Duane Allman

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Duane Allman
Allman performing at the Fillmore East in 1971
Allman performing at the Fillmore East in 1971
Background information
Birth nameHoward Duane Allman
Also known asSkydog
Born(1946-11-20)November 20, 1946
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedOctober 29, 1971(1971-10-29) (aged 24)
Macon, Georgia, U.S.
  • Guitar
  • slide guitar
  • dobro
Years active1961–1971
Formerly of

Howard Duane Allman (November 20, 1946 – October 29, 1971) was an American rock guitarist, session musician, and the founder and original leader of the Allman Brothers Band, for which he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Allman began playing the guitar at age 14. He formed the Allman Brothers Band with his brother Gregg in Jacksonville, Florida in 1969. [1][2][3][4] The group achieved its greatest success in the early 1970s. 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.[5] 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, Herbie Mann, Wilson Pickett, and Boz Scaggs. He also contributed greatly to the 1970 album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, by Derek and the Dominos. He died following a motorcycle crash in 1971, at the age of 24.

In 2003, he was ranked number 2 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time, second only to Jimi Hendrix.[6] In 2011, he was ranked number 9. His guitar tone (achieved with a Gibson Les Paul and two 50-watt bass Marshall amplifiers) was named one of the greatest of all time by Guitar Player.[7] 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.[8] Fans still refer to Allman affectionately by his nickname "Skydog".[9]

Early years[edit]

Duane Allman was born on November 20, 1946, in Nashville, Tennessee. He was the elder son of Willis Allman (1918–1949) who, at the time of his death, was a second lieutenant on active duty in the United States Army, having served as an Army non-commissioned officer during World War II;[10] and Geraldine Allman (née Robbins) (1917–2015). His brother, Gregg, was born on December 8, 1947.

On December 26, 1949, when the family was living near Norfolk, Virginia, where he was stationed, Willis Allman was murdered.[10][11] So that she could 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.[12] 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, and there Gregg learned guitar basics from a neighbor. In 1960, he had saved enough money to buy his first guitar, a Japanese-made Teisco Silvertone, while Duane acquired a Harley 165 motorbike. Despite Duane being left-handed, he played the guitar right-handed. Duane began to take an interest in the guitar, and the boys would sometimes fight over it, until Duane wrecked the motorbike and traded it for a Silvertone of his own. His mother eventually bought Duane a Gibson Les Paul Junior.[13]

It was also in Nashville that the boys became musically inspired by a rhythm-and-blues concert where they saw blues guitarist B.B. King perform. Duane told Gregg, "We got to get into this."[13] Duane learned to play very quickly and soon became the better guitarist of the two.


1961–1968: Allman Joys and Hour Glass[edit]

The brothers started playing publicly in 1961, joining or forming a number of local groups. Around this time, Duane left school to focus on his guitar playing. His early band "The Escorts" opened for the Beach Boys in 1965 but disbanded, some of its members eventually forming 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 were based in Nashville. The Allman Joys became Hour Glass and moved to Los Angeles in early 1967. There Hour Glass recorded two albums for Liberty Records, but the band was unsatisfied. Liberty tried to market them as a pop band, ignoring the band's desire to play more blues-oriented material. Hour Glass broke up in early 1968. Duane and Gregg went back to Florida, where they played on demo sessions with the 31st of February, 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.

Duane began to learn to play slide guitar on his birthday in 1968. He was recovering from an injury to his left elbow, suffered in a fall from a horse. Gregg brought him a birthday present, the debut album by Taj Mahal, and a bottle of Coricidin pills. He left them on the front porch and rang the bell, as Duane was angry with him about the injury. "About two hours after I left, my phone rang," Gregg recalled. "'Baby brother, baby brother, get over here now!'" Duane had poured the pills out of the Coricidin bottle, washed off the label and was using it as a slide to play along with the album track "Statesboro Blues" (on the recording, the slide guitar is played by Jesse Ed Davis). "Duane had never played slide before," Gregg later said, but "he just picked it up and started burnin'. He was a natural." The song became a part of the Allman Brothers Band's repertoire, and Duane's slide guitar became crucial to their sound. Because of his use of the early-1970s-era Coricidin medicine bottle, which is no longer manufactured, replica Coricidin bottles are now popular with slide guitar players who like its glassy feel and sound.[citation needed]

1966–1969: Session musician[edit]

