Pass it Around
Duane Allman and Albert King help write the Greatest Riff in Rock History
Duane Allman and Albert King help write the Greatest Riff in Rock History.
Eric Clapton has been effusive about Guitar playing bluesman Albert King over the years, and no wonder... few know the lick which begins Layla came from Albert. By way Of Duane Allman, who put the riff on the song. The composition is credited to Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon on record, but Allman had the riff, which is a revved-up version of the vocal track here by Albert King. It appears on Born Under a Bad Sign which was King's second long player released in 1967.
As for who composed the song? If not actually Albert King? It is credited to minor black mobster Deadric Malone, the pseudonym of Don Robey. According to Josh Alan Friedman, Dirty Don once shot a pistol at Little Richard's head...but if it was really Don who came up with the riff, we can forgive him. Except that he was a crook and he didn't.
Layla stiffed on the original release as a less than three minute single. It didn't become one of the most famous songs in rock history until after Duane's death, when his unfortunate early demise renewed interest in the song, but then was the seven minute version on Clapton's Derek and the Dominos album. Layla was recorded on the very last day of recording for the disc.
By the way, It is also Duane making the mysterious "bird" sounds at the end…and as far as I know there is no filmed footage of him doing it. How did Duane make the bird sound on a guitar? A little mystery is good.
Here is the lick. Even if you don't read music, you can figure it out…just trace your fingers along. The note with the hole? It's a whole note. (Long).
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