Like actor James Dean, Duane Allman was one of those show biz phantoms who was purely of his time but tragically departed well before his time. It was only two years between the Allman Brothers Band's first recordings and his death on 10/29/71 - a month shy of his 25th birthday (11/20). Not around long enough to build a large body of work, he still made his mark.
As a member of Hourglass, Duane Allman recorded two commercially unsuccessful albums but it was the inability to launch a Blues/Rock effort (even less commercial than their last records) that spelled the end. Allman split immersing himself in R & B session work in Muscle Shoals, AL, recording with Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter and Aretha Franklin, among others. In fact, Allman's playing on Pickett's version
of "Hey Jude" was stunning.
Otis Redding's ex-manager, Phil Walden, told Duane he should start his own group. That suggestion led to the formation of the Allman Brothers Band featuring fellow guitarist Dickey Betts and kid brother Gregg on
keyboards and vocals. During Duane's life the group released their self-titled debut, "Idlewild South" and "At The Fillmore East." Thanks to relentless touring (there is a classic picture of both Duane and Gregg,
seated side by side, sound asleep on a tour bus) the Allman Brothers Band quickly built a reputation as an instrumental powerhouse.
While the studio albums were impressive, the live set at the Fillmore stole the show. Allman and Betts delved into long, fluid solos with biting licks and fearless execution - the Blues and R & B influences clearly audible. Allman, in particular, took the rather narrow confines of Southern Rock and re-designed it raising the bar for the entire
genre. With Duane, the Allman Brothers were one of the very few groups that were better live than the studio.
Aside from his Allman's work Duane also contributed to Eric Clapton's Derek and the Dominoes project. Not part of the group, Duane was practically reverting back to his session guitarist days when Clapton, after seeing Duane perform, invited him to participate. Of course the dual guitar lead on "Layla" was a high-water mark for both. Duane also contributed to several other tracks earning Clapton's praise as the "catalyst" for the "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs" double album.
During the "Eat A Peach" sessions underway in Macon, GA, Duane was riding home on his motorcycle, after wishing Allman bassist Berry Oakley's wife a happy birthday, when he crashed trying to avoid a truck. The accident cut short an exceptional career and though the Allman Brothers Band carried on, they never really recovered, eventually becoming a fairly routine Country Rock group. The loss was measured in what could have been.
The best of the '70s Southern Rock groups, the Allman's hit their peak with "At The Fillmore East." It was followed by another double set "Eat A Peach." This is a studio/live record. The live portion includes the thirty-plus minutes of "Mountain Jam" clearly illustrating the group's musical chops.