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Butch Trucks talks Allman Brothers history and future

Butch Trucks (third from left) says this current incarnation of the Allman Brothers will likely be the last. Photo: Courtesy MSO PR

Butch Trucks (third from left) says this current incarnation of the Allman Brothers will likely be the last. Photo: Courtesy MSO PR

[I'm on with my rock 'n' roll pal Kaedy Kiely at 97.1 The River every Wednesday at 6:50 and 7:50 a.m. to talk about the latest rock news. Tune in to see what's up!]

Butch Trucks is rarely at a loss for words.

Whether reminiscing about The Allman Brothers, re-iterating the band’s love for their annual shows at the Beacon Theatre (“It’s like going home every night”) or explaining how the set list is chosen for each concert (that’s guitarist Warren Haynes’ duty), Trucks is happy to expound.

The original drummer for the celebrated Southern rockers (along with fellow sticksman Jaimoe Johanson) is talking from his home in Florida, where an hour-long conversation ping-pongs from the Allman’s then-upcoming dates with Santana to Gregg Allman’s autobiography to politics to literature and back again to the band.

For more than a decade, this incarnation of the Allmans has remained steady – Gregg Allman, Trucks, his nephew Derek on guitar, Oteil Burbridge on bass, Marc Quiñones on drums and percussion, Haynes and Johanson.

Trucks, 65, believes it’s the last version of the band fans will see perform live, so perhaps it’s worth considering attending their Wednesday show at Chastain Park Amphitheatre.

Here’s what else he had to say:

Q. You mentioned on your blog [http://thebutchtrucks.blogspot.com/] that you were really proud of Gregg’s book [“My Cross to Bear”]. What did you think about him calling Derek the reincarnation of Duane [Allman]?

A. The first time I saw Derek play as a 12-year-old, I sat there with my mouth hanging open and it was like I was watching Duane. But Derek does not like to hear that. Not. At. All. When he was a kid he didn’t mind people comparing him, but to say he IS Duane? Nuh-uh. You’ve gotta remember, Duane played slide guitar for less than five years. Derek has been playing for 24 years…Derek has gone into places that Duane never ventured into. Derek will play a solo that sounds like Ravi Shankar and Blind Willie McTell. He’s coming up with a style and when you hear that boy play, there’s no doubt about it, it is Derek Trucks.

Q. You guys received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys earlier this year. Did anyone talk to Dickey [Betts, the band’s original guitarist who left after a fallout in 2000]?

A. He didn’t come. He was coming all the way until the day before and then canceled. We worked it out for him to fly in the next morning for the ceremony, but I guess he just didn’t want to come. I don’t know if we’ll ever see each other again. Everybody was thinking the Grammys would be a great chance to see each other without having to play. But it’s like Humpty Dumpty. I can’t see all the kings horses putting him together again. It was his choice [to leave the band] no matter how many times you read that he was fired by fax.

Q. It’s no secret that Gregg’s health has been fragile lately. What will happen to the Allmans if he – or anyone in the band – can’t tour. Will you go on?

A. To be honest, we kinda talk about it and the seven members of the Allmans we have right now is the band that will play as the Allman Brothers Band. So basically if Warren or Derek couldn’t tour, or pretty much anyone couldn’t tour, we wouldn’t tour.

Q. This is the 40th anniversary year of ‘Eat a Peach.’ What do you remember when you think back to recording that album?

A. That record, even though it was the biggest seller we ever had, that was when we started going down. We got lucky that one of the songs happened to be a hit single and it made us a big hit band, but all in all, [our next album] ‘Brothers and Sisters’ doesn’t compare to ‘Eat a Peach.’ ‘Brothers and Sisters’ is when Dickey started taking over. It was getting really country and we started getting away from all the jazz we’ve been playing.

