Duane Allman’s Guitars and Gear

Duane is mostly known for playing Gibson Les Paul guitars. His main guitar in the early Allman Brothers Band days was a 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop, which he later exchanged with Stone Balloon’s guitarist Rick Stine for a 1959 cherry Sunburst model. Duane’s only request at the time was that he keeps the pickups from his old Goldtop. In his later years, Duane used a Tobacco burst Les Paul Standard, nicknamed ‘Hot Lanta’, which he acquired through ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.

Aside from all the Les Pauls, Duane also played a few Fenders. He had at least four different Stratocasters, most notable being the one from the mid to late 1960s which he played while working as a session guitarist. He also owned at least one Telecaster, which he used while playing with the Allman Joys around 1966, and a 1961 Gibson SG, which was used most famously on “Statesboro Blues”. Duane first electric guitar was also a Gibson – more precisely a Les Paul Jr. finished in red.

Duane Allman’s 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop sitting at The Big House Museum. Photo by: Bob/Flickr

As far as acoustic guitars, although Duane was not seen often playing one, it is known that he owned quite a few. The most notable are the 1930s National Duolian and a Dobro Wood-body, which he was most often photographed playing. Also worth mentioning is the 1940s Kalamazoo KGN-12, which Allman was photographed playing in his hotel room in Spartanburg, South Carolina on October 17, 1970, and a 1960s Gibson Heritage which, according to Galadrielle Allman, he bought together with his Les Paul Goldtop and a Marshall amp sometime in early to mid-1969.

Regarding amplification, although Duane experimented with a number of different models, his best-known setup consisted of two 50-watt Marshall bass heads connected with three Y-Cables – which enabled him to use both of the HI-inputs of both the channels of both his Marshalls. On occasions, he was also seen using a Marshall Lead 50w Model 1987 Tremolo in combination with these two. For cabinets, he mostly relied on a Marshall 4×12 loaded with JBL D120F speakers, although occasionally, he did experiment with Cerwin-Vega ER-123 speakers.

Duane Allman’s Marshall 1987T on display at The Big House in Macon. Photo by: John McDavid/Flickr

As a fun fact, it is worth mentioning that Duane often put the strings through the inside of the stop-bar tailpiece to the outside and wrapped them back over the stop-bar tailpiece, allowing him to damp the strings with the palm of his right hand when playing slide. He was also left-handed but played right-handed, and he usually played without a pick when playing slide.

Duane Allman Equipment Guide

Please note that this is just a quick basic guide for beginners. In reality, a lot of factors go into replicating someone’s sound, and it’s usually nearly impossible to achieve. To see the stuff that Duane actually used himself, and all that went into it, refer to the chronological list below.

Modern Options for Guitars, Amps

Given that a vintage instrument is out of the equation for most of us, any new-ish Gibson Les Paul Standard should do a decent job replicating Duane’s sound. A cheaper option would, of course, be an Epiphone Les Paul, which in fact is still a pretty decent guitar. As a note, it’s always smart to buy used at this price point, so check out places like eBay and Reverb.com.

Amp is a somewhat more complicated subject. A perfect choice could be a Marshall 1987X – which is sort of a modern version of the amp that Duane used himself – but way too expensive for most hobbyists. Most of you will probably want something in the sub-$300 categories, so maybe go for something like an Orange Crush. It’s a small simple amp, without any fancy stuff, just made to sound good.

Strings, Accessories

Since the actual model of the strings that Duane used is no longer produced (Fender Rock N’ Roll 150s) best option currently is the Fender Hendrix Voodoo Child set, which features the same string gauges, and should, in essence, be the same.

As far as accessories, pick up a decent slide. Duane himself used empty Coricidin medicine bottles, which you can still occasionally get on eBay (all vintage – so also pretty expensive). A good cheap alternative would be something like a Dunlop Derek Trucks Signature Blues Bottle Slide.

