Duane Allman’s 1950s Gibson Les Paul Goldtop

access_time First seen circa 1967

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 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. Photo 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 leave a comment below.

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access_time 1971

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, and then I got a Les Paul, my ’57, and when Duane wanted to play […]

access_time 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 can find you a guitar this man can!” Well…. and he did find Duane a guitar! […]

access_time 1969

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 [Please Be With Me, p. 182] dated to May 16, 1969. The letter was written by Duane […]

access_time 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 preferred by Duane on all of his Les Pauls), but it did have both of […]

access_time 1961

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 […]

access_time 1970

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 Eddy Shaver, who was his student at some point. After Eddy’s death in 2000, the […]

access_time 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 it to practice the craft of slide guitar even while his bandmates hated what he was […]

access_time 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 guitar is signed with a gold marker on the front of the body by Gregg […]

access_time 1964

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 shop. I think his name was Jimmy Jewell, and Duane ended up with it. I […]

access_time 1966

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 but it was replaced with a white one at some point by Duane. Another custom thing on […]

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