Duane Allman’s 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop

access_time First seen circa 1969

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.
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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 by posting a comment below.

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 was 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 (in case you’re confused – this guitar served as a donor to a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard Cherry Burst that Duane used later on). 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 sometime 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. When not played, it spends most of its time at the Big House Museum in Macon, Georgia, which LaMar agrees is the place it belongs to.

The guitar is where it belongs right now, people need to appreciate it and see it. [Duane Allman’s 1957 Les Paul and The Big House Museum]

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

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The guitar repair shop in Decatur, GA was owned and operated by Park Hall, the best around in the 60’s & 70’s. I took my guitars to him and anyone else who needed the best Atlanta had back then.

Continue browsing, or go subdirectory_arrow_leftBack to Duane Allman Gear Page
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 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 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 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 it. Duane had borrowed a ’59 gold top Les Paul (note – the Goldtop model […]

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

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 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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