Allman's first major recording session occurred in early 1966 at Nashville's RCA Studio "B", two years before his famed tenure at Muscle Shoals' FAME Studios. Producer Tony Moon was recording The Vogues first album after his successful "5"O'Clock World" went Top 5, and had been recorded in that same studio. He hired Allman to play on several sides, as he wanted a more rock sound. At the time, The Allman Joys were the house band at The Briar Patch in Nashville. Allman's playing on the two Hour Glass albums and an Hour Glass session in early 1968 at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, caught the ear of Rick Hall, owner of FAME. In November 1968 Hall bought Allman's contract for $10,000. Allman, tired of the studio limitation, was able to play on his first album as a sessions ace 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 other musicians, notably 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" impressed 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 Atlantic R&B artists. While at Muscle Shoals, Allman played on recordings by numerous artists, including Clarence Carter, King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Laura Nyro, Wilson Pickett, Otis Rush, Percy Sledge, Johnny Jenkins, Boz Scaggs, Delaney & Bonnie, Doris Duke and jazz flautist Herbie Mann. For his first sessions with Franklin, Allman traveled to New York where, in January 1969, he went as an audience member to the Fillmore East to see Johnny Winter and told Muscle Shoals guitarist Jimmy Johnson that in a year he'd be on that stage. That December, the Allman Brothers Band indeed played the Fillmore.[14][15] Ironically, the Fillmore East performances recorded for the Allman Brothers album At Fillmore East in March 1971—often considered the high water mark for the band—were on the same bill as Johnny Winter.[16]

1968: Formation of the Allman Brothers Band[edit]

When asked how the band came together Duane stated: "Very slowly, I was in Muscle Shoals and I went down to Jacksonville and was jamming with Berry and Dickey. Jaimoe came with me from Muscle Shoals, he's originally from MS. Gregg was in California and Butch was in Jacksonville where we all got together and jammed for a couple of months putting together songs and stuff. We just needed a singer and Gregg was the guy. Two weeks after Gregg got back from California we went up to New York and recorded there. We played live gigs before our first album was released in November (of 1969)."[17]

While visiting St. Louis, Allman met Donna Roosman, who bore his second child, Galadrielle. The couple's relationship soon ended. He had an earlier relationship with Patti Chandlee which resulted in the birth of a daughter who was born deaf.[citation needed]

1969–1971: Success with Layla and At Fillmore East[edit]

The Allman Brothers Band went on to become one of the most influential rock groups of the 1970s. George Kimball, writing in Rolling Stone in 1971, described the group as "the best damn rock and roll band this country has produced in the past five years."[18] After months of nonstop rehearsing and gigging without Gregg, including free shows in Central City Park in Macon and Piedmont Park in Atlanta, all they needed was a singer/organist and Duane knew who he wanted. When Gregg got back from California the group settled on the name of the band and was ready 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 (at 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 getting into the Billboard charts.

After a concert in Miami, in August, watched by Eric Clapton and the other members of Derek and the Dominos, the two bands went back to Criteria studios in Miami, where the Dominoes were recording Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Members of both jammed, after which Allman and Clapton stayed up all night trading and showing one another favorite licks, discovering they had a deep and instinctive rapport.[19] Allman participated in the recording of most of the album's tracks, contributing some of his best-known work. He 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 at least two appearances with them, on December 1, 1970, at the Curtis Hixon Hall in Tampa (Soulmates LP), and on the following day at Onondaga County War Memorial in Syracuse, New York. It is unclear whether he also appeared with them on November 20, 1970, at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, in Santa Monica, California, when guitarist Delaney Bramlett performed with the band.[20]

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".[21] 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."[22]

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, he would spontaneously drop in at recording sessions and contribute 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. He said that he had listened intently to Davis's Kind of Blue for two years.[21][23]

As Allman's distinctive electric bottleneck sound began to mature, it evolved into the musical voice of what would come to be known as Southern rock, being picked up by other slide guitarists, including his bandmate Dickey Betts (after Allman's death), Derek Trucks, Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Joe Walsh. Duane also taught a young Don Felder to play slide.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Allman had a daughter, Galadrielle Allman, with Donna Roosman in 1969.[25] In 2014, Galadrielle Allman published a reflection on her father, mother, family, and the culture of the 1960s, called Please Be With Me: A Song for My Father.[26]


Allman was killed in a motorcycle crash shortly after the release and initial success of At Fillmore East.[27] On October 29, 1971, while the band was on a break from touring and recording, Allman was riding his Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle[28][29] at high speed on Hillcrest Avenue, in the western part of Macon. As he approached Bartlett Street, a flatbed boom truck stopped suddenly in the intersection, forcing him to swerve sharply. He struck either the back of the truck or the ball on the crane and was thrown from the motorcycle, which landed on top of him and skidded another 90 feet (27 m) with him pinned underneath it, crushing his internal organs. He was alive when he was taken to a hospital, but despite immediate medical treatment, he died several hours later from massive internal injuries.