Q. What keeps you motivated to still get out there and jam?

A. You know, I just don’t know. You ever been in love with somebody? It’s like that. It just works. There’s some things you can’t explain. I just finished a round with medical stuff – glaucoma – so I’m feeling tired right now. But I know what will happen. As soon as we start playing [a show] I’ll feel like an 18-year-old Superman and I can play forever.

There’s something about music when it’s really working that is inexplicable. Even Ayn Rand said music was the one thing that baffled her, because it bypasses the brain. When you’re listening to a band and really get off on it, you’re not analyzing it, you’re feeling it. I’m so glad I wound up being a musician. It’s just a wonderful life.

The Allman Brothers Band with moe.

7 p.m. Wednesday. $45-$95. Chastain Park Amphitheatre, 4469 Stella Drive, Atlanta. Non-table setup (no coolers or carry-ins allowed). 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

60 comments Add your comment

hornblowermg

July 30th, 2012
4:59 pm

as much as i love to hear derek play, there is and never will be anybody like duane allman. i was at Memorial the night they opened for Santana 40 years ago, and duane sat and played around for nearly 45 minutes; i still have music in my dreams that he played that night.

Jamdor78

July 30th, 2012
5:34 pm

It seems like Butch meant “Brothers and Sisters” not “Eat a Peach” “was when we started going down,” because the hit record he was referring to must be “Ramblin’ Man.” Heck, they were lucky they could carry on without Duane, and Dickey stepped up and kept it going. I don’t think they were going down hill in the early 90’s. I’m listening to the live version of “Jessica” with Dickey and Warren right now – to quote Gregg quoting Dickey in court – ‘Brilliant!”

Uncle Tom

July 30th, 2012
5:55 pm

Hornblowemug is right. Rolling Stone Mag was close to correct when it ranked Brother Duane #2 all time behind Hendrix. I say that only because Jimi was great at the show biz aspect of playing, but put me on a desert island with only ONE guitar player to listen to and it would be Duane. And he died when he was just 24. That’s like John Lennon dying right before he walked on to play the Ed Sullivan Show. Warren is a competent replacement, but Duane was Babe Ruth and everybody else is Justin Hayward.

Uncle Tom

July 30th, 2012
5:56 pm

I meant to say “Warren and Derek” are competent players but……

George

July 30th, 2012
6:03 pm

What a great sound they make together. Simply timeless.

Ghost of Guitar Players Gone

July 30th, 2012
6:03 pm

Look, I think my wife is pretty good looking, but I wouldn’t say she’s better than Marilyn Monroe or Amy Adams or any other hot female. For Butch to imply that Derek is better than Duane is a little silly. Duane had a year and half to make the band the most famous in the country when he died. Derek’s had over 20 years with the band, and they’ve never come close to their previous heights. (But I DO prefer my wife to all those other females.)

Old Highway 41

July 30th, 2012
6:10 pm

I quit listerning when Betts split the band in 2001

Old Highway 41

July 30th, 2012
6:11 pm

itpdude

July 30th, 2012
6:24 pm

Old Highway, careful, they will moderate your comments if you critique the Almost Bros. Band.

Sid

July 30th, 2012
6:45 pm

So many great memories. Saw Gregg doing an interview with Tavis Smiley on his book and he surprised me by how out of it he seemed.

I visited Duane and Barry’s gravesite, took out my ax and played a few Allman Bros tunes. RIP

Mitch Kumstein

July 30th, 2012
6:56 pm

“In Memory of Elizebeth Reed” will always take me back to great times. Duane and Dicky together is as about as good as it gets.

Texas Pete

July 30th, 2012
6:59 pm

Listen, I lived overseas for 13 years. And, when my heart was hurting, and when homesickness for the south was crushing my spirit, I’d crank up the Allman Brothers and I was back in Piedmont Park. I ‘d listen to Statesboro Blues and I was immediately transported to Byron, Ga. that first night when the wind was gently blowing and Duane and the boys were “hitting the note.” For me, the Allman Brothers (no matter what edition of cast members) are the best band in the world. Man, I love the music!

