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. 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.
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 differently 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
SG after Duane’s Passing
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.
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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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.
Thanks for the info John. That means that Saturday the 11th was most likely when the guys bought the SG.
Hi John, thanks for the info. The date of the show at the Rathskeller Club must have been April 17, 1970, the day of the Apollo-13 splashdown. It was a Friday. So, if Chuck Emery is right then ABB must have acquired the SG on Saturday, April 11, 1970. I had estimated the date between April 05 and April 18. The date of the show at the Rathskeller Club predates the September 70, December 70, March 71 and June 71 Fillmore shows but more importantly it predates Saturday, April 18, 1970 the day the picture on page 101 of Classic Memorabilia, 1969 – 1976 was taken.
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 shout out to Dickie to come try the guitar. Dickie came out of his room with two groupies and asked Duane what he thought of my red curly maple Les Paul. I don’t remember his response but Dickie bought the guitar from me. I believe I sold it to him for $300……but this was so long ago, I may be incorrect on some of the details.
Anyway the funny part of this story is I had no idea who Duane or Dickey were and at that time as I had never heard of the Allman Brothers….I was a young 19yr old that needed the money as I was being drafted. It wasn’t until later that summer that I would realize who I sold my favorite guitar to…wild hey?
Apparently the Songbirds Foundation purchased the guitar. Here is a video of it being player July 7, 2020
Good find, thanks!
Is there any photo or video evidence that Duane played the SG on Statesboro for the March 1971 Fillmore East gig?
The version from the early show of March 13, 1971 was chosen to open the live album.
Eddie Berman attended the late show a few hours later and I believe that a picture of Duane Allman taken by Eddie Berman during that show shows that Duane Allman is playing an SG in the picture.
Yup, it’s here at Songbirds Guitar & Pop Culture Museum in Chattanooga, TN on display, along with quite a few other celebrity guitars.
The SG was not used on Statesboro Blues. Duane was still re-tuning his cherryburst Les Paul during the March ’71 Fillmore shows.
Tom Caswell published the article Three Nights at Fillmore East on his blog at wordpress.com
On page three he published a review of the late show of March 13, 1971 by Eddie Berman and a picture of Duane Allman taken by Eddie Berman during the late show of March 13, 1971.
I studied that picture. Here are my observations :
1 : The guitar strap is not the mountain strap Duane Allman used on his cherry sunburst Les Paul.
2 : The body of the guitar is thinner than the bodies of Duane Allman’s single cutaway Les Paul’s.
Please zoom in at the bottom of the front side of the body.
3 : At the tip of Duane Allman’s right hand middle finger you see the start of a white line segment. That white line segment is the white ply of the pickguard. Duane Allman’s single cutaway Les Paul’s pickguards were removed.
4 : At the end of the white line segment you see the toggle switch in a downward position. Duane Allman’s single cutaway Les Paul’s toggle switches were located at the top of the front side of the body.
5 : The output jack is mounted on the front side of the body and that causes the jack plug and the front side of the body to be right-angled. Duane Allman’s single cutaway Les Paul’s output jacks were mounted on the side of the body.
So, I believe that all of my observations show that Duane Allman is playing an SG in the picture.
Yes there’s no question that the guitar in Eddie Berman’s picture is an SG but was he actually playing it on Statesboro Blues? On the Fillmore East recordings there is a moment or two where I hear Duane retuning from open E to standard tuning after playing slide so it seems he used his Les Paul for some slide playing.
Hi Dave, I do not know. Pictures and footage show that Duane Allman played the cherry sunburst Les Paul and the cherry red SG Les Paul on March 13, 1971.
I do not know which guitar he used on Statesboro Blues early show nor on Statesboro Blues late show. Could he have used the cherry sunburst Les Paul during the complete early show and the cherry red SG Les Paul during the complete late show ? Was the SG just a backup guitar at the time ?
Did Eddie Berman specifically say in that review that Duane Allman switched guitars during the late show on March 13, 1971 or did he generally say that Duane Allman switched guitars ?
Are you talking about this picture?
That’s Duane’s cherryburst Les Paul. There’s no mistaking it for an SG. You can see the binding, and what appears to be a top-mounted jack is one of the knobs. It’s not “thinner” than a Les Paul – it’s just difficult to see as the guitar is in dark shadow.
Tom, the binding on a Les Paul would go all around the top and the white you see in the picture matches the side view of the pick guard on an SG.
