10 Essential Duane Allman Guitar Solos

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Continuing with our lists of the greatest guitar solos from the legends who have shaped the landscape of rock and roll comes a man who embodied the corporeality of a multi-dimensional musician; we are turning our attention towards Duane Allman. You all may know him as the older brother of Greg Allman, but you most definitely know of him as being one of the central pieces of a pretty important rock group, the Allman Brothers Band. He was too ahead of his time, and he punctuated that attitude with a lifestyle that couldn’t keep up with him; he would die tragically in a motorcycle accident at the age of twenty-four. But that untimely demise didn’t stop Skydog from leaving behind a volume of work that would still be remembered for over fifty years.

You all were probably anticipating this truism, but it has to be noted quite emphatically and without warning: Duane Allman is one of the greatest and most monumentally notable guitarists ever to grace our universe. One could make the contentious argument that he’s also the greatest bottleneck slide guitar player of all time.

He made the guitar sound almost identical to the human voice when he moved that bottle up and down the fret. It was like witnessing another personification of Jimi Hendrix; the guitar was like an anatomical extension of his heart and soul. Going even further than that, Duane Allman’s influence, skill, diversity, and lasting magnitude even rivals that of Hendrix; quite an opinion, I know, but one that holds great merit. Anyway, let’s jump straight into our list dedicated to one of the coolest cats of the classic rock persuasion. Here’s to the man, the myth, and the legend: the one they proclaimed “Skydog.”

# 10 – It’s Not My Cross to Bear

In 1969, Duane and Greg took the blues and R&B roots that they acquired through their previous band, Allman Joy (Later renamed Hour Glass), and they decided to recruit guitarist Dickey Betts, bassist Berry Oakley, and drummers Butch Trucks (Derek Trucks’ uncle) and Jai Johanny Johanson; they would become the Allman Brothers Band.

In 1969, they released their self-titled debut, and the world of classic rock would never be the same. The album established them as a forceful band of improvisational proportions. But Duane Allman’s guitar playing makes it worthwhile; of course, you can’t leave out Dickey Betts, who was the yin to his yang regarding chemistry. On “It’s Not My Cross to Bear,” Duane’s slow and soul-driven guitar solo, which begins immediately after the segue from the opening track on the record, really channels a B.B. King-esque flavor; it’s a perfect reminder that this man could play the blues.

# 9 – Keep on Growing

If you’ve been following our guitar solo lists, you’ll probably recall our Eric Clapton list in which we singled out the Derek and the Dominos record, Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs. This was the album Duane Allman contributed to. Duane took time off from his usual amalgamation of blues, jazz, country, and rhythm & blues on this particular record. Instead, he graced the foundation with not only his bottleneck blues but also his richly detailed soloing.

On “Keep on Growing,” he battles it with Eric Clapton. The intricate layering of each of their solos towards the last minute of the song, which sounds like four separate solos coming out of each speaker, is sonic insanity; you don’t know who to listen for, but you don’t care because the mere polymerization of Eric and Duane is just too earth-shattering to eve. But you can tell which guitar solos are Duane’s; those lightning-fast triplets you hear are one of his signature licks.

# 8 – Don’t Keep Me Wondering

First appearing on the 1970 record Idlewild South, this banging number was performed live during the most incredible show of their career: their Fillmore East gig. Duane’s slide work here is at its meanest. He doesn’t do much technicality but mercilessly beats these two guitar solos on stage with impunity.

# 7 – Layla

This list wouldn’t feel right without including “Layla.” It’s the kind of song that sums up a musician’s career; in this case, it’s Eric Clapton. However, few people realize that Duane Allman bestowed a lot of artistic input during the song’s creation. First off, that iconic riff was Duane’s idea; he borrowed a vocal line from an Albert King song, “As the Years Go Passing By,” and translated it to the guitar……but he played it twice as fast. Then, the slide guitar solo closes out the first half before the piano coda. It’s one of Duane’s most incredible efforts overlooked by every other aspect of this epic.

It’s quite a vocal guitar solo in that Duane moves the bottle slide swimmingly beyond the 23rd fret of the guitar, creating notes one would have a hard time finding without the help of a slide. The way he treats the guitar solo as if it’s an actual person belting along to the song’s main riff is what made Duane the treasure that he was.

