Remembering the Death and Legacy of Duane Allman

Duane Allman was known for his slide guitar and improv skills as well as a session man for big acts like King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Herbie Mann, Wilson Pickett, and Boz Scaggs. But, Duane’s most notable gem was the formation of the legendary blues-rock band the Allman Brothers Band.

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A Young Duane Allman

Born November 20, 1946, in Nashville, Tennessee, Duane and his family moved around the South from Norfolk, Virginia in 1949 to Daytona Beach, Florida in ’57. Duane and his brother, Gregg, would return to Nashville during the summers, staying with their grandmother. 

After spending enough time in Nashville, Gregg picked up the guitar, learning the basics from his grandmother’s neighbor. In 1960, Gregg got a Teisco Silvertone guitar for Christmas while Duane bought a Harley 165 motorbike. Duane began to use his brother’s guitar as much, if not more than his brother—though he was a lefty using a righty guitar. Subsequently, Duane crashed the motorbike and traded in the parts for a guitar of his own. This was the beginning of the making of the Allman Brothers. The summers in Nashville became major influences on them as the brothers credit their rhythm-and-blues style to when they saw B.B. King perform live.

The duo played dances around Daytona Beach and in the mid-’60s they formed the Allman Joys. When the band disbanded, they moved to Los Angeles to create another group, called Hourglass, in the late ’60s. The group subsequently released two albums, Hour Glass and Power of Love. However, because of a lack of control over their material, they called it quits. 

Duane moved back to Florida, where he began to meet up with Butch Trucks, Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, and Jaimoe—who were a part of various bands at the time—to play. During a memorable gig at The Green House, Duane recognized the potential of something great—what would later be known as the Allman Brothers Band. He called Gregg to come home from L.A. and the band soon was managed by Phil Walden. Walden convinced the group to move to Macon, Georgia, and sign with Capricorn Records. 

The First Allman Brothers Record

The band released their self-titled album, The Allman Brothers Band, in 1969, and by 1970 they picked up a large following. They were known throughout the United States as one of the best blues and rock bands. Their second album, Idlewild South, was acclaimed and another tour followed. In 1971, the third album was a live version of their performance at the Fillmore. The Allman Brothers Live At Fillmore East ended up going gold. 

Untimely Death

On October 29, 1971, Duane was out riding his Harley motorcycle in Macon, Georgia. At high speeds, he approached a flatbed boom truck that suddenly stopped at an intersection. Duane swerved but collided with the truck, throwing him from his bike. He was taken to the hospital and several hours later he passed away from internal injuries.

The album following Duane’s death, Eat a Peach, was dedicated to Duane. His legacy with the Allman Brothers Band and beyond still remains with the greats. Duane was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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