Written by the immensely talented Duane Allman. Such a sweet little tune. He recorded it a few weeks before his death in 1971, in a motorbike accident at the age of 24. Leo Kottke, who ought to know, called this ''the most perfect guitar song ever written''. My version doesn't do justice to it. It's well worth hearing both the original and Kottke's cover of it. It was Simon Trought's idea to name the album after this song.
"From Duane Allman, co-founder and leader of the Allman BrothersBand, much sought after session musician and damn fine slide guitarist.
Howard Duane Allman was born in Nashville, Tennessee alongside his brother Gregg, (bandmate and future husband of Cher), were raised by their mother after their father was murdered when Duane was just 3-years-old.
Although Gregg was given a guitar and Duane a motorcycle for Christmas in 1960, when Duane wrecked the bike in an accident he sold the spares and bought himself a guitar.
The brothers formed several bands from 1965 onwards, initially The Kings then the Allman Joys and finally Hourglass after moving to Los Angeles – 2 albums were released on Liberty Records but failed to take off.
Following some amazing but frustrating session work in Muscle Shoals with the likes of Clarence Carter, Percy Sledge, Boz Scaggs, Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin, Duane returned to his home in Florida and formed finally the Allman Brothers Band in 1969.
During his time as a session guy Duane had perfected his electric slide guitar technique, using an empty Coricidin (strong cough medicine and recreational drug) glass bottle over his ring finger as a slide, which would become his trademark in the band he then formed in Macon, Georgia with his brother Gregg, The Allman Brothers Band.
Fusing country, blues, rock and soul they toured non-stop and produced the first taste of what would become known as southern rock. They recorded 3 studio albums and a live album recorded at the Fillmore East, which saw immediate success and achieved critical acclaim. Duane’s playing was seen inspired and imaginative and Eric Clapton asked him to play on the hugely successful Derek & the Dominos album.
However, on October 29th, 1971, while out on his latest motorbike Duane crashed into a flatbed truck, not far from the band’s home, The Big House in Macon. Duane was taken straight to a local hospital, but died from internal injuries. The band played at his funeral. He was 24 years old.
The Allman Brothers Band completed the album they had been recording with Duane and it was released as “Eat a Peach’ in February 1972 which included the only Allman Brothers track solely written by Duane – “Little Martha”
The inspiration behind the song is thought to be Dixie Lee Meadows, “Little Martha” being his pet name for his new girlfriend. She was one of a bevy of girls that the Allman Brothers and their roadies dubbed the Hot ‘Lanta girls.
Later rumours suggested that he named the song after a young girl called Martha Ellis buried up at Rose Hill cemetery (where Duane himself was buried in 1972) – Fellow bandmate Dickey Betts comment “Little Martha, for God’s sake is not a little baby that died”.
When I visited the Allman Brothers former home and now museum, The Big House last year, I spoke to another excitable fan there that told me that Duane heard the song in a dream. A dream where he and Jimi Hendrix were holed up in a Holiday Inn bathroom and Jimi taught him the melody using the taps of the sink as the fretboard of a guitar.
“Little Martha” continues to be played over the PA system at the end of every Allman Brothers Band show in tribute to Duane."
Hangover Lounge DJ & Southern Rock nerd