The 1949 Murder Of Gregg And Duane Allman's Father, Willis Turner Allman

The Allman Brothers Band seemed to perfect the blend of rock, country, and blues into catchy songs that would later carry them to musical infamy. They were one of the first "jam bands," with lingering guitar solos amping up crowds at performance after performance. With several lineup changes throughout the band's 50-plus years, they remained a favorite for decades. The group would sell millions of albums and would later become inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

If artists draw inspiration from tragedy, the Allman Brothers Band could pay their dues in spades. The group was beset by the tragic losses of two of its members during the early 1970s. The first death was Duane Allman, who died on October 29, 1971, from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. The second member to die was Berry Oakley in November of the following year. Like Duane, Oakley was killed when he wrecked his motorcycle (per All Music).

But Duane and Gregg Allman began their lives with an event that forever shaped their upbringing. When they were toddlers, their father, Willis Allman, was gunned down in cold blood the night after Christmas. 

The evening began as a fun time out

Willis Turner Allman was the perfect example of "The Greatest Generation." Before he became the father to two boys that would become music legends, Allman served his country bravely during World War II. The Allman family patriarch was part of the Allied forces that stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in 1944, forever changing the tide of the war in Europe (via Rolling Stone). After the war, Allman was made a Second Lieutenant and took a job as a recruitment officer. He and his wife had two boys shortly after, Duane in 1946 and Gregg in 1947. The recruiter position took the young Allman family from their Nashville home to new digs outside of Norfolk, Virginia. It would be here that tragedy would strike.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that Allman and another officer, Robert Buchanan, were out one evening when they encountered a man that had been hitchhiking. The two military men befriended the man, playing games of shuffleboard with him and having drinks as the three of them hopped from bar to bar. At the end of the night, Allman and Buchanan agreed to give the man a ride home. Their rider gave them directions, leading them to a remote location that was known as Lambert's Farm. Here, he drew a handgun on his hosts and ordered them to get out of the car. 

The man forced Allman and Buchanan to give him their wallets and had them walk further out into the dark field in front of them. The gunman then gave the order for them to lie on the ground, face-down.

The killer was caught and covicted

What happened next remains up for debate. The Virginian-Pilot reports that it's believed that Allman wasn't going to follow his captor's demand to lie on the ground. Allman may have grabbed the gun, lunging at the figure that had just robbed them. Buchanan took off running and would later tell the police that he heard two gunshots. The gunman sped off in the car, leaving Allman lying on the ground. Buchanan made it back to his friend to find him dead from a gunshot wound in his chest. According to The Tennessean, the killer was later identified as Robert "Buddy" Green. Soon after the botched robbery, he was caught and sentenced to prison, where he spent the rest of his life (via Oxford American). Allman was buried at Nashville National Cemetery with full military honors (via Find a Grave). 

Rolling Stone tells of how the Allman family moved back to Nashville shortly after the murder. The two boys would later be sent to a military school, which Gregg Allman would later claim probably kept him and his brother out of orphanages. How much of an impact the murder of their father had on their lives might never be able to be measured, but Willis Allman's death certainly put the two young brothers on a different trajectory that led them back to Nashville and eventually Jacksonville, Florida where they would thrive as musicians.