Singer-songwriter Allison Moorer revisits the murder-suicide of her parents

Allison Moorer’s father, Franklin, had been calling the house in Tillman’s Corner, Alabama, over and over that night.

Moorer’s mother, Lynn — who had recently moved out of the family trailer to a new house with her two daughters — eventually took the phone off the hook. Lynn’s friend, Carolyn, decided to stay over, taking Moorer’s bed and displacing her to the living room floor.

“She was afraid,” singer-songwriter Moorer tells The Post from Nashville, Tennessee. “She was afraid of what Daddy might do.”

It was around 3 a.m. on Aug. 12, 1986, when Moorer, then 14, first awoke. She saw her father in the kitchen with her mother, but didn’t think anything of it. She fell back asleep.

About two hours later, she woke up again to a gunshot outside the house.

A count of four.

Allison Moorer's parents, Laura Lynn Smith Moorer and Vernon Franklin Moorer.
Allison Moorer’s parents, Laura Lynn Smith Moorer and Vernon Franklin Moorer.Allison Moorer

Another gunshot.

Moorer didn’t move, even though she immediately recognized the sounds.

“I tried to talk myself out of knowing [what they were],” she says.

She stood up and walked to the door that opened from the kitchen to the carport outside.

“Mama?,” she called into the dark. No answer.

Eyes forward, she saw nothing. But something inside her told her not to glance left — not to look and see the bodies that laid there as proof that her father had shot and killed her mother and then killed himself. Franklin was 44, Lynn, 41.

Orphaned, Moorer and her older sister moved in with their mother’s sister, Jane, and her family in Monroeville, Alabama.

Moorer, now 47, details the shocking tragedy that has shaped her life in a new memoir, “Blood,” out Tuesday. A companion album of the same name drops this Friday.

"Blood" by Allison Moorer.
“Blood” by Allison Moorer.Da Capo Press

With 10 albums under her belt since her debut in 1998, Moorer is perhaps best known for the single “A Soft Place To Fall” from the Robert Redford film “The Horse Whisperer,” which earned her an Oscar nomination. Her big sister, Shelby Lynne, is also a musician, and won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2001.

For two decades, Moorer has danced around publicly telling the gut-wrenching story of her parents in full. But in a 2010 conversation with Maya Angelou, the poet asked her what she would one day say about her devastating history to her son John Henry, to whom she had just given birth.

“And I did not have an answer for that. So I started thinking about, ‘Well, what am I going to tell him?,’ ” says Moorer. “It came to me that I should probably start writing this all down … I figured out pretty quickly that I needed to just tell the truth about what happened.”

What happened is nothing short of a horror story.

“I don’t think I ever thought ‘my normal’ was really normal,” she says.

She suspects her father — who last worked at a vocational school — was mentally ill and knows he was an alcoholic. She remembers living in fear of what the Budweiser and Jim Beam would lead him to do next. Often, he was physically abusive, she says: She witnessed him hit her sister and her mother in their faces and beat on animals. Moorer herself was spared from this physical wrath, in part because her mother and sister were looking out for her.

“They protected me,” she says, “and I knew how to stay out of the way.”

Moorer has also grappled with why her mother, “a wonderful, light spirit,” was unable to fully leave her father.

“What I did not know at the time was how much she was struggling over what she could do to help the situation,” she says. “He threatened her with the fact that if she did leave, he would kill us all . . . This was a no-win situation and a tragedy waiting to happen.”

Allison Moorer, Shelby Lynne and father Vernon Franklin Moorer on horseback.
Allison Moorer, Shelby Lynne and father Vernon Franklin Moorer on horseback.Allison Moorer

In May of this year, Moorer moved from Chelsea in New York City to Nashville, where she lives with her third husband, singer-songwriter Hayes Carll, and her 9-year-old John Henry, whose father is the musician Steve Earle, her ex-husband.

Well into her own parenting journey and 33 years after her own parents’ death, the tragedy still hits Moorer hard.

“There’s so much shame that comes with a thing like this,” she says. “I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my father murdered my mother. My father is a murderer. That is not all he is, but that is something that he did.”

Moorer hopes her book will aid those struggling with their own disturbing stories. She says the book’s already done just that for her sister, who wrote the memoir’s foreword.

“She did not necessarily realize her own trauma, but through my recounting of what we went through, she has been able to say, ‘Oh, my God, that really happened. That really happened to me,’ ” says Moorer.

“She tells me it has helped her,” she says. “I can’t ask for more reward than that.”

Filed under 10/23/19

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