October 29, 1971: Duane Allman Passes

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duane4_restoredThe Allman Brothers Band were on the verge. Their self-titled debut album in 1969 had failed to get much of any radio and chart action. Idlewild South the next year gained a bit more traction thanks to playing some 300 gigs in 1970. The audience response to their dynamic live performances led the Macon, GA-based band to record three nights of shows at the Fillmore East in March 1971, released as a double album (and priced as a single disc) in July. At Fillmore East rapidly rose on the Billboard album chart to #13, and went gold in October.

Meanwhile, Duane Allman, the band’s nominal leader and guitarist (alongside Dickey Betts) was gaining a rep as one of the hottest six-string guns in rock music. From 1968 to ’69 he had played sessions at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL for Wilson Pickett, King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Boz Scaggs, Delaney & Bonnie and others that sparked a buzz on his playing. In August 1970 Duane was asked by Eric Clapton to join in on sessions with his new band, Derek & the Dominos that became the Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs album. One of the trademarks of his sound was his slide guitar work using a Coricidin pill bottle his brother Gregg had given Duane a few years before when he had a cold.

The only dark shadow over what seemed like a bright future was heroin abuse by members of the band and crew. Taking a break from the road and tracking their next album, Duane and bassist Berry Oakley had spent time in a hospital in October undergoing rehab.The day after Allman arrived back in Macon, he climbed onto his Harley-Davidson motorcycle to head to Oakley’s house to help his wife Linda celebrate her birthday on this day.

A few blocks from his home Allman swerved at a high speed to avoid a truck carrying a lumber crane that had stopped short in an intersection. He collided with it, was thrown off his bike, which spun over and landed atop him, skidding with Allman underneath it some 50 feet. He died after some three hours of emergency surgery from internal injuries.

The band carried on to become one of America’s leading groups and spark the Southern rock trend. Allman would have turned 70, on November 20, 2016. It’s almost too sad to consider the further impact Allman might have had on rock music had he lived.

Related: Duane Allman An Anthology has been re-released

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