Off The Beaten Path: Duane Carleton

Off The Beaten Path: Duane Carleton
Max Moulton

I know Killington VT well. I should, I have been skiing there for the past 10 years. For the latter part of that tenure I have generally stayed (and make a point to make at least 1 pilgrimage there a season) at a place called the Clear River Inn and Tavern. Never stayed there?

You are probably saying to yourself, yea OK, another run of the mill lodge that lines the access road – costs $50 / night – has free coffee in the morning and gives you a questionable amount of hot water in the shower. And if that is what your thinking… you would be half right. I love the Clear quite honestly. The people who work it have become my surrogate VT family on weekends I find myself sharing the mountain with the local folks.

But something that really separates the Clear River from every other lodge up that way is the gentleman who sets up his speakers and plugs in his guitar every Saturday night while there is snow on the ground. His name is Duane Carleton.

Duane has been playing there for as long as I have been a patron. He has the same, long, curly black hair and the coke bottle glasses now that he did when I was too young to get served at the bar. His smile hasn’t, nor his demeanor, or his raspy undertone style of singing that will have you rocking for hours – changed a bit. I think the only thing that’s different is the list of songs he knows grows exponentially each year.

He really is an encyclopedia of musical knowledge. We would run up to him after every song, “do you know this, can you play this, what about this?”. And usually that would just annoy the guy with the mic.  Not Duane, he would sit there unfazed, big grin, and he would always say, “suuuure”.

Now, if you were looking to hear the recorded version of your song, you came to the wrong place. Duane has a way of turning the song into his own, all the while keeping the core in tact that you love so much. He would spin it like a pizza, doing it his own way, and it would always taste better than the last guy who made it. When Duane plays you never want to leave the bar. Holding true to that Ski Till I Die mentality, you will probably keep the bartender busy until close. But thats why, at the end of the night, Duane would always have a once empty guitar case filled with dollars you were happy to give away.

Had I not stayed at the Clear River over the last decade I probably would have no idea who Duane Carleton is. But I can assure you, if you have found yourself at a bar for some apres ski engagement in Killington, youve heard him before. If you have turned around asking yourself – who is that guy, with the long, curly black hair and the coke bottle glasses, singing the most unbelievable version of your favorite classic rock jam – thats Duane Carleton.

So next time you find yourself up at Killington, ask the locals if they have ever heard of Duane. I promise you, whether it be bartender, liftie, or the cop that just pulled you over for speeding… they’ll smile and nod…and be able to tell you where he is playing that night. So make sure you find yourself there because that is a show you wont want to miss. And if you luck out and it happens to be Saturday night, look up the Clear River. Its off the beaten path, but you can be damn sure Duane will be there.

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