Duane Allman’s future looked blindingly bright in the fall of October 1971. The Allman Brothers Band had just seen the three years of hardcore touring pay off in fashion. Their third release, the live double album At Filmore East, had gone Gold, and both the band and Duane were being hailed as rock visionaries. Sessions for the Filmore follow-up, Eat a Peach, were going well in Miami, with sings like “Blue Sky” and “Little Martha” already in the trash, when the band took a break and returned to the their home in Georgia.
At dusk on October 29, shortly after he left the band’s “Big House” on his Harley Duane swerved to avoid a construction truck an was sent flying through the air. Following three hours of emergency surgery, he was declared dead, one month away from his 25th birthday. It was a stunning blow for the band, but they returned to the studio and finished Eat a Peach. It was released several months later “dedicated to a brother.”
Just over a year afterward, on November 11, 1972, while the band was recording Brothers and Sisters in Macon, bassist Berry Oakley was in a motorcycle accident eerily similar to Duane’s just three blocks from the site of the guitarist’s mishaps. Though he rose from the wreck and went home, seemingly unscathed, Oakley was rushed to the hospital within the hour, where he died of massive internal hemorrhaging. Again, the band staggered and carried on.
Oakley and Allman are buried side by side on a landing in the hilly Rose Hill Cemetery, a beautiful Civil War-era resting place where the band spent many a night hanging out and writing songs. Just around the bend lies the grave of Elizabeth Reed, in memory of whom Dickey Betts titled on of the band’s signature tunes.
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