With Gregg Allman’s passing, a brief reminiscence on his late brother Duane

Duane Allman
Duane Allman

As improbable — and perhaps unbelievable — as it may seem, the second-ever mention of rock ’n’ roll legend Duane Allman’s name in print in The Telegraph came on a Saturday morning in late October 1971.

That mention appeared in a front-page article, in a story reporting the Macon motorcycle crash that claimed the musician’s life at age 24.

That revelation and seeming oversight was not at all the slight that it may seem in hindsight. The fledgling Allman Brothers Band as a whole had, at that point, appeared in the newspaper here only a couple of dozen times.

What it shows is just how young the musicians were. How their careers had just launched. And how now, nearly half a century later with the death of Gregg Allman at 69, when we look back on all they accomplished, we may just assume they were megastars from the get-go.

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Duane Allman Michael Ochs Archives/Corbis

The one previous Telegraph story that mentioned Duane Allman by name — he of the virtuosic guitar licks who had played with the likes Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton and Wilson Pickett — came in a July 1970 review of the band’s performance at the Atlanta International Pop Festival on the eastern outskirts of Byron:

Although comprised of out-of-towners, this band’s members consider themselves Maconites. While the band was tuning their instruments, Duane Allman did a run and received a standing ovation due to his popularity with the crowd.

The review went on to mention wild applause for songs like “Whipping Post” and “Black Hearted Woman,” and how the group’s sound ran the gamut from “country funky, complete with sliding guitar and gospel-influenced harmonics.”

The write-up on Allman’s death 15 months later gave him his due:

Duane Allman, founder and lead singer of the nationally prominent Macon-based Allman Brothers Band, was killed last night when his motorcycle spun out of control. ... Frank Fenter, president of Capricorn Records for whom the Allman Brothers recorded, described Allman as the “world’s premier rock guitarist.”

Now with the passing of Duane’s brother, Gregg, the legendary siblings will share neighboring final resting places in Rose Hill Cemetery.

A fitting epitaph might go along the lines of something Fenter, the late Capricorn Records man, said in the hours after Duane’s death 45 years ago: “His most memorable achievement was in forming the Allman Brothers Band. It was certainly the (most) communally artistic rock and roll band ever seen or heard.”

The music notes bordering Duane Allman's tombstone are from the song “Little Martha.” Telegraph archives

Joe Kovac Jr.: 478-744-4397, @joekovacjr