Renowned studio guitarist and solo artist Pete Carr was there the night Duane Allman was inspired to learn slide guitar. At the time, Pete was bassist in the Hour Glass, Duane and Gregg Allman’s final lineup before the Allman Brothers Band. He and Duane were sharing an apartment in Los Angeles. One evening they chanced to see Taj Mahal perform at a local club. Taj’s guitarist, Jesse Ed Davis, bottlenecked through a rip-roaring band version of Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues.” According to Pete, Duane instantly became obsessed with mastering both the style and the song, which he’d transform into the Allman Brothers’ signature tune. Pete’s time playing alongside Duane was short-lived – about a year – but resulted in two memorable projects: the Hour Glass’ Power of Love album, and the stellar “B.B. King Medley” that begins Duane Allman: An Anthology. They remained friends until Duane’s death in 1971.
Pete, who’d grown up in Daytona Beach, spent a decade as the lead guitarist for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and eventually branched into engineering and producing. His band LeBlanc & Carr had a 1978 hit with “Falling” and landed the opening slot on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ill-fated Street Survivor’s tour. After Skynyrd’s fatal plane crash, Carr returned to full-time studio work. He played the memorable solos on Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night,” and was the guitarist of choice for the 1981 Simon & Garfunkel Reunion Tour that climaxed with a performance for a half-million fans in Central Park. Other stand-out Carr parts can be heard on Bob Seger’s “Mainstreet,” Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome,” Barbra Streisand’s “Make It Like a Memory” and “Woman in Love,” and Rod Stewart’s “Sailing.” To learn more about Pete’s storied career and recording credits, visit his website at http://www.playthatguitar.com/
In 1981, I was preparing materials for my Duane Allman cover story for Guitar Player magazine. Several friends of Duane suggested I contact Pete, who graciously agreed to do an interview. Portions were assembled into a brief as-told-to feature in magazine. Here, for the first time, is our complete conversation.
Can you tell me about the first time you met Duane?
Yeah. There’s a club here in town, in Daytona, called the Martinique. I was 16 and starting to play, and I had heard of Duane as being a good guitar player.
What year would this have been?
Oh, ’65, ’66. They had started here in Daytona and played clubs like the Martinique and things like that. I had just started playing at the club, and they were gone. They were up north – I think in Greenwich Village – with their band the Allman Joys. They were playing in Greenwich Village for people up there, and then they came back into town to come home for a while, because they lived here too, in South Daytona. So they came in and I met him. I watched them play – they came up and jammed a little bit. Started talkin’ to ’em. I went up to Gregg and says, “Hey, think you can teach me some guitar things?”
Was Gregg playing guitar?
Yeah, he plays a little guitar. But I think he was playing organ – he had a Farfisa or a Vox organ or something. And he says, “Well, that’s really that’s not my department. That’s my brother’s department.” [Laughs.] Which is funny. So I started talking to Duane and watching him play, went to their house and visited them. Since I was a guitar player, and there wasn’t really that many musicians here in town, we kind of hung out.
The Hour Glass, 1968, with Pete Carr on bass
When did you start playing in a band with them?
That was about ’67, ’68, I guess.
You played bass?
Right. This was the Hour Glass.
And how long were you with them?
About a year, something like that.
Are the two Hour Glass albums an accurate representation of the band’s sound?
Of the Hour Glass?
Yeah, because you read about how different they sounded in clubs.
[Long pause.] See, there’s two Hour Glass albums. There’s one before I joined them [1967’s The Hour Glass], and I wouldn’t say that was that close to the band. But some of it was kind of close to what they were doing at that time. It was a little more produced than the type of stuff they were doing. Then the second one [1968’s Power of Love], when I got with them, it was pretty close to what we were doing in the band at that time. You know, I’ve heard people say, “Well, wasn’t nothin’ like you wanted to do,” but hell, that’s what we were doing at that time, especially the second one. It wasn’t exactly all we wanted to do, because we wanted to do more blues things. Which we did a few things. We came to Muscle Shoals and did two or three things – I don’t know if that’s on that album or not, but I think it’s on another one they put out. [Here Pete is likely referring to the “B.B. King Medley” recorded at Fame Recording Studio in April 1968 and released on Duane Allman: An Anthology.]
What was your impression of Duane’s playing when you first began working with him?
Oh, I thought he was great! He was right on top of anything new – I know that. Like the first time I met him, when he came back from Greenwich Village, he had all these fuzz things – distortion boxes, we call them now. Any kind of new sound or anything, he was always on top of it.
How often did he play?
Oh, he played all the time. We’d go to his house, he would sit around, pull out a guitar, and sit there and play some things.
Did he play a lot of acoustic?