Chronological list of Guitars, Amps, Effects, and Accessories used by Duane Allman

Electric Guitars

1959 Gibson Les Paul Jr.

This was Duane’s first ever electric guitar. He mentioned it in a letter to a friend dated July 1961, and according to Galadrielle Allman [Galadrielle Allman: Please Be With Me, p. 65], Duane paid for the Gibson electric himself by selling the parts of the motorbike that he had driven into the ground. According to some other […]

Acquired circa 1961
1950s/60s Gibson ES-330

According to Jim Matherley, who came into contact with Duane in Florida in the early 60s, around 1963/64 Duane owned a Gibson ES-330 with a dot neck. Unfortunately – the rest of the specs are unknown, so consider the side image only a placeholder. I had a (ES) 345 he wanted. He would’ve given anything for that […]

Acquired circa 1963
1956/57 Fender Stratocaster

Duane used this guitar from around 1964/1965, and it was most likely the first Stratocaster that he ever owned. The guitar’s previous owner, Lee Hazen, gave an interview to Vintage Guitar Magazine in 1997 explaining how the guitar found it’s way to Duane: I traded it off to a fellow in Sanford [Florida] who had a guitar […]

Acquired circa 1964
1960s Gibson ES-335

Based on photos available, Duane played this guitar in one of his earliest bands called The Escorts, which on one occasion opened for The Beach Boys in 1965. He continued using the guitar with the Allman Joys until 1966, before switching to a 1954 Fender Telecaster that he used with Hour Glass until 1967. The Telecaster might’ve been swapped directly for […]

Acquired circa 1965
1950s Fender Telecaster

Duane acquired this Telecaster while playing with the Allman Joys around 1966, and it remained his main guitar with the Hour Glass until 1967. The most interesting part about this guitar is that it had a maple Stratocaster neck installed on it, most likely dating somewhere between 1954 and 1958 – at least based on the small headstock shape. It also originally featured a black pickguard […]

Acquired circa 1966
1966 Fender Coronado II

Duane allegedly owned a 1966 Fender Coronado II early on in his career. The guitar was apparently for sale on eBay in 2006 with letters tracking it back through various owners to a Macon Music Store where Duane supposedly traded it in for a Les Paul Jr in the late ’60s. However, even if Duane did own this […]

Acquired circa 1967
1950s Fender Telecaster (Pete Carr)

Duane used another Telecaster around 1967/68 that belonged to Pete Carr – who was the bass player in the Hour Glass. The guitar was initially purchased from Sylvan Wells, a friend of Pete and of Duane (Sylvan is now an attorney and a luthier: wellsguitars.com) Allman had the guitar set up for the slide and reportedly used […]

Acquired circa 1967
1950s Gibson Les Paul Goldtop

Duane was on occasions seen playing a late fifties Gibson Les Paul Goldtop around the time he played with the Hour Glass [See Photo]. The guitar was allegedly borrowed back in 1967 from Tommy “Crash” Compton, who was a friend of Johnny Sandlin. Duane never gave the guitar back and Gregg’s Wurlitzer piano was eventually traded for […]

Acquired circa 1967
1960s Coral Electric Sitar

Duane used an electric sitar with Hour Glass on the cover of the Beatles track “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” which appeared on the band’s second album, and at the Muscle Shoals studios with King Kurtis on the track “Games People Play”. According to Anathalee G. Sandlin (Johnny Sandlin’s wife and author of the book […]

Acquired circa 1967
1961 Fender Stratocaster

This Stratocaster was previously owned by Johnny D. Wyker, who mentioned it in an interview with Swampland.com. According to him, Duane got it from him in late 1968 for some hash. You can believe me when I tell you that that Strat used to be my guitar back in about 1966 or ’67’….me and Duane […]

