an award-winning memoirist in his own right, author of the chilling book Shot in the Heart about his brother Gary, a convicted murderer who received the death penalty in Utah.
Duane Allman died tragically in a motorcycle accident at the age of 25, at the height of his musical success in 1971, when Galadrielle Allman was just two years old.
During the discussion and in her book, Allman creates a compelling and intimate portrait of Duane, a man she barely knew, as a father, a husband, a son and brother, rather than a rock legend that was destined for greatness via music and tragedy.
Galadrielle said she never knew much about her father. When she was growing up, he wasn't talked about. The most contact she had with her father's family was seeing the band -- and her Uncle Gregg -- on tour once a year.
"I was not raised with his story, which wasn't exactly child-safe," she explained.
After extensive hours of research, many trips to visit her family, interviews with her grandmother (Duane's mother), her mother (Donna Roosman), her uncle, other band members and friends of her father, Allman was able to complete the book. She was given access rarely granted to outsiders of the Allman Brothers clan, including the approval of her mother. "My mother was my inspiration. This book wouldn't exist without her," said Allman.
The thought-provoking discussion with Gilmore, which covered not just what it was like to grow up in the shadow of a mythic musical genius, but of family and its mysteries and complexities, the integral forces that shape and drive us.
Allman was determined that the story be of her own telling: not Duane's, not her mother's, not setting the record straight for the rock 'n' roll history books or even a tell-all to top the celebrity-driven charts. Jokingly, she said, "My next book is going to be fiction. It's not easy to stay rooted in your intentions, to own it and say 'This is mine.' This is very contested ground."
Allman pointed out that another book recently published by a rock journalist, Alan Paul's One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band is outselling her own. The Allman Brothers Band celebrates its 45th anniversary this year with a series of concerts in New York City.
"I'm not a musician," said Allman. "I didn’t know him. I had to tell myself that there is a reason to do this. I did this at age 45. I wanted to do this at 21. But I knew I had better be ready to tell it. It's not an easy thing to do."
Easy or not, Allman is putting herself out there, knowing fans and critics will weigh with their own opinions. She might be her mother's daughter -- strong, independent, a feminist -- but she has the tenacity, fearlessness and strength of her father. No matter the outcome, Please Be With Me is a coming-of-age story that mourns the loss of a parent.
"I hope the book will reach people who have experienced loss," said Allman. "There is a real inability in America to face death with open eyes and talk about it. It's a very splintering effect."