29 October 2009

This Date In Rock History: 29 October

On this date in 1971, lead guitarist Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers Band died in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia. He was 24 years old.

At the time of his death, "Skydog," as he was known to friends, was considered the preeminent rock guitarist of his day, along with Eric Clapton. Less than a year earlier, Allman had collaborated with Clapton under the band name Derek & The Dominoes to record Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Indeed, the man who is said to have introduced the two, producer Tom Dowd, said of their musicianship: “There had to be some sort of telepathy going on because I’ve never seen spontaneous inspiration happen at that rate and level. One of them would play something, and the other reacted instantaneously. Never once did either of them have to say, ‘Could you play that again, please?’ It was like two hands in a glove. And they got tremendously off on playing with each other.”

But it was with his brother Gregg, bassist Barry Oakley, guitarist Dickey Betts and dual drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks that Duane made his mark on the rock music world. At the time of his death, The Allman Brothers Band, formed in 1969, was at its peak, having toured almost non-stop for two years, culminating in the release of what critics have come to recognize as one of the best live albums ever, At Fillmore East.

The band carried on under the same name after Duane's death, and produced some fine work, notably Eat A Peach (which contains final contributions from Duane) and Brothers and Sisters. Although only some original members remain, The Allman Brothers Band still records occasionally and continues to tour, with a highlight the now-annual multi-night stand at The Beacon Theater in New York City every March.

It should be noted that Duane's influential slide and lead guitar is evident on a number of other great recordings. As a primary session guitarist at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, he lent his distinctive style and sound to records by Aretha Franklin ("The Weight"), King Curtis, Wilson Pickett ("Hey Jude") and Boz Scaggs (the seminal track "Loan Me A Dime"). Still in print is the double-album Duane Allman: An Anthology, which is highly recommended.
Additional link: Read Jon Landau's original report in Rolling Stone of Duane Allman's death here.

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