Chief Nocahoma

July 30th, 2012
7:12 pm

Glad to see Butch recite that great quote from Ayn Rand. That’s deep.

Larry

July 30th, 2012
7:23 pm

Growing up in south Florida in the 70’s and early 80’s,Gregg would show up at Big Daddy’s in West Palm and jam all night long.
In 82′ while I was at FSU in T’town,Butch used to come into Anrdew’s Second Act for dinner,he was always cool.
In the 90’s I went to Jazzfest and saw The Allman Brothers on the Acura stage,Steven Segal got up on staged and jammed with them.The following weekend I was front row at Piedmont Park where they headlined Music Midtown.
There will never be music like this again.
Awesome memories !

Speed Racer

July 30th, 2012
7:40 pm

“Elizabeth Reed” proves that Dickey could do the improvised jazz-blues fusion but there is no doubt the band was more country-ish in the 70’s. Of course, he was only one member of the team so he could have been out-voted. Still and all, The Allman Bros might the greatest American rock band of all time.

JJ

July 30th, 2012
7:51 pm

The Allman Bros. have always been my favorite band. I loved the way Duane played slide and his guitar work on the original version of “Dreams” is still my favorite. Dickey was good but Duane had the touch. Imagine how much better he could have gotten had he lived longer. Amazing guitarist that could not even read music!

Blues no mo..

July 30th, 2012
8:06 pm

I remember Duane hangin’ out on Peachtree St., in late 1968 just before the band was formed in ‘69. He could be seen at the Catacombs and other places. A super nice guy. You would never have know that he was a guitar player of such extrodinary talent. The first time I saw him play was not at a concert, but at Rhythm City (a music store) on East Paces in Buckhead. I was picking up some strings for my Telecaster, and he was just looking around. Didn’t know who he was, but he played a Les Paul, that the store had and I could not believe what I was hearing. I hung around until he put the guitar back on the rack and talked to him for sometime.along with several other people. He told me then that he had just left Muscle Shoals, where he had been doing session work. And was making his way to Daytona with a stop in Jacksonville on the way. He was in Atlanta visiting friends. I think there was a woman involved, but not sure. It was sometime later when I saw him again, and that time he was with the rest of the band in Piedmont Park. I remembered him, but had no idea just how good he really was. While he was great in the music store, he was unbelievable playing a show. I was fortunate see the band several times while he was still alive. The last time was in July ‘71, the band played at the old Municiple Auditorium in Atlanta (I still have the ticket stub). He was truly one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet. Absolutely “ZERO” ego. He was all about the music. People, not to mention guitar players like him are truly rare.

Doc

July 30th, 2012
8:31 pm

I love all of you experts! I have seen every incarnation of the ABB; this group is not the original, but brings it on every bit as well as the original line-up did. Stay home if you like; that leaves room for those of us who have been there all the way and appreciate something that continues to be as special now as it was in 1969. When the road does end then you can waste your time verbally jacking about who could do what. Play on.

woodie

July 30th, 2012
8:48 pm

Duane was the template by which Derek plays. Yes, Derek is a fine player but Duane paved the way. In fact, whose music are Warren and Derek playing ? That’s right- the music Duane and Dickie created, save a few blues standards along the way.

Todd Gakk

July 30th, 2012
8:52 pm

Doc, just folks talking about stuff. We all have one thing in common……..we love the Allman Brothers Band.

Cosmos

July 30th, 2012
8:57 pm

@ Blues no mo – Enjoyed that story. I’ve been a big ABB fan since Eat a Peach. Duane played one of the most soulful guitars I’ve ever heard. There’s more to it than just playing the notes.

