Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The #10 Guitarist of the Rock Era: Duane Allman

Here are 90 of The Top 100 Guitarists of the Rock Era*:

100. Mick Barr, Orthrelm
99. Jerry Cantrell, Alice in Chains
98. Mike Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield Blues Band
97. Danny Kirwan, Fleetwood Mac
96. Daron Malakian, System of a Down

95. Sam Totman, Dragonforce
94. Kerry King, Slayer
93. Robbie Krieger, Doors
92. Ted Nugent
91. Jason Becker, David Lee Roth
90. John 5, David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson
89. Jake E. Lee, Ratt, Ozzy Osbourne
88. Michael Wilton, Queensryche
87. James Munky Shaffer, Korn
86. Uli Jon Roth, Scorpions
85. Richie Sambora, Bon Jovi
84. Rick Derringer, McCoys, Edgar Winter Group, solo
83. Dave Mason, Traffic, solo
82. Warren DeMartini, Ratt, Whitesnake
81. Synyster Gates, Avenged Sevenfold
80. Jack White, the White Stripes
79. Alex Lifeson, Rush
78. Chuck Schuldiner, Death
77. Neil Young, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, solo
76. C.C. DeVille, Poison
75. Gary Rossington, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rossington-Collins Band
74. Peter Frampton, Humble Pie, solo
73. Neil Giraldo, Pat Benatar
72. Keith Richards, Rolling Stones
71. Michael Schenker, Scorpions, UFO, Michael Schenker Group
70. Tom Morello, Rage Against the Machine
69. Neal Schon, Santana, Journey
68. Vivian Campbell, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy
67. Dave Mustaine, Metallica, Megadeth
66. Danny Gatton
65. Timo Tolkki
64. Allen Holdsworth
63. Dave Murray, Iron Maiden
62. Nuno Bettencourt, Extreme
61. Ace Frehley, Kiss, solo
60. Reb Beach, 28 years
59. Allen Collins, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rossington Collins Band
58. Kurt Cobain, Nirvana
57. John Petrucci, Dream Theatre
56. Richie Kotzen
55. Michael Angelo Batio, Holland, the Michael Angelo Band, Nitro
54. Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley
53. Rick Nielsen, Cheap Trick
52. Fast Eddie Clarke, Motorhead
51. Vinnie Moore, UFO
50. Joe Walsh, James Gang, solo, and Eagles
49. Roy Buchanan
48. Chuck Berry
47. Rory Gallagher, solo
46. Steve Lukather, Toto
45. Tommy Bolin, Deep Purple
44. Frank Zappa, Mothers of Invention, solo
43. Gary Moore, Thin Lizzy, solo
42. Stephen Stills, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills & Nash, solo
41. Mick Ronson, David Bowie, solo
40. The Edge, U2
39. Mike Campbell, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
38. Derek Trucks, Allman Brothers Band
37. Zakk Wylde
36. Dimebag Darrell
35. Lee Ranaldo
34. Kirk Hammett, Metallica
33. John Frusciante, Red Hot Chili Peppers
32. Slash, Guns N' Roses
31. Albert Lee
30.    Mark Knopfler, Dire Straits
29.    Pete Townshend, Who
28. Glen Tipton, Judas Priest
27. Marty Friedman, Megadeth

26. Dick Dale, Ventures
25. David Gilmour, Pink Floyd
24. Adrian Smith, Iron Maiden
23. Angus Young, AC/DC
22. Paco DeLucia
21. Paul Gilbert, Mr. Big, Racer X
20. Randy Rhoads, David Lee Roth
19. Brian May, Queen
18. Richard Thompson, Fairport Convention
17. Ritchie Blackmore, Deep Purple, Rainbow
16. Eric Clapton, Yardbirds, Cream, Derek & the Dominoes, solo performer
15. Robert Fripp, King Crimson
14. Eric Johnson
13. Tony Iommi, Black Sabbath
12. Yngwie Malmsteen

11.  Joe Satriani

The #10 guitarist was one of the best slide guitarists ever.  And he played with passion, his solos beautiful to listen to.  He only spent 11 years playing professional guitar, but those 11 years were packed with great playing:

#10:  Duane Allman, Allman Brothers Band
11 years as an active guitarist
(solo on "Loan Me a Dime")

Howard Duane Allman was born November 20, 1946 in Nashville, Tennessee.  He was a noted session musician and the guitarist and primary co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band.  Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident at age 25 but he will long be remembered for his slide guitar work and improvisation.

In 1957, the family moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, but Duane and younger brother Gregg returned to Nashville in the summers to be with their grandmother.  While in Nashville, Gregg heard a neighbor playing guitar and when he got back to Florida, he saved up money to buy a guitar.  When Duane heard him playing, he wanted to learn how also so his mother bought Duane a Gibson Les Paul Junior.  Duane learned how to play quickly; Gregg stated later that "...he passed me up like I was standing still."  After a concert by B.B. King, Duane came home and was forming his own riffs to the songs he had heard just hours before and putting together his own solos.

Duane played for hours in his room, learning the acoustic blues, chords, and developing his own sound.  The two brothers began forming local groups in 1961.  Their band the Escorts opened for the Beach Boys in 1965 but disbanded and reformed under the name the Allman Joys.  They went out on the road, performing throughout the Southeast.

The Allman Joys changed their name to the Hour Glass and moved to Los Angeles in 1967.  They recorded two albums that their label mistakenly promoted as a pop product, despite the band wanting to play blues-oriented material.

