Duane Allman

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Duane Allman
Duane Allmann.jpg
At Fillmore East on June 26, 1971 (late show)
Background information
Birth name Howard Duane Allman
Also known as Skydog
Born (1946-11-20)November 20, 1946
Nashville, Tennessee, US
Died October 29, 1971(1971-10-29) (aged 24)
Macon, Georgia, US
Genres Southern rock, Blues, Blues-rock, Jam, Soul, Rock, Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1961–1971
Labels Mercury, Capricorn
Associated acts The Hour Glass, Wilson Pickett, Johnny Jenkins, The Allman Brothers Band, Derek and the Dominos, Aretha Franklin, Herbie Mann, Gregg Allman, The Allman Joys, Boz Scaggs
Website AllmanBrothersBand.com
Notable instruments
Gibson Les Paul
Gibson SG
Fender Stratocaster
Gibson ES-345

Howard Duane Allman (November 20, 1946 – October 29, 1971) was an American guitarist, session musician, co-founder and leader of the The Allman Brothers Band until his death in a motorcycle accident in 1971 at the age of 24.

The Allman Brothers Band was formed in 1969 and based in the Southeastern United States. In the early 1970s, the band had major success. Allman is best remembered for his brief but influential tenure in the band and in particular for his expressive slide guitar playing and inventive improvisational skills.[1] In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Allman at #2 in their list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time, second only to Jimi Hendrix and in 2011 he was ranked #9.[2] His tone (achieved with a Gibson Les Paul and two 50-watt bass Marshall amplifiers) was named one of the greatest guitar tones of all time by Guitar Player.[3]

A sought-after session musician both before and during his tenure with the band, Duane Allman performed with such established stars as King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and Herbie Mann. He also contributed heavily to the 1970 album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos.

Duane Allman's skills as a guitarist were complemented by personal qualities such as his intensity, drive and ability to draw the best out of others in making music.[4] He is still referred to by his nickname "Skydog".[5]

Early years[edit]

Duane Allman was born on November 20, 1946 in Nashville, Tennessee. He was the eldest son of Willis Allman, a career United States Army sergeant, and Geraldine (née Robbins). His younger brother Gregg Allman was born in late 1947.

While the family was living near Norfolk, Virginia, his father was murdered by a fellow veteran hitchhiker.[6] In order to retrain as an accountant, Geraldine "Mama A" Allman sent Duane and Gregg to Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, Tennessee, which they both disliked intensely.[7] In 1957, the family moved to Daytona Beach, Florida where the boys attended Seabreeze High School.

The boys returned to Nashville to spend summers with their grandmother where Gregg learned guitar basics from a neighbor. In 1960, Gregg had saved enough money to buy his first guitar, a Japanese-made Teisco Silvertone while Duane acquired a Harley 165 motorbike. Duane began to take an interest in the guitar, leading to fights over it, and eventually their mother bought Duane a Gibson Les Paul Junior.[8]

It was also in Nashville that the boys became musically inspired by a rhythm and blues concert they attended, at which blues guitar legend B. B. King performed. Apparently, Duane turned to Gregg and said, "We got to get into this."[8]

Duane learned to play very quickly and soon became the better guitarist of the two, dropping out of high school to stay home during the day and focus on developing his guitar skills.

Allman Joys and Hour Glass[edit]

The two Allman brothers started playing publicly in 1961, joining or forming a number of small, local groups. Shortly thereafter, Duane quit high school to stay home during the day and focus on his guitar playing. Their band the Escorts opened for The Beach Boys in 1965 but disbanded and eventually became the Allman Joys. After Gregg graduated from Seabreeze High School in 1965, the Allman Joys went on the road, performing throughout the Southeast and eventually being based in Nashville and St. Louis, Missouri.

The Allman Joys morphed into another not-completely-successful band, The Hour Glass, which moved to Los Angeles in early 1967. There the Hour Glass produced two albums that left the band unsatisfied. Liberty, their record company, tried to market them as a pop band, completely ignoring the band's desire to play more blues-oriented material.

In 1968, Gregg Allman went to visit Duane on his 22nd birthday. Duane was laid up in bed, nursing an injured left elbow suffered from a fall from a horse. Gregg brought along a bottle of Coricidin pills for his fever and the debut album by guitarist Taj Mahal as a gift. He left it on the front porch and rang the bell, as Duane was angry with him for the injury. "About two hours after I left, my phone rang," Gregg states. "Baby brother, baby brother, get over here now!" When Gregg got there, he found that Duane had poured the pills out of the bottle, washed off the label and was using it as a slide to play "Statesboro Blues", an old Blind Willie McTell song that Taj Mahal covered. "Duane had never played slide before," says Gregg, "he just picked it up and started burnin'. He was a natural."[citation needed] The song would go on to become a part of the Allman Brothers Band's repertoire, and Duane's slide guitar became crucial to their sound.