The graves of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley

Allman's funeral service was held on Monday, November 1, 1971, at Snow's Memorial Chapel in Macon, Georgia. In the chapel, packed with family and friends, many of the musicians who had been part of Allman's life were in attendance to mourn his death. Record producer Jerry Wexler gave the eulogy. Wexler praised Allman's musical achievements; his uncompromising dedication to Southern gospel, country, and blues music; and the place he attained alongside the great black musicians and blues singers from the South.[30] The band, joined by others, played several tunes, concluding with a group rendition of the Southern spiritual, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," a band favorite.


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, "I'm hitting a lick for peace, and every time I'm in Georgia I eat a peach for peace. But you can't help the revolution, because there's just evolution. I'm a player. And players don't give a damn for nothing but playing...." Released as a double album in February 1972, it contains a side of live and studio tracks with Allman, two sides of "Mountain Jam", recorded with Allman at the same time as At Fillmore East in March, and a side of tracks by the surviving five members of the band.

Allman Brothers Band bassist Berry Oakley died less than 13 months later, also at the age of 24, in a similar motorcycle crash with a city bus, three blocks from the site of Allman's fatal accident. Oakley was buried beside Allman in Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Georgia.

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".

"Remember Duane Allman" tribute, carved into an excavation face next to Interstate 20 in 1973[27]

Shortly after Allman's death, Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd dedicated the song "Free Bird" to Allman's memory. Van Zant would sometimes allude to this in concert; in the band's 1976 performance of "Free Bird" in Knebworth, England, Van Zant said to pianist Billy Powell, "Play it for Duane Allman." The song was written well before Allman died and was not written with him in mind. (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, four boys who were Hinds Junior College students living in Vicksburg, Mississippi carved the very large letters "REMEMBER DUANE ALLMAN" into a vertical excavation face beside Interstate Highway 20 between Vicksburg and the school's campus in Raymond on the route they travelled together while commuting between their homes and campus.[31][32] A photograph was published in Rolling Stone magazine and in the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll; the carving lasted for over 10 years.[33]

In 1998, the Georgia State Legislature passed a resolution designating a stretch of State Highway 19, U.S. Route 41, within Macon, as Duane Allman Boulevard in his honor. The route, which passes near The Allman Brothers Band Museum (at "The Big House," where the band once lived) and the H&H Restaurant, where the band members often dined, crosses the Raymond Berry Oakley III Bridge.[34][35]

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."

Skydog, a seven-CD box set tracing the virtuosity of Allman on the guitar, was released in 2013 with the help of his daughter, Galadrielle Allman. A March 16 interview with her on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday by Scott Simon runs over eight minutes, includes many details, and is highlighted with clips of his playing,[36] including links to an audio file prepared for the broadcast.

Duane Allman was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 as a member of the Allman Brothers Band.


Allman Joys, Hour Glass
Early session work
Allman Brothers Band, Layla, later session work
  • 1961 Fender Stratocaster (for early session work, overlapping with the formation of the Allman Brothers Band)[37]
  • 1958–1962 Gibson ES-345 semi-hollow body (first album)[38]
  • 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
  • 1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard tobacco sunburst,[38] acquired in June 1971
  • 1961 Gibson SG,[38] used for slide,[37] given by Dickey Betts
  • Marshall 50-watt[7] head, two Marshall 4x12 cabinets with JBL speakers[37]
  • Fender Champ combo amplifier (Layla)
  • Gibson L-00 acoustic guitar[37]
  • Fender Rock N' Roll 150 strings (Hour Glass)
  • Coricidin medicine bottle (slide)


