Allman, who was born in Nashville, Tennessee was co-founder of the southern rock group The Allman Brothers Band. Duane, whose nickname was Skydog, is best remembered for his expressive slide guitar playing and improvisational guitar skills during this brief time in the band.
In 1960, Allman began playing guitar in 1960 after his younger brother, Gregg, brought home a guitar after hearing a neighbor playing country music standards. Gregg has said that after he saw Duane play a little bit he was in awe: "It was like seeing Paul Bunyan grind an axe, he passed me up like I was standing still." Duane first learned the acoustic blues, and over the years moulded his guitar playing to his own custom sound that he is still known for today.
The two Allman brothers started playing publicly in 1961, joining or forming a number of small, local groups. Shortly thereafter, Duane quit high school to stay home during the day and focus on his guitar playing.
Their band the Escorts opened for The Beach Boys in 1965 but disbanded and eventually became the Allman Joys. After Gregg graduated from high school in 1965, the Allman Joys went on the road, performing throughout the Southeast.
The Allman Joys morphed into another band, The Hour Glass, which moved to Los Angeles in early 1967. There the Hour Glass produced two albums. Their record company, tried to market them as a pop band, completely ignoring the band's desire to play more blues-oriented material.
In 1968, Gregg Allman went to visit Duane, sick in bed, on his 22nd birthday. Gregg brought a bottle of Coricidin pills for his fever. Duane had poured the pills out of the bottle, washed off the label and was using it as a slide to play "Statesboro Blues," an old Blind Willie McTell song. The song would go on to become a part of the Allman Brothers Band's repertoire, and Duane's slide guitar became crucial to their sound.
The Allman Brothers Band went on to become one of the most influential rock groups of the 1970s, described by Rolling Stone's George Kimball in 1971 as "the best damn rock and roll band this country has produced in the past five years."
A sought-after session musician both before and during his tenure with the band, Allman performed with such established stars as King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and Herbie Mann. He also contributed heavily to the 1970 album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos.
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In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Allman at #2 in their list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time, second only to Jimi Hendrix.