Duane Allman (1946-1971)

Duane Allman was an American guitarist, remembered for his expressive bottleneck slide playing and improvisational abilities. For a brief few years he had a prolific career as both a sideman and band member, before he tragically died aged just 24 years old. Today he is generally considered to have been one of the greatest blues-rock guitarists to have lived, and one of the masters of slide guitar.

Duane began his musical career playing in bands with his brother Gregg - first the Allman Joys and then The Hour Glass. Also in the 60s he played on an album by Wilson Pickett, which led to him being hired as a full-time session musician at Rick Hall's FAME Studios in Alabama. He went on to play on records for artists such as Clarence Carter, Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, Otis Rush, Percy Sledge, Johnny Jenkins, Delaney & Bonnie, Boz Scaggs, and more. Eventually he grew frustrated with session work, and re-united with brother Gregg to form The Allman Brothers Band, with fellow guitarist Dickey Betts, bassist Berry Oakley, and drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe Johanson, with Gregg on organ and lead vocals. The Allman Brothers pioneered a unique fusion of rock, blues, and jazz, and went on to become one of the most influential groups of the 70s. It is Duane’s playing with the Allman Brothers that he is best remembered for, particular on the live album At Fillmore East, where the group’s improvisational abilities were showcased best. Of particular note was his talent at slide guitar, taking the previously quite primitive technique of old bluesmen into then unheard of new heights of sophistication and expressiveness. He became widely respected as one of the greatest guitarists working under the blues-rock template, and got to feature as a guest musician on Eric Clapton’s Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs project. Also during this time he continued contributing to other artists’ sessions, often accepting cash in hand and getting no recording credits. However tragedy struck when at his creative peak he was killed in a motorcycle accident, just 24 years old.
Though he may not be a household name like certain other pioneering rock guitarists, Duane Allman will always be remembered by those who know his playing as one of the greats, and certainly one of the undisputed masters of slide guitar. If evidence is ever needed, all one needs to do is listen to his playing on At Fillmore East and Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs, and it will become clear why he is praised so highly.

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