This morning we talked to Allman Brothers drummer and engineer of Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band… you guessed it, Butch Trucks!
Allman Brothers Band drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson have been inseparable since the group’s inception, powering everything from the intricate rhythms of the iconic “Whipping Post” to subtle workouts like their rendition of Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More.” Jaimoe’s pedigree as a Sixties soul drummer with the likes of Otis Redding meshes with Trucks’ bluesy, rock-steady pulse to form a syncopated beat-logic all their own. As Jaimoe recounted to Relix, he and Trucks tried to take drum lessons from Elvin Jones in 1974, only to have the jazz legend tell them, “What do you guys want? I know who you are. What am I supposed to teach you?”
Bomb scares, telepathic jams and one unforgettable all-night gig
Forty-five years ago, on March 11th, 1971, the Allman Brothers Band took the stage at Bill Graham’s vaunted Fillmore East Theater in New York for the first of a series of shows that are among the most celebrated in rock history. The Allmans weren’t even supposed to be the headliners. The posters Graham had printed up read: “Johnny Winter and Elvin Bishop Group. Extra Added Attraction: Allman Brothers.” By the end of the first night, the order had been forcibly flipped on its head.
Three months later, on June 27th, the Brothers were back at the Fillmore East once again but under completely different circumstances. The venue was closing its doors forever and perhaps remembering the magic of their last run on his stage, Graham had handpicked the Allman Brothers Band to give his beloved concert hall a final, proper sendoff. They played until dawn, and when the show was over, a great church of rock, soul, jazz and blues music went along with it. Three months after that, Duane Allman — half of the ’71 group’s iconic guitar tandem — died in a Georgia motorcycle accident.
Rolling Stone recently caught up with some of the people onstage at that legendary run to discuss how those shows came together, and why they’ve endured in the minds and hearts of so many rock fans for nearly five decades.
Gregg Allman, Allman Brothers Band singer/keyboardist: Bill Graham was the most assertive person I’ve ever met. He was a straight shooter, a no-bullshit kind of guy. You always knew where you stood with Bill, man. He pulled no punches, but as tough as he was, he was always very fair.
Butch Trucks, Allman Brothers Band drummer: You just didn’t want to get in his way. Bill Graham did not tolerate people doing a half-assed job, and it’s the reason that playing the Fillmore and being in the audience at the Fillmore was so great. He ran it like clockwork, and he made sure that everybody in every seat could see and hear correctly.
Dickey Betts, Allman Brothers Band guitarist: He was a great guy. You know, either you hated Bill or you loved him, and I was one of the latter. He was one of the cornerstones of getting our band going.
Elvin Bishop, Elvin Bishop Band singer/guitarist: He ran a good organization both on the West Coast and the East Coast. He was kind of revolutionary because, before he came along, concerts were all one kind of music. They would never mix things up, and Bill Graham would have Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Albert King and the Jefferson Airplane all on one show.
Trucks: When I met Bill Graham for the first time, it was when I showed up for that closing night and walked across the stage. [He] saw me and came running. Up until that time I had never met him. He was always just this voice you heard on the other side of the room chewing somebody’s ass out who screwed up the night before. Anyway, he came running across the stage and grabbed me by the neck, and he was a large, strong man and he said, “I can’t thank you enough for last night.” And he went on and on and on, but in a nutshell he said, “It makes all the years of bullshit that I’ve had to put up with worthwhile.”
Allman: The Fillmore was originally an old Yiddish theatre built back in the Twenties, and it had a great vibe to it, man. The acoustics were nearly perfect in there. It had nice sight lines for the fans, and I think it held about 2,000 people or so, which was just right. The Fillmore East became a regular stop for us. It was like we had almost become the house band or something.
Betts: It was a great-sounding room. It was fun to play. Then you had a guy like Bill Graham that made sure that the PA system was set up correctly. It wasn’t too loud, it wasn’t too soft, and everyone in the room could hear and see.
Trucks: The audience was great and the sound was great. Every time you went in there it just sounded so goddamn good, and the audiences were just so in tune with what’s going on.
Allman: Bill wouldn’t pay you as much as some other promoters, but Bill would take a chance on people, and if you were good enough, he’d invite you back time and again, so we never worried about what he paid us.
Betts: [He] presented the show in a very sophisticated way, in a way that many people weren’t used to seeing a rock & roll show done. He took a lot of cues from Broadway, I guess, like rolling drum sets on risers and rollers and setting them up on the sides. He could change bands very quickly. He had his light show, and it was very state-of-the-art back then, and he would get the old urban and Delta-blues players and educate the audience to what they meant to rock & roll.
Allman: My brother had always believed a live album was what the Brothers needed to do, and the record company finally agreed with him. The Fillmore was just the logical choice. I don’t think we even discussed another venue.
