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Saturday, October 29

Today is the Anniversary of the Loss of the One of the Most Talented Guitar Players Ever. Duane "Skydog" Allman RIP

  Before there was "southern rock" there was a scrappy little blues band from Jacksonville, FL. Although he was taken much too soon in a motorcycle accident, he left a gigantic mark on the rock music scene that is still felt today.
Duane "Skydog" Allman was ranked the second best guitarist ever behind Hendrix by Rolling Stone but we all know those rankings are b.s. What we do know is that his signature Gibson tone was unmistakable no matter what he played on. He would sit on sessions at FAME studios at Muscle Shoals and then go play with his own band and helped bring the ABB to prominence in the late 60's. His famous nickname came from the owner of FAME, Rick Hall, who called him "Dog" because he looked like a hound dog with his long hair hanging down over his ears and Wilson Pickett added the "Sky" because he would duck off to the bathroom and come out "high as the sky". He rose to fame in the session world with his work with Wilson Pickett on "Hey Jude", one of the best solos on a soul song ever, according to Eric Clapton.
Wilson Pickett's "Hey Jude" w/ Duane Allman
He made his biggest mark as the the other guitarist with Eric Clapton on "Layla" with Derek and the Dominoes. Eric said they were inseparable and it is said you can tell the two players apart because Clapton played a Fender that had a "sparklier" sound and Duane played his Gibson that had a "full-tilt screech" to it. In fact, a lot of people thought he only played slide because of his gear setup, playing style, and reputation as a top-notch slide player but he didn't play with a slide near as much as people thought he did.
"Layla" by Derek and the Dominoes
Duane and Gregg were born in Nashville, TN and after a stint in military school the brothers moved down to FL. After deciding to spend their lives playing music, Duane started picking up session gigs. After playing with a roster full of future Hall of Famers, the Allman Joys finally solidified the lineup that would become the classic ABB. After hurting himself, Gregg dropped Duane off a card and a bottle of pills and left. He soon received a call and Duane had been messing around and started playing slide and it soon became the cover that has become an ABB staple, "Statesboro Blues". Even though watching a B.B. King show is what inspired the two brothers to start a band, Duane claimed John Coltrane and Miles Davis as his two biggest influences.
After recording a couple of albums and incessant touring, the band began to pick up steam. After a couple of years they recorded one of the classic live albums that still top every list of best live albums, At the Fillmore East in 1971. He would still drop in on sessions but would never let his name on the credits, making a complete discography impossible but he was everywhere and the only thing that ever was stronger than him was heroin. He was trying to clean up and get back on the road when he had his fatal motorcycle wreck. All of the ABB's most iconic songs were captured on that Fillmore recording and it is a common misconception that he played all those songs with a slide. Some of his most signature work – "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," "Whipping Post," "Stormy Monday," "Blue Sky," and "Hey Jude" with Wilson Pickett weren't performed with a slide but using his trusty Gibson.
Watkins Glen 1973 Soundcheck
"Mountain Jam" w/ Grateful Dead, ABB, and the Band

Duane's tone, attack, touch, and originality are all so unique that he made everything he touched better. It was the ABB that really invented the category "southern rock" that so many bands were lumped into that didn't have half the talent that the Allman Brothers did. After the loss of Duane the band were never the same. It's impossible to replace someone of Duane's prowess but it hurt even more when bassist Berry Oakley died the same way only three blocks from where Duane was lost. To their eternal credit, they kept on making music. The tunes that Duane had played on and the masterful playing of Dickey Betts et. al. let the band continue to still make music long after most bands would have given up. Luckily for us, Duane's far-reaching touch extended through the years and we were given the chance to hear this master from the ether. RIP, Duane. Gone but never forgotten.

Greg Heffelfinger 
The Grateful Dead and the ABB at the Fillmore East in 1970
"Dark Star>Spanish Jam"

One of the hottest shows to come out of the Fillmore East. 
The Allman Brothers Band 9-23-70

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