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52 Guitars: Week 28

Duane Allman

In my none-too-humble opinion, the Allman Brothers when Duane was still alive were the greatest blues-rock band there's ever been. (For those who don't know the story: Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1971, at the age of 24. You can read the band's entire long story at AllMusic.com.) Without him they were still an extremely good band, but Duane's playing had a magnetically intense quality that, along with Gregg's singing and songwriting, lifted those first few albums into the realm of the extraordinary.

It was of course a two-guitar band, the other guitarist being Richard "Dickey" Betts, and the harmonized leads that framed many of their songs were an important part of what made the band distinctive. When the soloing starts, I can usually tell who's who, but not always. Great as Duane is, the band wouldn't have been the same without Betts, and it must have been a frustrating situation for him to be somewhat in Duane's shadow, even after the latter's death. 

Here's a live version of one of their signature songs, "Whipping Post." It's a little faster than the studio version, but twice as long, with a lot of jamming. I wonder now how 22-or-so-year-old Gregg Allman came to write those exhausted end-of-the-line lyrics:

Nothing seems to change
The bad times still remain
And I can't run

Not to mention the 50-year-old voice.


But maybe I shouldn't wonder at Gregg's melancholy, because I was the same age and felt exactly what he was describing in "Dreams":


By way of justifing my original claim, here's some straight-up blues-rock. But of course their music ranged much further than that, as you can tell from the preceding two tracks.


I don't know who's playing when on those two tracks. But just in case you're wondering, here's proof that Dickey Betts was his own man, on another of Gregg's classic songs, "Not My Cross to Bear":


Dang, they were good. By all accounts the version of the band that's been in existence for the past ten years or so is also extremely good, but I haven't checked them out yet. I will be doing so over the coming week, though, because next week's guitarist will be Derek Trucks, nephew of Butch Trucks, one of the original drummers, and a member of the Allman Brothers Band for the past ten years or so, until earlier this year when he decided to leave. 


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Though I did not get the blues until around 50 I always loved 'Dreams'. Great selection; I only wish I had seen them live. And yeah, where did 20 something white boys learn to sing the blues like that? One of life's persistent mysteries, along with the very young Janis Joplin's voice.

I sometimes wonder what their first efforts sounded like. Picture a white kid of 16 or 17 or so trying to imitate a middle-aged black man or woman...? Probably pretty funny. I'm about to do something I very rarely do, which is to read a book about pop music: Greg Allman's autobiography. That might give some insight. Yeah, I wish I'd seen them live, too.

I've never been that big a fan of Joplin, actually--great talent, but her singing usually seemed somewhat over the top to me.

If you had grown up in a house where your parents were listening to that kind of music all the time, I don't think it would be that hard.


I guess so. But do you know if that was the case? To the extent that it's mentioned at all in the Wikipedia piece, the implication is that they heard it on the radio.

No, I just know I used to do it. I don't know much about the Allman Brothers at all, except I remember some of their music. I see they were probably in their mid-teens when they heard B.B. King, so I guess not. Still, when I sing, I just naturally mimic whoever I'm listening to. I don't try to do, I just realize I'm doing it, and I have to fight NOT to do it. If they were like that, I don't think it would be too hard.

But I don't know if they were like that. ;-)


Yes, that's certainly natural--even people like me who can't really sing tend to do it. But the way Gregg Allman or Janis Joplin sounded was so far from what was probably their natural singing voices that it seems like it had to be a conscious decision and deliberate effort.

They were already gigging in their teens, in a band with black singers. That certainly helps to explain it:


I like the selection, especially "Dreams" and "Statesboro Blues."

The Allman Brothers Band is often classified as southern rock, but they were extremely popular in the northeast where I grew up. In the early 70s, I bought "Eat a Peach," "Fillmore East" and "Brothers and Sisters" on vinyl. Most people I knew loved that stuff.

The guitar solo on "Blue Sky," shared by Duane Allman and Dickey Betts (according to Wikipedia), was and is one of my all-time favorites. Not sure who's the better guitarist there.

Another favorite is the jubilant solo in "Jessica."

Growing up as a teenager in the 60's allowed me to see nearly all the great bands of the day; except The Allman Brothers! They were such a mix of influences and had so much energy, not all of it good though. Too many drugs and hard living.
Duane and Eric Clapton ruled!

I don't think they ever played within easy reach of me, although I was in the south. If they did I didn't know about it. As for Duane and Eric, yeah, both great, and I considered including something from Derek & the Dominoes here, but I have to say I was/am not a huge fan, although they had some great moments. I think it's partly the recording but the two guitars don't seem to be complementing each other a lot of the time.

