Duane Allman’s Guitars and Gear

Howard Duane Allman was born on November 20, 1946 in Nashville, Tennessee. He is best known as a co-founder of the Southern rock group The Allman Brothers Band, and respected session musician. A sought-after session musician both before and during his tenure with the band, Allman performed with such established stars as King Curtis, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Otis Rush, and Herbie Mann. His contribution to the 1970 album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos went on to become a part of Rock history. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Allman at #2 in their list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time; second only to Jimi Hendrix.

Duane is mostly known for playing Gibson Les Paul guitars. His main one in the early ABB days was a 1957 Goldtop which he exchanged for a 1959 cherry Sunburst model, but decided to keep the pickups from the Goldtop. His best known Les Paul was certainly the Tobacco burst model which came after the two previously mentioned. Except for the Les Paul, Duane also played a couple of Stratocasters, including the one from the 60s which he played during the during the Muscle Shoals Sound studio sessions. Another thing worth mentioning is 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’s Electric Guitars:

1959 Gibson Les Paul Jr.

Gibson Les Paul Junior Red

This was Duane’s first 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.

Duane used this guitar from 1961 to around 1964/65, when he allegedly pawned it. Some years later Delaney Bramlett walked into a pawnshop and randomly purchased a red Les Paul Jr. When he showed it to Duane, he supposedly recognized the guitar as his own by a gouge/scratch on the back of the body. We have no way of actually confirming this, and many aspects of this story seem way to random to be true, but that’s what happened at least according to Delaney [A Conversation with Delaney Bramlett – Swampland.com]

Delaney later sold the guitar to a San Francisco guitar collector, after which it changed hands again and ended up with Kunio Kishida, a collector/musician from Japan.

1956/57 Fender Stratocaster

lee-hazen-duane-allman-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 shop. I think his name was Jimmy Jewell, and Duane ended up with it. I think that was somewhere around 1964 or ‘65. I don’t know why I did it. I bought it in 1959, right after I graduated from high school. [Dave Kyle: Remembering Duane Allman, Vintage Guitar Magazine’, January 1997, Vol. 11 No. 4) – the full interview is available over at DuaneAllman.info]

In the same interview, Lee noted that the guitar was a sunburst model modified with a rotary pickup switch with eleven positions, each connected to eleven different capacitors in the tone control circuit. The pickup selector switch was also modified to five positions, and additional three switches were installed for phase switching allowing for any combination of the three pickups in any combination of phase.

Again in the same interview, Sylvan Wells – former member of the  The Nightcrawlers and Duane’s high-school friend, confirmed that Allman did indeed own a modified Stratocaster.

Duane had a Stratocaster that Lee Hazen had modified, and Gregg, I think, was using a Stratocaster, too. But I remember Duane’s because it had three little switches that Lee had put in and nobody knew what they were (laughs). I found it real interesting because I was in London at the Hard Rock Cafe and there was “Duane Allman’s First Stratocaster” and it wasn’t that guitar (laughing)! [Dave Kyle: Remembering Duane Allman, Vintage Guitar Magazine’, January 1997, Vol. 11 No. 4)]

The guitar that he’s referring to is most likely the 1954 Fender Stratocaster currently owned by the Hard Rock Cafe, which is for the most part still a mystery.

1950s/60s Gibson ES-330

 gibson-es-330-dark-burst

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 guitar. In fact, I let him borrow it on a couple occasions. He had a 330, an old dot (neck). Of course, the 345 had the varitone switch, and Lee took that off of my guitar and copied it on one of his. [Dave Kyle: Remembering Duane Allman, Vintage Guitar Magazine’, January 1997, Vol. 11 No. 4)]

1960s Gibson ES-335

1950s Gibson ES-335 Red Block Bigsby

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.

The guitar featured cherry red finish, block inlays, and a Bigsby tremolo.

1966 Fender Coronado II

Fender Coronado 2

Duane allegedly owned a 1966 Fender Coronado II in his early career. The guitar was apparently for sale on eBay recently 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 guitar at one time, there is no evidence that he ever actually used it.

1954 Fender Telecaster

Duane Allman 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 guitar 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 but it was replaced with a white one at some point by Duane. Another custom thing on this guitar was a fuzz/distortion box which was connected to two broomholders, which were screwed onto the body. The exact model of this box was either a Vox V87 (US version) or the British version V816.

According to Gregg Allman this guitar was traded for a Gibson J-45 acoustic that Duane gave to Gregg [Guitar World Acoustic, 2001, issue 48, Gregg Allman: Organic Acoustic by Alan Paul, p. 84.] [Alan Paul, One Way Out, p. 78], but according to Paul Hornsby the Tele/Strat was stolen during the short mid-west “Power of Love” tour in early 1968.

1950s Fender Telecaster

Pete Carr Duane Allman Fender Telecaster

Duane used another Telecaster around 1967/68 that belonged to Pete Carr, who was a bassist in the Hour Glass. The 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 slide, and reportedly used it to practice the craft of slide guitar even while his bandmates hated what he was doing at that time. He used this very guitar to play the first renditions of Statesboro Blues live on stage with Hour Glass in 1968, and therefore the guitar is of special importance both in Duane’s personal history and in the history of Blues Rock Slide Guitar itself.

