On October 29, 1971, Duane Allman – lead guitarist and spiritual general of the Allman Brothers Band – died in a motorcycle accident in his band's adopted hometown of Macon, Georgia. He was 24. Allman's passing and the loss a year later of bassist Berry Oakley, on his bike in a collision with a bus near the site where Allman crashed, marked the end of the group's first prime time – the Allmans had recently issued their landmark third album, At Fillmore East – but not the story.
During preparations for our 2010 "Playlist" issue, I spoke to guitarist Derek Trucks – nephew of Allmans drummer Butch Trucks and a member of the band since 1999 – about his top 10 Allman Brothers songs. That list was a victim of space. But Trucks' incisive passion on the subject never gets old, and maybe this is better timing: a reminder, 40 years later, of what American music lost that day in October and what Duane Allman left behind, and set in motion, in a very short time.
"Jumping into these records reminds me of the way I felt when I heard them as a kid," Trucks told me. "I also hear them differently now. I respect the nuances and subtleties more. And the seed is still there. The fact that these guys are in their early sixties now, playing three hours a night and there's blood on the snare drum – you gotta respect that."
"Statesboro Blues" –Live at the Fillmore East, 1971
"The Taj Mahal version where Jesse Ed Davis is playing the Elmore James licks – that was the record that made Duane want to play slide. But this is just amped up. They come out of the gate – take no prisoners. And Gregg does not sound like a white guy in his twenties. It's pretty astounding."
"In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" – Idlewild South, 1970
It's a live band, but I like the studio stuff where you can tell there's more without giving you everything. It's a beautiful instrumental. You can hear the humanity, but it's adventurous as hell. Some of the tunes here happen to be the most fun to play. This is one of them."
"Stand Back" – Eat a Peach, 1972
"It was one of the last tracks they cut before Duane passed. That's one of the few tracks where Jaimoe is the lead drummer. It's funky as shit. And it's some of Duane's most realized slide playing, almost like a written piece of music."
"Dreams" – The Allman Brothers Band, 1969
"Everything was in 4/4 time then. To hear anything different was refreshing. Gregg's lyrics and vocal are amazing. But that's Duane – who he was at his best. I don't think the definitive recording was ever made. I imagine there were three or four live versions that were so transcendant and weren't recorded. That's one of the mythical tunes for me."
"Blue Sky" – Eat a Peach, 1972
"That's the most Dickey Betts song ever written. But he had guys around him who were sympathetic to it, who could make it more than a country tune. And Duane's solo is so lyrical, hypnotic and flowing. It has that Kind of Blue quality – trance, with a country tune at its core."
"Don't Keep Me Wonderin'" – Idlewild South, 1970
"That's the lost record from the early band, just a funky track. This was a blues band that did so much more It's Chicago blues with acid, some grits and cornbread."
"Jessica" – Brothers and Sisters, 1973
"When I was growing up, my parents listened to that as much as anything. That one exemplifies what Butch and Jaimoe do, that train rolling down the road. It feels good to listen to and to play."
"Please Call Home" – Idlewild South, 1970
"That is one of the great ballads Gregg ever wrote. That's where the soul music of that era crystallized for him. We've talked him into doing it in rehearsal a few times, solo on the piano. But it's hard to keep that rollin'. He feels more comfortable with a full band."
"Whipping Post" – The Allman Brothers Band, 1969
"'Whipping Post' reminds me of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew – it's unhinged and can go anywhere. It's a great collision of Gregg and Duane, the eternal push and pull of that group. I'd go Fillmore East on this, over the studio version, because it was even more unhinged."
"Ain't Wastin' Time No More" – Eat a Peach, 1972
"That tune captures what the band was going through after Duane died, in the middle of what I think is their best studio record. You can hear it in Gregg's voice. And I think that's Dickey's best slide playing."
"Little Martha" – Eat a Peach, 1972
"That's Duane's tune, one of the few he wrote. It's a beautful way to go out. They play it over the PA as the end of our shows every night. It's a great tribute to him – Duane playing for himself."