How Duane Allman’s Death Changed Everything for Joe Walsh
Duane Allman's death in a motorcycle accident led to an important shift in playing style and then a signature song for Joe Walsh.
"In 1971, Duane Allman died, and Joe was a big fan," longtime Walsh drummer Joe Vitale told Rolling Stone. "He loved Duane Allman, and Duane was a terrific slide-guitar player. When Duane died, Joe started playing slide. He never played slide until then. He may have messed around, but he wasn't serious about it until then."
Vitale said Walsh quickly took to the new approach, so much so that their producer suggested he add a showcase moment to 1973's The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get.
"What happened is we were one song shy on the Smoker album [and] we needed one more song based on the contract," Vitale noted. "Our producer Bill Szymczyk said, 'Why don't you guys write something to show off Joe's new slide-guitar talent?" We said, 'Oh, perfect.'"
Watch Joe Walsh Perform 'Rocky Mountain Way'
Walsh, Vitale and Barnstorm bandmates Kenny Passarelli and Rocke Grace came up with "Rocky Mountain Way," one of the tunes now most associated with the future Eagles star.
"What more of a perfect song to show off slide guitar?" Vitale said. "It was just an extra song we needed, one more song for the contract. Contracts say you got to have so many songs per album." They then gathered together in the studio and nailed "Rocky Mountain Way" in one take.
"It was so good that we didn’t try to beat it," Vitale added. "Then we were done with the album. Little did we know, that became Joe's flagship song of his whole career. We were in Colorado, so Joe wrote about the Rocky Mountains. It was one of those fun, little things. It turns out to be a classic classic-rock song. We got BMI Awards for millions of airplay. It's a classic song."
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