The Hour Glass broke up in early 1968, and Duane and Gregg Allman went back to Florida, where they played on demo sessions with February 31, a folk rock outfit whose drummer was Butch Trucks. Gregg returned to California to fulfill Hour Glass obligations, while Duane jammed around Florida for months but didn't get another band going.

Session musician[edit]

Allman's playing on the two Hour Glass albums and an Hour Glass session in early 1968 at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama had caught the ear of Rick Hall, owner of FAME. In November 1968 Hall hired Allman to play on an album with Wilson Pickett. Allman's work on that album, Hey Jude (1968), got him hired as a full-time session musician at Muscle Shoals and brought him to the attention of a number of other musicians, such as Eric Clapton, who later said, "I remember hearing Wilson Pickett's 'Hey Jude' and just being astounded by the lead break at the end. I had to know who that was immediately—right now."

Allman's performance on "Hey Jude" blew away Atlantic Records producer and executive Jerry Wexler when Hall played it over the phone for him. Wexler immediately bought Allman's recording contract from Hall and wanted to use him on sessions with all sorts of Atlantic R&B artists. While at Muscle Shoals, Allman was featured on releases by a number of artists, including Doris Duke, Clarence Carter, King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Laura Nyro, Wilson Pickett, Otis Rush, Percy Sledge, Johnny Jenkins, Boz Scaggs, Delaney & Bonnie and jazz flautist Herbie Mann.

Formation of The Allman Brothers Band[edit]

The limits of full-time session playing frustrated Allman. The few months in Muscle Shoals were by no means a waste, however; besides meeting the great artists and other industry professionals with whom he was working, Allman had rented a small, secluded cabin on a lake and spent many solitary hours there refining his playing. Perhaps most significantly, Allman got together with R&B and jazz drummer Jaimoe Johanson, who came to meet Allman at the urging of Otis Redding's manager, Phil Walden, who by now was managing Allman and wanted to build a three-piece band around him. Allman and Jaimoe got Chicago-born bassist Berry Oakley to come up from Florida and jam as a trio, but Berry was committed to his rock band with guitarist Dickey Betts, the Second Coming, and returned south.

Getting fed up with Muscle Shoals, in March Allman took Jaimoe with him back to Jacksonville, Florida, where they moved in with Butch Trucks. Soon a jam session of these three plus Betts, Oakley, and Reese Wynans took place and forged what all present recognized as a natural, or even magical, bond. With the addition of brother Gregg, called back from Los Angeles to sing and replace Wynans on keyboards, at the end of March 1969, the Allman Brothers Band was formed. (Wynans became well known over a decade later as organist with Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble.) After a bit of rehearsing and gigging, the sextet moved to Macon, Georgia, in April to be near Walden and his Capricorn Sound Studios. While living in Macon, Allman met Donna Roosman, who bore his only child, Galadrielle. Despite their child, the relationship quickly ended.

Success: Layla, At Fillmore East[edit]

The Allman Brothers Band went on to become one of the most influential rock groups of the 1970s, described by Rolling Stone's George Kimball in 1971 as "the best damn rock and roll band this country has produced in the past five years."[9] After months of nonstop rehearsing and gigging, including free shows in Macon's Central City Park and Atlanta's Piedmont Park, the group was ready to settle on the Allman Brothers Band name, and to record. Their debut album, The Allman Brothers Band, was recorded in New York in September 1969 and released a few months later. In the midst of intense touring, work began in Macon and Miami (Atlantic South – Criteria Studios), and a little bit in New York, on the band's second album, Idlewild South. Produced mostly by Tom Dowd, Idlewild South was released in August 1970 and broke new ground for them by quickly hitting the Billboard charts.

A group date in Miami, also that August, gave Allman the chance to participate in Eric Clapton's Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Clapton had long wanted to meet Allman; when he heard that the Allman Brothers were due to play in Miami, where he had just started work on Layla with producer Tom Dowd, he insisted on going to see their concert, where he met Allman. At one point, Allman approached Clapton, fully admiring his ability to play guitar as much as Clapton admired his, and cautiously asked Clapton if he could come by the studio to watch. Clapton eagerly agreed, since he knew that his masterful playing combined with Allman's would be greater than the sum of its parts. After the show the two bands—the Allman Brothers Band and Derek and the Dominos—returned to Criteria, where Allman and Clapton quickly formed a deep rapport during an all-night jam session.[10] Allman wound up participating on most of the album's tracks, contributing some of his best-known work. Allman never left the Allman Brothers Band, though, despite being offered a permanent position with Clapton. Allman never toured with Derek and the Dominos, but he did make three appearances with them on December 1, 1970 at the Curtis Hixon Hall in Tampa (Soulmates LP) and the following day at Onondaga County War Memorial in Syracuse, NY, and one appearance (or possibly just Delaney Bramlett or both Allman and Delaney) November 20, 1970[11] at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, California.