Acquired circa 1968
1960s Fender Stratocaster

Duane used this guitar while working as a session guitarist at Quinvy Recording Studio, Sheffield, FAME Recording Studios, Muscle Shoals, Fred Be(a)vis Recording Studio, later renamed Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, Sheffield and Atlantic Recording Studios in Manhattan – collaborating with artists such as Wilson Pickett, King Curtis, and Aretha Franklin. Embed from Getty Images The […]

Acquired circa 1968
1954 Fender Stratocaster

Duane allegedly used this guitar during the time he worked as a session guitarist, although there’s not a single photograph or a video recording of Duane playing this particular guitar. Basically, the only “proof” that Duane ever played it comes from the Hard Rock Cafe, where the guitar was exhibited a few times. But even the poster shown in the […]

Acquired circa 1968
1963 Gibson Firebird

According to Duane Betts, Duane acquired this guitar from Wilson Pickett’s guitar player. [Duane Betts, Facebook] The guitar was also recently featured in a video by the Songbirds Foundation (below), but not much of the history behind it was disclosed, aside from that it was purchased around the time that Duane worked on Wilson Pickett’s “Hey […]

Acquired circa 1968
1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop

This was Duane’s main guitar during the first year of the Allman Brothers Band. Duane purchased it in early to mid-1969, most likely from Lipham Music Shop in Gainsville, Florida, – which is the place where he and rest of the band often got their instruments at that time. The guitar is first mentioned in a letter featured in Galadrielle’s book […]

Acquired circa 1969
1959 Gibson ES-335

There’s a photo of Duane playing a sunburst Gibson ES-335 with the pickguard and pickup covers removed dating back to June 13, 1970. Although the guitar’s origins are still a mystery, there are two versions of what happened to it after Duane’s death. The first one is that the guitar ended up with Dickey Betts. Dickey allegedly later gave it to […]

Acquired circa 1970
1950s Gibson Les Paul Jr.

If you’ve read our write-up on Duane’s alleged Fender Coronado II, and if that story is to be believed, this was possibly the guitar that Duane traded for the Fender at some point. Be that as it may, contrary to the mystic Coronado, the Les Paul Jr can actually be placed in Duane’s hands, as he used it […]

Acquired circa 1970
1968 Fender Rosewood Telecaster (Prototype)

Duane was seen playing this guitar briefly during a gig played at the Schaefer Music Festival on August 5, 1970. At that time the guitar belonged to Delaney Bramlett who previously got it from George Harrison in 1969. It was the guitar that George used in the Let it Be movie, and during the Abbey Road studio sessions. Bramlett owned the […]

Acquired circa 1970
1968 Gibson Les Paul Custom

This Les Paul Custom (serial number 537837) recently appeared on an auction at JuliesLive.com, eventually selling for around $50,000. According to the official statement on the website, it was owned by Duane Allman and later his brother Gregg after Duane’s untimely death. In 1993 it was acquired by Larry English, former executive vice president and director of Gibson Guitar. The […]

Acquired circa 1970
1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard

Duane traded this guitar in September 1970 with Stone Balloon’s guitarist Rick Stine for his Goldtop, a Marshall head, and $200 on top of that. His only condition was that he keeps the original PAF pickups from the Goldtop.[Duane Allman: Memories from his Friend, Joe Marshall] The guitar featured plaint-top cherry sunburst finish, and no pickguard (as was […]

Acquired circa 1970
1961 Gibson SG/Les Paul

Duane occasionally used a 1961 Gibson SG (serial number 15263 [Randy Poe, Skydog, p. 292]) finished in cherry red which he got from Dickey Betts – who himself played it in the early days of the Allman Brothers. Most notably, he played this guitar on “Statesboro Blues”. What happened back then was I had this SG when we started the band, […]

Acquired circa 1971
1950s Gibson Les Paul Standard "Hot Lanta"

This is the guitar that Duane was most often pictured within the last couple of months of his life. He got this Les Paul in mid-1971 from Kurt Linhof – a guitar dealer and collector whom he met through Billy Gibbons of ZZ-Top. ZZ Top was opening for the Allman Brothers. Billy introduced Kurt to Duane as,” If anybody […]

