Duane Allman’s 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop is experiencing a serious renaissance. After changing hands several times during the mid-’70s, the guitar was purchased in 1979 (for $475!) by a collector who wanted to share it with the world, not stow it away in his man cave.

“I want people to see it and hear it,” owner Scot LaMar told Guitar World earlier this year. “It’s not my guitar; it’s Duane Allman’s. I’m just babysitting.”

Not only is Allman’s Goldtop now available for viewing in the Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House in Macon, Georgia (a communal house where ABB members once lived and jammed together in the early ’70s), but it also got a fresh start with a new recording – 2010’s Guitar Magic – courtesy of The Skydog Woody Project.

Allman fans see the guitar (serial number 7 3312) as a celebration of a “golden” age in guitar-making as well as a link to a brilliant man who shone bright and flamed out way too soon. He was only 24 when he died in a 1971 motorcycle accident, but 40 years later his legacy continues to play out in the guitars he left behind.

Allman was perhaps better known for the Cherry Sunburst Les Paul that he played his final two years, but he played the Goldtop almost exclusively during his first 18 months with The Allman Brothers Band – while recording both The Allman Brothers Band and Idlewild South. His Goldtop also defined the guitar sound of nearly every Derek and the Dominos tune on Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. However, after Allman traded it to a guitarist in his Daytona, Florida, hometown in 1970, the Goldtop fell out of the public eye for 30 years.

Here’s what happened: The Allman Brothers Band played a September 16, 1970, show in Daytona with a local band called The Stone Balloon. Only a few weeks earlier, Allman had used his Goldtop to record Layla with Eric Clapton, but when he saw Stone Balloon guitarist Rick Stine’s 1959 Cherry Sunburst Les Paul, his loyalty shifted. Stine’s Les Paul was similar to the one he’d just witnessed Eric Clapton record Layla with.

Allman was suddenly desperate to own Stine’s axe and brokered a bargain, offering $200, a Marshall 50 head, and his Goldtop Les Paul in exchange for Stine’s Cherry Sunburst Les Paul – with one condition. He wanted to keep the Goldtop’s PAFs; Stine agreed. Allman reportedly swapped the pickups in a hotel room after the concert and parted ways with his Goldtop. A week later, he played the ’59 Les Paul on stage at Fillmore East – a performance documented by video cameras.

The Goldtop changed owners three times before landing in LaMar’s hands in 1977, when he got wind that it was for sale and snatched it up from a local guitar store called Coastal Music.

Wondering why LaMar owned Allman’s guitar for nearly 30 years before sharing it with the public? It took him about 20 years and lots of trial and error to nurture it back to perfect health – that’s why. In the six years that elapsed between Duane Allman trading the Goldtop and LaMar purchasing it, it had accumulated some considerable damage. The gold finish had been sanded off and a previous owner’s puppy had gnawed on the headstock.

LaMar had two luthiers refinish the guitar, but didn’t feel satisfied with the results until he got it to Gibson master luthier Tom Murphy, who carefully brought the Goldtop back to its former glory. When the Goldtop was at last ready for another turn in the spotlight, LaMar felt compelled to let the guitar be heard and not just seen.

“[Duane Allman’s Goldtop is] a real living legend and it shouldn’t exist only behind glass,” said LaMar. “It’s a shame to me how many of our greatest guitars have become dead artifacts.”

Besides lending it out to Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks and Vince Gill for public performances, he worked with North Carolina guitarist Joe Davis to conceive of The Skydog Woody Project. Davis used Allman’s Goldtop to re-record Allman’s calling card, “Layla,” on an album named Guitar Magic; Allen Woody’s 1976 Gibson Thunderbird bass was also used for the project.

The guitar will remain on display at The Big House for the next year.

“The guitar is where it belongs right now,” said LaMar. “People need to appreciate it and see it.”

To get the feel of Duane Allman’s Gibson for yourself, check out the 1957 Les Paul Goldtop Darkback VOS.