I should know more about The Allman Brothers Band than I do, which (until I read this) isn't much. I've lived my entire life south of Mason Dixon - with half of that spent in areas still affected by Allman influence. Indeed, while reading Ms. Allman's biography it surprised me to find so many coincidences:
- The author and I share a birthday, though we're separated by a few years.
- Her uncle Gregg received a liver transplant at the Mayo Clinic right around the time my father did.
- She lived eleven years in Jacksonville, FL. I lived there for 22.
- Duane and Gregg Allman lived very briefly in Virginia Beach as children, where I live now.
- In the book's prologue, Ms. Allman talks about finding a Rolling Stone with her father on the cover in an Athens, GA thrift shop. I lived in Athens for a time, and I have a good idea which store she mentions.
Spooky, eh? Maybe the last two tibits are a stretch, but seeing the birthdate was pretty wild. I also share the day with Gene Simmons and Gopher from The Love Boat.
Coincidences aside, I still acknowledge I should know more about The Allman Brothers. While not a Jacksonville-based band like Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet, the ties the brothers had to the music scene there shaped the legend. Perhaps for a long time, Ms. Allman knew as much about her father as I do - she was only two when Duane Allman perished in a motorcycle accident in the early 70s, a few years shy of the mystically unlucky 27 that stalks troubled musicians, and shortly after the band's grand commercial breakthrough. Please Be With Me is the culmination of her journey to meet a man everybody else (even strangers) knew and loved.
To complete the puzzle, Ms Allman relies on the memories of colleagues, family friends, and relatives to recount Duane's life story in vivid, lyrical prose. You can taste the salty air of Daytona Beach, where Duane picked up chords through his adolescence, and follow the scents of bougainvillea, whiskey, and weed all the way to Macon and back. When you read stories of rock legends, however, you wonder about the accuracy of detail when everything comes to you second and third-hand. One reviewer on Goodreads of this book voiced some skepticism that Ms. Allman's book holds 100% accuracy. I don't know if this opinion is based upon further research on Duane and the Allmans, or just conjecture. I say, sometimes an urban legend holds a kernel of truth. Did a brother really arrange to severely injure himself to get out of the draft? Were there tensions with the Grateful Dead and in Clapton's Layla sessions? Chances are, you'd learn of different opinions as these events happened.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Allman's book, which is partly a biography and partly a tribute not only to her father but the family that surrounded them. The strength of the narration carries you deep into the story that, for a moment, you almost forget the tragic outcome and want to remain where the music plays.
ARC received from NetGalley
Kathryn Lively is a mystery writer and book reviewer.