In an interview, Allman told listeners how to tell who played what: Eric played the Fender parts and Duane played the Gibson parts. He continued by nonchalantly noting that the Fender had a sparklier sound, while the Gibson produced more of a "full-tilt screech".[12] Clapton wrote later in his autobiography that he and Allman were inseparable during the sessions in Florida; he talked about Allman as the "musical brother I'd never had but wished I did."[13]

The Allman Brothers went on to record At Fillmore East in March 1971. Meanwhile, Allman continued contributing session work to other artists' albums whenever he could. According to Skydog: the Duane Allman Story, Allman was in the habit of spontaneously dropping in at recording sessions and contributing to whatever was being taped that day. He received cash payments but no recording credits, making it virtually impossible to compile a complete discography of his works.

Allman was well known for his melodic, extended and attention-holding guitar solos. During this period two of his stated influences were Miles Davis and John Coltrane, having listened extensively to Kind of Blue for two years.[12][14]

Death[edit]

Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident only months after the release and initial success of At Fillmore East.[15] On October 29, 1971, in the western part of Macon, Georgia, during a band break from touring and recording, Allman was riding his motorcycle at a high speed on Hillcrest Avenue as he approached Bartlett Street, when a flatbed truck carrying a lumber crane stopped suddenly in the intersection, forcing Allman to swerve his Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle sharply to the left to avoid a collision. As he was doing so, he struck either the back of the truck or the ball on the lumber crane and was immediately thrown from the motorcycle. The motorcycle bounced into the air, landed on Allman and skidded another 90 feet with Allman pinned underneath, crushing his internal organs. Though he was alive when he arrived at the hospital, despite immediate emergency surgery, he died several hours later from massive internal injuries.

Memorial[edit]

The graves of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley

After Allman's funeral and some weeks of mourning, the five surviving members of the Allman Brothers Band carried on, resuming live performances and finishing the recording work interrupted by Allman's death. They named their next album Eat a Peach for Allman's response to an interviewer's question: "How are you helping the revolution?" Allman replied: "There ain't no revolution, only evolution, but every time I'm in Georgia I 'eat a peach' for peace." Released in February 1972, this double album contains a side of live and studio tracks with Allman, two sides of "Mountain Jam", recorded with Allman at the same At Fillmore East stand in March, and a side of tracks by the surviving five member band.

Bass guitarist Berry Oakley died less than 13 months later in a similar motorcycle crash with a city bus, three blocks from the site of Duane Allman's fatal accident. Oakley's remains were laid to rest beside Duane Allman's in Macon, Georgia's Rose Hill Cemetery.

The variety of Allman's session work and Allman Brothers Band bandleading can be heard to good effect on two posthumous Capricorn releases, An Anthology (1972) and An Anthology Volume II (1974). There are also several archival releases of live Allman Brothers Band performances from what the band calls "Duane's Era".

David Reid stands next to the Remember Duane Allman tribute carved in the dirt bank next to Interstate 20 in 1973. (Next to the E of "Duane".)[15]

Shortly after Allman's death, Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd dedicated the song "Free Bird", to the memory of Duane Allman. Van Zant would sometimes allude to this in concert; in the "Free Bird" performance at Skynyrd's famed 1976 appearance at Knebworth, England, Van Zant says to pianist Billy Powell, "Play it for Duane Allman." Many people assume the song was written about Allman. However, it had actually been written well before he died. (Allen Collins wrote the song after his then girlfriend asked him the question "if I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?")

In 1973, fans carved the very large letters "REMEMBER DUANE ALLMAN" in a dirt embankment along Interstate Highway 20 near Vicksburg, Mississippi.[16][17] A photograph was published in Rolling Stone magazine and in the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll; the carving itself lasted for over ten years.[18]

In 1998 the Georgia State Legislature passed a resolution designating a stretch of State Highway 19, US 41, within Macon as the "Duane Allman Boulevard" in his honor.[19]

Country singer Travis Tritt, in the song "Put Some Drive in Your Country" on his debut album, sings "Now I still love old country/I ain't tryin' to put it down/But damn I miss Duane Allman/I wish he was still around."

In 2013, Skydog, a seven-CD box set tracing the virtuosity of Duane Allman on the slide guitar was released with the help of his daughter, Galadrielle Allman. A March 16 interview with her on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday by Scott Simon ran over eight minutes, includes many details, and is highlighted with clips of his playing,[20] including links to an audio file prepared for the broadcast.

