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Allman Brothers drummer Jaimoe talks lifetime achievement awards and new band

Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band will perform cuts off its debut studio album ‘Renaissance Man’ at Smith's on Sunday. Photo credit: Carl Vernlund

Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band will perform cuts off its debut studio album ‘Renaissance Man’ at Smith's on Sunday. Photos: Carl Vernlund

Concert preview

Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band

7 p.m. Sunday. $12 (18 and older). Smith’s Olde Bar, 1578 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta. 404-875-1522, www.smithsoldebar.com.

Those who know the name Jaimoe Johanson immediately connect him with The Allman Brothers Band, the Southern rock behemoths who recruited him in 1969 to be the band’s drummer.

Like everything with the Allman Brothers saga, Jaimoe, as he prefers to be called, had a tumultuous tenure with the group. He splintered off to help form Sea Level in the late ‘70s, then rejoined the Allmans. Left in the ‘80s, then returned later that decade.

A steady member since, he still plays regularly with the band – including their fabled Beacon Theatre shows every March – but also stretches his chops in his moonlighting gig with Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band.

Though he’s lived in Connecticut for 19 years, Jaimoe (pronounced jay-moe), spent 19 years in Macon followed by three in Atlanta in the early ‘90s.

His time in Atlanta wasn’t just a like-fest, but a love affair.

“Man, I loved living there,” Jaimoe said. “I miss the food. I miss going downtown watching the women go to work and going back there in the afternoon and watching them go back home. I didn’t do a lot of playing there. Nobody would hire me because they figured I’d be going off with the Allmans in a few weeks. The only people who hired me were jazz musicians.”

Jaimoe, 67, will be behind his trusty drum kit when he makes his Smith’s Olde Bar debut on Sunday with his Jasssz Band in tow, a crackerjack lineup of Junior Mack (vocals, guitar); David Stoltz (bass); Reggie Pittman (trumpet, flugelhorn); Paul Lieberman (sax); Kris Jensen (sax).

The amicable Jaimoe chatted Friday from a tour stop in Florida about his band’s new studio album, “Renaissance Man,” his relationship with the Allman Brothers Band and this year’s Beacon shows.

Q. You have a very unique spelling for your band’s name. What’s the reasoning behind it?

A. I found out that that’s the original way jazz was spelled, but I didn’t know it at the time [of naming this band.] My friend Jackie Avery keeps calling it Jaimoe’s Jazzy Ass Band. I saw this thing on TV, the Ken Burns miniseries on jazz, and there’s this guy standing by the bass drum and on it, it said ‘jass.’ I couldn’t wait to show my wife. But when I first saw the show, I thought, the first thing I’m gonna hear is people are going to say this is where I got it from. So I did what the Beatles did and mixed up the spelling and put a ‘z’ on the end. It gives it its own originality.

Q. You have a really interesting version of “Melissa” on the album. Why did you choose to re-do it as a bossa nova?

A. Because it was a bossa nova! Junior did it on his gig at a place in the Village in New York and he played it as a bossa nova. When I heard it I said, ‘Man, we gotta play that tune.’ When we did the CD in the studio, I said let’s put down ‘Melissa.’ We put it down and there it was.

Q. How did you hook up with Junior Mack? JJBgroup_20111214_160809

A. We was at the Beacon one night and this friend of mine, he used to shine shoes at the barber shop that was connected to Capricorn Studios, he said to me, ‘You need to get Junior Mack to play in your band,’ and I said, ‘Junior Mack? I don’t who that is.’ He said, ‘OK, you gotta meet him.’ So one night Junior came to the Beacon for one of the Allman shows and I said ‘Man, you got a CD or something I can listen to?’ He got it out of his pocket before I could get the words out of my mouth!

I said, ‘OK, man, thank you.’ It must have been six weeks before I l listened to it and I thought, ‘That’s pretty cool.’ I called him up and said, ‘I want to do a gig and this is what I want you to do.’ We went to this Double Down Grill joint [in Connecticut] and I told everyone to write songs on a piece of paper and we’d play what everyone knew.

I told Junior, ‘Man, you play different. You play different than Derek [Trucks] and Warren [Haynes] and a lot of people.’ I said, ‘Man, I haven’t heard anyone play like that since I left Mississippi.’

