by Mike Boulware
One of the things I set out to do was try to determine if possible which of the classic ABB songs Duane used the Gold Top to record; this was made difficult by the fact that even those who were present sometimes remember different things.
In Randy Poe’s book, "Skydog, the Duane Allman Story", there are three different accounts of how Gregg got back to Florida from California, one of them by Gregg himself! So, I relied upon my memory of seeing the Brothers at different shows, other players that were present or on the bill, and studio logs from known records. These also can be suspect at best; for example, the Layla log shows overdubs on October 1970, when the Brothers were back on the road again. Bobby Whitlock states that the Layla album was done before Duane left. He also has rendered a beautiful heartfelt note confirming that this is the main instrument Duane used in this period, and was very adamant about it being THE guitar on Layla.
So, we find from the logs that there are two sets of Fillmore East recordings; one, in Feb 1970, from the Grateful Dead’s board, and the better known, definitive version, from March 1971, AFTER Duane sold the Gold Top. I would argue that the Gold Top was the guitar he used for the longest period, at least some of 1969, and most of 1970, encompassing the first set of Fillmore recordings, the first Allman Brothers album, Idlewild South, and the Layla sessions. As Tom Dowd points out repeatedly, the band was ready long before they were finally able to capture a great performance, and as Duane himself said, "it’s easy to make a great record, very hard to capture a great performance".
He also used the guitar for many live shows, including the Atlanta Pop Festival, Love Valley, and others. If you simply add up the time, the classic recordings, and don’t even count Layla, you find that he owned the plain top burst for less time than the Gold Top, and with the exception of “... at the Fillmore”, recorded his most lauded works on it as well.
You all know the songs already; Dreams, Revival, Whipping Post, Statesboro Blues, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, Midnight Rider…the list goes on forever, just like the road. If you now add in the Layla sessions, you see why I regard this as Duane’s most important guitar. There is no way to hold this and not feel an eerie sense of incomplete destiny, and if you can pick it up and NOT play the lick to Layla, you’re a better man or woman than I am!
So, there is where my own ”Tone Definition” came from, and I contend we are all different people because of hearing Duane, a man who let his soul shine through his playing, and did his most eloquent talking with his mouth closed and his ears and heart open.