Acquired circa 1971

Acoustic Guitars

1960s Gibson J-45

This guitar didn’t actually belong to Duane but to his brother Gregg, but due to the historical importance, we decided to include it in the list nonetheless. Duane gave this Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar to Gregg after trading it for his Telecaster that he played at the time. To learn more about the Telecaster, please […]

Acquired circa 1967
1960s Gibson Heritage

According to Galadrielle Allman [Galadrielle Allman, Please Be With Me, p. 182] Duane bought this guitar together with his Les Paul Goldtop and a Marshall amp, probably sometime in early to mid-1969 (the exact date of purchase is unknown). The guitar is mentioned in a letter that Duane sent to Holly Barr, Ralph Barr’s wife (Ralph Barr was guitar […]

Acquired circa 1969
1930s National Duolian

Duane was photographed playing this guitar in the late 60s/early 70s, but according to Gregg Allman, he owned another one – both of which ended up with Gregg after Duane’s death. He later gave one of them to Eric Clapton and the other one to Ronnie Wood. [Gregg Allman: Organic Acoustic, Guitar World Acoustic, p.84][Alan Paul, One Way Out, […]

Acquired circa 1969
1930s Dobro Wood-body

Duane bought this guitar in 1969 from George Gruhn (GTR, Fourth Avenue, Nashville) for $350. The guitar was made by a Chicago-based company called Regal, that manufactured resonator guitars licensed by Dobro. I remember selling a Dobro to Duane Allman in 1969. At that time, a fancy Dobro was only $350. And Duane paid me at the rate of […]

Acquired circa 1969
1960s Gibson Dove

Duane was seen with this guitar on a photo of him sleeping right next to it, taken at a hotel room sometime in the late 60s or early 70s. That photo is the only instance where Duane was pictured with the guitar, so we can’t say for sure that it was he himself who owned it. This particular […]

Acquired circa 1969
1940s Kalamazoo KGN-12

Duane was photographed playing this guitar in his hotel room in Spartanburg, South Carolina on October 17, 1970. Unfortunately, aside from those photos, the guitar is practically a mystery. From the looks of it, it appears to be a vintage Kalamazoo, model KGN-12, but we haven’t been able to find any background story behind it. It […]

Acquired circa 1970
Gibson Archtop Acoustic

According to Gregg Allman, Duane owned an old Gibson acoustic. Based on Gregg’s statement, this guitar had an oval hole and was an archtop. Unfortunately, beyond these two pieces of information, the guitar is a mystery. Duane also had an old Gibson acoustic with an oval hole and an arch-top. I’ve got that one. Dickey has […]

Acquired circa 1970
Martin D-18

According to Gregg Allman, Duane oned a Martin D-18 that looked “very dark – sort of dark mahogany color”. [Gregg Allman: Organic Acoustic, Guitar World Acoustic, p.84][Alan Paul, One Way Out, p. 79] Unfortunately, since that is the only time that this guitar has ever been mentioned by anyone, there’s really nothing else to be […]

Acquired circa 1970

Amps

1960s Fender Deluxe Blackface

Duane was seen using this amp on the photographs taken of Allman Joys performing at a High School graduation at Seabreeze, Daytona, sometime in 1965. Chronologically looking, this is the first amp that Duane was ever seen performing with, although it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s his first amp altogether. This version of the Fender Deluxe amp […]

Acquired circa 1965
Vox Super Beatle

According to some sources, Duane used this amp in the Hour Glass era (1967/1968). However, there doesn’t seem to be any photos of him actually using the amp, and as we’ll discuss a few paragraphs below, it seems that even though the band traveled with several of these amps, Duane himself preferred not to use it. […]

Acquired circa 1967
Fender Bassman Tweed

According to few sources, Duane used this amp around the Hour Glass era (1967/68). The first of these sources is Johnny Sandlin, who recalled owning a Fender Bassman at the time he toured with the Hour Glass, and lending it to Duane. I had an old Fender Bassman amp with four 10-inch speakers that Duane […]