As far as the guitar itself, we’ve found only one photo of it taken circa 1969 at the Capricorn Studios. Based on the photo, the metal cover of the neck pickup is removed (which was a common mod), and the neck seems to be from around 1956 era – based on the butterfly string guide still positioned closer to the D-string tuner (post mid 1956 it’s moved back closer to the nut), and the the logo design (changed at the start of the 1957/58 season reading “Fender” and “Telecaster” upwards instead of downwards). Based on this, Pete’s Telecaster was most likely a 1955/56 season model or a 1956/57 season model.

Duane used the Tele occasionally for gigs, and during one of the them somehow managed to snap the neck of the guitar. Carr then took it back to his father to fix it and it remained with Pete ever since [Pete Carr in Macon – PlayThatGuitar.com].

1950s Gibson Les Paul Goldtop

1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop PG

Duane was on occasions seen playing a late fifties Les Paul Goldtop around the time he played with the Hour Glass. 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 it.

Duane had borrowed a ’59 gold top Les Paul (note – the Goldtop model was produced only until 1958) from Tommy Compton, who still lives in Decatur, and he didn’t want to give it back to Tommy. And Tommy definitely wanted it back. Eventually it worked around to Gregg trading the Wurlitzer for the guitar. The guitar was worth more than the piano but Tommy had a use for it and was trying to keep Duane from getting busted because Tommy’s dad was ready to go after Duane to get the guitar back. So, the piano was sent back to Decatur and Duane kept the guitar. Of course that guitar would be worth a fortune now, certainly more than the piano is worth. [AllmanBrothersBand forums – bigann][Anathalee G. Sandlin: A Never-Ending Groove, p. 33].

To avoid any confusion, it is perhaps important to note that this is not the same Goldtop that Duane used later on with the Allman Brothers Band, since according to Galadrielle Allman [Please Be With Me, p. 182], Duane bought the second Goldtop in early to mid 1969. Also, the first Goldtop had both pickup covers and toggle switch ring, all of which were missing on the second one.

What’s particularly mystifying about this guitar is what happened to it since the days of Hour Glass. In April of 1968 Duane started using a mid to late 60s Fender Stratocaster, so it is possible that this guitar ended up being traded for that one. If so, Duane traded a guitar that was not his and this could be a good reason that Gregg’s Wurlizter eventually had to be traded for Tommy’s Goldtop.

If that is the case, then there must be third Goldtop since Duane was seen using one at the Atlanta Pop Festival and Love Valley Festival in 1970 (which looked different from the one he had bought in May 1969), and he reportedly used a Goldtop during the Layla sessions – which could essentially be any of them since there’s no photographic evidence of which guitar he used specifically.

Duane playing what seems to be the Tommy Compton Goldtop at the Love Valley Pop Festival in 1970. Image source: YouTube

Duane playing what seems to be the Tommy Compton Goldtop at the Love Valley Pop Festival in 1970. Image source: YouTube

Of course, it is also possible that this Goldtop was not traded for a Stratocaster, and there might be the possibility that the Love Valley 1970 and Atlanta Pop Festival 1970 Goldtop could have been Tommy Compton’s.

Unfortunately, currently there’s no way to confirm any of these stories.  If you happen to know anything about this guitar that would help demystify the whole thing, or you know something about Duane acquiring a third Goldtop, please be sure to send us message.

1960s Coral Electric Sitar

coral-sitar

Duane used an electric sitar with Hour Glass on the 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 “A Never-Ending Groove“), Duane received the sitar from Liberty Records – the band’s record label:

Johnny said when the Coral sitars came out someone gave one to Liberty who in turn gave it to Duane. That’s how he got the first sitar he played. [bigann – Hittin’ The Web with the Allman Brothers Band Forum]

1960s Fender Stratocaster

Duane Allman 1966 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.

The guitar was most likely a successor/replacement of the Fender Telecaster that Duane played in Allman Joys and Hour Glass. First photos of Duane with this Stratocaster date back to around April of 1968, when Hour Glass was doing their short mid-west “Power of Love” tour, which is also around the same time when he stopped using the Telecaster (read more about the Telecaster above).

On the photos dating back to Hour Glass era, Duane’s Strat featured a white pickguard and pickup covers. Sometime in 1968 (somewhere between July and November) he painted them both black, – as can be seen on the photos taken at Muscle Shoals. It is also apparent that the pieces were indeed painted and not simply replaced, as there are visible white patches showing underneath the black surface between the bridge and middle pickup. Duane also painted a red scorpion on the pickguard, as that was his horoscope sign.

We unfortunately couldn’t find out what happened to the guitar after Duane stopped using it. It is possible that he swapped it for another instrument, as he was starting to gravitate more towards Gibsons at that time. If you happen to know anything please be sure to contact us using a form located at the bottom of this list.

1954 Fender Stratocaster

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 case where the guitar is kept on display is of a completely different Stratocaster (Duane’s 1966 rosewood Strat).