# 6 – You Don’t Love Me

You’ll be seeing a lot of songs from the Fillmore East show. This one lasts fifteen minutes and houses many of Duane’s best moments. First are his slide guitar solos. The one that comes in at two minutes is some of the most violent euphony he’s ever created. The second one lashes out at about 6:45 minutes.

At seven minutes, everybody pulls the plug. Everything’s silent. Then Duane begins bellowing out these delicious blues scales drenched in Hendrix’s power and Eric Clapton’s proficiency. This gigantic solo lasts roughly eight minutes; man, it is incredible.

# 5 – Statesboro Blues

This was the song that opened up their Live at Fillmore East record, and man, is it spectacular; it’s everything you’d come to expect from the caliber of a band like the Allman Brothers Band. What’s intriguing about “Statesboro Blues” is that it’s a rendition of Taj Mahal’s version, which was a rendition of Blind Willie McTell’s original. Here’s a quick story:

Greg had given Duane the Taj Mahal record containing his version for his birthday; he also received a bottle of Coricidin pills because he was sick with a cold. So Duane put on the record, removed the pills from the bottle, used it as a slide, started playing along to it, and the rest was history.

That’s how Duane created the bottleneck blues style he became renowned for; of course, his impeccable guitar tone added to it. Those three solos, the beginning one, the second one that starts before the two-minute mark, and the final one towards the end, have made the biggest impact on blues rock.

# 4 – Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?

Here’s another fantastic Derek and the Dominos recording that beams the spotlight down on Duane; that’s not taking away from the fact that Eric Clapton is also great here, but it’s just that this list is about Duane. Anyway, he shares three guitar solos on this track: a brief one during the intro, a second during the middle break, and a final one to close the song out. All three are quintessential Duane, with his melodic minor runs terrorizing the lovelorn landscape of the tune’s overall message. However, that final guitar solo makes everything perfect, especially that bonny lick during the last thirty seconds.

# 3 – Blue Sky

1972’s Eat a Peach was the last recorded album that Duane was on before his death, making it a piece of classic rock history that’s all the more special. “Blue Sky” is a beauty in its own right; it is a song written and sung by guitarist Dickey Betts. He wrote this wonderful ballad about the love of his life, nicknamed “Bluesky,” which displayed both him and Duane as being at their most vulnerable and soul-defining moments; they’re both at their peak here. But Duane’s solo at the one-minute mark must be honored; it’s a valued piece of instrumental brilliance. The only thing that could make this guitar solo even sadder is that this was the last guitar he ever put to wax.

# 2 – Mountain Jam

Here is an excellent example of the Allman Brothers Bands’ influential jam credentials. This Eat a Peach cut, recorded during their historic Fillmore East show, goes on for a good forty minutes; that’s right: they jammed on a single song for forty minutes. Everybody’s in full swing here; each member pours out every ounce of their musical extempore with absolute care and precision. But for now, we’ll single out Duane, the true star.

First, he unleashes a solo at the 2:42 mark; this one’s a delicious treat for the ears. With his “light, but not too light” tone, he takes you through an odyssey of welcoming melodies, Phrygian dominant phrases, and a boisterous tirade of blues accents that sound like one of those ’50s-’60s R&B singers.

Finally, he returns twenty-three minutes in with the best bottleneck slide playing of his life. Every voicing, vibrato, change in direction on the fretboard, and understanding of rhythm and timing showed that Duane could turn something as primitive as blues slide into a Picasso painting.

# – Whipping Post

Now, here’s a performance everyone anticipated; it simply has to be recognized as one of the greatest songs of classic rock and the pinnacle of Duane’s legacy. The album version from their debut record is impressive, but their Fillmore East jam deserves every accolade. He doesn’t play slide guitar here; he instead fires away with the heaviest blues rock to ever grace the stage; seriously, the people in that audience were completely unaware that they would be witnessing the top five most excellent live albums of all time.

Duane’s first guitar solo, coming in before the two-minute mark, lasts a good three minutes, with every critical constituent that made him an intellectual to the instrument. His speed, consistency, cognizance, and unpredictability made each of his live performances such a thrill to dive into. Then, the guitar solo follows at 15:30 minutes after Dickey Betts demolishes the stage. Duane does a great job building tension before Greg joins the chorus. Finally, Duane wraps up the entire song with a mellow solo that helps listeners catch their breath after twenty minutes of pure rock and roll euphoria. It’s guitar spontaneity of this immensity that made Skydog one of the giants of his craft.

Updated April 7, 2024

10 Essential Duane Allman Guitar Solos article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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