Trucks: That was one of the first places that the audience really got it. You know why we were able to record At Fillmore East? We actually weren’t the headline that weekend. You go back and look; we were the special guests for Johnny Winter. But after we played our first set on Thursday night, half the audience got up and walked out. Steve Paul, who was Johnny Winter’s manager, said, “Well, I guess Johnny is gonna be opening for the Allman Brothers from now on because we can’t have that happen again.” If that hadn’t happened, we absolutely wouldn’t have had all that time to do all the stretching out that led to At Fillmore East. We only had 90 minutes and had some songs that lasted longer than that!
Betts: It became obvious that we were a great band live. We could really play and the record people came up with the idea that, “Man, these guys need to be caught in the act.” We had a great situation. You know, we had [producer] Tom Dowd and Johnny Sandlin that came in and [recorded] those shows and they did a great job of it of course.
Trucks: We learned very early on that playing music is a very selfish thing. We’re up there playing for ourselves first and foremost. If I’m not getting myself off, how can I expect anyone else to get off on it? I start with myself then move out to the guys in the band, and then we start communicating. We kick it into overdrive and go into places that we can’t go by ourselves.
Allman: We just played and played, one gig after another. You got to remember that we spent 300 days on the road in 1970. I mean, we were never home. All we did was play, man.
Trucks: If it wasn’t for Tom Dowd and his genius at knowing acoustics and setting up microphones … There were certain things that he did to get the sound that you just can’t miss on At Fillmore East that every engineer out there would scream and holler is completely heretical. For one thing, Tom Dowd always told us that the most important thing about making a live album is that the most important microphones on that stage are pointed at the audience. He wanted all the sound on the record to feel like what it was like if you were at the Fillmore East, so he opened all of the vocal mics onstage and left them open for the whole show. Not once did he shut anything off. He knew that we could play well enough and that as long as we were playing our best, [the album] was not going to have to be remixed or repaired or anything else. You get all that ambience coming at you, and you don’t have to add a whole lot of outboard equipment or reverb or this, that and the other.
Allman: Tom almost missed recording the album. He’d been on vacation in Europe, and he only flew back to New York because the weather had been shitty in France or wherever. Tom didn’t even know we were recording that night, and when he found out, he barely made it into the truck. Thank God he did, or who knows what might have happened.
Betts: He was a great guy to work with and he was so subtle with his psychology. It took a while for me to figure out how good he was. I thought he didn’t do anything! He would be there without seeming like he was intruding. There was one thing that I finally figured out that he was doing. If I was trying to do a guitar solo, he would say, “You know, that was good, but I really like what you were doing back when we first started tonight.” And I’d say, “What’s that?” And he would sing to it and say, “Well you started out with this.” Then I finally realized that I had never done that [laughs]. It was his idea, but he didn’t want to seem like he was telling me what to play. I loved him for that.
Betts: There was kind of a running joke in the music business. Nobody said it in public in an interview or anything, but people would say, “The only thing live on such-and-such record was the audience.” [Laughs.] And I’m not saying anything bad about any of the other bands that we worked with and stuff, but a lot of times they would go back into the studio and re-do things; re-do vocals and stuff. The Fillmore East album is absolutely live. We didn’t go back and re-record one guitar solo; we didn’t add anything to it. Now there is some editing because we had some horn players and some harp solos that ran about three times longer than they should have been.
“The Fillmore East album is absolutely live. We didn’t go back and re-record one guitar solo; we didn’t add anything to it.” —Dickey Betts
Trucks: We did some vocal overdubs, but everything else is just what we played.
Allman: The mood was good. It was always good, man, so the only change was we left the horn players out on the second night, except for Juicy Carter, and he only played on a few songs.
Trucks: There were three guys who used to play with Jaimoe out of Mississippi: Juicy, Fat and Tick. Juicy was the baritone player, and he used to play with us a lot — for years and years. Fat played the alto, and of the three of them, he was probably the only one that could really play. And Tick played tenor. You put all three of them together with us playing at the level we were playing, and they just weren’t there. After the opening night when we finished, Tom said, “Nix the horns! No way! That sucked! No fucking way!” Duane looked at him like, “Huh? I thought this was our band.” Luckily Duane trusted Tom’s judgment enough to say, “OK.” Duane was just of the mind that you gotta include the whole world in what we’re doing. He was constantly looking for ways to expand what we were doing.
Allman: My brother liked having them sit in from time to time, so to us, it was no big deal.