Be that as it may, the guitar is actually quite unique and significant on it’s own, as it is one of the earliest Strats ever made featuring the serial number #0019.

1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop

Duane Allman 1957 Les Paul Gold Top

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 [Please Be With Me, p. 182] dated to May 16, 1969. The letter was written by Duane as a reply to Holly Barr, Ralph Barr’s wife (Ralph Barr was guitar player for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band). In the said letter, Allman mentions buying a Marshall amp, together with a Gibson Les Paul Gold Top and a Gibson Heritage acoustic, but he does not specify the exact date of purchase.

This Les Paul featured gold-top finish, two PAF pickups with no covers, no pickguard, and no toggle switch ring (poker chip). What is presumably the same guitar was also seen with this same configuration but featuring pickup covers. These photos all seem to date to early to mid 1969, or the time period when the guitar was still a new acquisition, meaning that it likely featured pickups with covers when it was acquired. Around May 1969 Duane was pictured with this guitar that did not have covers on the pickups anymore, which means that Duane removed them, or had them removed, or these pickups were completely different pickups.

Usage

The guitar was most likely used on Allman Brothers debut album released in 1969, and on the album Idlewild South released in 1970. It was also probably used by Duane during the Layla sessions with Eric Clapton, as he joined Eric at Criteria Studios in August 1970, weeks before he traded the guitar for the ’59 Cherry Burst Les Paul.

There is of course the possibility that Duane used his second Goldtop during the Layla sessions, since he presumably did have two nearly identical Goldtops at that time (it is possible that the first Goldtop was traded for a Stratocaster). If you happen to come across a photo of Duane taken at the Criteria Studio, which shows which guitar he had with him at the time, please be sure to forward it to us using the contact form at the end of this list.

Duane kept using the guitar as his main from the time he bought it and until September 1970. On the 16th the Allman Brothers Band played a gig in Daytona Beach, with the opening band called the Stone Balloon. The guitarist of that band, Rick Stine, played a plain top 1959 cherry burst Les Paul, which Duane admired. He ended up making a deal with Rick and gave him his ’57 Goldtop, $200 in cash, and a 50-watt Marshall head for the burst. The only thing that he kept from the old Goldtop were the PAF pickups.

Duane had a Goldtop he traded for a Sunburst, but he liked the pickups in the Goldtop better, so he and Kim Payne switched the pickups in a motel room in Daytona. – Joe Dan Petty: Techin’ It Twice [Vintage Guitar Magazine, November 1996]

However, based on the info posted on a Duane Allman fan page on Facebook (also available on DuaneAllman.info) Kim said that he recalls taking the guitars to a guitar shop in Decatur, GA for the switch to be made.

The Pickup Covers Enigma

One thing regarding the story about the pickup swap between the Goldtop and the Rick Stine cherry burst is that the Goldtop had no pickup covers, so it only follows that the cherry burst shouldn’t have them either after the swap took place. The cherry-burst Les Paul did however feature pickup covers, as seen on the Fillmore East footage, September 23rd, 1970.

One possible theory is that Duane and Rick swapped guitars on the night of September 16th, 1970 at the Daytona Beach, Florida, and then some time after Kim Payne took the newly acquired cherry burst and Duane’s first Goldtop – a 1950s model which did have pickup covers (more about this guitar here –  1950s Gibson Les Paul Goldtop) – to a guitar shop in Decatur, GA to swap the pickups.

[…]

Duane’s Goldtop’s Current Whereabouts

After Duane’s death, the guitar changed a couple of hands before ending up with Scot LaMar who restored the guitar to original condition, including the original Goldtop finish, now done by Tom Murphy. Nowadays Scot often loans it to Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Vince Gill, and others for live gigs.

1950s Les Paul Jr.

Les Paul Junior Single

This was the guitar that Duane allegedly traded for his Fender Coronado II – which we mentioned previously. It was most likely used as a backup guitar that came into play on rare occasions just in 1970 – if a string broke on his Les Paul Goldtop.

Duane can be seen playing this guitar at Whipping Post on July 17th 1970.

1958/59 Gibson ES-335

Duane Allman ES-335 Sunburst

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 gutiar’s origins are still a mystery, there’s two versions of what happened to this guitar after Duane’s death:

The first one is that the guitar ended up with Dickey Betts. Dickey allegedly later gave it to Eddy Shaver, who was his student at some point. After Eddy’s death in 2000 the guitar ended up with Willie Nelson, who supposedly keeps it locked up in his safe.

The second version of the story is that Donna Roosmann took two guitars from Duane’s house after he died, one being the Cherry-Burst ’59 Les Paul, and other one a 1959 sunburst Gibson ES-335. She loaned the ES-335 to Tommy Talton, but it was stolen from him some time later. [Galadrielle Allman, Please Be With Me, p. 325]

The third possibility of course is that we’re actually talking about two different guitars. As one of our readers noticed, in an interview with Swampland.com Billy Joe Shaver mentioned the ES-335, but he didn’t talk specifically about the color – which leaves some space for speculation. In Galadrielle Allman’s book however, it is mentioned that the guitar that was stolen from Tommy Talton was a 1959 sunburst model.