Q. Will you be at the Grammys next month to accept the Allmans Lifetime Achievement Award?

A. Yes, I will.

Q. Are you excited about it?

A. Excited is an understatement. A Grammy is cool, but a Lifetime Achievement Award… that sounds like, [expletive] man, wow. I’ve got to tell you this funny story. When I was in high school, from the 10th grade to graduation, I think God sent Downbeat Magazine to 33rd Avenue High School to little Johanny Johanson. That’s me. I read that magazine from front to back. I read everything in it. My band director would read an article every now and then, but the library let me check it out even though you weren’t allowed to check out magazines. But nobody read that one except me, so they let me. I finally figured God sent it down for me.

Q. It seems as if you and Gregg [Allman] still have a strong relationship since you’re opening some shows for him. Do you have a good relationship with the rest of the band?

A. Um…I have a good relationship with everyone except Dickey Betts. He don’t want to have a relationship with nobody.

Q. When was the last time you spoke to him?

A. I last spoke to him in arbitration in 2001.

Q. Do you think he’ll come to the Grammys?

A. I think someone said he’s gonna come to the Grammys, but I don’t know for sure. I just know I’m going to get my award. Anything else that goes on there, it’s business.

Q. You’ve played with so many notables – anyone left on your wish list?

A. I want to play with my band, our band. This band is not even an embryo yet. There’s a lot of music that’s gonna come out of this band. You invest in what you believe in.

Q. Are the Beacon shows the highlight of your year every year?

A. We do a lot of playing at the Beacon and play with a lot of different people. I always call it ‘The Ed Sullivan Show.’ We get to play a lot of music with a lot of people and make a lot of money.

26 comments Add your comment

old devil

January 20th, 2012
7:32 pm

Jaimoe, you are one crazy cat. I would love to hear your jasssz band, please come to Macon and play!

James

January 20th, 2012
8:11 pm

Great to hear from Jaimo.I saw him playing in a band called Tall Dogs open for War at Rumours on North Decatur in the early 80’s.The Brothers really deserve this award..

3d

January 20th, 2012
8:16 pm

I grew up in Macon. He’s got different names.

We used to call him J Johnny Johanson.

ruth eckerd

January 20th, 2012
9:18 pm

just saw them at Gregg Allman concert , I could not believe how fabulous this group is! junior mack playing was like listening to Eric Clapton play blues or ,to this old Ga girl, Duane. More importantly he just is a fantastic talent . And then,he opened his mouth and out came this voice that mesmerized…..
I urge anyone in the area to go to this show, no matter what “type” of music you think you like, you will fall hard under the spell of Junior and Jaimoe

Mike Lewis

January 20th, 2012
9:25 pm

Great to read this…he was always great in those early years at Central City Park in Macon…and at Grant’s too…and by the way, he is coming to Macon on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at the Douglas Theatre…money is going to “The Big House”, the ABB former home, now an excellent museum!

brock

January 20th, 2012
9:55 pm

Great interview, and Renaissance Man is excellent, even for someone who is not a big jazz fan. Dickey’s FB today reported he will be at the Grammys.

Ryan

January 20th, 2012
10:30 pm

Butch Trucks had the best one liner ever about the split with Dickey. He said “We needed a rednecktomy.”

home&home

January 21st, 2012
7:29 am

I’d love to see Dickey kick Butch’s a$$ and send him off to his beach house in France. It be nice to see them together one more time but it looks like that ain’t gonna happen.

bigdawg

January 21st, 2012
9:21 am

The whole Dickey Betts thing saddens me. He has been such an influence on my playing, and to hear what a schmuck he is…sigh!

BFS

January 21st, 2012
9:39 am

I was sad when Dickey left and even adopted a policy of “No Dickey-No Tickey” But after hearing Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks play the old stuff, I changed my tune. I was still very impressed with the country twang Dickey brought to the Brother’s. Pattern Disruptive is still on my iPod and always will be.

Robin J.

January 21st, 2012
10:40 am

Yes, the whole thing with Dickey is sad. “Blue Sky” is probably my favorite Allbros tune, and while I think Duane’s playing made the song, Dickey actually made the song, if you’ll forgive the terrible sentence. In life though, when everyone involved says you are the problem, then maybe, just maybe, you’re the problem. Wish they’d all tone the rhetoric down. Life’s way too short for grudges and blame is for children (and politicians). I’d love to see Dickey and the rest of the band reconcile. God knows we ain’t getting any younger.

swampem

January 21st, 2012
11:59 am

Very sad about Dickey, agree with Robin that life is too short for childish behavior amongst adults. On a related note, Derek Trucks Band is now one of my favs. Love hos style!