When I first met him, he didn’t play much acoustic. He played mostly electric. When I first met him, he had a Telecaster with a fuzztone – a little square box. I don’t know whether it was a Vox fuzz or something – strapped on the side of it. He got that from the guys in Greenwich Village. When they were up there, they met the Blues Magoos, and they got to be good friends with them. I think he picked up a lot of that stuff from them guys up in New York – got the fuzz and things like that. So they were pretty influenced by what was happening in New York, Greenwich Village clubs, at that time when they came back.
Do you happen to know how Duane learned bottleneck?
Yep. I know exactly how. We were in L.A., and Taj Mahal was playing in a club. Jesse Davis was playing with him there, and they did a thing called “Statesboro Blues.” It was on one of their albums also, and Jesse Davis played slide guitar on it. [See the Jesse Ed Davis article for more on this.] It really turned Duane on. Like I said, any time he saw something that he was into – if he liked it – he would really get into it. And he started bottlenecking a lot of stuff. So he learned “Statesboro Blues.” The band, we started doing “Statesboro Blues.” So Duane started bottlenecking. He started practicing that, and he started playing bottleneck about as much as anything. He’d sit around the apartment a lot and practice with the bottleneck.
Did he use a glass one?
I’m not sure if he used a glass or if it was a bar or what. I’m not really sure.
How would you describe Duane’s bottleneck style? Did he do anything unusual?
No, not really. No, he just took the regular guitar and used a bottle on it.
And he played in regular tuning?
I’m not sure. I really don’t know. I know later he played in different tunings – I don’t know whether he did or not from the beginning. [See the John Hammond interview for details on how Duane learned about sliding in an open tuning.]
Pete Carr in 1968
What caused the Hour Glass to break up?
Okay, what happened was it just wasn’t happening with the band out there in L.A.
Where were you living?
In Hollywood. Me and Duane had an apartment. Gregg lived next door, and [Johnny] Sandlin and [Paul] Hornsby lived around the same complex there. And it just wasn’t happening. It just seemed like everybody started wanting to go in different directions. Sandlin was getting very unhappy. Duane was getting unhappy. You know, people just didn’t seem that they liked what was happening, as far as the record companies or anything like that. Personally, I don’t think it was too much anybody’s fault. I think it was just a victim of circumstances and time. Hey, you know, it just wasn’t the time to happen, I guess. So we all left. Me and Duane came back. Gregg stayed. The manager – he wanted to do a solo thing with him. [See the John McEuen interview for more details about this project and Gregg’s time alone in L.A.] And me and Duane drove a van back to Florida and hung out here for a while. Then Duane went down to Miami, did a few sessions. I went down there and did some sessions. He started getting into session work up in Muscle Shoals and places like that, and I started to go down to Miami with Johnny Sandlin and started a studio down there.
After that, we got a call from Phil Walden and we went to Macon, because he was putting a studio together. And also, he was wanting Duane to come to Macon. He wanted to be Duane’s manager. He had heard “Hey Jude” by Wilson Pickett, which Duane had done in Muscle Shoals because he was doing session work. And I think Jerry Wexler was the head of Atlantic Records at that time, and he was also putting a new record label together, which was Capricorn. And so Duane came over and talked to Phil, and they agreed to let Phil be his manager and be on Capricorn Records. And Duane started putting the band together. He got in touch with Gregg out in L.A., talked him into coming back to be the singer of the band. [See the Gregg Allman interview for more about this.] And so Gregg came back, and they started putting it all together there in Macon. That was the Allman Brothers Band.
Did you see the band play very often?
Yeah, quite a bit.
Could you describe how Duane’s style changed over the time you knew him?
Yeah. When I first knew him, it was more or less a copy band. They were doing tunes by other groups and seeing how close you could get to doing the tunes – get the guitar parts right and the licks and things like that. That went through for a pretty long time, and gradually, after the Allman Brothers, they started not worrying too much about other people’s tunes and just started stretching out and playing. So they could really develop their own playing thing, and they could just get into what they were doing more instead of trying to copy a record. They just got to the point where they were making their own records [laughs] – let some people copy them!
Do you think Duane’s progressed a lot in a few years?
Oh, yeah. In a lot of ways. Guitar-playing wise, and also the mental approach to it. Like I said, from copying to more or less being more creative from inside instead of looking to the outside for it.
What do you feel he contributed to the guitar?
[Long pause.] Let me see. Well, I think he took bottleneck a long, long way to people who really hadn’t heard that much bottleneck – blues-rock guitar bottleneck, anyway. Just a lot of openness. When I say that, I mean as far as the playing style goes. He brought a little more freedom – not so much locked into a certain thing. You know, if you wanted to jam for a few minutes on a tune, you could do it.
What kind of a guy was Duane outside of music?
Ah, great. He was very energetic – I know that. Like I said, he was very enthusiastic about any new thing. When we went to see Jesse Davis, man – from then on, bam! With “Statesboro Blues,” he started playing bottleneck, playing bottleneck. Loved bottleneck. I know both Gregg and Duane were really, really influenced by any person that impressed them. They’d see somebody, and you could just really tell what was on their mind. It would spur them on.