1968 Fender Rosewood Telecaster (Prototype)

George Harrison Telecaster Rosewood

Duane was seen playing this guitar briefly during a gig played at the Schaefer Music Festival in 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 guitar until 2003, or two years after George died. It was then put on an auction, and was purchased by Harrison’s widow, Olivia, for more than $470,000.

1968 Gibson Les Paul Custom

Duane Allman 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 Larry English, former executive vice president and director of Gibson Guitar.

The guitar is signed with a gold marker on the front of the body by Gregg Allman, and the back of the body reads “Donna I Love U” carved into the body by Duane. The pickup covers on both of the pickups are removed, and the neck pickup seems to be replaced – based on the presumption that both pickups should be black on a stock 1969 Les Paul Custom. The control knobs on the guitar are also not original as the three of them are the reflector knobs, and the one remaining is a barrel knob.

As far as putting the guitar in Duane’s hands retrospectively, there’s only one photo known to us of Duane holding a Gibson Les Paul Custom dating back to circa 1970. That guitar however seems to be completely stock and doesn’t look anything like the 1968 Les Paul Custom sold on the auction, but of course there is a possibility that the mods occurred during this forty plus years period. If you have any way of connecting these two guitars together, or debunking the theory that they are actually one same guitar, please be sure to contact us using the form at the bottom of this list.

One thing that’s worth pointing out is that the knobs seen on the guitar Duane was playing in the 70s are the ones that were fitted on models made from 1968, more known as the “amp” knobs. [Vintage Guitars Info’s Gibson Solid Body Model Descriptions – GuitarHQ.com] This means that the guitar was likely a 1968 model, which is of course the same year when the guitar that was sold on Julies was made – therefore linking the two together.

1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard Cherry Burst

Cherry Sunburst 1959 Les Paul

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 preferred by Duane on all of his Les Pauls), but it did have both of the pickup covers. This comes as a surprise knowing that Duane’s Goldtop didn’t feature pickup covers, and the pickups on this guitar were taken directly from the Goldtop as part of the deal made between Duane and Rick Stine. It’s possible that Duane simply added them himself after swapping the pickups, but this certainly brings an element of confusion into the subject. It is also possible that the pickups were swapped from Duane second Goldtop which did have pickup covers, but that’s just a mere assumption.

Be that as it may, Duane played this guitar throughout the rest of his career, most notably on “At Fillmore East” live album recorded in 1971. After his death it ended up with his common-law wife Donna Roosmann, and it was later given to Joey Marshall who had introduced Donna and Duane to each other and who took care of it until Duane’s daughter Galadrielle turned 21 years old [Galadrielle Allman, Please Be With Me, p. 119]. She still owns the guitar to this day, even though it is mostly kept at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum for safe keeping. The guitar’s serial number is 9-1988 [Tony Bacon: Sunburst, p. 68]

Duane can be seen playing the guitar at the Fillmore East on September 23rd 1970. Image source: YouTube

Duane can be seen playing the guitar at the Fillmore East on September 23rd 1970. Image source: YouTube

Only recently the guitar has been put back to playable condition to be used during The Allman Brothers Band final show on October 28, 2014 at the Beacon Theater [The Allman Brothers Band – Playing Duane’s Guitars – “No One To Run With”]. The red accent on the finish has almost completely faded due to aging, and the pickup covers seem the have to been removed once again, which adds some more confusion the subject of what pickups were used on this guitar.

A more recent photo of Duane’s 1959 Gibson Les Paul. Photo credit rocor/Flickr

195? Gibson Les Paul Standard Tobacco Burst “Hot Lanta”

Duane Allman Tobacco Les Paul

This is the guitar that Duane was most often pictured with in 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 can find you a guitar this man can!” Well…. and he did find Duane a guitar! And what a guitar. Duane was looking for a Tobacco burst. Duane’s terms were, “I’ll pay you the cost of the guitar plus half…plus half of that!… plus half of that! !…plus half of that ! ! !” it became a running joke. The rest of the Allmans gave Kurt a shopping list of gear they were looking for. [Duane Allman “HOT LANTA” Story]

When Kurt found and first acquired the Les Paul, it already had a replacement headstock / peghead on it because the original had been broken off and the owner had it fixed. Because of that, accurate dating of Duane’s Les Paul becomes almost impossible [Randy Poe, Skydog, p. 296]. Pots and switches were checked, but that turned up no proof either. Linhof himself stated that he thinks that the guitar might be a ’59, but having never seen the original neck and headstock, he couldn’t say what the build year was for sure. Also important to mention is the fact that the pickups were switched from their original positions:

Kurt had the guitar for a couple months before delivery. During this time he switched the pickups. The rhythm pickup was switched to the bridge position, and the bridge to rhythm. This was common practice among the early Burst connoisseurs, as the Les Paul was designed originally as a solid body jazz guitar. Hot Lanta pickups measured 8.7k ohms in the bridge and 8.3k ohms in the neck. Kurt said he has only come across one PAF that was hotter than Hot Lanta’s – that PAF was 8.99k. [Duane Allman “HOT LANTA” Story]

After Duane’s death, this guitar remained with his brother Gregg, who eventually traded it with Allman Brothers’ road manager Twiggs Lyndon for a 1939 Ford Opera coupe [Guitar Player magazine, October 1981]. During this period, Twiggs re-fretted the guitar and inlaid Duane’s name on the back of the body using the old frets [The Big House, Vintage Guitar magazine by Dave Kyle, December 1996]. Lyndon often carried the guitar on the road with Dixie Dregs, and he had it with him at the time of his tragic death on November 16, 1979. Because the band was on the road, for the time being the guitar remained with Dregs guitarist Steve Morse until he was able to give it back to Twiggs’ family.

