Duane Allman’s 1961 Gibson SG / Les Paul

access_time First seen circa 1971

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, and they were also in Florida in June (Event Calendar – Hittin’ The Web). There are not any other options since Dickey used the SG at the Atlanta Pop Festival in early July 1970.

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. However, Twiggs was arrested on April 29, 1970, so ABB must’ve acquired the SG before that. That means Saturday, April 18, 1970, is the most likely date – based on Chuck Emery story quoted above. It is perhaps more logical that the guitar was bought before the concert, but Chuck Emery said it was a Saturday and the concert at the University of Florida was on Friday the 17th.

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.

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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 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 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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