The Allman Brothers Band

The Serendipity of Two Musical Heroes: Duane Allman and John Coltrane

By: David Gardiner

I encountered your website for the first time today. I have enjoyed the Allman Brothers since I listened to them in high school in the early 1970s. I saw them live once but shortly after Duane died. I have long found inspiration in his guitar playing, and have often felt a remarkable similarity between the effect his playing has on me and the effect of another of my musical heroes, John Coltrane. Every now and then when no one else is home, this middle-aged father and college professor will play loudly one of my early ABB favorites, such as “Mountain Jam” from Eat a Peach.

I will clear out the family room so that I can move freely about in my idiosyncratic dancing style. Duane’s solos on “Mountain Jam” (and the same goes for “Blue Sky” or for “Whipping Post” on the live at Fillmore album) inspire me to dance for an hour or more (with repeats) while I work up a great sweat swirling around the room in motions that are as expressive and diverse as I know. I am no dancer, but Duane makes me want to fly, and I can bounce in a rockish rhythm, sail in a ballet-like turn, and just generally wear out the carpet in the best mood I can make. I am exhilarated, relaxed and high as a kite (no chemicals for decades). Strangely, the only other music that can do that to me is John Coltrane’s, in particular his “My Favorite Things.” I do the same thing: when the house is empty I put on Coltrane and enter a world of whirling wonder for an hour or so. I must burn off so many calories and so, so happily.

I have often felt that these two musical geniuses share something, if only because of the way they can make me feel and the way they inspire me to want to move as powerfully and as gracefully as I can (I truly feel inspired and blessed when I hear, and especially dance to, their music). I feel a great surge of power and feeling in their music that I can only call spiritual. I feel that each of them is reaching in their music to express very deep and powerful human feelings and ways of knowing that are at times triumphant yet simultaneously tender, sad and even joyous. They can make me cry tears of bliss. I feel when I listen and dance that I am sharing in their exploration of the heights and depths of human feeling, and it is so powerfully alive to do so.

And so you may imagine the mind-blowing experience I had today when in perusing your web links I found the recording of a 1970 radio interview with Duane in which he spoke of some of his favorite music. Apparently on the show he played several songs on the air, but all of them were not included in this recording except for one. He mentioned the power of John Coltrane’s music and offered to play a recording of the 1963 studio version of “My Favorite Things.” I was stunned. There in Duane’s calm yet steady prose (he was a damn mature fellow for around 23), he confirmed what I had only felt, but still knew, for years: that he and John Coltrane shared a musical and a spiritual affinity. Hearing Duane praise Coltrane, and then playing that song, was like having two strangely disparate strands of my life come together into one. How beautiful a confirmation.

I always knew how spiritual John Coltrane was, and had read some about his life. As for Duane, I had never read a thing but still knew in my bones that he was exploring and expressing deep and even glorious realms of human being, touching heaven and sharing its humanly embodied tone with us through his music. That interview gave flesh to my shy intuition, and I suppose even strengthened my appreciation (devotion?) for his musical accomplishments. I will listen to him more intently from now, though I would have thought before today that such was not possible.

Thanks for your website.

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