‘We were up in New York at the time,’ Morse explained, ‘and I just took responsibility of carrying it around until I was able to give it to Twiggs’ brother Skoots in Georgia. Now it’s at Twiggs’ parents’ house in Macon. I use that guitar when we record, and they’ll let me use it pretty much when I want to, but it’s with his family. [Twiggs Lyndon Talks Gear: An Unpublished 1978 Interview]

On April 2, 1990 Twiggs’ brother Skoots gave the guitar to Duane’s wife during her visit to Macon, and presented it to her at Duane’s grave site at the Rose Hill Cemetery. Since then the guitar remains with Allman’s daughter Galadrielle. For more info about the topic please read Jas Obrecht’s interview with Twiggs Lyndon, which offers some great insight and input from all the people involved.

To avoid confusion, it is important to point out that this guitar was not the one that Duane used on Live at Fillmore East. Duane bought “Hot ‘Lanta” ( Duane did not name his guitars) on the afternoon of the first of the last Fillmore shows, according to Kurt Linhof. Randy Poe thinks that Linhof meant June 25, 1971 [Randy Poe, Skydog, p. 296]. June 25, 26 or 27, either way, it means that this guitar was not used on September 23, 1970 nor on March 11, 12 or 13, 1971. The Fillmore East Les Paul is in fact the 1959 Cherry Burst mentioned above.

1961 Fender Stratocaster

1962 1963 Fender Stratocaster

Duane gave this Stratocaster to Delaney Bramlett in 1970. He would allegedly often show up with the guitar, which Delaney loved to play, when he would jam with Delaney and Bonnie. It was part of the band’s arsenal, sometimes also played by Dickey Betts, as late as February 1970.

The guitar 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 1966/67 for some hash:

Me and Duane were sitting around one night, smoking Duane’s hashish and he was playing my Strat – I mean really playing it making magic, he was getting sounds out my guitar that was blowing my mind. It was easy for me to see that Duane had found his Muse and seen his musical matrix, and I was real high and spiritual. Anyway, Duane was smoking on that Strat and I was smoking his hash, and I made an offer to trade him my Strat for the rest of his hash….probably about a 1/2 ounce. – Hallucination Verification – John Wyker and Mighty Field of Vision by Mitch Lopate

The guitar should not be confused with a similar Stratocaster that Duane was photographed with during Muscle Shoals sessions, as there are obvious visual differences between the two guitars.

This Stratocaster remained with Delaney, who later played it at Duane’s Funeral on Nov. 1, 1971. It is currently owned by a private collector, who was very kind to provide some of the info.

1961 Gibson Les Paul/SG

1961 Gibson SG

Duane also 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, and then I got a Les Paul, my ’57, and when Duane wanted to play slide he would have to re-tune his one guitar every f**** time. And I got tired of it and said, “Here, take this guitar and tune it, and leave it tuned!” and gave him my SG. He loved that guitar. [Gibson Legend Dickey Betts Talks about Duane Allman and Southern Rock]

The guitar was most likely bought in early 1970, as one of our readers pointed out that he himself was interested in the same SG before Allmans came to the Liphams Music in Gainesville and picked it up.

I moved to Ocala FL in Oct. ’69 to join the slowly crumbling Royal Guardsmen. The band traded with Liphams Music in Gainesville. On a trip to pick up some repairs in early ’70 a beautiful SG caught my eye so I picked it up and played it for about 30 minutes or so. I discussed price and came to a deal wherein I would trade in my new issue Les Paul and 100 dollars. The sales guy put the guitar back in the layaway room until my return the next week. The following Monday we went back my Les Paul and cash in hand, and the sales guy said: “uh..Duane and them came in Saturday. Duane played the SG, and uh well they bought it” […] I was pissed at Duane and them for quite a while. Even after I learned about the Allmans. [Chuck Emery – sent via email]

To try and figure out when exactly this happened – on April 17, 1970 there was an ABB show at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and they were also in Florida in June (Event Calendar – Hittin’ The Web). There are not any other options since Dickey used the SG at the Atlanta Pop Festival in early July 1970.

