Remembering the Death and Legacy of Duane Allman

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

A young Duane Allman

Born November 20, 1946, in Nashville, Tennessee, Duane and his family moved from South Norfolk, Virginia in 1949 to Daytona Beach, Florida in 1957. Duane and his brother, Gregg, would return to Nashville during the summers, staying with their Grandmother.

After spending enough time in Nashville, Gregg took up the guitar again, learning the basics from his grandmother’s neighbor. In 1960 Gregg received a Teisco Silvertone guitar for Christmas while Duane bought a Harley 165 motorcycle. Duane began to use his brother’s guitar as much if not more than his brother, despite being left handed using a right handed guitar . Afterwards, Duane crashed the motorcycle and swapped the parts for his own guitar. This was the beginning of the creation of the Allman Brothers. Summers in Nashville have become major influences for them as the brothers attribute their rhythm and blues style to when they saw BB 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 start another band, called Hourglass, in the late 60s. The band went on to release two albums, hourglass and power of love. However, due to a lack of control over their material, they stopped.

Duane returned to Florida, where he began meeting Butch Trucks, Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley and Jaimoe – who were in various bands at the time – to play. During a memorable gig at The Green House, Duane recognized the potential for something big, what would later be known as the Allman Brothers Band. He called Gregg to come home from Los Angeles and the group was soon led by Phil Walden. Walden convinced the band to move to Macon, Georgia and sign with Capricorn Records.

The Allman Brothers’ first record

The band released their self-titled album, The Allman Brothers Group, in 1969, and in 1970 they picked up a large following. They were known across the United States as one of the best blues and rock bands. Their second album, South Idlewild, 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 in Fillmore East eventually turned gold.

premature death

On October 29, 1971, Duane was riding his Harley motorcycle in Macon, Georgia. At high speed, he approached a flatbed crane truck which suddenly stopped at an intersection. Duane swerved but collided with the truck, knocking him off his bike. He was taken to hospital and a few hours later died of internal injuries.

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

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Wiley C. Thompson