Drum Kit news 21-01-2012 | The Kit Shop

January 21st, 2012
1:22 pm

[...] Allman Brothers drummer Jaimoe talks lifetime achievement awards and new band Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) Jaimoe, 67, will be behind his trusty drum kit when he makes his Smith’s Olde Bar debut on Sunday with his Jasssz Band in tow, a crackerjack lineup of Junior Mack (vocals, guitar); David Stoltz (bass); Reggie Pittman (trumpet, flugelhorn); …Read more: blogs.ajc.com [...]

Fred

January 21st, 2012
1:42 pm

I once jammed with Lamar William’s brother………….. I would love to ask Jaimoe if Lamar died of lung cancer or a heroin OD like his brother said………..

Aubrey

January 21st, 2012
3:48 pm

After the Atlanta Pop Festival in 1969 the Allman Brothers did a free show in Piedmont Park. What a great memory or what I can remember anyway (-:

Jerry Grillo

January 21st, 2012
4:32 pm

Jensen used to play in Dickey Betts’ band, now he’s with Jaimoe, so who knows what other lineups might take shape on a stage one o’ these days. Can’t stay mad forever, can they?

3d

January 21st, 2012
4:33 pm

I’ve never heard that about Lamar Williams.

If so, that’s a hell of a job on covering it up.

Bones

January 21st, 2012
5:10 pm

Jaimoe has always been one of the best driveing forces behind the ABB and will always remain to be an excellent drummer, ya’ll let us know when you wanna come back to Macon,GA we will be there. Thank you so much for what you have given us bro. Till then….

DB

January 21st, 2012
5:18 pm

Allman Brothers Band, with Dickey Betts, to receive Lifetime Achievement Award at 2012 Grammy Awards

http://www.dickeybetts.com/

Yo

January 21st, 2012
5:55 pm

He is playing Macon this week.

Snip Willy

January 21st, 2012
7:19 pm

Dude definitely needs a new band. The old one was crap. Ask him, he’ll tell you straight out.

downsouth

January 21st, 2012
10:04 pm

Whipping Post > Mountain Jam > May the Circle Be Unbroken > Mountain Jam

Long live the ALL the Brothers Allman

Eat a Peach for Peach, the two legged kind – Duane

Allenman

January 21st, 2012
10:45 pm

Uh, that’s eat a peach for PEACE…

Name

January 22nd, 2012
8:03 am

Dickey Betts needs to stay sober.

Paul Burke - Author, Journey Home

January 23rd, 2012
10:41 am

Robin J has the right attitude and tone – whether they like it or not Dickey was a huge part of the bands original success and a huge part of the reason that band survived Duane and Berry’s death with the help of Les Dudek and Chuck Levell. Dickey was a huge part of their subsequent come backs – Enlightened Rogues (w/ the Toler Brothers and Bonnie) and Seven Turns, Shades of Two Worlds, Their Grammy from their Live Sets and Where it All Begins – (1994) Hell Warren played with Dickey first – that alone would piss anyone off – All that being said the band has always been a rich gumbo and array of sounds and it’s Gregg’s Voice Hammond B-3 and song writing as well – amigos. They just need to understand and see each others point of view and practice a little forgiveness.

For any one person to take credit well – that’s a bit of a reach and the death knell for any bands I’ve been in and around. A band is a collaboration – star trips, egos and excesses all have to be held in check – big time. The best players always let everyone else take the spotlight, and take the bow.

Sooo whats the point – like a relationship they grew apart – time will do that – and the divorce was unfortunately clumsy but the hard feelings need to go – too unhealthy – they need to practice forgiveness (it takes real strength to do that) and rise above it – they need to be human beings first, see each others point of view and the rest will take care of itself and get back to livin and havin’ fun.

If Dickey ever takes the stage with them for a cameo or set – the roof will blow off the joint and we all know it .. but Gregg has the right to a good vibe – and the whole Dickey vs. Gregg thing is beyond childish on the part of the fans and between the musicians. Enlightened Rogues know the music comes first, the good vibes, the fun and the celebration of life, creativity and the brotherhood of man follows naturally.

Jmark

January 24th, 2012
7:50 pm

I am glad I came across this article. I checked out Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band’s new album and was thrilled to hear some great jazz and blues by some talented cats. There is not enough of this wonderful music out there these days.