On page 101 of Memorabilia by Willie Perkins [The Allman Brothers Band Classic Memorabilia, 1969–1976; Willie Perkins] there is a photo of Dickey playing the SG and Twiggs Lyndon taking another picture of the band. However, Twiggs was arrested on April 29, 1970, so ABB must’ve acquired the SG before that. That means Saturday April 18, 1970 is the most likely date – based on Chuck Emery story quoted above. It is perhaps more logical that the guitar was bought before the concert, but Chuck Emery said it was a Saturday and the concert at the University of Florida was on Friday the 17th.

SG with Duane

As far as when exactly Duane started using this guitar himself, it probably happened sometime in early to mid 1971, at least according to Joe Dan Petty who said that Dickey acquired his Les Paul in Detroit, and shortly after that gave the SG to Duane. Please note that the Allman Brothers played two gigs in Detroit in early 1971, one at the Eastown Theatre on February 26th, and the other at the Michigan State Fairgrounds on May 30th. [ABB Event Calendar]

Dickey was playing an SG, then he got a Les Paul in Detroit, but he never did warm to it, and got another Les Paul. Dickey gave Duane his SG, and Duane set it up for slide. – Joe Dan Petty: Techin’ It Twice [Vintage Guitar Magazine, November 1996]

The SG originally featured a Gibson sideways Vibrola tremolo, as can be seen from the screw holes left on the body, but it was removed and replaced with a stopbar by the time it got in Duane’s hands. It was equipped with two Gibson PAF humbucking pickups, and it featured the original small pickguard. Also, the truss rod cover seems to be either replaced, since it shows no “Les Paul” logo and does not have the white edge, or it was removed altogether.

The guitar was supposed to be buried next to Duane, but Gregg supposedly remembered that Duane had told him that he wanted Gerry Groom to have the guitar if anything ever happened to him. Years later, Gerry sold it to Graham Nash’s (The Hollies) wife Susan, who purchased it for him as a birthday present. Since then the guitar was seen at the Rock Hall of Fame Exhibit hosted by Nash.

An interview with Gerry Groom was posted over at AllmanBrothersBand.com, in which he talked a little bit about Duane and his SG. Please note that in the quote below he likely thought that the neck and the body were one-piece each, since the whole guitar being built of one piece of wood is highly unlikely. Also note that the guitar wasn’t made in 1962 but in 1961, as it was listed in the Gibson ledger books on April 26, 1961 according to Walter Carter [Randy Poe, Skydog, pp. 292-293].

… at Duane’s funeral they were going to bury his ’62 SG Les Paul with him. It was the guitar he used on “Statesboro Blues” and all of his great slide work, However Gregg remembered that Duane had told him that he wanted me to have this guitar if anything ever happened to him and I’ve had it ever since. It is very rare because it is made out of one solid piece of wood (the neck and the body are one piece). The tone that this natural wood produces is unmistakable and almost impossible to copy through any amplifier setting. I use it quite a bit.

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Duane Allman’s Acoustic Guitars:

1930s Gibson L-00

Gibson L-00 Duane Allman

Assuming from how often Duane was photographed with this guitar, there is a high possibility that this was his favorite acoustic. Beside those photos, the guitar is practically a mystery.

1935-36 National Duolian

1935-36 National Duolian

Duane was photographed playing this guitar in 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, p. 78]

1930s Dobro Wood-body

Dobro Resonator Wood

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 $50 every other week. Music was not a lucrative career for him at that time. The part of his career where he had any money was very brief – George Gruhn: Nashville’s Vintage Guru; Guitar Aficionado

We unfortunately couldn’t figure out the exact model of the guitar. Based on the photos available, it seems that Duane’s guitar features gold-plated hardware and custom inlays, which would indicate that it belongs among the top-of-the-line models 200/205/206 (ResoGat). If you happen to know anything more about this guitar, please be sure to forward it to us. For your own personal research, please refer to this image – Duane Allman on a Dobro.

This wooden body Dobro/Regal was widely used in the studio, on songs such as ‘Little Martha’, ‘Please Be With Me’, and on ‘Mean Old World’ with the Dominos. After Duane’s death the guitar ended up with Dickey Betts who still owns it to this day (see Dickey with the Dobro), and it can be seen on the cover of his 1974 album “Highway Call”.

Fun fact is that Duane also made a quite an impression on Eric Clapton with this guitar, who admitted that the first time he saw a blonde Dobro was when he met Duane:

The first important one I had was around 1970 – around the time I met Duane Allman. Because his was the first one I ever saw, it came from GTR. – from the Christie’s auction of Eric’s late 30s Dobro.

Gibson J-45

Gibson-J-45 Duane Allman

This guitar can be seen on couple of photos as well. It didn’t belong to Duane but to his brother Gregg, even though Duane was the one to actually buy the guitar as he traded it for his Telecaster as a gift to Gregg.

He [Duane] traded his main road-axe – a ’56 Telecaster body with a ’53 hogback Stratocaster neck, with some kind of crazy booster on the side – for a Gibson J-45. I couldn’t believe he did that for me because he loved that guitar, but he had seen legitimate signs of a successful song-writer in me , and he knew I needed a boost. – [Gregg Allman: Organic Acoustic, Guitar World Acoustic, p.84] [Alan Paul, One Way Out, p. 78]

Gibson Heritage

1965 Gibson Heritage

Duane bought this guitar probably sometime in early to mid 1969 together with his Les Paul Goldtop and a Marshall amp (the exact date of purchase is unknown) [Galadrielle Allman, Please Be With Me, p. 182].

