Personalities | Duane Allman | Southern Slide Star | Guitar Heroes

Southern-rock guitarist Duane Allman was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1946. Allman was inspired to take up the guitar by his brother Gregg. At first, they played country music, their initiation into the blues coming when the brothers saw B.B. King performing in Nashville.

The pair began playing professionally in 1961, first in The Allman Joys and then The Hour Glass, who made two albums before splitting up in early 1968. Around this time, Allman began playing electric slide, inspired by Jesse Ed Davis, and using an empty glass medicine bottle as a slide, a technique later adopted by Rory Gallagher and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Gary Rossington.

The Hour Glass recording led to Allman being offered session work on Wilson Pickett’s Hey Jude (1968) album, which in turn led to him becoming a full-time session musician at Muscle Shoals Studio in Alabama, where he contributed to albums by Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge and Boz Scaggs. Frustration at the limitations of session playing led Allman to form The Allman Brothers Band in March 1969 with Gregg (organ, vocals), Dickey Betts (second lead), Berry Oakley (bass) and twin drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny ‘Jaimoe’ Johanson. The band became one of America’s most influential in the early 1970s, pioneering ​Southern rock and paving the way for Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Marshall Tucker Band. After gigging extensively, they made their recorded debut on the largely overlooked The Allman Brothers Band (1969), building momentum with Idlewild South (1970). Allman also played with Eric Clapton in Derek & The Dominos, memorably on the classic ‘Layla’. He returned to The Allman Brothers Band as they recorded one of the seminal live albums, At Fillmore East (1971), which captured their incendiary double-lead guitar attack at its peak. A few months after its release, Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident. The band elected to carry on without him.

Allman is remembered as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, admired not only for his slide technique but also for the improvisatory skills he displayed on his 1959 Gibson Darkburst Les Paul and 1968 Gibson Cherry SG.

Essential Recordings

The Allman Brothers Band: The Allman Brothers Band

The Allman Brothers Band: Idlewild South

Derek & The Dominos: Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs

The Allman Brothers Band: At Fillmore East

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