Reporting Brian Ives
Galadrielle Allman, the daughter of legendary Allman Brothers Band guitarist Duane Allman, generally keeps a low profile. But lately, she’s been working on sharing the legacy of her late father via an upcoming book about him as well as Skydog, a retrospective of his career released earlier this month.
Although he died at age 24 from a motorcycle crash, Allman was a mind-bogglingly prolific artist. The Skydog seven-disc box set highlights his career with his two most well-known bands, The Allmans and Derek & The Dominoes. However, it also includes a number of his pre-fame groups, a few solo tracks, and lots of the sessions he did as a sideman for Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, Otis Rush, Boz Scaggs, Ronnie Hawkins, Lulu and others.
Ms. Allman doesn’t often speak to the press, but in a recent phone conversation with Radio.com, she talked about the expansive box set, her father’s legacy and The Allman Brothers Band in 2013. She says that the project took about two years, though there had been talk of it for well over a decade. The process itself has been emotional for Galadrielle, who was just two when her father died.
“In some ways, it’s really inspiring and makes me really happy,” she said. “But you just want him to be here to talk about it, and you can’t help but wonder what he would have done with more time. He was so strong and only getting stronger. It’s definitely emotional, but I feel lucky. It’s such an intimate view into who he was as a person. He was unique.”
She continued: “It’s the same thing, seeing the band today – it’s so beautiful it hurts.”
Galadrielle remains in touch with her uncle, Gregg Allman, who still leads The Allman Brothers Band. Gregg and Duane played together in a handful of groups before the Allmans, including the Allman Joys, The Hour Glass and The 31st Of February, which are all represented on Skydog. Ms. Allman consulted her uncle about all of that material.
“He heard everything before we chose it, and we talked about it, and he understood that it was all about telling the complete story of Duane,” she said. “The early stuff wasn’t his favorite, but he understands that it’s really interesting to people, and it’s actually something he should be proud of. He’s probably more critical of his early material than other people would be.”
Having had very little time with her father, she says she got to know the man through the process of her upcoming book and the box set, which she’s “so glad is out there” now.
“I’ve learned more about him in the last four years than I ever knew before,” she said. “I talked to his friends, I spent time with my family and this project really brought it home. 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.”
Guitarist/singer Warren Haynes first joined the Allman Brothers Band in 1989, playing alongside founding guitarist Dickey Betts and essentially filling Duane’s roll in the band. He talked to Radio.com about listening to the box set and hearing Allman’s progression, noting that before he joined the group, he had much of this material in his collection. He was a fan of Duane well before he joined the Allmans.
“It’s always great to get a glimpse of something in somebody’s formative years,” Haynes said. “It sheds some insight into the overall picture. With Duane Allman, who was here such a short period of time, you see the growth: He was great in ’69, but he was better in ’70 and in ’71 he was way better still , so who knows what ’72 and ’73 and ’74 would have brought. His ability was increasing at an exponential rate, but he never was able to reach his potential.”
Haynes continued: “When I first joined the Allman Brothers, it was always left up to me to decide how much of his influence to show at any given time. I was very grateful for that. They never expected me to play more like Duane, or less like Duane. So that gave me the freedom to be myself, but to also to show how much respect I had for him. He was a huge influence on me.”
Ms. Allman is a huge fan of Haynes and the current lineup, which also includes her uncle and founding drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe along with guitarist Derek Trucks, bassist Oteil Burbridge and percussionist Marc Quinones. She speaks of the band with great admiration.
“Warren and Derek both incredibly powerful and unique players in their own right,” she said. “They bring themselves so wholly to that music and make it so new and fresh and alive.”
Ms. Allman says that by being themselves, the current band pay greater homage to her father than if they mimicked his old performances.
“You can see them eleven times in a row and you won’t hear the same song the same way, and that, to me, is the ultimate tribute to my father,” she said. “I told Derek [Trucks], ‘The more you’re like yourself, the more you’re like my father.’ The less he plays exactly like Duane, the more he’s living out what Duane really was all about, which was: find your own voice. And it’s the same with Warren. Hearing Warren tearing through these songs, it inspires me. That they can both enable the original band to keep playing, and also make it something that’s meaningful in a new way. I couldn’t have more respect for them, they’re really at the top of their game right now.”
In his recent autobiography, My Cross To Bear, Gregg Allman said that he believes in reincarnation. ”After seeing Derek Trucks, how could I not?” he wrote, suggesting that Trucks could be the reincarnation of his brother.
Ms. Allman has read the book and when asked about that part, she pauses. “That’s really a complicated one.”
“I don’t think anyone who sees Derek [playing] can’t help but to think of Duane,” she said. “Derek was named after Derek & the Dominoes, he’s the inheritor of a huge legacy. In some ways, he’s Duane’s inheritor just as much as I am. That’s a heavy load to carry. But he’s his own person. I think it’s kind of incredible that he s dealt so well under that kind of pressure. He’s his own person. But you see him lean over and talk to Gregg onstage, you see them interacting on stage – it’s moving. They have a special relationship. If he can make Gregg feel like Duane’s there with him, then I think that’s beautiful.”
Galadrielle says she often travels to New York in the spring to see their annual “March Madness” residency. Two years ago, the band celebrated its 40th anniversary with a number of guest performers, including Duane’s Derek & The Dominoes bandmate, Eric Clapton.
“It was just remarkable,” she said of the show. “Hearing Clapton play on [The Allman Brothers' song] ‘Dreams,’ it doesn’t get much better than that. It was a true tribute. He and Duane had a real powerful connection, [Clapton] was quoted in Rolling Stone as saying they were soulmates. To have him come and perform [with the Allmans] was very touching and incredibly generous.”
There may be another chance to reprise that jam. The Allman Brothers are among the many performers booked for Clapton’s upcoming Crossroads Center Benefit in New York City April 12 and 13 at Madison Square Garden. Allman reports that she may return to New York for the show, but she has a deadline looming. She’ s due to hand in the final transcript of her book about her father in May. Still, she laughs, “What better thing to play hooky for?”