If the late Duane Allman had done nothing but session work, he would still be on this list. His contributions on lead and slide guitar to dozens of records as fine and as varied as Wilson Pickett's down-home '69 cover of "Hey Jude" and Eric Clapton's 1970 masterpiece with Derek and the Dominos, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, constitute an astounding body of work. But Allman also transformed the poetry of jamming with the Allman Brothers Band, the group he founded in 1969 with his younger brother, singer-organist Gregg. Duane applied the same black soul and rebel fire he displayed as a sideman to the Allmans' extended investigations of Muddy Waters and Blind Willie McTell covers and to his psychedelic-jazz interplay with second guitarist Dickey Betts in live showpieces such as "Whipping Post." Although Duane and Gregg had played in bands together since 1960, Duane did not learn to play slide until shortly before the start of the Allmans. In his only Rolling Stone interview, in early' 71, Duane said that the first song he tried to conquer was McTell's "Statesboro Blues." Allman's blastoff licks in the recording that opens his band's third album, At Fillmore East, show how far and fast he had come — and leave you wondering how much further he could have gone. In October 1971, eight months after the Fillmore East gigs, Allman died in a motorcycle accident in the band's home base of Macon, Georgia.
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