Take 5: Duane Allman

Duane Allman is best known as co-leader of The Allman Brothers Band, the innovative collective that combined John Coltrane-style improvisation with searing melodies and superb songwriting. But Allman cut his teeth as a session guitarist, memorably lending his six-string skills to the music of other artists. Here are five highlights from Duane Allman’s session work.

Loan Me a Dime” by Boz Scaggs (1969)

Before he launched his career as a smooth, urbane soul singer (and after he left the Steve Miller Band) Boz Scaggs made an r&b album using the Muscle Shoals Rhythm section. This slow-burn reading of the Fenton Robinson song features breathtaking horn charts and – starting around the eight-minute mark – one of Duane Allman’s most heartfelt lead guitar breaks.

Hey Jude” by Wilson Pickett (1969)

As the story goes, fiery soul singer Wilson Pickett almost didn’t cut this track. But at the suggestion of Duane Allman, Pickett agreed, and the results were so powerful that it ended up as the title track of his 1969 album. Pickett’s cover of the Beatles classic – the original of which had only been released a few months earlier – did well on both the r&b and pop singles charts.

It Ain’t Fair” by Aretha Franklin (1970)

For her sixteenth album, diva Aretha Franklin drew upon material from across the pop spectrum, delivering soulful readings of songs by The Beatles, The Band, Bacharach/David and other greats. This deep cut on This Girl’s in Love With You features Allman playing some lean and mean blues guitar.

Push Push” by Herbie Mann (1971)

Jazz flautist Herbie Mann deserves praise for helping to bring jazz into the mainstream; he’s arguably a leading light in opening up pop audiences to what is now known as “World music.” He always enlisted top musicians for his albums: Sonny Sharrock and Larry Coryell are just two of the guitarists who played on Mann’s records. Featuring a tasty extended guitar solo from Duane Allman, the title track from Mann’s 1971 LP ranks among his best.

More Than Enough Rain” by Bobby Lance (1971)

For many years Allman’s involvement in this record wasn’t verified. But it’s now known that the session guitarist played slide guitar on this, a standout track on First Peace, Lance’s debut album. Also appearing on the track is sax hero King Curtis.