Of the many legends FAME has nurtured, none has inspired more adulation than Duane Allman. Astounding virtuosity and unfulfilled promise hastened his enshrinement. Now, Duane’s legend resembles that of a knight-errant, replete with quests, triumphs, tragedy, and even a holy grail — his 1957 gold top Gibson Les Paul. Each formative recording has acquired mythic undertones, including those he hasn’t played on.
Bassist David Hood, the FAME perennial and co-founder of Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, frequently dispels such conjecture. “People want to know everything he’s on, and they want him to have played on everything,” he says. “I’ve checked my daily diaries. There aren’t any more tracks he played on that aren’t already noted on album covers, liner notes, and so on.” Regardless, Duane completists continually list dubious recordings and questionable sessions.
Hood witnessed his friend’s emergence at FAME in the months after he and brother Gregg attempted to record as Hour Glass with Liberty Records in Los Angeles. “He and Gregg were in California with other Macon, Georgia–area musicians, trying to start a group,” he recalls. “It wasn’t going anywhere. The people paying them in California fired them, keeping Gregg until his contract ran out. After returning south, Duane stopped at Muscle Shoals seeking work, and hung around FAME.” Reportedly, the guitarist pitched a tent in the studio’s parking lot to stay close to the action. “Rick Hall, FAME’s founder, wasn’t interested,” Hood continues. “Rick hated his loud playing. But, somehow, Duane talked Rick into letting him play. He had great ideas but had to learn to conform to the studio thing — not play so loud and arrive at a certain time. Duane hated that. He would never be a nine-to-five guy. Duane thought that was boring and dumb. He wanted to be a rock and roller — a free spirit.”
That much was apparent when Duane convinced producer Jerry Wexler to loan him his car. “Somebody said, ‘You can’t lend it to someone you don’t know, especially someone weird-looking, with long hair,’” Hood says. “We were all longhaired, which was unusual then. However, Jerry agreed. It was an early four-door Thunderbird. We traveled to the Cocoanut Grove, a hippie area, looking to score pot. We visited a house, where people came out shaking their fists. We got back in the car, which wouldn’t start. I thought, Our careers are over because we messed up Jerry’s car. Luckily, we found a friend who helped with jumper cables. Just then, a cop arrived. I said, ‘My career’s gone. I’m going to jail.’ But he let us go. We got out of there and recorded again the next day.”
Duane’s guitars of choice at FAME were either his 1963 Gibson Firebird or ’60s Fender Stratocaster. “He’d come whenever he was around,” Hood says. “In 1969, at our Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, we made [British pop singer] Lulu’s album New Routes and the album Boz Scaggs, featuring ‘Loan Me a Dime.’ Duane was brilliant but had little interest in playing sessions.
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