Duane Allman Biography

Guitarist (1946–1971)
Slide guitar great Duane Allman cofounded The Allman Brothers Band and recorded with artists like Wilson Pickett and Eric Clapton.


Howard Duane Allman (born November 20, 1946) and his brother Gregg were avid guitarists, forming the band The Allman Joys, later The Hour Glass, in 1965. Duane's slide guitar sound was also in demand for recordings by artists like Wilson Pickett and Eric Clapton. In 1969, he and Gregg cofounded The Allman Brothers Band, which recorded three successful albums before Duane's death in 1971.

Early Musical Inclination

Howard Duane Allman was born in Nashville, Tennessee on November 20, 1946. Duane, as he was known, and his brother, Gregg, were raised by their mother Geraldine Allman after their father, Willis, was murdered when Duane was just 3-years-old. Geraldine, "Mama A" moved with her boys to Daytona Beach, Florida in 1957. Once Gregg heard a neighbor playing guitar, he decided that he needed to learn the instrument. Duane soon followed suit, and became an even better player than his brother. The boys were influenced by the bluesy music of artists such as B.B. King, whom they saw in concert while teenagers. Duane dropped out of high school to stay home and practice guitar and when Gregg graduated from Sea Breeze High School in 1965, the young men formed their first official band, the Allman Joys. When the Allman Joys became The Hour Glass in 1967, the group moved to Los Angeles. During this time, Duane perfected his electric slide guitar technique, using an empty Coricidin glass bottle over his ring finger as a slide.

Allman Brothers Band Forms

Duane simply loved to play the guitar, and was a much in-demand session musician for acts such as Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, Boz Scaggs, and Herbie Mann. When he grew frustrated by the limits of being a session musician, Allman headed back to Florida with a few musicians. In March 1969, the Allman Brothers Band was formed, featuring the original line-up of  Jaimoe Johanson (drums), Dickie Betts (guitar), Berry Oakley (bass), Butch Trucks (drums) and Duane (guitar) and Gregg Allman (vocals, keyboard). Their debut self-titled album dropped in 1969 and the band began to tour.

A huge fan of Eric Clapton, Duane Allman was surprised and thrilled to be asked to play on Clapton's album "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs." Clapton was, in turn, a huge Duane Allman fan. In addition to touring with his band, Allman was known to drop in on recording sessions to jam with whomever happened to be recording. Allman often received cash payments but rarely album credit, so it is impossible to know exactly how many recordings of his work exist.

Tragic Death

Duane Allman died on October 29, 1971, less than a month before his 25th birthday. His tragic death was the result of a motorcycle accident; when he swerved to avoid a turning truck, he lost control of his vehicle and was thrown through the air. He died a few hours later. The Allman Brothers had recorded just three albums, but his fame was secured.

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