Kenny Wayne Shepherd swaps his Fender Strat for Duane Allman’s ‘Layla’ Les Paul and sounds immediately at home

Kenny Wayne Shepherd got the chance to play Duane Allman’s 1957 Les Paul Goldtop at his Macon, GA show on Friday (June 9) and didn’t waste the opportunity to stretch out an electric guitar that is now, quite literally, a museum piece.

The instrument is famed for its use on the track Layla and was used by Allman for the majority of the Allman Brothers Band’s early material, until September 1970, at which point he traded it for a 1959 Les Paul Burst.

The 1957 Goldtop sold at auction for $1.25 million in 2019, making it one of the most expensive guitars ever sold at auction. These days, the guitar usually sits under glass at The Big House museum in the Allman Brothers Band’s defacto hometown, Macon, GA.

Shepherd played like he’d forgotten this, though – and fan shot clips show that, while he stopped short of hurling it around his shoulder, he certainly gave the revered electric guitar a solid workout. 

In the videos, the blues virtuoso can be seen performing a number of tracks, including his own Woman Like You, Long Time Running and his go-to Buffalo Springfield cover Mr Soul.

The performance raises our (bushy and distinguished) eyebrows for several reasons. Firstly, there’s the aforementioned iconic Allman association and historic nature of the instrument itself. 

Secondly, the fact that Shepherd is known far and wide as a resolute Strat player, but here takes to a Gibson Les Paul like a duck to water.  

Thirdly and finally, perhaps the most shocking thing is that despite the fact that the guitar he’s holding is worth more than the average American home, Shepherd seems absolutely unabashed in his performance.

More power to KWS, then, for resisting the obvious urge to default into delicately reverential tribute territory (or whip out a slide) and instead simply play the instrument – and you can’t deny it sounds good in his hands.

The guitarist’s composure may be down to experience, of course. When it comes to big-name guitars, it’s not his first rodeo. 

Back in September, Shepherd played David Gilmour’s iconic black Strat live, a guitar that eventually sold for nearly $4m – though in that show he did make a nod to its previous owner in a performance of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.