My Night Playing Duane Allman’s Guitar

by Sonny Moorman
Posted Apr 15, 2013 at 2:07pm

I had the thrill of my musical life last year when I got to play Duane Allman’s 1957 Goldtop Les Paul on a Macon, Georgia, stage.

I grew up listening to Lonnie Mack playing in bars around my Ohio hometown and have been greatly influenced by Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter, Roy Buchannan, Rory Gallagher, Peter Green, Carlos Santana and a host of others.

But it was the Allman Brothers Band’s Duane Allman and Dickey Betts who hit me the hardest. Their mix of rock, blues, jazz, soul and country improvised by virtuoso players just floored me — and it still does!

Willie Perkins, the ABB’s tour manager during their golden era, 1970 to 1976, has been my manager for the past 15 years. So the Brothers and their music have played a huge role in my life and career, which made playing Duane’s Goldtop a thrill and pleasure almost beyond words.

The 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop, serial No. 7 3312, is relatively light for a Les Paul, with a big, rounded neck profile. It was refinished by Tom Murphy in 1997 at Gibson’s Historic Division and set up much as Duane might have played it, including the stringing “over” rather than through the stop bar (something I do on my guitars as well). This gives the guitar a nice, supple feel while sacrificing little if any of the famous Les Paul sustain.

I own and play a 1996 Gibson Historic Collection Les Paul Goldtop R7, which I’m elated to say is very similar to Duane’s guitar in appearance and feel. Duane’s is a bit lighter, perhaps because the pickguard, pickup switch ring and pointers have been removed, but the guitars looks and feel virtually identical.


This Goldtop is Duane’s voice on the first two ABB albums (The Allman Brothers Band and Idlewild South), as well as on Derek and the Dominos’ Layla sessions.

Even un-amplified, the guitar truly speaks in a lively resonant voice, as I learned sitting outside the back door of the Cox Capital Theater in the quiet of the Georgia night with Willie Perkins by my side: Any Duane fan would have recognized that guitar in the dark! It had the same tonal character in that Macon alleyway that it has on all of those famous recordings. After listening to that guitar thousands of times, I could barely believe it was in my hands and I was going to play it on stage.

I played my Gibson Flying V through my reissue Marshall model 1962 Bluesbreaker as we played songs from our Atlas Records CDs Live as Hell and More Live as Hell for about an hour (for that part of the show). Drummer Dave Fair, bassist Chris Perreault and I were loving the crowd and having a fine night. And then it really got special, as Willie came onstage bearing Duane’s guitar. He said, “This is my friend Duane Allman’s guitar, and I carried it all over the country, but my friend Sonny Moorman’s gonna play it tonight.”

I then invited Berry Duane Oakley, son of original ABB bassist Berry Oakley, to play with us. He came out carrying his dad’s “Tractor” bass, plugged in to Chris’s Ampeg SVT, and we started into the ABB classic “Dreams.” After that, we rolled right into “One Way Out.” Videos of both are at the bottom of this post.

I had been worried I would be too nervous to play this iconic instrument — that I would freeze up and choke at the prospect — but its current owner, Scot LaMar, had admonished me to “Play it like I stole it,” so I dedicated myself to giving it my all. From the moment I first picked it up, it could not possibly have seemed more natural for me to play that guitar. I felt absolutely and totally at home!

It was a special pleasure to play it alongside Berry Duane Oakley, who is truly his father’s son! I’ve never heard ANYONE other than his dad play those songs with the kind of feel, fire and emotion that he delivered, and the combination of Dave and Berry’s stellar playing and the magic of Duane’s guitar truly made a dream come true for me.

What was it like to play Duane Allman’s guitar? Man, we were hittin’ the note!

Very special thanks to Scot LaMar, E.J.Devokaitis, the Big House Museum, Dave Pierson, GABBA, and of course, Willie Perkins, for making this happen.