The Allman Brothers Band
Derek & the Dominos

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Randy Poe (August 1, 2008). Skydog: The Duane Allman Story. Backbeat Books. p. 225. ISBN 978-1-61713-487-6.
  2. ^ Stephen Taylor and Matthew Jennings (2013). Macon. Arcadia Publishing. p. 123. ISBN 978-1-4671-1115-7.
  3. ^ Mitchell K. Hall (May 9, 2014). The Emergence of Rock and Roll: Music and the Rise of American Youth Culture. Routledge. p. 157. ISBN 978-1-135-05358-1.
  4. ^ David Luhrssen; Michael Larson (February 24, 2017). Encyclopedia of Classic Rock. ABC-CLIO. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-4408-3514-8.
  5. ^ Ventre, Michael (October 30, 2006). "In memory of Duane Allman 35 years after his death, Skydog still among rock's very best guitarists". Today.com. 2009 Today.com. Retrieved September 2, 2009.
  6. ^ "Rolling Stone: The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". RealNetworks, Inc. 2006. Archived from the original on November 25, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  7. ^ a b Blackett, Matt (October 2004). "The 50 Greatest Tones of All Time". Guitar Player. 38 (10): 44–66.
  8. ^ His brother, Gregg Allman, said that "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." Jas Obrecht, "Duane Allman remembered", Guitar Player, October 1981, Vol. 15, no 10.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ a b Allman, Galadrielle (2014), Please Be with Me: A Song for My Father, Duane Allman, New York
  11. ^ Freeman, Scott, Midnight Riders: The Story of the Allman Brothers Band, Little, Brown & Company, 1995, p. 5.
  12. ^ Freeman, 1995, pp. 5–6.
  13. ^ a b Freeman, 1995, p. 8.
  14. ^ From an interview with Muscle Shoals staff guitarist Jimmy Johnson: "I remember a specific incident when we were in New York, doing Aretha. It was Duane's first time there to do sessions – this was around late '68, maybe the first of the year. He says, 'Hey, let's run over to the Fillmore East to hear this new guy.' Johnny Winter was playing his premiere performance in New York, and the publicity was unreal. We got up in the balcony, and at that point, Duane had never really expressed that he wanted to go back to live performing. But that night it just go too much for him. I'll never forget what he said – this was about midway through: 'Johnny is really good but I can cut him.' Of course, I knew what he meant. Johnny was great – this ain't belittlin' Johnny – but I think he was giving Duane the confidence that he could make it because he knew he could play, he could cut it. He looked over at me. 'Jimmy,' he said. 'Do you see that stage down there? Next year by this time I'm going to be down there.' I looked at him and kind of did one of them double-takes, and I said, 'You know, I think you will.' And he was. I get chills when I think of that night."
  15. ^ "JAS OBRECHT : Duane Allman Remembered (first published in 'Guitar Player', October 1981, Vol. 15 No. 10)". Duaneallman.info. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  16. ^ Poe, 2008, p. 175
  17. ^ "An Interview With Duane Allman Of The Allman Brothers Band : Warehouse, New Orleans, December 31, 1970". Duanneallman.info. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  18. ^ George Kimball (1971). "The Allman Brothers Band; At Fillmore East". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  19. ^ 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 November 26, 2006.
  20. ^ Roberty, Marc, The Eric Clapton Album, Viking Studio Books, 1994, ISBN 0-670-85364-X
  21. ^ a b Jas Obrecht, "Duane Allman Remembered", Guitar Player, October 1981
  22. ^ Clapton, The Autobiography, 128.
  23. ^ Robert Palmer, liner notes for Kind of Blue, Columbia CK64935, 1997
  24. ^ Scapeliti, Christopher (October 10, 2015). "Joe Walsh Teaches the Duane Allman Slide Method As He Learned It from the Man Himself". Guitar World. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
  25. ^ Whiting, Sam (March 30, 2014). "Galadrielle retraces path of Duane Allman, dad she never met". Sfgate.com. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  26. ^ Barbara Herman (February 26, 2014). "Galadrielle Allman's 'Please Be With Me' Gives Women a Chance". Newsweek.com. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  27. ^ a b "Remember when David Reid remembered Duane Allman?". FuzzyCo. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  28. ^ "Guitarist Duane Allman dies in motorcycle accident". History com. A&E Television Networks. January 27, 2010. Archived from the original on October 21, 2019. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  29. ^ David Mikkelson (2003). "Allman Brothers Eat a Peach". Snopes.com. Snopes Media Group. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  30. ^ Poe, Randy, Skydog: The Duane Allman Story (Backbeat Books)
  31. ^ "Remember Duane Allman Picture". 2008. Retrieved April 11, 2008.
  32. ^ Eric Brown (October 15, 2007). "Prepagos Bogota Allman Brothers Band: forty years of tragedy and music legend". Vicksburg Post. Archived from the original on April 27, 2014. Retrieved July 7, 2008.
  33. ^ "Remember Duane Allman Picture". 2005. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  34. ^ "Duane Allman Boulevard – Macon Music Trail". Macon Music Trail. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  35. ^ "Raymond Berry Oakley III Bridge – Macon Music Trail". Macon Music Trail. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  36. ^ Weekend Edition Saturday, Duane Allman: Guitar Playing That 'Gets Inside of You', NPR, March 16, 2013, interview of Galadrielle Allman by Scott Simon
  37. ^ 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 May 17, 2011.
  38. ^ a b c d Fothergill, Julian. "Duane Allman". Hotguitarist.com. Archived from the original on September 19, 2009. Retrieved September 10, 2009.
  39. ^ Johnson: "they make a special sound." "Mainly at that time Duane used a Strat and a Fender Twin amp with JBLs. He had one gadget—a Fuzz Face—and that was it. He was going through it all the time, although he might not have always had it kicked in. He used a lot of feedback solos between the pickups and speakers—incredible stuff! Sustain for the world. And the thing about his Fuzz Face was when he'd pop that 9-volt battery in there, a new one wouldn't suit him. He would actually someway get batteries that were almost worn out, because the Fuzz Face had a special sound just for so many hours with the batteries at a certain strength."

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 (2006). Skydog: The Duane Allman Story. Backbeat Books. ISBN 9780879308919.

External links[edit]