On his 22nd birthday in 1968, Duane was sick and had a bottle of allergy pills by his bed. When his brother Gregg went to visit him, Duane had poured the pills out and was using the bottle as a slide to play "Statesboro Blues", a song by Blind Willie McTell. He had never taken lessons to play slide guitar nor had he ever played it prior to this.

The Hour Glass dissolved in 1968, but Allman's guitar work on the two albums by the group caught the ear of Rick Hall, owner of FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  Duane accepted a position with the studio for session work on the Wilson Pickett album Hey Jude.  That performance earned Allman a full-time job at Muscle Shoals, and the attention of other musicials such as Eric Clapton, who was immediately impressed.  Jerry Wexler, producer and executive of Atlantic Records, also took note and quickly bought Allman's recording contract from Hall.  

Allman worked for a number of artists while at Muscle Shoals, including Aretha Franklin, Boz Scaggs, King Curtis, Clarence Carter, Laura Nyro, Percy Sledge, Herbie Mann and Delaney & Bonnie. 

R&B and jazz drummer Jaimoe Johanson met Allman at the studio and became his manager.  Johanson set out to build a three-piece band around Duane.  Bassist Berry Oakley came down to play but was committed to the rock band that he and guitarist Dickey Betts had put together.  As nothing was happening, Allman and Johanson went back to Jacksonville, Florida and moved in with Butch Trucks. 

Soon, a jam session of these three plus Betts, Oakley and Reese Wynans took place and all believed their sound to be natural.  Brother Gregg came in to sing and replace Wynans on keyboard, and the Allman Brothers Band was born.  The Sextet moved to Macon, Georgia to be near Capricorn Sound Studios.  

After five months of intense rehearsing and performances at small clubs and venues, the group was ready to record.  Their debut album, The Allman Brothers Band, was recorded in New York City in September, 1969 and released soon after.  A second release, Idlewild South, came out in 1970 and made the album charts in the United States.

A concert in Miami, Florida, allowed Allman to participate in the album Eric Clapton's Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.  After an all-night jam session at Criteria Studios, Allman played on most of the tracks on the album, contributing some of his best work.  Duane made three appearances with Derek and the Dominos on their 1970 tour.

The Allman Brothers recorded the live album At Fillmore East in 1971.  Duane also liked to drop by recording sessions and play on whatever was being taped that day.  He was paid for these stints but received no recording credits, making it nearly impossible to compile a full disography of his work.

Allman began listening to jazz greats Miles Davis and John Coltrane and credits them as influences during this period for his melodic, extended guitar solos.  Allman's bottleneck steel sound continued to evolve and would basically be the beginning for what we now know as Southern Rock.  Many slide guitarists, including Dickey Betts, Rory Gallagher, Derek Trucks and Gary Rossington, were influenced by Allman.

Duane had already contributed so much to his profession and who knows what he was capable of.  But on October 29, 1971, while riding his motorcyle at high speed, he approached an intersection as a flatbed truck carrying a lumber crane approached.  The truck stopped in the intersection, forcing Duane to swerve.  Allman's motorcycle collided with the truck and Duane was thrown.  The motorcycle then bounced up in the air, landed on Allman and skidded another ninety feet with Duane pinned underneath.  This crushed his internal organs and he died several hours after emergency surgery, just a few weeks short of his 25th birthday.

A good sample of Allman's session work can be heard on the albums An Anthology and An Anthology Volume II.  Shortly after Duane's death, Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd dedicated "Free Bird" to the memory of Allman.  In 1973, fans carved in large letters "REMEMBER DUANE ALLMAN' in a dirt embankment near Vicksburg, Mississippi.  In 1998, the Georgia State Legislature passed a resolution designating a stretch of State Highway 19, US 41, within Macon as Duane Allman Boulevard.

Allman's guitar tone, achieved with his Gibson Les Paul and two 50-watt Marshall amplifiers, was named one of the greatest guitar tones of all-time by Guitar Player magazine.  Duane's picking was pure, clear and concise.  Allman chose his notes carefully, allowing space for the listener to breathe between them, yet he could put on the accelerator when need be.  His solos were inventive and unique; he was indeed one of a kind.  

Duane played a Fender Telecaster in his early years with a Marshall amplifier and six 10-inch speakers.  In his years at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, he played a 1954 Fender Stratocaster (now at the Hard Rock Cafe in London) and a 1959 Fender Bassman through a Fender Twin Reverb with JBL speakers and used the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face and Maestro Echoplex effects.

With the Allman Brothers Band and session work of the period, Duane played a 1961 Fender Stratocaster, Gibson ES-345 Semi-hollow body guitars, 1957, 1958 and 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standards, a 1961 Gibson SG and a Gibson L-00 acoustic guitar.  Duane used Marshall 50-watt amplifiers and two Marshall 4 x 12 cabinets loaded with JBL speakers and a Fender Champ combo amplifier.

        Duane with the Allman Brothers Band from 1970...

Allman was special, a great blues player who also played his brand of Southern rock & roll.  He played with emotion and passion; his solos were exquisite, melodic works of art.  Duane should be in the Top 15 of any guitar list made.  If he isn't, question the people putting out the list.  The only reason he isn't higher is because of his tragic death.  We will never know how great he could have become.  But while he was on this Earth, he was amazing.  Duane comes in at #10 for the Rock Era*...  

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