Galadrielle Allman on
"Please Be with Me: A Song for My Father, Duane Allman"
(published on nodepression.com, June 12, 2015)
On October 29, 1971, Duane Allman, the
soulful lead guitarist who passionately
wove expressive and fluid guitar solos
into the music of iconic artists like
Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, King
Curtis, Derek and the Dominoes, and the
Allman Brothers, died in a motorcycle
crash near Macon, Georgia. He left
behind an already remarkable musical
legacy, a young wife, and a two-year-old
daughter named Galadrielle.
With the same musical emotion that her
father spun into whatever songs he
played, Allman’s daughter spins a
poignant and picturesque portrait of a
father she never really knew, while at
the same time searching to discover, to
know, and to love him. Please Be with
Me: A Song for My Father, Duane Allman (Speigel
& Grau), is lovingly crafted as part
memoir and part biography. Galadrielle
Allman – named for the princess of the
elves in the Lord of the Rings trilogy,
Duane’s favorite book – moves from
feeling so distant from her father that
she feels simply like one of his many
fans, to feeling a close and everlasting
connection to him.
As she searches for a fuller portrait of
her father, she gathers stories from her
family, his bandmates, and friends, all
of which helps her to grow ever closer
to the man whose music moved millions.
She comes to recognize herself in him
and embrace their deep connection.
Through her quest, Galadrielle narrates
her father’s life, revealing the
portrait of a man so immersed in music
that his hands played guitar notes even
in his sleep.
From Duane’s life, she learns several
lessons that she embraces: “Do what you
love and own who you are. Time is
precious and death is real. So is Art:
it defies them both.” In the end,
writing this book simultaneously opens
and closes a chapter in Galadrielle’s
life. She writes as if to her father: “I
want to believe you will stay close to
me. I tell myself you live in my blood
and bones and you will come when I need
you. I will stop seeking you constantly
now. I will know you are in me and not
out in the world …We are tied together
as surely as a string is wound tightly
through the tuning peg of a guitar. The
connection between us is physical,
Galadrielle Allman’s sweet song to her
father brings Duane Allman to life in a
way that no other biography will ever be
able to do. I recently talked with her
about her book and her father.
Henry Carrigan: What prompted you to
write this book?
Galadrielle Allman: It's kind of amazing
that there aren't more books about my
father. I read the ones that are out
there, and I couldn't get a sense of
what drove him. It was right. It was
right before my 40th birthday, and I
thought "I'm not going to learn about
him organically," so I went after it.
Once I got my courage up to go on this
journey, everyone was so supportive. I
am always searching for a song, a
photograph, a moment saved in someone’s
memory to bring my father into sharper
focus. I was so young when we lost him.
I have no memory of my own to lean into.
I am very lucky that my father is Duane
Allman, an artist who left behind a
wealth of incredible music, and the
world shares my desire to know him.
How long did it take you to write it?
The research and writing probably took
about five years, but I've had parts of
this written since I was twenty-five. Of
course, it's been a kind of lifelong
dream to do this. Sometimes you have a
story like this, and when you get ready
to start to write it, you follow what it
asks you to do. I sort of walked into
the deep end.
How did you come up with the title?
I kept a list of titles. I've always
loved the song, "Please Be with Me," the
Cowboy song he played on, and that was
one of his last studio recordings. I
realized that this is exactly what I
would say to him.
You had a chance to tune up for this
longer book in your shorter remembrance
in Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective box set that came out in
Yes, that box set is the soundtrack I
wrote to. As I say there, it’s in the
music on those seven discs where Duane
can finally be found.
As you got to know your father through
writing this book, what do you think are
some of his most memorable traits?
My father was passionate, honest, a man
of integrity and a truth teller. In his
guitar playing, he was emotionally
expressive; I’m always moved by the
nakedness of his playing; he’s
absolutely baring himself, moving on
this musical journey, and he never
wastes a note. What’s amazing to me is
that he’s playing notes that aren’t even
on the guitar. He has a distinctive
voice, too, and he communicates a world
with his vocals.
Were there aspects about your father
about which you wish you hadn’t learned?
Well, there were definitely upsetting
moments. His touring schedule was brutal
and he often sought the company of drugs
and other women. But, it was important
for me to see a lot of that in the
context of the age and what everyone
around him was doing, too. It was
important for me to recognize my father
as a human being. He was a provocative
person who could be sweet, loving, and
funny, and I wanted to know about all
aspects of him. You can’t play the blues
unless you live life fully.
What are Duane’s greatest contributions
to popular music?
Playing slide guitar. Jesse Ed Davis and
Ry Cooder inspired him, and my father
took this fairly arcane blues style and
married it to his own. He inspired a
generation of musicians to use slide. He
was a great lead guitarist, and just as
good a rhythm player. He always had this
confidence and charisma, and people
still talk about his presence in the
studio or on stage. He never put down
his guitar. He’s influenced the ways
that the guitarists in the Allman
Brothers Band play. I’ve seen Warren
[Haynes] and Derek [Trucks] take huge
leaps. I’ve seen the way a guitar player
can stretch out, keep learning and keep
finding new ways of pushing himself. I
think my father demystifies the idea of
genius with his guitar playing. His
playing illustrates that it takes focus,
drive, commitment, and a deep work ethic
to achieve the heights he was able to
Do you have a favorite song of your
What fascinates me most about his music
is its range. I like best to hear him
playing tough old blues and acoustic
What do you think Duane would be doing
today if he had not died?
He would have been just as curious as he
always was. I don’t think he would be
resting on his laurels. My father would
have taken his work in a lot of
different directions. I think he would
have done more writing and producing. He
always stayed engaged. Duane was a
powerful person whose vision of the band
was that every incarnation of the band
involved every musician playing at their
peak every night.
Have you had a chance to read Alan
Paul’s book on the Allman Brothers Band,
One Way Out?
Yes. I love books like his that use oral
histories to tell the story of the band.
What lessons would you like readers to
take with them from your book?
The power of music. I hope they’ll dig
deeper into my father’s entire catalog
and to see the depth and meaning of what
the Allman Brothers did. I hope my book
inspires people who have lost ones they
love to revisit their own families. I
hope the book illustrates how we can
carry the ones we’ve lost in our lives
What’s next for you?
I’m very interested in talking to
children of musicians who have lost
their parents – like Rosanne Cash and
Ravi Coltrane, for instance – and trying
to discover how music functions in
family, and how such loss affects their