Equipment[edit]

Allman Joys, Hour Glass[edit]

Early session work[edit]

Allman Brothers Band, "Layla", later session work[edit]

  • 1961 Fender Stratocaster (for early session work overlapping with formation of the Band).[21]
  • 1958–1962 Gibson ES-345 Semi-hollow body (first album)[22]
  • 1957 Gibson Les Paul Standard goldtop, serial no. 7 3312. Traded on September 16, 1970 for a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard cherry sunburst, except for the pickups.
  • 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard cherry sunburst, acquired on September 16, 1970, except for the pickups.
  • 1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard tobacco sunburst,[22] acquired in June 1971.
  • 1961 Gibson SG,[22] used for slide,[21] given by Dickey Betts.
  • Marshall 50-watt[3] head, two Marshall 4x12 cabinets with JBL speakers.[21]
  • Fender Champ combo amplifier ("Layla")

Other[edit]

  • Gibson L-00 acoustic guitar[21]
  • Fender Rock N' Roll 150 strings (Hour Glass)
  • Coricidin medicine bottle (slide)

Discography[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ventre, Michael (October 30, 2006). "In memory of Duane Allman 35 years after his death, Skydog still among rock's very best guitarists". MSNBC. 2009 msnbc.com. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  2. ^ Rolling Stone (2006). "Rolling Stone: The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". RealNetworks, Inc. Archived from the original on November 25, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  3. ^ a b Blackett, Matt (October 2004). "The 50 Greatest Tones of All Time". Guitar Player 38 (10): 44–66. 
  4. ^ 'It would be real accurate to say that Duane was the father of the band, He had a lot to do with the spontaneity of the whole thing. He was like the mother ship. Somehow he had this real magic about him that would lock us all in, and we'd all take off. He really had that quality about him. Those were very happy days' Gregg Allman reported by Obrecht. Jas. 'Duane Allman remembered', Guitar Player, October 1981, Vol. 15, no 10.
  5. ^ This may be a reference to his signature guitar sound and tone. Many consider "Skydog" a variant of the nickname "Skyman" given to him by Wilson Pickett during the recording of Pickett's cover of the Beatles' "Hey Jude." Jim Dickinson was quoted in Keith Richards' autobiography Life as saying he was given the name because he was high much of the time.
  6. ^ Freeman, Scott, Midnight Riders. The Story of the Allman Brothers Band, Little, Brown & Company, 1995, p. 5
  7. ^ Freeman 1995, P. 5-6
  8. ^ a b Freeman, 1995, 8
  9. ^ George Kimball (1971). "The Allman Brothers Band; At Fillmore East". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  10. ^ Where's Eric! The Eric Clapton Fan Club Magazine (2006). "Duane Allman". Where's Eric! The Eric Clapton Fan Club Magazine. Archived from the original on November 10, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  11. ^ The Eric Clapton Album by Marc Roberty, 1994 Viking Studio Books, ISBN 0-670-85364-X
  12. ^ a b Jas Obrecht, "Duane Allman Remembered", Guitar Player Magazine, October 1981
  13. ^ Clapton, The Autobiography, 128.
  14. ^ Robert Palmer, liner notes for Kind of Blue, Columbia 1997, CK64935
  15. ^ a b "Remember when David Reid remembered Duane Allman?". FuzzyCo. Retrieved 2010-12-22. 
  16. ^ "Remember Duane Allman Picture". 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  17. ^ Eric Brown (October 15, 2007). "Prepagos Bogota Allman Brothers Band: forty years of tragedy and music legend". Vicksburg Post. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  18. ^ "Remember Duane Allman Picture". 2005. Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  19. ^ Hittin' The Web with The Allman Brothers Band :: Where Music Plus Friends Equals Family
  20. ^ Weekend Edition Saturday, Duane Allman: Guitar Playing That 'Gets Inside of You', NPR, March 16, 2013 extended interview of Galadrielle Allman by Scott Simon
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gress, Jesse (April 2007). "10 Things You Gotta Do to Play Like Duane Allman". Guitar Player (New Bay Media, LLC) 41 (4): 110–17. Retrieved 2011-05-17. 
  22. ^ a b c d Fothergill, Julian. "Duane Allman". Hotguitarist.com. Retrieved 2009-09-10. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Duane Allman: An Anthology (1972) liner notes
  • The Allman Brothers Band: Dreams (1989 boxed set) liner notes
  • Allman, Galadrielle (2014). Please Be with Me: A Song for My Father, Duane Allman. New York: Spiegel & Grau. ISBN 978-1-4000-6894-4. 
  • Poe, Randy, Skydog: The Duane Allman Story (Backbeat Books)

External links[edit]