Born on November 9, 1970, it’s regarded by many to be Eric Clapton’s best work. Slowhand is joined by Bobby Whitlock on keyboards and vocals, Jim Gordon on drums, Carl Radle on bass, with special guest performer Duane Allman on lead and slide guitar on 11 of the 14 songs. (Still, after all these years, Allman’s “bird chirps” at the end of Layla still make me well up.)
Veteran producer Tom Dowd was working on the Allman Brothers second album, Idlewild South, when the studio received a phone call that Clapton was bringing the Dominos to Miami to record. Upon hearing this, guitarist Duane Allman indicated that he would love to drop by and watch, if Clapton approved.
Allman later called Dowd to let him know that his band was in town to perform a benefit concert on 26 August. When Clapton learned of this he insisted on going to see their show, saying, “You mean that guy who plays on the back of (Wilson Pickett’s) ‘Hey Jude’? … I want to
see him play … let’s go.” Stage hands seated Clapton and company in front of the barricade separating the audience from the stage. When they sat down, Duane was playing a solo. As he turned around and opened his eyes and saw Clapton, he froze. Dickey Betts, the Allmans’ other lead guitarist, picked up where Duane left off, but when he followed Duane’s eyes to Clapton, he had to turn his back to keep from freezing, himself.
After the show, Duane asked Clapton if he could come by the studio to watch some recording sessions, but Eric invited him there directly, saying: “Bring your guitar; you got to play!” Jamming together overnight, the two bonded; Dowd reported that they “were trading licks, they were swapping guitars, they were talking shop and information and having a ball – no holds barred, just admiration for each other’s technique and facility.”
Clapton wrote later in his autobiography that he and Duane were inseparable during the sessions in Florida; he talked about Duane as the “musical brother I’d never had but wished I did.
“Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” is #117 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.