Harrison Marsh meets another top slide player. This month the legend that is Elmore James.
This month Harrison Marsh explores the style of one of the most influential and revered slide guitarists the world has known.
Despite his tragically early death at the age of 24 in a motorbike accident in 1971, Duane Allman was a hugelyinfluential guitarist. In fact he virtually revolutionised slide guitar playing. Along with brother Gregg, the Nashville-born guitarist formed The Allman Brothers Band in 1969, having already had a successful career as a studio musician. He recorded with artists such as Aretha Franklin and featured heavily on Eric Clapton’s Derek And The Dominoes album Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs (1970), after Clapton heard his famous solo at the end of Wilson Pickett’s cover of Hey Jude. While arguably most famous for (Top Gear theme) Jessica, the four Allman Brothers albums with Duane are essential listening for anyone wanting to improve their slide guitar phrasing (as a side note, Allman’s non-slide playing was every bit as inspiring).
Allman started to play slide having heard Taj Mahal’s version of Statesboro Blues, a song that would later be a highlight of the At Fillmore East (1971) live album. The Coricidin pain killer bottle he first used as a slide after sustaining an injury would become a signature of his, emulated by many other players.
Rolling Stone put Duane Allman at #2 on their list of the Top 100 Guitarists, second only to Jimi Hendrix. Despite an impressive studio catalogue in a relatively short career, it was live that Allman shone brightest, with Live At Fillmore East arguably the band’s finest hour.
Allman’s phrasing was at times fast and complex, always with a unique voice. Mostly using open E tuning, he could still play effectively in a wide range of keys. He also used the whole neck of the guitar, including beyond the pickups (as can be heard on the famous Layla solo). Allman loved to intertwine his lead lines with those of Clapton or Dickey Betts. As well as his famous ability at improvising, he was masterful at creating hooks and riffs, with and without slide.
Duane’s slide playing alone makes The Allman Brothers essential listening for any guitarist, but with both Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes playing with the band, albeit years after Allman’s death, the group and its fabulous guitarists remain one of the biggest influences on modern slide guitar.
rolling stone put duane allman at #2 on their list of the top 100 guitarists ever, second only to jimi hendrix
NEXT MONTH Harrison examines the playing of a real innovator, the legendary Elmore James
Duane Allman was one of slide’s most influential figures