Duane Allman is one of America’s most treasured musicians. The late, great guitarist is responsible for some of the finest licks and solos you’ve ever heard and while his name but not quite reach the heights of Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix; there’s a good argument to be had that Allman, in all his understated glory, rivals their talents. One such song where he truly shone was The Allman Brothers Band hit ‘Blue Sky’, and below, we’re checking out his dynamic isolated guitar.
The song was released back in 1972 as part of the band’s third record Eat a Peach and has since been revered as one of their finest moments on tape. The single was penned by the band’s guitarist Dickey Betts who wrote the song for his then-girlfriend, Sandy “Bluesky” Wabegijig but it is most neatly remembered as one of Duane Allman’s final recordings before his sad death.
The first song on which Betts took vocal duty, ‘Blue Sky,’ has remained a universally adored piece of music, largely because Betts made sure the track was open to interpretation. “Once I got into the song, I realised how nice it would be to keep the vernaculars—he and she—out and make it like you’re thinking of the spirit like I was giving thanks for a beautiful day. I think that made it broader and more relatable to anyone and everyone,” he later said.
Initially, Betts had hoped that the band’s lead singer, Greg Allman, would take vocal duties on the number, but he found opposition, mainly in the form of Duane Allman. Duane was keen to ensure that the man behind the lyrics got his chance to sing them and reportedly said: “Man, this is your song, and it sounds like you and you need to sing it.”
Betts may well have taken the lead vocals in the end, but it was Duane Allman who perhaps shone brightest on the track with his quintessential lead guitar lick and perhaps some of his final notes. “As I mixed songs like ‘Blue Sky,’ I knew, of course, that I was listening to the last things that Duane ever played, and there was just such a mix of beauty and sadness, knowing there’s not going to be any more from him,” said producer, Johnny Sandlin.
Allman and Betts actually do a great job of delivering some awe-inspiring solos, with both of the guitarists switching roles between playing “lead” and “rhythm lead”, but with the isolated track of Allman’s guitar, he steals the show. It’s the kind of performance that confirms him as one of the true greats of the instrument, showcasing a unique blend of delicate moments and powerhouse performance.
Listen below to Duane Allman’s isolated guitar for the Allman Brothers Band song ‘Blue Sky’.