Duane Allman, Clapton, Bonamassa Tone Details

January 30, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More

From the folks at Gibson.com – who do a heck of a lot better job with their website than their Fender counterparts – are these tidbits of WoodyTone detail about Duane Allman, Eric Clapton (his Gibby-related “woman tone”), and fleet-fingered tonemeister Joe Bonamassa.

Those links are to the piece in full, all of which are worth reading, but here are some things that stood out for me:

Duane Allman

> Although Duane’s best known for playing a ’59 Cherry Sunburst Les Paul or his Cherry SG through a 50-watt Marshall head riding atop a matching 4 x 12 cabinet, arriving at that combo took years of real hunting and experimentation, both live and in the studio.

> His first notable guitar was a Telecaster with a Stratocaster neck, which then yielded to a ’54 Strat. At the start, Duane was a Fender man; the Twin-Reverb was his favorite. He use a Fuzz Face distortion box, and legend has it he’d only use run-down batteries to power his pedal, believing their low voltage yielded a warmer sound.

> When he formed the Allman Brothers Band in 1969, Dickey Betts already had a fatter, more aggressive sound generated via his Gibson ES-345 and ’68 SG. So Duane also got an ES-345, soon followed by a ’57 Les Paul Gold Top with PAF pick-ups, and then a Cherry Sunburst Les Paul. He kept the Gold Top’s pickups, and swapped them into the Sunburst.

> Billy Gibbons found Duane’s most significant guitar acquisition for him in 1971: a ’58 Tobacco Sunburst Les Paul. He used it on the classic Eat a Peach and The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East albums. As he’d switched to Gibson guitars he also switched to Marshall amps, and those discs in particular capture the thick, buttery, distortion-colored tone that became his signature. Late in ’71 Duane got his Cherry SG, too – from Dickey – thus completing the essentials of his sonic arsenal.

> Duane’s and Dickey’s Marshall cabinets were modified. They were half open-backed and instead of the 25-watt Celestion greenbacks had JBL-D120s for a cleaner sound. Duane also used circular picking to soften his attack and increase his speed.

WT commentary: The world misses you, DA!

Eric Clapton

> For zeroing in on “Woman Tone,” a powerful neck-position pickup is essential. Start by turning your guitar’s tone dials all the way off. Next, place the pickup selector switch in the middle position. Now roll the bridge pickup’s volume to about six or seven, and crank the neck pickup all the way up to 10.

> Clapton used a Marshall 50-watt head through a 4×12 cabinet with 25-watt Celestion greenbacks running full out – volume, bass, midrange and treble all set on 10.

> Try adding a wah-wah. Leave the pedal cocked at a high angle at various stationary positions to see what a little signal attenuation brings to the game.

WT commentary: I’m a bridge pickup guy (some Strat and P-90 neck tones), so I can’t really get into this. But it’s interesting!

Joe Bonamassa

> Bonamassa’s current live rig rests on a classic foundation of Gibsons and Marshall and Marshall-style amplification. Among his six-strings are four Custom Shop Historic ’59 Les Pauls as well as his Joe Bonamassa Inspired By model.

> He runs four amp heads on stage: a 100-watt Silver Jubilee Marshall, a Category Five Joe Bonamassa JB-100 (based on Marshall’s ’68 Super Lead Plexi), a Two Rock 100-watt Signature 1 and a Van Wheeldon Twinkleland. The Silver Jubilee provides Bonamassa’s core sound, and the three other heads are switched in and out. His cabinets are Mojos with EV-12-L speakers.

> Effects are a Vox Wah-Wah, a Fuzz-Face Bonamassa owns that was custom made for Eric Johnson, a Gas Pedal clean boost, and a Tube Screamer.

WT commentary: I had the good fortune to see Joe when he was just starting his solo career, in a very small place. His playing and singing was just incredible. And his tone? Woody to the max.

Category: Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, Gibson, Joe Bonamassa, Les Paul

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. hgriffin1 says:

    Correction – Duane Allman’s Les Paul: Billy Gibbons introduced Duane Allman to the person who found the Sunburst Les Paul. The other common rumor is that the guitar was owned by Christopher Cross (Ride Like The Wind). The real story is that Kurt Linhof, a vintage guitar dealer, found and sold the guitar to Duane. Duane told Linhof that he wanted a late ’50s Sunburst Les Paul when Gibbons introduced them. Linhof was contacted by a guy who happened to be friends in high school Chris Cross. He told Linhof he had a repaired Les Paul for sale. The guitar had just been fixed because the headstock had broken off and a new neck was installed. Linhoff gave the guy $160 for it plus a stripped ’54 Strat. Linhof delivered the Les Paul along with several Fender Bassman Tweed amps and a ’60 Fender Jazz Bass that went to Berry Oakley on the afternoon of 6/25/71. The build year of the Les Paul is a mystery but it was likely built between ’57 – ’60.

    Duane’s other famous Les Paul, the ’58 that Duane played during the Fillmore East Concerts was acquired in a swap with the guitar player from a band named “The Stone Balloon” in Daytona Beach. The story is that Duane had a couple of his roadies, one being Red Dog, swap the PAFs into the ’58 from his Gold Top. The pickup swap occurred while Duane and the owner went to get cash for settling the deal.

Leave a Reply