At Fillmore East on June 26, 1971 (late show)
|Howard Duane Allman|
November 20, 1946|
Nashville, Tennessee, US
|Died||October 29, 1971
Macon, Georgia, US
|Instruments||Guitar, slide guitar, dobro, vocals|
|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, Delaney & Bonnie, Eric Clapton|
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 following a motorcycle crash in 1971, at the age of 24.
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. 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. 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.
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. He is still referred to by his nickname "Skydog".
Duane Allman was born on November 20, 1946, in Nashville, Tennessee. He was the eldest son of Willis Allman (1918-1949), a World War II non-commissioned officer turned recruiting officer in the United States Army, and Geraldine Allman (ne;e Robbins) (1917-2015). 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. 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. 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.
It was also in Nashville that 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." Duane learned to play very quickly and soon became the better guitarist of the two.
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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 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. 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.
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'd be on that stage. That December, the Allman Brothers Band indeed played the Fillmore.
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.
When asked how the band came together Duane responded with an astounding answer. "Very slowly, I was in Muscle Shoals and I went down to Jacksonville and was jamming with Berry and Dicky. Jaimoe came with me from Muscle Shoals, he's originally from Macon. Greg 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. After that we went up to New York and recorded there. We never played a gig before we cut our first album." 
While living in Macon, 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.
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." 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. 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.
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". 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."
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.
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,as well as Joe Walsh who has stated he was taught by Duane in person (and with whom he also shares a November 20 birthday), 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 - "Hot 'Lanta," "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. 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 landed on top of him and skidded another 90 feet 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.
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 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 Duane Allman's musical achievements.
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 laid to rest 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".
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. 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.
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, including links to an audio file prepared for the broadcast.