Howard Duane Allman was supernatural. The man known as "Skydog" found new galaxies with his guitar. To Hear him is to believe it. His story is one of the great tragedies of Rock history. Unlike the tales of self-destruction that litter the genre (Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain), Skydog met his end by pure accident when his Harley Sportster collided with a lumber truck on October 29, 1971 near the intersection of Hillcrest and Bartlett Avenues in Macon. (No, he wasn't hit by a peach truck.) He was just a few weeks shy of his 25th birthday. It's one of those things I've never quite been able to get over despite the fact that I was -4 years old when it happened. He's buried amongst some hardwoods at the bottom of natural amphitheater near the Ocmulgee River in the Rose Hill Cemetery. If you stand there with your eyes closed on a quiet Sunday, you can almost hear the serpentine electric hiss of a '70 era "'Liz Reed" solo blend in with the breeze blowing through the trees.
Duane left behind an infant daughter, named Galadrielle. (Never seen Duane with a baby rattle, check out the photos here.) Galadrielle never knew her father. Living the life of a Rock gypsy, he apparently accumulated very few worldly possessions. (Why would he have needed anything beyond the clothes on his back, a Les Paul, Coricidin bottle, and an amplifier?) Among the things he had when he passed were the (badass) navy suede leather with orange overlay shoes he's seen wearing on the cover of the 1972 posthumous collection of his work, An Anthology.
Duane and his girlfriend Dixie maintained an apartment is Atlanta on 10th Street. The Shoes were there when he died. Finding opportunity in another man's tragedy, when he heard the bad news, some n'er-do-well cleaned out the apartment, including the shoes. During the ensuing 40 years, for all the world knew, the Shoes were lost to history.
Good deeds tend to find the right time and place. Not long ago, a "gentleman" whose name I do not know (if it's the same SOB who availed himself of the Shoes after Duane died, I hope he enjoys reading this) contacted EJ Devokaitis, the curator of the "Big House Museum" in Macon (an ABB museum that resides in a house where the band lived and jammed during their improbable Phil Walden arranged Macon residency). Resisting the urge to do right even 40 years later, the "gentleman" told EJ that he had the Shoes and that, if the museum didn't want them, he was going to sell them on Ebay. EJ wanted them, but not for himself. He negotiated the price this "gentleman" was asking for the Shoes down to $3,000 and bought them out of his personal savings. Knowing that Galadrielle had not known her father and had only a single item that had belonged to him (more on that later), EJ gave the Shoes to Galadrielle. Thus, these remarkable artifacts of Rock history found their way, , against all odds, to the only rightful owner on this earth. Here they are today.
You won't find a man on this earth who knows more about the Allman Brothers Band (or divorce law), or shares that knowledge more generously, than my friend John Lyndon. John's brother, Twiggs, was the road manager for the band from it's earliest days. (Twiggs's story is an amazing one in its own right. While John tells it best, you can check it out here.) For any ABB fan, if you ever get the opportunity to spend 30 minutes with John, don't miss it. I promise you'll be amazed.
At some point, Gregg Allman gave Twiggs one of Skydog's sunburst Les Pauls. Being the deeply generous and decent man that he is, John made sure that Galadrielle ended up with that guitar. According to John, it is the first thing she had ever owned that belonged to her father.
Every year, John uses his connections to arrange for a huge block of open invite tickets to one night of the ABB's annual run at the Beacon Theater in New York. Not having been, I've always thought of this as a bucket list item for any homegrown Southeastern music lover. John was kind enough to join me for lunch recently. Over a "Power Lunch" at the National, he wowed me with unknown chapters of the ABB legend, including the Shoes. (It would be fun to listen to John tell stories even if I cared nothing about the subject matter, which was the furthest thing from the case here). He was obviously bothered at the idea of EJ coming out of pocket to put the Shoes in the hands of their rightful owner. Being the head of devoted horde of ABB nuts, he was in a position to do something about it. Before I left that lunch, I was determined to do two things. Play my part in getting the Shoes to Galadrielle, and go to the Beacon.
I'm proud to report that I've accomplished both. Cress and I are booked to be at the Beacon in March for our own "Evening with the Allman Brothers Band." Using a small surcharge on the dozens of Beacon tickets he purchased this year, John has reimbursed EJ for the Shoes. He continues to collect donations, and the surplus will go the the Big House Museum. Galadrielle will get a card from our group to express our happiness that the Shoes are with their rightful owner. Nearly forgotten, a brief tale in the history of Rock has thus found its happy ending.