Statesboro Blues

Album: At Fillmore East (1971)

Songfacts®:

  • "Statesboro Blues" was written and originally recorded by Blind Willie McTell, a popular blues musician who played in Georgia until his death in 1959. McTell released it as a single in 1928; in the '60s, the song found new life when several acts covered it, and in 1971 The Allman Brothers included it as the opening track on their seminal live album At Fillmore East, bringing the song to a new audience.

    The Allman Brothers version is mostly a showcase for Duane Allman's slide guitar and omits many lyrics from the original. The song is about a guy in Statesboro, Georgia, who wakes up restless - he's got the "Statesboro blues." He's ready to go on the move, leaving his mean woman behind in the process.
  • Duane Allman learned to play bottleneck slide guitar by practicing this song over and over, driving his bandmates crazy. Before forming The Allman Brothers, he and his brother Gregg were in a band called Hour Glass, which included "Statesboro Blues" in their sets.
  • Duane Allman started playing this after hearing the version by an influential blues musician named Taj Mahal, who recorded it in 1968. Duane's brother Gregg gave him the Taj Mahal album as well as a bottle of medicine for his cold; the next time Gregg saw him, Duane had emptied the bottle, washed the label off, and was using it to play slide guitar.
  • The Allman Brothers had a geographic connection with this song: They were from Macon, Georgia, about two hours away from Statesboro.
  • In the original Blind Willie McTell version, he sings:

    Have you got the nerve to drive Papa McTell from your door?

    This line gets customized to the singer. Taj Mahal went with:

    Have you got the nerve to drive poor Papa Taj from your door?

    The Allman Brothers made it:

    You got no nerve baby, to turn Uncle John from your door
  • Duane Allman died in a motorcycle crash in 1971, a few months after the At Fillmore East album was released. At his funeral on November 1, 1971, the band performed this song in tribute, with Dickey Betts playing Duane's guitar.

    After Duane's death, the band kept playing the song with Betts handling the slide guitar, something he wasn't keen on doing at first because he didn't want to compete with Duane's legend.
  • At the end of Duane Allman's guitar solo, he hit an off-key note that his brother Gregg called the "note from hell." The song made the album warts and all, as these things happen during live performances. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • A previously unreleased studio version appears on the group's 1989 5-disc box set Dreams.
  • In 1971 the song was recorded by an Illinois-based psychedelic-blues band called Farm on their lone album, also named Farm. The band had obvious talent and was nearly picked up by Canned Heat's manager, but things didn't quite work out and they ended up as one more legitimately skillful group for whom the stars simply didn't align.

    They did get something of a vindication after a German label named Shadoks re-released their album in 2013. After that, Farm developed a cult following.

Comments: 18

  • Tom from Rome, GeorgiaDon't know what you are all saying about a note from hell. I never considered it or any other "notes" by Duane a mistake. I only thought of it as a nice touch. I think it was planned, or possibly just Duane getting into position for the next part of the song. Whatever it is, it fits for me. To bring this up is just BS in my opinion.
  • Dryattz from Atlanta, GaHaving listened to Statesboro Blues hundreds (and I mean HUNDREDS) of times, I'm amazed to read that the cacophony at the end of his solo (at 2:16, I assume) has been regarded by anyone as a "bad note." "Note from hell," now I can grasp that, but I've always assumed it was deliberate on Duane's part. For around twenty seconds before, he is in flight, soaring and swooping and merrily squealing, and he decides not to set down gracefully. Thus, while Greg sings "well. . ." Duane crashlands. Now, there's an obviously off-key note around 1:57, just before Duane springs up an octave (and nowhere near the end of his magnificent solo), and I've always reckoned that he was using that raucous note as a jumping-off spot as he leapt to upper sonic realms. I return to this amazing musical masterpiece often, and still shiver when I hear Duane's slide (at 3:26) echoing Greg singing "love that woman. . ." Whew!!!
  • Jeff from Panama City , FlI agree, the gold standard is statesboro blues for slide guitar...and to think duane was only in his mid twenties when he crashed...truely amazing and gifted...I havent heard anyone before or since that could play slide like him...duane was the original "free bird" reference in skynyrd's mega guitar extravaganza.
  • Dill from Alexandria, VaI remember more than once in the early 70's being in record stores (those were stores that sold records) and it would just turn everyone's head when they'd play Statesboro Blues. There would always be some poor person going, who IS that? Every time I think slide guitar, Statesboro Blues is the gold standard.
  • Lawrence from Rimrock, United KingdomGreg Allmans death left a huge hole in the "Slide Guitar", world that can never ever be filled God took him to heaven so he could listen to him plaY!!!
  • Vince from Lantana, FlDuane #1 Dickey a close 2nd,,,Then Hendrix and Clapton......Rock on allmans!!!!!!!Vinny
  • Paul from Brooklyn, NyTo Clarify the comment by David from Orlando Fl.
    It was more than just not hitting the ending of the solo. I once heard an interview with Greg Allman and he talked about that incident. He said that at the end of his solo, Duane hit a "NOTE FROM HELL" (and if you listen carefully, you can hear that it is a bad note)Apparently Duane finished his solo and made a big mistake. Greg said that they wanted to edit out the note but at that time, were unable to do so. The song (aside from that note) was just so damn good they used it on the album. And as for that Note From Hell. They left it in.
  • David from Orlando, FlIn the definitive version--Live at Filmore East--take a close listen when Duanes' slide solo ends and the band is supposed to abruptly terminate the music to go into the break ("Well my momma died and left me, etc.). One of the guitarists--sorry, Duane, it does sound like your slide--doesn't quite hit the ending and spills over into what is supposed to be "silencio". Ah, the beauty of live recordings.
  • Vivek from Delhi, IndiaI'd like to imagine that clapton walked in at Fillmore and saw Duane playing this song.
  • Vivek from Delhi, IndiaFar as I'm concerned, this is my #1 slide song. I first heard it about 10 years back and it's still as fresh.
    Mind blowing solo and tone.
    I became Parikrama's ardent fan when i heard them covering this song.
  • Jack from Oak Ridge, NcShows off the extent to which duane allman developed slide guitar technique. The man completely revolutionized the way the instrument is played, Aad in this song his fills as well as his soloing exemplify his position as the greatest slide guitarist to ever live.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScThe original is pretty good but I like this version better! The original is growing on me though. I'm not sure wwhat to think of McTell's voice yet. It's pretty strange that I like this version better, because original versions are usually my favorites.
  • Barry from New York, NyThe Allmans played a concert in Statesoro at the Georgia Southern Gym on January 7, 1971. According to the ABB official website, the "Statesboro Blues" opener lasted for 40 minutes!!
  • Barry from New York, NyThey opened with Statesboro Blues at the first show I saw them at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. This was also one of the last times I saw them with Dickey Betts who was canned in 2000.
  • Clark from Savannah, GaIf you're ever in Statesboro, GA, you can go see the building where Willie McTell wrote this song. It's the Hattie Holloway cabin located behind the Statesboro Inn.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScI saw the Allman Brothers band in concert and they played this song. By the way, if you ever get an opportunity to go see the Allman Brothers in concert you should definitely go. They are incredible live performers. I went with my dad, and the show was great.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScThe reason I like this song, is because the slide-guitar work on ti is incredible.
  • Gary from Thetford, EnglandBlind Willie McTell's original version of 'Statesboro Blues' was recorded in Atlanta on October 17th 1928. With the song 'Three Women Blues' it was issued on the Victor label (cat. V38001)
see more comments

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