JREV

July 30th, 2012
8:58 pm

I agree Doc. It’s silly to compare Duane and Derek. Having said that, I believe the very last studio album Hittin’ the Note is the best work they’ve done to date. Those of you who lost interest after Dickey left are really losing out on some great music in their prime. I just wish they’d play somewhere in Atlanta besides Chastain. I miss the Lakewood shows…

Texas Pete

July 30th, 2012
9:06 pm

Man, I just love to hear that there are still some old farts out there like me. I had forgotten about the Catacombs. And, I too used to frequent Rhythmn City to buy guitar strings. Saw Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane perform at the old Municipal Auditorium.But the best night of music I ever had was watching the ABB play right before B.B. King at the Byron pop festival. I had never heard them play Whipping Post before, and that night they just blew me away! Wow! It was great to be young.

Kam Phong as Chin Ho

July 30th, 2012
9:20 pm

I always loved to hear Duane play and his memory is very special. Derek has some of the best chops ever, but Derek is special in his own way. Love and appreciate Derek for who he is and keep Duane’s memory alive. Peace.

OTP

July 30th, 2012
9:56 pm

Too bad they are playing at crappy Chastain. Saw them a few years back at the Fox, and it was awesome.

Tom

July 30th, 2012
10:06 pm

Blues MO, wasn’ the 71 Municipal Auditorium concert in June not july, I remember attending an matinee show that the brothers did in that old arena. Also so James Taylor and Carole King there in Fall 1970.

Greg was Great but I think Warren Haynes is awesome as well. Check out U-tube Greg/Warren with Dave Mathews on Farm Aid performance of “Melissa”. one of finest vocal/accoustic live performances i ve ever heard.

Tom

July 30th, 2012
10:11 pm

Agree with Doc, Duance was great, however, Derek Trucks and Warren haynes can bring in any night just as well. Am a 59 year old that worshiped the orginal brothers going back to at least ‘70 and perhaps late ‘69 i beleive my opinion has some degree of crediblity.

youneverknow

July 30th, 2012
10:24 pm

You can’t compare Duane & Derek. They’re 2 different personalities and you can hear the difference in their music. They;re both great, Duane was more of bluesman with a harder edge. But I dig Derek’s style as well.

dagnabit

July 30th, 2012
11:32 pm

The first time I saw ABB was at the Georgian Terrace Ballroom long before it became the electric ballroom. First song? Mountain Jam.

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hal combo

July 31st, 2012
4:05 am

First time I heard ABB was at Atlanta Stadium, summer of ‘70 called the Cozmic Carnival: reformed Traffic (no Dave Mason), It’s a Beautiful Day, ABB, Mothers of Invention, Mountain…what a day! At midnight sharp the city pulled the plug on Mountain in the middle of Theme for an Imaginary Western!

roger

July 31st, 2012
6:35 am

Tom, that show at the Municipal Auditorium WAS in July. I was at the evening show & have a photo album w/ a few pix & it has the date July ‘71 on them. Blues no mo, i LOVE reading your post. i know all those places. Although I never got to the Catacombs, I frequented the 12th Gate a lot. I went to Rhythm City a lot, too.

There was a bootleg of that show at the Municipal Auditorium {I saw a LOT of good shows there… the Who in ‘72 was one of them} which was available a few yrs ago & I missed getting it. Maybe it’s out there somewhere????? I remember at that show Duane commenting on the fairly recent Fillmore album & he said, in disbelief that they’d sold 117,000 copies! He was amazed they had sold so many! If he only knew what was coming…. I also recall during one of his solo passages that he started playing “Layla” which I was unfamiliar w/ at the time. A bunch of folks went nuts. My buddy explained what was happening.

i would love to get that bootleg. There are some good vintage live CDs available from their website as well.

shaggy

July 31st, 2012
6:48 am

“The Allman Brothers Band”, “Idlewild South”, and “At Fillmore East”

The BEST three albums in a row from ANY band, EVER!

It is scary to think what would have been if that fateful motorcycle accident didn’t happen, followed by another tragic motorcycle accident a little over a year later.
Rest in Peace Sky Dog and Barry.

