By Doug Hall
“He could play rhythm, acoustic, anything you want,”… “He couldn’t read a chart but he had this amazing talent. You hear this all the time but Duane really had it. He’d hear a song one time and you didn’t have to tell him – you play any chord in the song and he would know right where it was.”
-Jimmy Johnson, FAME Studio’s House guitarist & producer of Hour Glass demos.
‘Most slide players are muddy,’… ‘Their playing sounds sour. Duane is one of the very, very few who played clean, sweet and to the note.”
-Jerry Wexler, Producer, Atlantic Records
“I mean I couldn’t understand it…He would do – I really don’t know how to describe it(reference to the guitar notes hit by Allman on slide for “Layla” recording sessions). I loved the fact that he was an improviser… He threw away tradition a lot of the time. You know he was fantastically gifted.”
-Eric Clapton, “Layla” recording sessions
“He was the foremost electric slide guitar player… all the way around.”
– Dickey Betts, founding member and guitarist of The Allman Brother’s Band
“It’s always great to get a glimpse of something in somebody’s formative years, …with Duane Allman, who was here such a short period of time, you see the growth: He was great in 69’, but he was better in 70’ and in 71’ he was way better still, so who knows what 72’ and 73’ and 74’ would have brought…his ability was increasing at an exponential rate.”… “He was a huge influence on me.”
-Warren Haynes – founder of the band Government Mule, and guitarist/ singer of The Allman Brother’s Band since 1989.
These are some of the first hand acknowledgements that have come to describe Duane Allman, his guitar playing, his musicianship, and finding few other peers (i.e. Hendrix, Clapton, Page) – a definition in itself of being exceptional. Following in parallel, is the consideration of the explosive creativity signified by the 1960’s and early 1970’s. A chapter that closes a particularly crowded field of great musicians, bands and notably – lead guitarists – of this same time period. And yet Duane Allman still stands tall on a short list. But in a life tragically cut short in 1971, at the ascending rise of his star, with the accompanying frantic pace of performances and demands for his time – to record, to sit-in on a session, to collaborate with a musician in NYC, after finishing a concert in Atlanta the night before, or finding a moment to just to jam with a friend, and then off to catch the next flight to a gig, and on and on – How do we ever come to know him? – without reflection, or a chance to peek backwards.