In The Style Of Duane Allman

By Miguel Ángel Ariza

One of the most incredibly special guitarists in rock, a guy who revolutionized the way of playing the guitar and, above all, the way of making music at the end of the 60s. Leading his band, The Allman Brothers Band, Duane Allman reached levels with the guitar that very few had obtained before, and that very few have achieved since. In sum, we are talking about a real genius, a guy who at barely 20 years old had so much magic in his hands and his head that today many continue to consider him to be one of the greatest talents that rock has ever given. Big words.    

With a style that was born between blues and jazz, and a filter based on the most wild and indominatable improvisation, Duane Allman formed, together with Dickey Betts, one of the guitar duos that has most frequently put the hairs on end of the fans of good rock.

The guitar of Duane of the Allman Brothers was unmistakenably a Gibson Les Paul. We could say that from 69 to 71 he mainly used three distinct Les Paul guitars. The first, and the one that he mainly uses on the band’s first two albums, is a 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop with the legendary PAF attached, which he would change in 69 for a 59 Gibson Les Paul Standard Cherry Burst (although he kept the pickups from the Goldtop); this would be his main guitar and is the one that we hear on the mythical Live at the Fillmore until his tragic death. The third ‘sister’ Les Paul was used to substitute the Cherry Burst, and the last images that we have of him show Duane almost always playing this guitar. Due to a repair it is difficult to know if it is another 59 - or even one from a previous year - but we do know that this guitar arrived in Duane’s hands via a contact that Billy Gibbons himself gave to Duane, who had for some time been looking for a Tobacco Burst guitar.

Like in the fairy tales, or rather those of Tolkien, Duane’s daughter, called Galadriel, - and emulating the history of Arwen who convinced her father to bring the sword of Andúril to Aragorn before the final battle - had the marvellous idea of uniting these three guitarists in the Allman Brothers’ farewell concert at New York’s Beacon Theatre in 2014. Galadriel brought them together and put them in the hands of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks in order to make them sound once again with his brother Gregg and his friends Butch Trucks (the original drummer and Derek’s uncle) and Jaimoe Johanson (percussionist and another of the original survivors ‘able to say goodbye’ to the band from the stage). Guitars Exchange never had the pleasure of knowing Galadriel Allman, but from this article we would like to thank her for having been as thoughtful as that; these things touch the souls of guitarists.

Specifically ‘touching the soul’ was the speciality of her father. In particular he will be remembered for perhaps being the guy who has done it most times with a guitar and a slide. And curiously the most famous slide in the history of rock was a bottle of pills Coricidin. It is worth recalling these primitive details in a world like that of today in which we have slides of all sizes, weights, diameters, materials and prices... Duane Allman only needed a bottle of pills and to listen to Statesboro blues from Taj Mahal’s first album to start playing along with it and learning, in only a few hours according to the words of his own brother Gregg, how to dominate a technique that he would always be praised for.

Duane Allman took jazz to the blues, the blues and country to rock, he mixed it with soul, which he himself had absorbed from the greats of the genre by playing for them as a session musician, and created a new sound called ‘Southern Rock’. This sound touched the most sensitive fibres of the best guitarists from ‘the first period’ (we are not going to speak here of the adoration that Clapton felt for him from the moment he heard him playing Hey Jude by Wilson Pickett) to the whole following generation, and even all those who came many years later to that motorbike accident that took the life of a ‘boy’ of 24 who had already revolutionized the world of the electric guitar forever.  

Find you own way to the sound of Duane Allman