Apart from that piece of info, we couldn’t find any photos or video recording of Duane actually playing the guitar. If you happen to stumble upon something, be sure to send it to us using the contact form at the bottom of this page.

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 he himself owned it.

This particular Gibson acoustic is easily identifiable by the white dove on the pickguard, which is of course where it got it’s name. The model was introduced in 1962, and it was Gibson’s second square-shouldered dreadnought acoustic guitar, after the introduction of the Gibson Hummingbird in 1960. It featured solid spruce top and solid maple back and sides, and the guitar was originally available in two finishes – sunburst and natural (Duane’s being the latter).

Duane’s guitar seems to have featured a Tune-o-matic bridge, which was only available on models made before 1968 – so that gives us somewhat of an idea on when his guitar was made.

Martin D-18

Martin d-18 amber

According to Gregg Allman, Duane also had 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]

Gibson Arch-top Acoustic

gibson-l-4-arch-top-acoustic

Again according to Gregg Allman, Duane owned an old Gibson acoustic. Based on Gregg’s statement, this guitar had an oval hole – but it is not clear whether the second part of this statement (it being an arch-top) is in regard to this guitar or that Gregg meant that these were two different guitars: one being an old Gibson acoustic with an oval hole and the other being an arch-top.

Duane also had an old Gibson acoustic with an oval hole and an arch-top. I’ve got that one. Dickey has Duane’s National in his living room. [Guitar Player magazine, Jas Obrecht, Duane Allman Remembered, October 1981]

Be that as it may, Greg’s description seems to fit the Gibson L-4 or the L-3 model, both of which featured the oval-shape sound hole at some point – mainly on models made prior to 1928. [Vintage Guitars Info’s Gibson Arch top Model Descriptions]

Both of these models were also arch-tops, which raises suspicion whether it is possible that the interviewer simply misinterpreted Gregg. If written the wrong way, the statement could’ve changed its original meaning since Gregg could have said: “an old Gibson acoustic with an oval hole and an arched top” instead.

Duane Allman’s Guitar Amps:

In searching for his tone Duane went through great number of different setups, which makes this section of his gear a lot harder to summarize. If you happen to know specific details about his amps during a specific time period be sure to message us.

– Vox Super Beatle
Allegedly one of his first amps used in the Hour Glass era. We haven’t been able to find any photos featuring this amp though, so if you have any please send it to us using the contact form at the bottom of this list.

– Fender Blackface Bassman (head)
Seen on some early photos from around Allman Joys era, sometime played through a Vox cabinet.

– Fender Blackface Twin Reverb
Used predominately during the Muscle Shoals era; the amp might have been FAME studios property.

– Fender Silverface Showman
Seen on some photos taken at Atlantic Recording Studios in Manhattan in January 1969. The amp was most likely owned by the studio.

– 1968 Fender Silverface Bassman (Head)
Used in the early days on the ABB. The amp was purchased in early 1969 from Lipham Music Company in Florida, and used by Duane for a brief period before it became Dickey’s backup amp. [Willie Perkins: The Allman Brothers Band Classic Memorabilia, pp. 6 – 7] This amp was also used by Duane on September 23rd, 1970 at the Fillmore East [The Allman Brothers Band – Full Concert – 09/23/70 – Fillmore East – from 3:56 to 4:00 minute mark you can even count the number of knobs on the amp]

– Fender Blackface Showman (Head)
Used in the early days of ABB. [Willie Perkins: The Allman Brothers Band Classic Memorabilia, pp. 4 – 7] On page 5 of Memorabilia by Willie Perkins, it is also stated that Ron Blair as member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers later owned and used this amp.

– Fender Silverface Twin Reverb
Seen 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 Les Paul Gold Top and a Gibson Heritage acoustic. The amp remained in his possession until his death, and he was sometime seen using it in combination with a 1986 that he acquired sometime later in his career (album cover “Beginnings” shows a photo of Duane using the two together). This particular amp is currently on display at The Big House in Macon.

– Fender Champ
Most likely the amp used during the Layla studio sessions with Eric Clapton. 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 engineer on the album gave pretty clear statement regarding the amps:

If you looked through the control-room glass, the piano was to the left, and on top of the piano, which had the lid closed, were our [Fender Tweed] Champ amps that Eric and Duane both used. – Howard Albert (Derek & The Dominos ‘Layla’)

What’s most likely is that Eric himself primarily used a Tweed Champ which was used extensively on the album, and Duane played through a Champ that could have been his, or as Howard stated – locally hired or belonged to Criteria studio. Clapton had recorded with a Champ before (first solo album). He saw Delaney Bramlett using one (probably in September 1969 when they recorded Comin’ Home). Bramlett gave Clapton a tweed Champ as a present that was beefed-up with bigger tube and a Lansing speaker (JBLansing or an Altec Lansing) [Guitar Player magazine, March 1996][Tom Wheeler, The Soul of Tone, p. 175]. It is also possible that Clapton used this Champ during the Layla sessions.

