Duncan’s Ditty of the Day

Number 1 in an occasional series.

There are some things that after they’ve been seen or heard, life is never quite the same. The posts “Totaalvoetbal” and “The Truth About Catalonia” are about that. Obviously personal events like getting married (or divorced?) or having children also fall into that category. But for me the majority are musical. So I intend to instigate an occasional little series around musical events that changed me – albeit imperceptibly, perhaps –  forever.

People of my age and gender missed the Beatles, the British Blues Boom and the hippies of the Sixties, unaware that we were only a heartbeat away from the “progressive” era, and grew up exposed to the Zeppelin – Purple – Sabbath triumvirate. All well and good. Of course there was some other good stuff around – Eric Clapton, tired of the “God” moniker and his membership of “supergroups”, sought  anonymity among some American musicians, eventually emerging as a (ordinary?) member of Derek and the Dominos. The album Layla and Other Love Stories still sounds good today, despite it’s apparent genesis in a drug-induced haze.

One day, as I was browsing a local record store, I came across, quite by chance, an album called Duane Allman – an Anthology. I’d heard of, but not heard, the Allman Brothers Band at that time, and knew that they were huge in America. I also knew that Allman had died in an accident. That was the sum total of my knowledge. But Layla was on there, and it turned out that Allman had played on the album, although not an official member of Derek and the Dominos. So I bought it.

There were four sides. At the end of side 1 was an old blues classic that Allman had recorded under his own name – Goin’ Down Slow. I’d never heard it before, but apparently it’s very much a blues standard. The best known recording was that of Chester Burnett (Howlin’ Wolf) but anybody who is anybody seems to have recorded it at sometime. This includes Huey Lewis, and the mind boggles to think what that must sound like.

Never mind, it was the Allman version I heard. He had a passable voice, even though he didn’t sing in his own band. And the Les Paul…This song taught me the sheer power of the blues and I’ve never forgotten it. It introduced me to the great bluesmen of the deep south – Muddy Waters, Bukka White, Albert King, Robert Johnson – and their imitators – Clapton, Peter Green, Stevie Ray Vaughan et al. If anyone plays this video, I recommend they turn the volume up.


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