If you need convincing that Duane Allman was one of the best guitar players to ever pick up the instrument, just ask Eric Clapton. Or juuust in case you’re not good friends with Clapton like Allman was, just listen to Derek and the Dominos’ Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.
It was on August 26, 1970 that the legendary founding member of the Allman Brothers Band entered the studio to lay down guitar tracks for the album. it stands to this day as one of the most famous collaborations in rock and roll history. Here’s some interesting details to know about the session that resulted in an all-time classic record.
1. It began with a mutual admiration between Allman and Clapton
Clapton was thrilled to be able to see the Allman Brothers live in Miami, the same city where the recording sessions took place, and planned on taking the opportunity to ask Allman to come to the studio and work with Derek and the Dominos. Allman was equally thrilled just to have Clapton in his presence.
Since he’d already established himself as a transcendent guitarist in his work with the Yardbirds and Cream, Clapton left Allman in awe as he stood in the front row at the concert. It didn’t stop Allman from shredding his way through the set, though. The two eventually met after the show, expressed their admiration for each other, and agreed to work together on Layla. Allman was happy just to observe, but Clapton insisted he grab his guitar and play.
The sessions began that very night as Duane went with Clapton & Co. to Criteria Studios in Miami, where they reportedly jammed until the next evening.
2. Allman played Gibson guitars, while Clapton played Fender
We all know how much Clapton loves the Fender Stratocaster, so it’s no shock whatsoever that he is the one rocking the Strat on the Layla sessions. But Allman had a varied setup as far as guitars and equipment, so it’s cool to know that he once confirmed it’s him playing all the Gibson guitars, which to trained ears have a distinctly different sound.
Both Clapton and Allman played slide guitar on the record, so how do you tell the difference? Allman himself described it as such in a Guitar World retrospective from 1981: “The Fender is a little bit thinner and brighter, a sparkling sound, while the Gibson is just a full-tilt screech.”
Allman mostly played his signature slide guitar on Layla, and his solo at the end of “Key to the Highway” is arguably the pinnacle of it. You could argue the same about the sounds at the end of the title track – would “Layla” be the same without Allman’s contributions?
3. Allman’s work on Layla got Clapton into electric slide guitar
Clapton mainly played an acoustic guitar in the rate occasions he played with a slide, but Allman’s work with him on the Layla sessions made him want to try electric. This was mostly because of how innovative his playing was.
“There were very few people playing electric slide that were doing anything new; it was just the Elmore James licks, and everyone knows those,” he said of Allman. “No one was opening it up until Duane showed up and played in a completely different way. That sort of made me think about taking it up.”
Clapton called Allman “the musical brother I’d never had, but wished I did” in his autobiography. Just imagine what Allman and Clapton may have accomplished had we not lost Allman so tragically early.
The remaining members of the Allman Brothers Band band continue to honor Duane’s legacy in live shows, and will do so at the Comcast Center on September 6 for the WZLX 28th Anniversary Concert. Click here to enter for a chance to win tickets to the show.