Percy Flage

July 31st, 2012
7:05 am

All due respect to Les Brers. Regarding the Catacombs and 12th Gate, RIP Joe Roman, a good man.

Music_Man

July 31st, 2012
7:28 am

If Duane had not been Killed riding his Motorcycle The Allman Brothers Band wouldn’t even be around today..His death gave the band exposure and a kinda “what if he woulda lived mystique” just like with Jim Morrison,Otis Redding And Brian Jones..Sure..He was a fairly good Guitar player But Death made him a legend.

shaggy

July 31st, 2012
7:48 am

Music_Man,

“He was a fairly good Guitar player”

That is like saying the Sun is a little hot. Your handle does not betray your ignorance of such a great player, who was coming into his own before his unfortunate death. Yes, we do wonder what would have been for all of those great musicians that went too soon.
I’ll bet you think Justin Bieber is the bomb.

Music_Man

July 31st, 2012
8:10 am

@Shaggy..The Allmans were a “Southern Rock Band”..It’s hard to show your stuff as a Guitarist when the Music is Mellow..I would of loved to see what Duane would of done playing Lead Guitar in uh..Let’s say..A Band like Black Sabbath..In my knowledgeable opinion the top 5 Guitarists of all time are.
1.Randy Rhoades
2.Johnny Ramone
3.Ted Nugent
4.Chuck Berry
5.Steve Gaines

ABB Fan

July 31st, 2012
8:18 am

Too bad they are playing Chastain. You can’t put a curfew on the ABB!!

shaggy

July 31st, 2012
8:30 am

Music_Man,

You are aware that Duane is critically compared to the likes of Jimmy Hendrix and was a kindred spirit of Eric Clapton, aren’t you? His playing, like the two aforementioned greats, inspired a generation of players, one of them on your list. Can you guess which one?
I guess Hendrix and Clapton don’t make your “pulled from anus” list, huh?

You are appearing to be a non-Music_Man

shaggy

July 31st, 2012
8:34 am

non-Music_Man,

Go and listen to “Idlewild South” Don’t Keep Me Wonderin and tell me that solo is mellow. Just one example.

Music_Man

July 31st, 2012
8:59 am

@shaggy..Lemme guess..Was it Johnny Ramone That was kinda influenced by Duane?..Eric Clapton is another Mellow Music Guitar Player That is just average in my book.

Melissa Ruggieri

July 31st, 2012
9:20 am

Funny so many of you are mentioning Chastain. The one thing Butch said when I asked him about the show was, “Chastain…all I ever remember about Chastain is that I can’t play as loud as I want!”
Hopefully he won’t be too stifled tomorrow night!

Cheers,
Melissa

Bradley Smith

July 31st, 2012
1:19 pm

I am not an “expert” like so many commentators here but I suppose someone who has been around from the beginning and close to ABB as anybody would be in a good position to compare guitar players. He, Gregg Allman, believes Derek Trucks is a reincarnation of his brother. That settles it as far as I am concerned.

Ken

July 31st, 2012
7:26 pm

I think Music Man may be a twelve year old.

Music_Man

July 31st, 2012
11:18 pm

@Ken..I am a 55 year old Dude that know’s Rock Music pretty well.

Jaxson Brown

August 1st, 2012
9:26 am

“JESSICA’ GREATEST INSTRUMENTAL EVER PUT ON VINYL

brock

August 1st, 2012
11:06 am

Woo hoo!

That is all.

The Austrian Brotherhood

August 1st, 2012
11:37 am

Music Man has an opinion and an azzhole. Tip of the cap to all the appreciative listeners. Rock On!

Smokewagon

August 1st, 2012
3:06 pm

I remember when Gregg would show up at the Great SE Music Hall and jam until the late hours unannounced. Those were great times.

Smokewagon

August 1st, 2012
3:23 pm

Don’t forget Derek and the Dominoes when comparing Duane to other guitarists. He played w/ Clapton on that gig.