Acquired circa 1968
1960s Fender Twin Reverb Blackface

This amp was seen on photos taken during the Muscle Shoals era (late 1968), so it is possible that it didn’t belong to Duane but to the FAME studios. Nonetheless, he did still use the amp, so it deserves to be mentioned here. Please note that although the photo below only shows the amp partially, […]

Acquired circa 1968
1960s Fender Showman Silverface

Seen on photos taken at Atlantic Recording Studios in Manhattan in January 1969. The amp was most likely owned by the studio. Embed from Getty Images

Acquired circa 1969
1968 Fender Silverface Bassman (Head)

Used in the early days on the Allman Brothers Band. Duane purchased this Fender Bassman in early 1969 from Lipham Music Company in Florida and used it for a brief period before it became Dickey’s backup amp. [Willie Perkins: The Allman Brothers Band Classic Memorabilia, pp. 6 – 7] The amp was also used by Duane later […]

Acquired circa 1969
Fender Showman Blackface (Head)

Duane used a number of different Fender Showman Blackface amps in the early days of ABB. [Willie Perkins: The Allman Brothers Band Classic Memorabilia, pp. 4 – 7] A few of these amps can now be seen at The Big House Museum, and not all were used exclusively just by Duane (one of the amps available for […]

Acquired circa 1969
1966 Fender Twin Reverb Silverface

In early to mid-1969, ABB purchased a Silverface Fender Twin Reverb with two JBL speakers at Lipham Music Shop in Gainsville, Florida for $605,00 [Willie Perkins & Jack Weston, Memorabilia, p. 5]. Based on the serial number (PA 1045), the amp was made in January 1966. [Fender Tube Amplifier/Amp/Serial Number, Date – Dating, Speaker code & Tube Information] Also, […]

Acquired circa 1969
Marshall Lead 50w Model 1987 Tremolo 

According to Galadrielle Allman’s book “Please Be With Me” (p. 182 – letter from Duane to Holly Barr, Ralph Barr’s wife (Ralph Barr was guitar player for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band)), Duane bought this Marshall amp probably sometime in early to mid 1969 (the exact date is not mentioned in the letter), together with a Gibson […]

Acquired circa 1969
Marshall Bass 50w Model 1986

Used towards the later part of his career. For the most part, he had two 50 watt bass heads with three Y-Cables so he could use both of the HI-inputs of both the channels of both his Marshalls. The heads were played through two half-open back cabinets fitted with JBL D-120F speakers, although on occasions he would also play through […]

Acquired circa 1969
Pignose Prototype

According to Bobby Whitlock, Richard Edlund gave one of the prototypes to Eric and one to Duane during the Layla sessions in 1970. [Bobby Whitlock: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Autobiography, p. 92]. The Pignose amplifier is considered to be the first portable electric guitar amplifier. It’s a five-watt battery-powered miniature amplifier with one five-inch speaker. Richard Edlund […]

Acquired circa 1970
Fender Champ

Most likely the amp used during the Layla studio sessions with Eric Clapton in late 1970. Tom Dowd, who produced the album, gave different reports on what exact model of the amp was used for the recording. There’s mention of Fender Blackface Vibro-Champs, Princetons, and Deluxes, and even same unknown Gibson combo. Howard Albert however who worked as an […]

Acquired circa 1970

Effects

Premier Reverberation 90

This reverb unit was seen on the photographs taken of Allman Joys performing at a High School graduation at Seabreeze, Daytona, sometime in 1965. At that time, Duane was playing a cherry red Gibson ES-335, and it seems that the reverb unit went straight into a Fender Deluxe Blackface combo amp. Important to note here is […]

Acquired circa 1965
1960s Fender Reverb Unit

Duane was seen using this reverb unit on a photo taken sometime in 1966 in Pensacola, Florida, of the band supporting a local vocal group “Sandpipers”. We assume that he purchased the Fender Reverb as a direct replacement/upgrade for the Premier Reverberation 90 that he was seen using in 1965.