I love "Blue Sky," too, Gary. Less enthusiastic about "Jessica" although it is a good tune. To tell the truth I found Brothers and Sisters disappointing overall. Nothing really wrong with it but it lacked the fire.

They were southern guys (mostly) but that didn't mean northerners weren't welcome to enjoy the music. :-) I didn't know until I ran across the info while writing this post that they had an annual New York gig that was apparently very popular.

English people often laugh at pop singers of the 1960s singing with American accents - there are phrases in many English pop songs of the time which only work if you put on (or already have) an American accent. The Stones are full of this.

I have to admit that the Stones did it very well. And I suppose they were probably not much older than the Allmans when they started doing it. That plus their being English makes it even more impressive.

I don't think it took a conscious effort to sing like that. My bride can mimic effortlessly, and most of my kids inherited that capability. As I have mentioned, I never really 'got' the blues until later in life. But I always got the Allmans. Whatever the influence, they did way more than mimic. Take the guitar solo in 'Dreams', which is essentially a blues riff. In all, and I do not know whether this is because they were southerners or geniuses, they surpassed every English band in doing blues. And of course I always loved the sweeter sounds they made, like 'Melissa' and 'Blue Sky'.

I don't think there's a contradiction between saying it takes a conscious effort and saying that it comes easily to a talented person. And definitely Gregg Allman was doing a lot more than mimicking, although he might have started out that way.

Or say "deliberate choice" if "conscious effort" makes it sound too difficult. At any rate, the point I really wanted to make about Gregg Allman's singing, and this really goes for the whole band, is not that he sounded black, but that he sounded genuine, and experienced, and authoritative in a black sort of way, far beyond his years. If you listen to Mick Jagger singing "King Bee" (Muddy Waters song, iirc) on one of the early Stones albums, it definitely sounds like somebody playing a role. Or Koerner, Ray, and Glover, a bit earlier, imitating country blues artists.

Boy, Maclin,.you almost did a Louise on that sidebsr.


That's what happens when I only get to comment once during the day (or night).

Can we have "52 Authors in 52 weeks" next year?

I second that.


I used to dominate the sidebar during really interesting discussions when I lived in Oz and had the commbox to myself.


Recent efforts were unusual and not exactly enjoyable.

It works the other way too, Grumpy - but probably not with pop/rock. Gregorian chant scholas need to de-Americanise their accents a bit to get a nice sounding Latin.

52 Authors would be fun, but I don't think I could manage it. The guitarists are proving to be more time-consuming than I anticipated.

Well, you don't have to find videos of authors.


But I would have to find excerpts, or something. It would be impossibly time-consuming.

Maybe we could all share it. I cant do the math but something like 20 authors Mac (its your blog), 5 dan, 5 grumpy, 5 janet, 5 rob g, 5 louise, 5 craig, 5 gotcher

That's a thought...though 20 still sounds too many. Depending on what we were thinking of doing. If it's just post a favorite passage, that might be doable. If it's write something of substance about them, maybe not. When I started the 52 guitars thing I was planning to just post a video or two every week, but I find that I can't restrain myself from writing something--some background, some commentary, etc. That's what's made it more time-consuming than I expected.

Five for El Miserable, too. That could cut mine to 15.


"The Allman Brothers Band is often classified as southern rock, but they were extremely popular in the northeast where I grew up."

This is true for later "Southern rock" as well. Bands like The Outlaws, Skynard, Molly Hatchet, etc., were really big here in Pittsburgh in the 70's. Of course I've heard it claimed that SW Pa. is the top of Appalachia. ;-)

I don't think it would have to be limited to fiction, Robert.

I always took "southern rock" as referring to the origin of the bands, not the audience. Actually I never cared much for those bands except for the Allmans. For that matter I never heard most of them, except Skynnrd (sp?) so I can't say I didn't like them. Really I just lumped them all in with other hard rock bands of the day as heavy-handed and uninteresting.

I choose God, then. And Potok. I'll have to think about my other three.

Nice idea, Grumpy. :)

I like Lynnard Skynnard (sp?)

And there is Art Deco too - 5

If we interspersed everyone's contributions, most people would write one thing every couple of months. We could all manage that.

I don't know if I recognize 'El Miserable' unless AD changed his nom de guerre

I think if you were to do a linguistic and vocabulary analysis of the posts EM and AD you'd find that neither of them is each other and neither of them is St. Paul.

I think maybe we could other people to participate, too: Sally, Paul, Nick?



He was in Grumpy's list.


Oh. Missed that.

I always say 'Dan'

I didn't say everyone - just off the top of my head. We could ask RC to do a guest appearance

Im taking Ida Gorres, von Balthasar, Gilson, Hume, Jean Danielou.

