Duane Allman

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Duane Allman
Duane Allman.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
Instruments Guitar, slide 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, and co-founder and leader of the Allman Brothers Band until his death in a motorcycle crash in 1971, when he was 24 years old.

The Allman Brothers Band was formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1969. The band had great 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.[1] 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. In 2011, he was ranked number 9.[2] 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.[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 greatly 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 World War II non-commissioned officer turned recruiting officer in the United States Army,[6] and Geraldine Allman (née Robbins). His brother, Gregg, was born on December 8, 1947.

On December 26, 1949, when the family was living near Norfolk, Virginia, Willis Allman was murdered.[6][7] 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.[8] 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. Duane began to take an interest in the guitar, and the boys sometimes fought 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.[9]

Also in Nashville, the boys became musically inspired by a rhythm and blues concert where they saw blues guitar legend B. B. King perform. Duane told Gregg, "We got to get into this."[9] Duane learned to play very quickly and soon became the better guitarist of the two.

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. Their 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 and St. Louis, Missouri. 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 demonstration 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 did not get another band going.

Duane learned to play slide guitar on his birthday in 1968. He was recovering from an injury to his left elbow, caused 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 bottle and 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," said Gregg, "he just picked it up and started burnin'. He was a natural." (-quoted from:Muscle Shoals (film)). The song became a part of the Allman Brothers Band's repertoire, and Duane's slide guitar became crucial to their sound.

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, 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 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 would be on that stage. That December, the Allman Brothers Band indeed played the Fillmore.[10]

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 then 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 Oakley 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 Johanson 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. With the addition of Gregg Allman, called back from Los Angeles to sing and replace Wynans on keyboards, the Allman Brothers Band was formed at the end of March 1969. (Wynans became well known over a decade later as organist with Stevie Ray Vaughan and 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. The couple's relationship soon 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. 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."[11] After months of nonstop rehearsing and gigging, including free shows in Central City Park in Macon and Piedmont Park in Atlanta, 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, the band went back to Criteria studios with Clapton and the Derek and the Dominos band who were recording Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs there. Allman and Clapton jammed all night, finding they had a deep and instinctive rapport.[12] 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.[13]

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".[14] 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."[15]

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.[14][16]

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), Rory Gallagher, Derek Trucks and Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and redefined in their own styles. A common misconception however is that Allman exclusively played slide guitar, possibly due to his use of heavy fuzz tone and treble, which imbued his solos with a unique soaring, fluid quality. Yet some of his most stunning signature work – "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," "Whipping Post," "Stormy Monday," "Blue Sky," "Hey Jude" with Wilson Pickett and "Why Does Love Got to be So Sad?" with Derek and the Dominos – were all performed using standard guitar technique rather than slide.


Allman was killed in a motorcycle crash only months after the release and initial success of At Fillmore East.[17] On October 29, 1971, while the band was on a break from touring and recording, Allman was riding his Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle at high speed on Hillcrest Avenue, in the western part of Macon. As he approached Bartlett Street, a flatbed truck carrying a lumber crane stopped suddenly in the intersection, forcing him to swerve sharply. He struck either the back of the truck or the ball on the lumber crane and was thrown from the motorcycle, which bounced into the air, landed on him and skidded another 90 feet with him pinned beneath it, crushing his internal organs. He was alive when he was brought to a hospital, but despite immediate surgery he died several hours later from massive internal injuries.


The graves of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley

Allman's funeral service was held Monday, November 1, 1971, at Snow's Memorial Chapel. In the chapel, packed with family and friends, many of the musicians who had been part of Duane's life were in attendance to mourn his death. Record producer Jerry Wexler gave the eulogy. His moving portrayal of Allman's 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 captured the magnitude of his musical achievements.[18]

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 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.

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 Allman's fatal accident. Oakley's remains were laid to rest beside Allman's 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 in the dirt bank next to Interstate 20 in 1973[17]

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.[19][20] 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.[21]

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.[22]

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,[23] including links to an audio file prepared for the broadcast.


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)[24]
  • 1958–1962 Gibson ES-345 semi-hollow body (first album)[25]
  • 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,[25] acquired in June 1971
  • 1961 Gibson SG,[25] used for slide,[24] given to him by Dickey Betts
  • Marshall 50-watt[3] head, two Marshall 4x12 cabinets with JBL speakers[24]
  • Fender Champ combo amplifier (Layla)
  • Gibson L-00 acoustic guitar[24]
  • Fender Rock N' Roll 150 strings (Hour Glass)
  • Coricidin medicine bottle (slide)


See also[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. ^ His brother, Gregg Alman, 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.
  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. ^ a b Allman, Galadrielle (2014), Please Be with Me: A Song for My Father, Duane Allman, New York:
  7. ^ Freeman, Scott, Midnight Riders: The Story of the Allman Brothers Band, Little, Brown & Company, 1995, p. 5.
  8. ^ Freeman, 1995, pp. 5–6.
  9. ^ a b Freeman, 1995, p. 8.
  10. ^ 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."[1]
  11. ^ George Kimball (1971). "The Allman Brothers Band; At Fillmore East". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ Roberty, Marc, The Eric Clapton Album, Viking Studio Books, 1994, ISBN 0-670-85364-X
  14. ^ a b Jas Obrecht, "Duane Allman Remembered", Guitar Player, October 1981
  15. ^ Clapton, The Autobiography, 128.
  16. ^ Robert Palmer, liner notes for Kind of Blue, Columbia CK64935, 1997
  17. ^ a b "Remember when David Reid remembered Duane Allman?". FuzzyCo. Retrieved 2010-12-22. 
  18. ^ Poe, Randy, Skydog: The Duane Allman Story (Backbeat Books)
  19. ^ "Remember Duane Allman Picture". 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  20. ^ Eric Brown (October 15, 2007). "Prepagos Bogota Allman Brothers Band: forty years of tragedy and music legend". Vicksburg Post. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  21. ^ "Remember Duane Allman Picture". 2005. Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  22. ^ Hittin' The Web with The Allman Brothers Band. "Hittin' The Web with The Allman Brothers Band :: Where Music Plus Friends Equals Family". 
  23. ^ Weekend Edition Saturday, Duane Allman: Guitar Playing That 'Gets Inside of You', NPR, March 16, 2013, interview of Galadrielle Allman by Scott Simon
  24. ^ 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. 
  25. ^ a b c d Fothergill, Julian. "Duane Allman". Hotguitarist.com. Retrieved 2009-09-10. 
  26. ^ 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, Skydog: The Duane Allman Story. Backbeat Books.

External links[edit]