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Duane Allman’s Death: A Dark Day Near Macon, Georgia

The band were flying high when the dreadful news arrived, on October 29, 1971, that Duane Allman had been killed in a motorcycle accident.

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Duane Allman photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Duane Allman photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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.

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“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.

Listen to the best of The Allman Brothers Band on Apple Music and Spotify.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Roger Hammers

    October 30, 2014 at 12:34 am

    Rest in Peace Duane… you are very truly missed.

  2. Just give us the truth now

    October 30, 2020 at 2:11 am

    Who tampered with Duane’s bike, and just as importantly, why? Where’s the police report on the accident and was a forensic examination conducted on the bike? If not, why not? If so, what were its findings?

  3. Richard J Cosmillo

    November 27, 2021 at 4:37 am

    It is true Duane Allman was a reckless dude but this is how he soaked up his fun in life, a true thrill seeker he was. He is one of only a handful of musicians from his generation able to master true improvisational sound from his guitar, he was a gifted natural player who never took a lesson and kept getting better and better——the guitar was truly his piece, an extention of his hands, fingers and his melodic mind. Nobody played with the power, grace and originality as Duane Allman showed the world up until his untimely death in October 1971. The other members of the Allman Brothers Band were true musicians themselves just as capable of melodic improvisational skill. The way Duane envisioned the ABB the players had to be capable of intuitive playing which included solos by each member during the longer songs like “You Don’t Love Me” and “Whipping Post” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” which defined the complex sound the ABB were striving to create. The ABB really created that looping sound each member had to excel at. Dickey and Duane mastered these improvisational skills as they played together more, they became tighter and tighter perfecting the sound tremendously. At points during the songs, Dickey and Duane would play the same notes over and under each other but a little differently each time and, they only played what was necessary. The Fillmore record displayed the ABB at their absolute prime a beautiful testament to the twin guitar mastery of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts and the double drumming, tympany and bass playing of Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny Johnson (Jaimoe). Their music will forever be in our memory and on the radio and in Classic Rock History.

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