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 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.
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.