– Pignose Prototype
According to Bobby Whitlock, Richard Edlund (the person who invented the Pignose amp) gave one of the prototypes to Eric and one to Duane during the Layla sessions in 1970. They amp only became commercially available in 1972 [Bobby Whitlock: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Autobiography, p. 92].

– 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 a (Cerwin) Vega P.A. system (Richard Albero, Guitar Player magazine, May/June 1973).

Allman Brothers Band initially bought four Marshall cabinets and sixteen JBL speakers in early 1969 [Willie Perkins: Memorabilia, p. 5], which suggests that Duane and Dickey both used two Marshall cabinets with four JBL speakers per cabinet. One of the slanted cabinets was pictured from behind, clearly showing four grey basket JBL D120F speakers (note that orange basket JBL D120F were manufactured by JBL for Fender). The cabinet which Duane had right below one of his Marshall amps was a model 1935 with “Bass” logo in the lefthand top corner on the grey basket weave grill cloth (aka Salt and Pepper grill cloth).

According to Don Butler [Randy Poe: Skydog, pp. 297 – 298] Duane’s cabinets were loaded with a combination of Celestion speakers and Cerwin-Vega ER-123 speakers. Please note that Kim Payne, who was in charge of ABB’s amp line and should know, was not interviewed about this [Randy Poe, Skydog, p. 285]. The idea of using Cerwin-Vega ER-123 speakers could have originated from playing through the Cerwin-Vega P.A. system, which as previously noted, Duane did sometimes. The Celestion speakers could have been the ones the Marshall “Bass” cabinets, models 1935 and 1935B were originally loaded with : G12M T 1511 or G12H T 1281 (in both cases in combination with the low resonance, 55 Hz, type 102 – 014, cone, made by Pulsonic).

One of the amps used by Duane is now owned and used by Derek Trucks. Pictures clearly show that the amp was serviced and modded by “Dennis Electronics”, a New Jersey-based company owned by Dennis Kager, and that the amp is a pre-mid 1969 model since it has the 1202-118 laydown mains transformer manufactured by Drake. It is not known when exactly the modding took place, but it was most likely done after Duane’s death, since according to Richard Albero [“Just Rock On, And Have You A Good Time” – Guitar Player magazine, May / June 1973] Duane never modified his gear.

Duane Allman’s Guitar Effects:

Duane preferred playing straight through the amp, but he did use two different fuzz effects. First one was a Vox V816 or the US-version the Vox V87 (more likely) fuzz box which was attached to his Telecaster (see above), and the second one was a Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, which he used during early session work and powered it with old 9V carbon-zinc batteries  because he argued that they made a special sound.

Duane Allman’s Guitar Strings and Accessories:

– Fender Rock N’ Roll 150 strings – Duane liked to leave the strings uncut and curl them up at the tuning pegs. Proof of this can be found on many photos, as well as from the recollection of people close to him.

Well, he broke a string that first night [December 01, 1970 at Curtis Hixon Hall, Tampa, Florida], and I [Tuffy Phillips] took his guitar from him, and then Eric’s tech took it from me. He replaced the string and quick, cut the tops of the strings off at the headstock, and you know that’s not what Duane liked. He liked to leave his strings long and curled up. [Galadrielle Allman, Please Be With Me, p. 272]

– For slide, Duane used medicine bottles sold by Schering Corporation with Coricidin or Coricidin D tablets. There were bottles with 12 and with 25 tablets available back then. He preferably used the 25-tablet versions since they cover all the strings. When Schering Corporation merged with Plough, Inc. in 1971, the bottles later became childproof. Duane used the original non-childproof versions, of course.

–  At the Atlanta Pop Festival Duane had forgotten to bring his Coricidin bottle so they broke a wine bottle and Duane used the bottle’s neck as a bottleneck [Galadrielle Allman, Please Be With Me, pp. 246 – 248].

– Occasionally, Duane wrapped his ring finger with gauze while playing slide to absorb sweat and allow him to get a tighter grip.

– For tuning, Duane mostly seemed to have used the Conn Strobotuner St-6, made by a company which was closed in 1985, but their line of Strobotuners is still being sold today under the Peterson brand.

– He owned a custom guitar strap made by Kim Hoover.

– For picks Duane seemed to have used various different types, at least based on the photos. At the Central City Park Macon, Georgia on May 4, 1969 he was seen using a white pick which appears to be a 346 size (rounded triangle), and earlier on at the Muscle Shoals he was seen using what looks like a standard size celluloid pick. [Duane Allman and Johnny Sandlin at FAME Studios in 1968 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama – Getty]

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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GroundGuitar is a project started with the simple idea of collecting the stories behind instruments and gear used by the most influential guitarists of the rock era and presenting them in simple and intelligible fashion. Unfortunately, most of these little pieces of history are now scattered all over various magazine interviews, books, and online articles, and the task of collecting them all in one place is not an easy one. If you're knowledgeable of the subject and you feel like helping out, you can contribute to the project in couple of ways:
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