October 29, 1971: Duane Allman Dies

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duane4_restoredThe Allman Brothers Band were on the verge. Their self-titled debut album of 1969 had failed to get much radio and chart action. Idlewild South the next year gained a bit more traction thanks to the band 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, Ala., 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 and the Dominos, that became the Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs album. One of the trademarks of Duane’s sound was his slide guitar work, using a Coricidin pill bottle his brother Gregg had given him 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, on October 29, 1971, 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.

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 from internal injuries after some three hours of emergency surgery. He was just 24 years old.

Related: Our Album Rewind of the band’s epic Eat a Peach

The band carried on to become one of America’s leading groups and spark the Southern rock trend. It’s almost too sad to consider the further impact Allman, born on Nov. 20, 1946, might have had on rock music had he lived.

Related: Brother Gregg died in 2017

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4 Comments so far

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  1. DD Dillard
    #1 DD Dillard 30 October, 2019, 01:20

    Still miss brother Duane.

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  2. JCB
    #2 JCB 30 October, 2020, 10:59

    He was still in my top 5 guitarists to ever live. God knows what we could have witnessed. I saw him about 6 months before he died in a dive in Riviera Beach, Fl., I was just 15 years old. I’ll never forget that show. It was like watching something from outer space. Not only his slide playing but his leads were just mind-blowing. I’ve seen all the great guitar players, from Clapton to Page to Beck and everyone in between including all the jazz fusion players, Duane was something mighty special.

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  3. Baybluesman
    #3 Baybluesman 29 October, 2021, 13:47

    Agree in total with JCB – Of all the rock casualties of the early 70’s, Skydog has been the greatest legacy impact.
    He was so accomplished at the young age of 24,
    We can only wonder what could have been, and how much more great music would have been released.

    Still a fan of latter day Allman Brothers, especially the “Hitting the Note” album, and thank goodness we now all have the Allman Betts Band, but there will always only be one Duane, Gregg, Berry, And Butch.

    R I.P. My Brothers

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  4. Da Mick
    #4 Da Mick 30 October, 2021, 10:14

    It’s an understatement to say the loss of Duane Allman was a tragedy, to all us fans, the music world in general, and to his band, which would never be the same. Duane had a soulful sound that will never be duplicated. And while many before him had played slide, Duane took it to another level, with his sound, his style, and with the way the Brothers took basic blues songs to an amazing jazz-tinged, rocking level that was starkly original in its day. The only consolation I have for Duane’s loss, is the inspiration he left with so many, but, especially with Derek Trucks, who has somehow even transcended what even Duane was capable of, and taken the slide guitar to a place that, in all likelihood, no one will ever reach again.

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