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Iconic Guitars in History Part 1 - Duane Allman and Peter Green
When I started playing guitar way back in 1974, I had no idea what a Gibson Les Paul or a Fender Stratocaster was. I only knew that any guitar with strings, lots of knobs and shiny color was cool. When I would go to the Woolworth or Musicland store, I would stand and stare at the guitars hanging on the wall. There were guitars in red sunburst, green sunburst, black, or white, with two, three, even four pickups and lots of switches. These cheap imports were every bit as amazing as the Gibsons and Fenders. Until I found out what my favorite guitarist actually played.
There are many iconic musicians in the world, ones who broke new ground and created a new style of music. I thought it would be interesting to write about the guitars these musicians used. These are the guitars that were used to forge those tones we all love. Here are two of the iconic guitars used by the musicians who influenced me in my early days of learning how to play to guitar.
Duane Allman’s 1957 Goldtop Les Paul. Duane bought this Les Paul before forming the Allman Brothers Band. He was using Fender Stratocasters while working as a session player at Muscle Shoals Studio. He wanted a thicker sound, and impressed with Eric Clapton and others using Les Pauls, switched over. This particular Les Paul was made in 1957, and was used on the first two Allman Brothers Bands records, The Allman Brothers Band and Idlewild South. This guitar is present on the Atlantic Pop Festival CD, the amazing video filmed at Love Valley, and was the guitar used for most of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, including on the track Layla. While in Florida during the Layla sessions, he traded this guitar for a 1958 Les Paul in cherry sunburst. He retained the pickups from the goldtop and put them in his “new” sunburst. The goldtop Les Paul went through a few owners before being sold in 1977 to Scott Lamar. He refinished the guitar, as it was somewhat damaged, and has loaned it to the Allman Brothers Band museum at the Big House in Macon, Georgia.The guitar has been played by many well-known artists, most notably Derek Trucks and Vince Gill. Vince used this guitar during a concert in Macon, and broke into a Duane-style solo, incorporating a few signature licks and songs into it. Vince is an incredible guitarist. He made this guitar sing again.
I picked this guitar as my first iconic guitar, as it was the one Duane used to set the Allman Brothers Band in motion. However, if you listen to Duane play a Stratocaster on his sessions with Aretha Frankin, Wilson Pickett and Boz Scaggs, among many others, you will hear his distinctive sound, proving that tone is indeed in the fingers.
Duane Allman on the Goldtop - Love Valley
My second iconic guitar was Peter Green's, who used a 1959 Gibson Les Paul to make his mark while playing with Fleetwood Mac in the late 1960s. I have found no info on where he obtained this Les Paul, but that is not important. It is what he did with this guitar that mattered. He used this guitar to record most of the Fleetwood Mac albums, along with a Stratocaster to add variety. The tone he got from this Les Paul has been copied by many guitarists. But being that there is only one Peter Green, no one can duplicate exactly the sounds he got from it.
The Les Paul had the neck pickup turned around, supposedly during a repair, giving the guitar a distinct sound that no one else had. He left it as it was, and of course, guitarists today can be seen doing the same thing.
This guitar is famous for another reason. Peter sold it to a young Gary Moore, who used this guitar for much of his career in Thin Lizzy and as a solo artist. Before his death, Gary sold this guitar with much controversy. The details are complicated, not worth going into here, and the guitar remains for sale for over $1 million.
Peter gave away his possessions in the early 1970s and lived doing other work for many years, due to his drug addictions and mental illness. He has been in the background, touring here and there, releasing music along the way. But he is not the same as he was back then. But that is ok. He is still here on earth, making music the best he can. He still influences guitarists around the world with the music he made with this guitar.