Duane Allman’s 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 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 Lipham 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 Lipham 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 the 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 they 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 (Event Calendar – Hittin’ The Web). According to one of our readers, John (see comments), Dickey played the SG on that gig.

As a second clue, 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. Since Twiggs was arrested on April 29, 1970, ABB obviously must’ve acquired the SG before that.

That means Saturday, April 11, 1970, is the most likely date – based on Chuck Emery’s story quoted above, and recollection from John.

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 stop bar 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.

Embed from Getty Images

Strings and Action

According to Johnny Sandlin’s wife, Anathalee Sandlin, who often posts over at the Allman Brothers Band forums under the name “BigAnn”, Duane set-up his SG different than the rest of the guitars.

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.

bigann – Hittin’ The Web with the Allman Brothers Band Forum

After Duane’s Death

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.

Auction

Just recently this guitar was sold by Graham Nash at an auction. The opening bid was $125,000, but the guitar eventually fetched $591,000. The current owner is unknown.

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JOHN BINKOV
JOHN BINKOV
1 month ago

I was at a show of ABB at the Rathskeller club on campus at the University of Florida in April of 1970. Duane was not there (perhaps he was jamming, but not recording yet with Clapton) . Dickie Betts was definitely playing an SG that night. That predates the Fillmore shows.

Dave Falk
Dave Falk
1 month ago

I actually sold Dickie that Curly red maple Les Paul in Detroit in 1971. Prior to me this guitar was owned by Jim McCarty.  A local music store setup the visit. The Allman Brothers were performing at the Eastown Theater for a gig and were staying at a Holiday Inn off I-94 and Conner in Detroit. I knocked on the door and Duane answered the door invited me in his hotel room. In the room were multiple home made glass bottle slides. Duane had me take out the guitar and he played it for a few minutes, then gave a… Read more »

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