I wouldn't know how to write about a novelist.

If you are doing Von B., I could do de Lubac.

its good

This could be fun. Let's just throw it open to anyone who wants to participate. I'll do a post announcing it sometime in the next day or two (very busy at work right now). I'll assume everyone who's spoken up wants at least 5 slots, and we'll go from there.



A young shakespeare scholar

Oh, indeed.

El Miserable = Stu. I work with Mac. I would do five classic authors (fiction). Tolstoy would certainly be one. I want Mac to do Dostoevsky if I am allowed to ask that. :-) This will be fun because I am quite interested to read what others enjoy, and what their remarks are, etc.

Did anyone get Tolkien? I'd do Potok, Tolkien, de Lubac, Newman (to counter Grumpy's Hume), and Merton.

I'm wondering what the focus will be? Mac's guitar thingie focuses on performance. Would we focus on literary quality? Like "great quotes that knock it out of the park"?

I think we should each just write what we want to write, Robert.

I will do Graham Greene, Michael Perry, and Dean Koontz, and I'm thinking about a couple of children's authors: Hilda van Stockum and maybe E. Nesbit, but maybe y'all wouldn't be interested in those.

This is a very eclectic bunch, but really I think I can make even Koontz interesting.


Well, you managed right off to pick one I've never heard of, Janet (apologies if you've mentioned him to me before): Michael Perry.

As far as I'm concerned, there doesn't have to be a consistent approach. I'm thinking it could be anything from a great quote/excerpt to an appreciation (or for that matter depreciation, if it's somebody you think is perniciously over-rated).

I don't think anyone's mentioned Marianne, who comments less often than some of you, but has a way of coming up with an apposite reference, like the Larkin poem in another thread. Another reason to throw it open to anyone who wants to participate. There could be a complete lurker who would want to come out (dang it, another loaded phrase).

Also: it's mid-July. I wouldn't want to try to start this till the guitar series is over, i.e. at the end of the year. Besides, starting on Jan 1 and going for a year is more pleasing. Are y'all ok with that?

Yes, I will be able to lie to myself for 6 months about how I'm going to write them early.


I want the Chesterbelloc. And Jane Austen.

"Yes, I will be able to lie to myself for 6 months about how I'm going to write them early."

Amen, sistah! Preach it!

I would be very interested in reading about the children's authors, Janet.

Maclin, You really need to start a new thread for all this information so when we need to refer to it, we won't need to remember 52 Guitars: Week 28. I can see myself desperately poking around week 22, week 27, week 24 on December 28 trying to remember who I'm supposed to write about.


Appropriate to say RIP Johnny Winter here on the "52 Guitars" blog. :-(

Definitely. But since he was 70 and probably lived the rock star life for at least a while, he didn't do too badly.

I'm planning to, Janet. Sort of an official announcement and invitation. But existing claims to specific writers will be honored.:-)

Well, I don't see that anybody would be lining up for any of mine, except may GG. I was trying to find some off the well-beaten path.


I'll wait until the "announcement" then list my picks. I want to wait to see who's already spoken for!

Well Rob, I KNOW you wanted Dean Koontz. ;-)


I wouldn't mind taking Madeleine L'Engle. I Love a Wrinkle in Time.

I'm going to consider any claims stated here as binding, so if anybody else has any definite wishes, go ahead and say so.

You mean we can't change our minds? Remember I said maybe about E. Nesbit.


Sure, you can change your mind, I just mean I'll assume that any writer spoken for in these comments is taken, and will list those assignments in the separate post I'm going to do.

I will ask for Leo Tolstoy, Salman Rushdie, and Larry McMurtry for now and think about my final two as this progresses.

Somebody should do Corman McCarthy, but not me.

I think I'm going to take Sheldon Vanauken instead of E. Nesbit.


Nesbit is funner.

You do her. ;-) It's true, but there is a particular book of Vanauken's that I want to talk about. I was thinking about it on the way to work this morning in relation to something that's going on in my family.


I do really like Five Children and It.

Stratford Caldecott used to say that there are scenes in The magician's Nephew which he thinks are influenced by Five Children and It. You know, where the witch comes to the British Museum.

Well, there's definitely something in LWW that comes directly from one of her stories, The Aunt and Amabel.


Since, I've never read anything by her, I'll pass. I'm just going by my children's reaction.

Maybe I'll do Nesbit instead of Van Stockum.


In case I haven't said so before, I've never read anything by Nesbit, so have no opinion.

I'm game, but not sure who I could write about. With Tolkien and Chesterton taken, the literary authors I know best are Waugh and Dickens, but I don't think I could say anything about either that would be new or interesting to others here. Non-fiction authors well represented on my shelves are Alasdair MacIntyre, Mary Douglas, Edith Stein and Christopher Derrick, if any of them are of interest.

