(Gibson) For more than 20 years, from 1971 till 1992, Duane Allman's famous 1959 Cherry Burst Les Paul was played, cared for, and cherished by one man: Joe Marshall. Duane befriended Marshall in late 1966, when the Allman Joys were based in St. Louis. Duane and Gregg often subsequently stayed with Marshall at his parents' home whenever the band was in town. The friendship between Duane and Joe was singular and special, but it also exemplified the loyalty Duane demonstratedand inspiredtoward those closest to him. Marshall's ex-wife Christine recalls that, in the years following Duane's death, the Cherry Burst served as "a connect with Duane."
"I remember one occasion where Joe left the guitar in the car overnight," she says. "It was secluded, so there was no danger of it being stolen, but it got a little cold out. The next day, when Joe realized what he had done, he ran out brought the guitar inside. For 20 minutes he kept wiping the guitar, almost as if to warm it. As he rubbed polish on it he spoke to it, or to Duane, saying he was sorry about the mishap and would never let it happen again. That was the only time I observed him letting his feelings about the guitar be known. He never left it outside again."
Today, Marshall suffers from a health condition that makes speaking difficult. Some of his responses to the questions below, therefore, were compiled from remembrances he shared with family and close friends. Other commentary was gathered from memories he either wrote down himself or expressed in a previously recorded interview. What emerges from Marshall's fond recollections is not only the tremendous regard he had for Duane, but, by inference, a portrait of the degree of devotion Duane felt toward those he considered friends.
As regards the '59 Cherry Burst, Marshall ultimately presented it to Duane's daughter, Galadrielle, in accordance with an informal understanding and a love for Duane. Below are Marshall's remarkable remembrances of the man who came to be known as Skydog.
How did you first meet Duane?: A friend and I first met the bandback when they were the Allman Joys-- at a place called Pepe's A Go-Go, in St. Louis. This was in November of 1966. We were passing by and heard them playing The Beatles' "Drive My Car." We peeked through an opening in the drapes and saw this young guy playing guitar. His hair was nearly down to his shoulders, and he was rocking back and forth as he played. When they took a break we met the band outside, and they invited us up to their apartment above the nightclub.
What was their live set like?: Well, we were too young to go inside the club, but Duane took care of that. He said they weren't 21, either, and told us to come on and follow them. We obediently marched in behind them and sat down. They took the stage and before the set began, Gregg dedicated the next group of tunes to their "new friends from St. Louis." Then they started playing stuff by The Yardbirds, The Animals, The Byrds, the Stones and some blues tunes we'd never heard. It was as if we had been struck by lightning. More.