This is what my SG looks like from that angle. Also I think that is a top mount jack. The knobs are the smaller bright spots. You can see the cable angling upward towards the lower strap button where I suspect Duane tucked it in. This is what I do anyway…
Tom, I’d have to agree with Ingemar and Dave on this one. The white is more likely the three-ply pickguard, and you can see the white line stop before it reaches the tip of the lower horn. This would not be the case if this was body binding. And it seems to me that’s a top-mounted jack behind one of the knobs. I don’t think a knob would be that tall and shine from this angle.
It’s good to have the photo here for everyone to judge by themselves, but in my opinion, that’s an SG.
Hi Tom, yes I was referring to that picture ! I am very sorry but I do believe that you are off base. Please study a blown-up version of the picture. Zoom in at the tip of Duane Allman’s right hand middle finger. You will see that the white line segment respresents the pickguard mounted on top of the guitar.
More importantly, the location of the toggle switch shows that the guitar cannot be one of the single cutaway Les Paul’s Duane Allman used.
On the webpage of the mountain guitar strap I wrote :
“As the photographic record shows, Duane Allman used this guitar strap [ i.e. the mountain guitar strap ] from mid-January 1971 until his death in October 1971, first on the cherry sunburst Les Paul ( serial #9 1988 ), which he had acquired in mid-September 1970 and subsequently on the tobacco sunburst Les Paul ( serial number unknown ), which he had acquired in late June 1971 and which became the cherry sunburst Les Paul’s successor.”
Pictures taken on March 12, 1971 and March 14, 1971 show that Duane Allman wore the mountain guitar strap on the cherry sunburst Les Paul.
If the guitar in the Eddie Berman picture of March 13, 1971 would have been the cherry sunburst Les Paul, then Duane Allman most likely would have worn the mountain guitar strap on it.
I just listened to Done Somebody Wrong and right at the end you can clearly hear Duane tuning his G string back to G from G# so my guess is he played the Les Paul on Done Somebody Wrong. Otherwise he wouldn’t have had to retune if he was playing the SG which would have been kept in open E tuning. And his slide tone on Done Somebody Wrong seems to be the same as it was on Statesboro so I suspect he played the Les Paul on Statesboro. The tone on One Way Out, from June is a little different so that may have been the SG but since this was four months later than the March recordings there are a lot of other things that could have affected his tone(ie, amp and pedal settings assuming he used the Fuzz Face). The notes on the CD(Deluxe Edition) say that One Way Out and Midnight Rider were taken from the June 27 show while all of the other tracks were from the March 12,13 shows.
Which recording of the song are you listening to? I’m trying to spot this on the Deluxe Edition of Fillmore album, but the song ends before there’s any tuning happening. I can only hear a clean C chord being played at the beginning. Can you share the recording where this tuning can be heard? If there’s a version online of course.
You have to listen carefully right at the end of track 4 as the track fades out and ends a second later. It’s at 4:31 on my CD . You may need headphones to hear his G string detuning.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vH6woaVErpg but it’s easier to hear it on the CD.
It’s right after the applause fades out.
Here, I was able to isolate it. I don’t know if this alone can tell us anything conclusively, but what you wrote does make sense. However, how do we know this is not him tuning his SG? It could got the other way too, no?
The G# to G tuning isolated:
Assuming he only used the SG for open E slide he would have tuned the G string up to G# and not the other way around. That’s why I think he’s playing slide on his Les Paul for Done Somebody Wrong.
Makes sense, but I think there’s a chance that for whatever reason he decided to re-tune and use the SG for In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed, which followed Done Somebody Wrong. I know he supposedly raised action on it and all, but he could’ve still used it for standard tuning. Also, we know he used SG on the 13th, based on the photo posted here, so it was there. And, since this was the first show of the night, I assume he would have the SG ready for the Statesboro Blues.
All just guessing of course, but I’m trying to picture how the re-tuning theory could go both ways.
The first picture of the SG, that I know of, was taken on April 18, 1970 ( Willie Perkins and Jack Weston, Classic Memorabilia, 1969 – 1976, p. 101 ).
The picture shows that the SG at the time had a sideways vibrola of which the cover had been removed and a neck pickup that had been regularly mounted.
A picture of Dickey Betts taken on June 13, 1970 at the Cosmic Carnival in Atlanta, GA shows that the sideways vibrola had been replaced with a stopbar and that the neck pickup had been mounted 180 degrees rotated.
The 180 degrees rotated neck pickup can also been seen in the Atlanta Pop Festival footage of July 03, 1970 and in the Fillmore East footage of September 23, 1970.
I do not know whether the neck pickup was still 180 degrees rotated on March 13, 1971 when Duane Allman played the SG.
Look who’s playing it now: https://relix.com/festivals/festival_news/detail/warren-haynes-utilizes-duane-allmans-1961-les-paul-sg-at-govt-mule-riverbend-festival-set/