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.
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.
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
Duane Allman Equipment Guide
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 the job replicating Duane's sound. 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 category, so maybe go for something like an Orange Crush. It's a small simple amp, without any fancy stuff, just made to sound good.
Since the actual model of the strings that Duane used is not 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 accesories, pick up a decent slide. Duane himself used empty Coricidine medicine bottles, which you can still ocassionally get on eBay (all vintage - so also pretty expensive). 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
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Duane Allman's 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 sources, the guitar was purchased by his mother. Duane used this guitar from 1961 to […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 this ES-335, but this is only guesswork. Duane’s ES-335 featured cherry red finish, block inlays, […]
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 but it was replaced with a white one at some point by Duane. Another custom thing on […]
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 guitar at one time, there is no evidence that he ever actually used it – not a […]
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 it to practice the craft of slide guitar even while his bandmates hated what he was […]
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 it. Duane had borrowed a ’59 gold top Les Paul (note – the Goldtop model […]
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 “A Never-Ending Groove”), Duane received the sitar from Liberty Records – the band’s record label: […]
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 and Eddie Hinton were sharin’ a small garage apartment in Sheffield, Alabama…later, Duane asked Eddie […]
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 guitar was most likely a direct successor/replacement of the Fender Telecaster that Duane played in Allman […]
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 […]
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 Jude” album at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals (November 1968). If you happen to have […]
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 […]
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 Eddy Shaver, who was his student at some point. After Eddy’s death in 2000, the […]
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 most famously at the Love Valley Festival in 1970. It is likely that he used this […]
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 guitar until 2003, or two years after George died. It was then put on an auction, and […]
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 guitar is signed with a gold marker on the front of the body by Gregg […]
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 […]
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, and then I got a Les Paul, my ’57, and when Duane wanted to play […]
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 can find you a guitar this man can!” Well…. and he did find Duane a guitar! […]
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 visit our article about Duane Allman’s 1950s Fender Telecaster. He [Duane] traded his main road-ax – […]
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). He was seen with the guitar on two photos in total – although it is impossible to confirm whether this is actually one exact same J-45 or two of them. One of the photos was […]
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, p. 78] Based on Chris Darrow’s recollection, it is possible to track down when exactly Duane purchased […]
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. […]
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 Gibson acoustic is easily identifiable by the white dove on the pickguard, which is of […]
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 could’ve been just something Duane picked up while on to the road. Embed from Getty Images
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 Duane’s National in his living room. [Guitar Player magazine, Jas Obrecht, Duane Allman Remembered, October […]
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 said about it. We don’t know whether Duane actually used it, how long he had […]
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 was built from around 1964 to 1967, which means that Duane possibly bought it brand […]
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. What could’ve also potentially started this whole rumor of Duane using a Vox Super Beatle […]
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 really liked, so we took it out to California with us. As loud as we […]
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, there are photos out there that confirm that this is indeed a Fender Twin Reverb. Due […]
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 on, on September 23rd, 1970 at the Fillmore East. It is visible from 3:56 to […]
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 viewing, for instance, was used by Berry Oakley). On page 5 of Memorabilia by Willie Perkins, […]
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, according to Don Butler, the Twin had the output section rewired at some point to be […]
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 […]
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] (please note that […]
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 gave the prototype version of the amp to a number of the popular guitarists of […]
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 engineer on the album gave a pretty clear statement regarding the amps: If you looked […]
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 that the Fender Deluxe amp (or the version that Duane had) didn’t have a reverb […]
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.
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 can see photos and the schematic of the Vox V8161 over at the Vox Showroom website. However, based on […]
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 Studios. To our knowledge, he never used a Fuzz Face with his Les Paul / […]
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 in many photos, as well as from the recollection of people close to him. Well, he […]
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 from the Hourglass years. Johnny remembers being in the music store with Duane when he […]
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 he has seen an actual Duane guitar pick and that it was a Fender Heavy. […]
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, MO (Forest Park Pavilion), and on the photos taken by Stephen Paley at Atlantic Recording […]
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 on using a Coricidin bottle around the time he lived in Muscle Shoals, circa late […]
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 wore the strap as a tribute. Brantley was introduced to Oakley in 1972 and joined […]
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.