By Ricky Sharples
Duane Allman has been dead since 1971 but his influence on guitar players lives on. The Duane Allman story is about doing what you do to the best of your ability under all circumstances. There are many recordings of classic rock songs that feature Allman as a session player and it seems that his contribution helped make these tracks immortal.
Of all of Duane Allman's guitar work for other artists, the most well-known is his playing on Layla by Derek And The Dominoes. Eric Clapton jumped at the chance to get Duane into the recording studio with him when he was due to record Layla. For his part, Allman just wanted to be a witness to a Clapton recording session, but Eric insisted that there would be a role for some Duane Allman guitar playing on this album. Allman never followed up on his contribution to Eric Clapton's band by touring with them, but he was able to appear at a few of their concerts.
It is part of rock guitar folklore that Duane Allman taught himself to play slide guitar when he was laid up with the flu. He was listening to a Taj Mahal album and decided that he wanted to learn to play Statesboro Blues by Blind Willie McTell. Not having a regular guitar slide to use, he emptied the bottle of Coricidin he had at his bedside, removed the label and began his career as a slide guitar player. Statesboro Blues became part of The Allman Brothers Band's play list and the pill bottle became Allman's permanent guitar slide, as it did for many other guitarists.
Duane Allman's first work as a session guitar player was on Wilson Pickett's Hey Jude. His work on this track was what brought him to Eric Clapton's attention and also made him an in-demand session player for popular artists of the time like Clarence Carter, King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Otis Rush, Percy Sledge, Johnny Jenkins and Boz Scaggs. While we are on the subject, one of Duane Allman's standout tracks was Loan Me A Dime on Boz Scaggs first album. If you have never heard of it, it is worth looking for.
The Allman Brothers Band gave Duane another outlet for his creativity without the constraints of playing for another artist. Duane died shortly after the band's third album went gold. The band is still playing to the present time.
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