Duane Allman

ZZ: When did the Allman Brothers decide to be a band rather than just session men?

DA: I don’t know, really… we just sort of changed over, there was no specific date. Since the second album’s done so well, we’ve just stopped taking backing gigs and stuff…not stopped taking them, you know, but we’ve tried to cool it a bit.

ZZ: In what circumstances did you meet the rest of the band?

DA: It was down in Florida, two years ago in the Wintertime… me and Jaimo got together in Alabama, and we went south and got all the other cats together. Went back to make it where our offices are; we’re close to the business – keep from getting screwed, you know, keep an eye on things.

ZZ: What artistes have you most enjoyed playing behind?

DA: Laura Nyro, John Hammond, King Curtis and Eric Clapton. The most recent was for Laura Nyro – one cut off Beads of Sweat, and I didn’t play much on that, just a couple of licks. But it was real enjoyable man, she’s a real outasite chick and a fantastic artiste and composer.

ZZ: What’s the story behind your involvement with Derek & the Dominoes?

DA: Well, I was down in Miami, at Criteria studios – they’re the best – to watch them make that record, because I was so interested. It thought ‘well now, that cat has himself a band’ – I’ve been an admirer of Eric Clapton for a long, long time; I’ve always dug his playing – he inspired me a lot – and I figured that I’d get a chance to meet him and at the same time, watch this record going down. So when I saw him, he acted like the knew me – like I was an old friend; ‘hey man, how are you’, you know. And he said ‘as long as you’re here, we want you to get on this record and make it with us – we need more guitar players anyway’. So I did, and I was real flattered and glad to be able to do it.

ZZ: Which places have you found the best to play”

DA: Stoneybrook College in New York; or the Warehouse in New Orleans, man, I always get off there…yeah, and the Fillmore has good sound. In Detroit, there’s a place called The East Town Theatre, and that has a fantastic sound too.

ZZ: Why do you use two drummers?

DA: We’ve had them from the first, ‘cause we knew we were going to be playing loud, and both cats can play everything they need to play if there’s two of them – instead of one cat having to flog his ass off all night.

ZZ: How was Adrian Barber as a producer? (He did the first album).

DA: He was good to us, man, we were satisfied with him….he’s a fine cat; he pretty much turned the knobs for us.

ZZ: Are you happy with your second album?

DA: Yeah, we are. Tom Dowd, man, a master, an artist. We’re really gonna be happy with the next one.

ZZ: Where’s that going to be made?

DA: Partly like at the Warehouse, and partly done at Miami. We’re also going to the mountains for two weeks to write, and we’re bringing an 8-track up there with us, so we might get something out of that too. Then we’ve got some tapes from the Atlanta and Love Valley Festivals, which were both recorded, and if they’re any good we may use bits from them.

ZZ: How do you write – sit and wait for inspiration?

DA: I don’t write, I don’t know how, and if you ever find out, please tell me. No, Gregg originally wrote all out stuff, then Dickie wrote some of the last album. He sits down and tries to write, yeah, but if he doesn’t feel it, he doesn’t write it, if you’ve got something you wanna say, and have people hear it, a song is a good way. People can really dig songs; everybody loves music, but not everyone loves messages.

ZZ: Why didn’t you use the Muscle Shoals studio, as you’re so familiar with it?

DA: I don’t know, man, we just started recording and before we got there we got done. I hope we use it sometime. I know the Stones did a hell of a thing there.

ZZ: Did you learn to play by ear?

DA: Yeah, I can’t read.

ZZ: What about influences…

DA: Man, everything I ever heard – just about everything that WLHC radio ever played.

ZZ: Any specific people?

DA: Well, Miles Davis (early Miles) and John Coltrane and Robert Johnson, Junior Wells, Muddy Waters; see, you get a goal in mind, a note that you want to hit with your band and then, when you go out on the road, your spiritual battery runs down. You get home and listen to that stuff and say ‘Ah, there it is; I have it before me and I know what to do, and you go out and do it.

ZZ: Do you listen to much jazz?

DA: Man, I have a pitifully small knowledge of jazz; Roland Kirk is clean outasite, Kind of Blue by Miles is one that just kills me, and an album by Miles called Jazz Tracks is really good… his greatest hits album on Columbia is fantastic too, Best of Trane on Impulse, and Best of Trane on Atlantic are both unbelievable… hear a man’s life work in an hour.

ZZ: You’ve played with Johnny Winter, haven’t you?

DA: Yeah – I saw him this morning, came to our room. Good bottleneck, good player all round, I prefer his music to his show… I prefer music to any show.

ZZ: Did you have trouble getting gigs before you were a name band?

DA: Yeah, nobody knew our name. The thing is that people are like monkeys… if someone says ‘Man, this is outasite!,’ they say ‘Ah, it is, isn’t it?’ Well, nobody told ‘em.

ZZ: When was your first big break?

DA: Getting with Atlantic Records. They really dig our music, man, and Ahmet [Ertegun], the president, loves to listen to good sides, man. You go right to him and bang on his door ‘Ahmet, Ahmet, something’s screwed’ and he says ‘what?’. You tell him and he says ‘right, we’ll change it’…you don’t have to fool around, he sees that it’s done. There ain’t none of that crap – he’s solid, and it’s a good label.

ZZ: You’re getting loads of gigs now….

DA: All different things – colleges, ballrooms, concerts….

ZZ: Do you get a chance to live at home at all?

DA: Gypsies ain’t got no home. I’m at home when I’m with my people; I’m always at home – I’m at home now.

ZZ: I take it you like it.

DA: I LOVE it, man.

© Jon TivenZigZag, 19 April 1971

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