Music Interviews
3:14 am
Sat March 16, 2013

Duane Allman: Guitar Playing That 'Gets Inside Of You'

Originally published on Sat March 16, 2013 7:44 am

The Allman Brothers Band produced the sound at the heart of Southern rock. At Fillmore East, the live double album that launched Duane and Gregg Allman into the rock stratosphere, was recorded 42 years ago this month. But on Oct. 29, 1971, just days after the record was certified gold, 24-year-old Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident. He left behind a wife and a 2-year-old daughter, Galadrielle.

Now, Galadrielle Allman has helped produce a compendium of her father's work. Skydog, titled after his nickname, is a seven-CD box set tracing his slide guitar virtuosity from his earliest days to his last.

"He's unique, you know. He's a slide player who took it into a rock venue, which really hadn't happened before," she says. "He really had a special touch with that and I think people really respond to that sound. It's got sort of a vocal quality — it almost sounds like a horn. And I think it conveys emotion particularly well. ... It just kind of gets inside of you."

Here, Galadrielle Allman speaks with NPR's Scott Simon about the role that music played in her father's life — and her own.


Interview Highlights

On learning about her father growing up

"I think the music has always been my primary source for knowing about him. I always was taken to see the bands play and of course had relationships with my Uncle Gregg and my grandmother. But in terms of really knowing him — what he was like as a person, or his personality — you know, his stature kind of eclipses that. So his music is really the most personal way to sort of know what his values were and what he loved to do."

On the famous opening riff of "Layla"

"What can you say about that one? He walked in the door with that one in his mind. I don't know where it came from. I think that song had a really different energy. ... He was on the road with The Allman Brothers and he knew Eric Clapton was recording in town and asked if he could meet him. And they really had a truly intense relationship with their guitars. I don't even think they spent that much time talking it through or anything; I think they could just communicate with each other. The story my mom loves to tell about that song is that when I was 3 and the album came out, when she played it for the first time sitting around with friends, as soon as it started, I started dancing and I danced for the whole song. And it's a long song."

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Transcript

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: OK. The Allman Brothers Band.

(APPLAUSE)

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is the sound at the heart of Southern Rock...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STATESBORO BLUES")

SIMON: "Live at Fillmore East" was recorded 42 years ago this week, the record that launched Duane and Greg Allman into the rock stratosphere. But on October 29, 1971, just days after the album was certified gold, Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was 24 years old. He left behind a wife and a two-year-old daughter named Galladrielle. Now, Galladrielle Allman has helped produce a compendium of her father's work. It's called "Skydog" - it was Duane Allman's nickname - and it's a seven-CD box set tracing his slide guitar virtuosity from his earliest days to his last. Galladrielle Allman joins us now from New York. Thanks so much for being with us.

GALLADRIELLE ALLMAN: Oh, it's my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

SIMON: It's amazing to recollect the fact that your father was just 24 when he died and yet he left this enormous compendium of music.

ALLMAN: It's true. He really lived to play, and he lived fully every day. And it's a huge volume of work. And I really learned a lot pulling it together.

SIMON: May I ask what you learned about him growing up?

ALLMAN: You know, it's interesting. I think the music has always been my primary source for knowing about him. And I always was taken to see the bands play, and of course have relationships with my uncle Gregg and my grandmother. But in terms of really knowing him, what he was like as a person or his personality, you know, his kind of stature kind of eclipses that. So, his music is really the most personal way to sort of know what his values were and what he loved to do. And so it was limited in a way by the fact that he was popular, you know, when I was a child.

SIMON: And he is still mentioned in the same breath as Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton as the greatest guitarists of all time.

ALLMAN: Yes. And I think he earned that, truly. And he's unique. You know, he's a slide player who took it into a rock venue, which really hadn't happened before. He really had a special touch with that. And I think people really respond to that sound. It's got sort of a vocal quality. It almost sounds like a horn. And I think it really conveys emotion particularly well. I think it just gets inside of you.

SIMON: Of course, your father also worked as a side man. Let's listen to him with Aretha Franklin.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WEIGHT")

ARETHA FRANKLIN: (Singing) I pulled into Nazareth, I was feeling 'bout half past dead. I just need some place where I could lay my head. Hey, mister can you tell me where a girl might find a bed? He just grinned and shook my hand. No was all he said. Take a load off, Annie, take a load for free...

SIMON: Good Lord.

ALLMAN: Yeah. It's one of my favorites. You can really hear how he's like another singer. It's kind of almost a call and response relationship. It just gets right in there.

SIMON: Let's give a listen also to this, Wilson Pickett playing "Hey Jude."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEY JUDE")

WILSON PICKETT: (Singing) Hey Jude. You'll be all right.

SIMON: Now, what about the story that it was your father that somehow prevailed on Wilson Pickett to do that?

ALLMAN: It absolutely was. And he just thought it was crazy, because the Beatles were charting at that moment with "Hey Jude." And they said, what? You know, we can't cut a hit record and do it with Wilson Pickett? Are you crazy? And he just started to play that lick, and Wilson just lit up.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEY JUDE")

SIMON: You've written a lovely essay for this collection. And I'm struck by a paragraph in which you say: My mother told me he - your father - that he would sit on the edge of their bed and play to her in the middle of a quarrel. He played to me when I was cried and couldn't be soothed. The music was his highest form of communication. He could play the complexity of his thoughts and feelings when words failed.

ALLMAN: It's really touching for me to think about that, about how it functioned for him personally as well as professionally. You know, I think he was - so many of his friends have told me that he wore his guitar. You know, he would have his guitar with him always and really did sort of integrate that kind of playing to express himself. It is the sort of emotional conduit. You know, he could just use it as an extension of himself, which I think every player, that's their goal, you know.

SIMON: Yeah. I've also read that when the rest of the band would kind of recharge back in Macon, he would look for new gigs, new people to play with.

ALLMAN: Absolutely. And that was hard on my mom, you know. Everybody else would come home. It would be a big celebration and he would have, you know, hopped on a tour with Delaney and Bonnie or found his sessions somewhere. You know, that was his joy. And I think that's really why there's so much work there.

SIMON: We want to play a pretty famous opening riff and see what you can tell us about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAYLA")

ALLMAN: What can you say about that one? He walked in the door with that one in his mind. I don't know where it came from. I think that song had a really different energy.

SIMON: This is "Layla."

ALLMAN: This is "Layla," yes. And this is another instance of he was on the road with the Allman Brothers and he knew Eric Clapton was recording in town, and he asked if he could meet him. And they really have that truly intense relationship with their guitars. I don't even think they spent that much time talking it through or anything. I think they could just communicate with each other. The story loves to tell about that song is that when I was three and the album came out, when she played it for the first time sitting around with friends, as soon as it started, I started dancing and I danced for the whole song. You know, and it's a long song. So, it was sort of a moment for her that she always remembers.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LITTLE MARTHA")

SIMON: Does listening to the music help you know your father?

ALLMAN: It absolutely does. I'm so grateful for that. You know, I feel that there are a lot of people that don't feel like they know their parents as well as they'd like to, whether they have them or not. And this is such a sort of window into his heart, you know. And I really do - I rely on that. It's been my sort of companion my whole life. And it's an honor, you know, it really is. There's no other word for it. It's helped me a lot.

SIMON: Galladrielle Allman speaking with us from New York. She's the co-producer of "Skydog," the collected works of her father, Duane Allman. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

ALLMAN: Thank you. It was really a pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LITTLE MARTHA")

SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.