Remembering ‘Skydog’ on the Anniversary of His Passing
47 years ago on this date, the person whom many consider to be the greatest slide guitarist of all-time, died in a tragic motorcycle accident in his hometown of Macon, Georgia. Duane Allman was 24 years old. And just considering what he already accomplished in his short life, it's even more devastating to think about what else he could have accomplished if he were still alive. He basically learned to play slide guitar on his birthday in 1968. Think about that. The majority of Duane's recorded work on which he plays slide is from 1968-1971. So he pretty much was a virtuoso from the moment he picked up the slide. (Which, by the way, was a medicine pill bottle). Impressive!
After many early gigs in various bands with his brother Gregg, including the Allman Joys and the Hour Glass, Duane got some session work at FAME Studios in Alabama. He played some spectacular guitar on Wilson Pickett's cover of the Beatles' "Hey Jude" and word quickly spread about this fantastic guitar player. Before you know it, Duane is providing session guitar for the likes of Delaney & Bonnie, Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, Clarence Carter, Percy Sledge and Boz Scaggs. Anyone who's in doubt about Duane's guitar mastery should check out the ten plus minutes of Boz Scaggs', "Loan Me A Dime". Duane is scorching on this track. And anybody who's a fan of the Eric Clapton-led project Derek and the Dominoes should know that without Duane's participation, the song "Layla" would be a vastly different piece of music.
The Allman Brothers formed soon after releasing two albums in relatively quick succession, "The Allman Brothers Band" and "Idlewild South"(which got onto the Billboard charts). But it was with the release of "At Fillmore East", that the Allman's really got their due. If not the best live album ever recorded, it's certainly near the top of the list. Extended versions of classics such as, "Whipping Post", "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed", "Statesboro Blues" and "You Don't Love Me" are a guitar lover's dream with some songs as long as twenty plus minutes! To this listener's ears though, it never sounds dull or repetitive. Allman and co-guitarist Dickey Betts(no slouch either) achieve some kind of fluid chemistry. At times, it almost comes off as jazz. No other way to describe it. I'm never at all bored by the lengthy solos.
Shortly after the release of "At Fillmore East", while the band was on a much needed break from touring, Duane Allman was riding his motorcycle on Hillcrest Avenue in Macon. Up ahead at a busy intersection, a flatbed truck stopped suddenly in the middle of the road forcing Duane to swerve sharply. He was thrown from the motorbike, which landed on top of him and skidded almost 100 feet with him pinned under it. He died several hours later at the hospital from massive internal injuries.
Duane Allman, still referred to by his nickname, "Skydog" will be forever missed. On a side note(and a somewhat spooky note, at that), Allman Brothers bassist Berry Oakley died in a similar motorcycle accident over a year later just THREE BLOCKS from the site of Duane's fatal crash. Berry was also 24 years old.