I've just accepted a new job which will involve leading a semester's worth of seminars about American Literature (this is for a Master of Translation degree at an institution that thinks translators, subtitlers et al. should have a clue about literature in their foreign languages — not for students devoted full-time to literature). I would appreciate the opportunity to bounce ideas about. It will pretty much be a case of keeping one book ahead of the students. I was wondering about starting them off on some Cotton Mather (available free on Google Books) and Arthur Miller's "The Crucible", and then moving on to "Last of the Mohicans". And then ... and then ... If first impressions of American authors would be of interest, say the word.

I have, incidentally, just finished Walker Percy's "The Last Gentleman", which in some ways would be very useful (being quite explicit about North-East/Southern/Mid-West/South-West differences in landscape, mores and language, for instance), but plot-wise just seems to be one bizarre thing after another with nothing holding it together. Persisting to the end makes some of it fall into place retrospectively as a sort of American "Brideshead", but only some of it. And the constant rabbiting on about psychoanalysis and sex is extremely tedious, but perhaps that's just (engagement with? spoof on?) American mores too? It just put me in mind of Flanders & Swann.

I claim Wodehouse.

In my mind it isn't necessary to say anything new or interesting. Substantial discussions, even of blog post length (typically 600-1200 words) may be more than people want to do, and it's certainly more than I would have time (or inclination) to do for 20 writers in the space of a year, if I end up with that many. We might want to just post an excerpt or two or three that we think really fine. So don't let that stop you. Also, although Grumpy originally proposed 5 writers apiece, since it's going to be open to anyone who cares to contribute I'd say 5 maximum, but fewer if you don't feel up to that.

I read your remarks on The Last Gentleman twice, under the impression, for some brain-misfire reason, that you were speaking of The Moviegoer, and wondering how in the world you got that view of it. But all became clear when I realized my mistake. I more or less agree with your appraisal of its structural faults. In purely literary terms I think The Moviegoer is his best. But I love Gentleman anyway. Part of it is sheer enjoyment of the southern-ness of it, which I can well imagine may not travel well. And as for the sex obsession...well, whether it's especially American or not, I find it quite...relatable-to.

Paul, if you wanted to do Chesterton, we could split him up, so to speak. (He's big enough!) I was thinking that his poems, essays and stories could all be treated separately anyhow.

I would love to hear about Edith Stein.

Flanders and Swann! Ha! My mother likes to sing this song.

Ditto to Stein, and Derrick, too.

And Wodehouse. Hurrah!


Id love to see a piece on Derrick!

Yes, I meant to add that I'd certainly be interested in seeing all the writers Paul mentions included. I've never heard of Mary Douglas (that I remember) but I assume she's worthy of the company.

She was an anthropologist. Srote a famous essay called 'Fish on Friday' about how eating fish on Friday bound the Catholic community together. This essay was constantly cited by various Dominicans and chaps like Eamon Duffy and can take some credit for the Bishops re-instating Friday abstinence a few years ago.

More generally, Mary Douglas was famous for the argument that dirt is just stuff that is out of place. Its not actually physically dirty, it just strikes people as disorderly. For instance, when we first moved to NYC in 1963 my father was wandering up and down the subway, just looking around and smoking his pipe. He'd never seen anything so filthy in his life. A policeman approached him and told him to put out the pipe. My father said, OK, but why? The policeman replied, 'its dirty.' Mary Douglas is full of examples like that. This was an argument against the old reductionist view that the Jews didn't eat pork because its 'unhealthy' in the Middle East or hot climates generally. Mary Douglas argues to the contrary that 'unclean' foods were perceived as disorderly. Its all about structure, not hygene.

She came and spoke at Aberdeen in about 2009, but unfortunately she was too elderly to be attempting to give a power point lecture, and it all went disastrously wrong. I also heard her speak, extremely well, many year previous, at the teaching training college in Lancaster where I worked.

Sounds very much worth hearing about. The story about the pipe is very funny. And in 1963!--when smoking in public was treated as a fundamental right.

Gosh, Mary Douglas sounds like a gem. :)

It's not so much sex obsession which is tiresome (that's a pretty widespread and relatable issue — thinking of a 17th-century comic-moralising dialogue between a drunkard, a gambler and a whoremonger as to which of them is worst; or a collection of 16th-century sermons on the 10 commandments that says it is impossible for most men to go a day without a lustful thought), as the constant talking about sex. The Victorians somehow managed to produce more children than the world had ever seen before, without constantly talking about how it was done.

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