Acquired circa 1966
Vox V8161 Fuzz Box

Duane used a Vox fuzz box on his 1950s Fender Telecaster in 1966/1967. The box was attached directly to the guitar by two broom holders, which were screwed onto the body. The version of the Vox booster that Duane used was most likely a V8161 model with the rotating guitar jack on the bottom. You […]

Acquired circa 1966
Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face

Used during early session work, around late 1968/early 1969 (Muscle Shoals era). Duane allegedly powered it with old 9V carbon-zinc batteries because he argued that they made a special sound. Also, just to point out – around the Muscle Shoals era Duane mostly seemed to have played a Fender Stratocaster, and used various Fender amps sitting around the FAME / Atlantic Recording […]

Acquired circa 1969

Strings

Fender Rock N' Roll 150

Based on Johnny Sandlin’s recollection, these are likely strings that Duane used on his guitars, except for those he used for slide (he had flat-wounds on them). [Anathalee G. “BigAnn” Sandlin, Allman Brothers Band forums] He liked to leave the strings uncut and curl them up at the tuning pegs. Proof of this can be found […]

Acquired circa 1967
Fender Flatwound 505 Strings (Slide)

According to Johnny Sandlin, Duane used flat-wound strings when playing slide. Johnny said he’s pretty sure Duane raised the action on the SG he played. He also belives [sic] he used flat wound strings on it too. December 03, 2006 Post at ABB Forum by Anathalee “BigAnn” Sandlin at 04:24 PM The strings are ones […]

Acquired circa 1967

Accessories

351-shape Celluloid Guitar Pick

On most occasions, Duane was seen using either plain white or celluloid picks (zoom in on the photo below). Although it’s hard to tell from the photos, these seem to be standard 351-shape picks. Embed from Getty Images This is also confirmed by an AllmanBrotherBand.com forum user by the name of “Goliath”, who mentioned that […]

Acquired circa 1968
Ace 1313 Guitar Strap

Duane was seen using this guitar strap on his 1960s Fender Stratocaster. Chronologically looking, the first time he was seen using it would be on the photos taken in April 1968 in Cleveland at WEWS-TV (“Upbeat” TV Show ). The strap can be also seen on the photos taken on August 10, 1968, in St. Louis, […]

Acquired circa 1968
Coricidin Bottle (Slide)

According to Galadrielle Allman [Please Be With Me, p. 103], Duane initially used a water glass to learn to play slide. At the time Duane lived in Los Angeles, sharing an apartment with Pete Carr on Yucca Street. [Johnny Sandlin: Anathalee G. Sandlin, A Never-Ending Groove, p. 56.] According to Johnny D. Wyker, he settled […]

Acquired circa 1968
Ring Guitar Strap by Zebo

On his 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop, Duane used a Ring Strap made by Zebo of Zebo’s Leathers of Sarasota, FL. After his death, the strap ended up with Barry Oakley, and sometime later with Larry Brantley. After Duane was killed in a motorcycle wreck on Hillcrest Avenue in October 1971, bass player Berry Oakley […]

Acquired circa 1969
Mountain Guitar Strap by Zebo, John Meeks

Duane used this guitar strap on his 1950s Gibson Les Paul Standard “Hot Lanta”. The strap was custom-made by Zebo (of Zebo’s Leathers of Sarasota, FL, and the same person who made Duane’s Ring Strap) and John Meeks.

Acquired circa 1971
Contributors: Ingemar, Craig Ruskey, allmanac, MrCR, Scott F., Frank N., Phil McGee, Buddy Whittington, Dylan Douglas, Brian J Palmer, wzlrip, apefacemckillips, Michelle W., Sterling M., Mark, guitars1, Eduardo Cardoso, JS

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