"One Way Out"

Photo: Terry Reeves Martin

For more about Sonny Moorman, visit

Add a Comment

Similar Guitar News

Essential Guitar Licks: Slippery Duane Allman-Style Mixolydian Slide Lick (9/25/2015)
We all know a great lick when we hear one—Jimmy Page’s solo breaks in “Whole Lotta Love” and Mark Knopfler’s blistering triads in “Sultans of Swing,” for example. Moments like these grab your attention and aurally brand your ears forever. Or, ...
Eric Clapton and Duane Allman's Isolated Guitar Tracks from "Layla" (4/13/2015)
We recently shared our story about Eric Clapton's isolated lead guitar track from the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." This, of course, reminded us of the equally fascinating lead guitar and vocal track from Derek and the Dominos' classi...
‘A Fool to Care’: Boz Scaggs Discusses His New Album, Working with Duane Allman and More (4/3/2015)
For his new album, A Fool to Care, Boz Scaggs once again teams up with producer Steve Jordan and puts his distinctive spin on a host of classic songs—plus a handful of new originals. The album, the follow-up to 2013's Memphis, features a guest a...
Duane Allman’s Three Beloved Les Pauls Are Reunited Onstage for the Allman Brothers’ Final Stand (12/10/2014)
Duane Allman had three primary Les Pauls during his time with the Allman Brothers Band. The 1957 goldtop he played on the band’s first two albums as well as most of the Derek and the Dominos Layla sessions has been on display at the Big House M...
Listen: Eric Clapton’s Favorite R&B Guitar Solo — Duane Allman Guests on Wilson Pickett's Cover of "Hey Jude" (11/19/2013)
"I remember hearing 'Hey Jude' by Wilson Pickett and calling either Ahmet Ertegun or Tom Dowd and saying, 'Who's that guitar player?'" says Eric Clapton in the top video below. It turns out that guitar player was a 22-year-old guitarist named Du...
Guitar Lust: The Story of Duane Allman's Long-Lost 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop (11/19/2013)
From the GW archive: This story was originally published in the January 2011 issue of Guitar World. Duane Allman played a gorgeous 1957 Les Paul goldtop for the first 18 months of his two and half years in the Allman Brothers Band. He played th...
100 Greatest Guitar Solos: No. 14 "Layla" (Eric Clapton, Duane Allman) (11/19/2013)
Seven minutes of pure, quivering passion, “Layla” was Eric Clapton’s magnificent scream of unrequited love for Patti Boyd, wife of his best friend—George Harrison. “He grabbed one of my chicks,” said Clapton of Harrison, “and so I thought I’d ge...
Gibson announces the Duane Allman 1959 Les Paul (7/19/2013)
Read more about Gibson announces the Duane Allman 1959 Les Paul at Gibson has announced the Duane Allman 1959 Cherry Sunburst Les Paul in honour of the legendary guitarist. Although he died tragically young aged 24 in 1971, Duane ...
Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time Readers Poll: Round 1 — "Layla" (Eric Clapton, Duane Allman) Vs. "No More Tears" (Zakk Wylde) (7/8/2013)
A few years ago, the editors of Guitar World magazine compiled what we feel is the ultimate guide to the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time. The list, which has been quoted by countless artists, websites and publications around the world, sta...
Video: Watch the Unboxing of 'Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective' Box Set (2/28/2013)
The new video below offers Duane Allman fans a sneak peak at the new seven-disc Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective Box Set. The set, which will be released March 5 on Rounder Records, includes rare recordings by Allman's early bands, includi...
Seven-Disc Duane Allman Box Set, 'Skydog,' Expected in March (1/28/2013)
On March 5, Rounder Records will release Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective, a deluxe, seven-disc box set. The set, which will sell for $139.98, contains Allman's best-known and most commercially successful recordings with the Allman Brother...
'Skydog: The Duane Allman Story' is Newly Revised and Expanded (9/17/2012)
Now in paperback, Randy Poe's Skydog: The Duane Allman Story (Backbeat Books) is revised and expanded, with a new afterword by the author, plus a foreword by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. It's the definitive biography of Duane Allman, one of the most...
Poll: The Greatest Guitarist of All Time, Round 4 — Stevie Ray Vaughan Vs. Duane Allman (9/10/2012)
Welcome to our first-ever Greatest Guitarist poll, where 128 132 guitarists go head to head, round by round, in a bracketed format, all to crown your choice for the Greatest Guitarist of All Time. We filled all but four of the slots with the nam...
Poll: The Greatest Guitarist of All Time, Round 3 — Duane Allman Vs. Dickey Betts (8/16/2012)
Welcome to our first-ever Greatest Guitarist poll, where 128 guitarists go head to head, round by round, in a bracketed format, all to crown your choice for the Greatest Guitarist of All Time. We filled 124 of 128 slots with the names of a host ...
Break Down Duane Allman's Style and Technique, Step by Step (8/8/2012)
The lesson book Duane Allman: A Step-by-Step Breakdown of His Guitar Styles and Techniques lets you explore the songs and solos of Southern rock guitar legend Duane Allman. It is available now at the Guitar World Online Store for $22.95.