Duane Allman was born in Nashville on this date in 1946. Duane died tragically in a motorcycle accident on October 29, 1971 at the age of 24. Although Duane’s life was cut far too short, he had already cemented his status as one of the greatest guitar players of all time, especially with a glass slide on his finger.
Allman is perhaps best known for his work in his namesake group, The Allman Brothers Band, and he appeared on three studio albums and one live album, the breakout At Filmore East, which arrived just months before his death. Duane’s output with ABB is amazing, but almost mythical is his prolific work as a session musician at the storied FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Duane’s work as a session guitarist serves as an origin story of sorts for the superhero status he would attain. Adding to that status was the nickname he garnered there: Sky Dog.
Duane began working at FAME in earnest in 1968. He was familiar with the studio as his pre-ABB band with brother Gregg, Hour Glass, had recorded there. According to FAME’s website, Duane “pitched a tent and camped out in the parking lot of FAME Studios in order to be closer to the recording sessions.” Allman would later upgrade to a cabin where he honed his chops and was able to forget about his and Gregg’s unsuccessful stint in Los Angeles.
“I rented a cabin and lived alone on this lake,” Duane said. “I just sat and played and got used to living without a bunch of jive Hollywood crap in my head. It’s like I brought myself back to earth and came back to life again through that, and the sessions with good R & B players.”
Chief among Duane’s work with those good R&B players was his masterful guitar on Wilson Pickett’s cover of The Beatles “Hey Jude” and 1969 album of the same name. Allman’s session magic with Pickett not only scored him a full-time position at FAME as a session musician but also caught the attention of some heavy-hitting artists and record executives who wanted the Sky Dog sound.
Duane would go on to record with an incredible list of musicians including saxophonist King Curtis on his cover of The Band’s “The Weight.” Duane’s slide work perfectly compliments the brass on the Grammy-winning instrumental. Allman also appeared on another cover of The Band classic, this time by the Queen Of Soul herself Aretha Franklin. Additionally, Duane laid down guitar for Clarence Carter, Arthur Conley, Otis Rush, Eric Clapton, Johnny Jenkins, Boz Scaggs, Delaney & Bonnie, John Hammond and Ronnie Hawkins among others.
In honor of Duane Allman, JamBase put together a Spotify playlist of Duane’s extensive work with the aforementioned artists and more. Stream JamBase’s Duane Allman Studio Session Work Spotify playlist below: