The Allman Brothers Band were flying high in 1971, as they followed two studio releases with the defining At Fillmore East live album that was on its way to becoming their first platinum record. The concert set stood at No.46 in its 15th week on the Billboard 200 when the dreadful news arrived, on October 29, that Duane Allman had been killed in a motorcycle accident.
Duane was a mere 24 years old when the accident occurred near Macon, Georgia, during a period when the band were between touring and recording commitments. The Allmans had recently completed a tour of the West Coast and were preparing for a new East Coast run.
“According to police reports,” ran the Billboard story, “he apparently lost control of his motorcycle to avoid crashing into a tractor-trailor. He died on the operating table at Middle Georgia Medical Center, three hours after the accident.” Ironically, the same issue of Billboard reported that the Fillmore East album had gone gold.
Tragic news arrives
In 2014, Duane’s daughter Galadrielle had her book about her father, Please Be With Me, published by Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House. The book movingly describes the scene in the hospital, when the family were originally told that he would survive, only to be crushed by the news that Allman had not survived the surgery.
Stoically, after mourning Allman’s death, the band carried on, releasing the combined studio and live landmark Eat A Peach little more than three months later. As their hordes of devotees know, tragedy would visit the Allmans again at the end of 1972, when Berry Oakley died in a similar crash, eerily only three blocks from the site of Duane’s accident. But the memory of the departed members of the group was, and continues to be, celebrated via the Allman Brothers Band’s unquestioned place in the pantheon of American music.