Betts: Duane was a very, very wise man for 22, 23 years old. It was really easy to talk sense with him about what we were trying to do. Let’s say we were riding from Georgia down to Florida where our folks lived and stuff, and we’d be drinking a little bit and having these long conversations about things like the Zen aspect of it all. Finding that innocence of mind, or what athletes call “getting in the zone.” You just get free and let things happen rather than make things happen. We used to laugh about so many bands who busted up because the guitar players would get so jealous and try to outdo each other all the time. We had an understanding that that was the worst thing you could do. It’s not a contact sport. It’s music.
Bishop: I thought they were great. I liked how they just went for it. I kind of agreed with their concept of giving it enough structure so that the bottom never fell out, but enough freedom that you could jam good.
Allman: My brother, he was the bandleader on stage. He’d count it off to start a song, and we would end it when he raised his hand, but in between, the band just let itself go wherever the music would take us.
Trucks: For my entire career, from the moment Duane Allman reached inside me, flicked the switch and turned me on, to this day, I’ve always locked on whoever is playing lead, whether it was Duane, if it was Dickey, if it was Gregg or if it was Berry Oakley. Quite often, I will see something they’re doing, even if I can’t hear it. I’m so comfortable in just feeling Jaimoe that I don’t have to listen to ’em. He’s just there. So if someone plays a lick or goes somewhere, I’m right on their ass, and it’s my job to stay on their ass and push them to higher places. I think it’s how I got the name “The Freight Train.”
Betts: It would switch from one guy to the other as the song evolved. We didn’t have anybody we took cues from. We just followed each other. [Berry] Oakley was great if a song was starting to lag. He would start really pumping on the bass to pull us into another direction. At the same time, I would do that too, start a riff or something that would kind of pick it up and make it sound good in a certain situation. Duane did the same thing.
Allman: My brother made up the set list, and it didn’t change very much from night to night. He liked it that way. We’d swap out a song or two, but we pretty much kept the same songs. The thing was, we’d never play them the same way twice.
Trucks: I seem to remember us going out there to the recording truck and listening to the set we just played and then we’d work out what we’d do next.
Betts: We just played whatever came up. Somebody would say, “Let’s play ‘One Way Out’ or something.” Well, except for “Whipping Post,” which we usually saved for the end of the show because it was such a slammer. “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” we’d put that near the end of the show.
Trucks: In those days, when we climbed into those songs, that’s all there was. It’s never been like that since. I mean, I’ve been able to get into the moment for brief times many, many times since then, but not for those long extended jams like on “Whipping Post,” for instance, where once the song started, you climbed in and there was no tomorrow, no yesterday; you were just totally in the moment from the time it started to the time it ended. On every song on that album, that’s what was happening. We were just at the peak of reaching the point where we knew each other well enough, we knew the material well enough to where we didn’t have to think about it and could let it all flow so naturally. We knew what each other was going to do — yet we were constantly wide open to letting it go and taking a dive and seeing what would happen.
Allman: [“Whipping Post”] was intense, man! Like I said, that whole set was intense.
Trucks: When you listen to Dickey’s solo on “Whipping Post,” he just lets everything go. We’re just doodling around, letting him go, and then all of a sudden, he starts playing this melody [sings], and you can hear Berry and Gregg and Duane all feeling around for where this chord progression is because we’d never done this before. By about the second or third progression through, Berry and Duane had locked in to what the chord progression was and then Dickey really laid into it and it just fucking took off. Then when we came roaring back in with the “Whipping Post” theme again, the place just exploded. We had just paid a visit to a place we’d never been before.
Allman: A bomb scare made that night’s second set start real, real late, and boy, did we get into a serious groove. We played some mind-blowing stuff in that set.
Bishop: I think there had been a bomb scare or something that happened. We were all gone for a couple of hours out of there, and when we came back, I guess they ran out of tunes so they got me to come up and jam on “Drunken Hearted Boy.”
Trucks: There were several [bomb scares] right around the same time. I do remember one at the Fillmore the weekend we were recording. Apparently they did find something. I never found out whether it was a bomb or not; they just said that they found something in one of the balconies. I have a feeling that there wasn’t a bomb, but rather than just saying, “We just wasted your time and emptied all of these buildings for nothing,” we’ll just tell you we found something. I just remember standing outside for a very long time thinking, “Hey, we should be inside playing music.” And, “All these people were in such a great state of mind and now we’re gonna have to go back to work to get them back into that frame of mind again, as well as ourselves.”
Trucks: The cover was supposed to obviously look like the outside of the Fillmore East where you supposedly load in and out, but that’s actually in an alleyway across the street from Capricorn Records on Broadway in Macon, Georgia. Our roadies just took our equipment truck out and line-loaded all our gear and packed it up and then somebody stenciled The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East on one of the cases.
Betts: Jim Marshall wanted us to be there at daylight in this alleyway to shoot these pictures and we thought, “Now what the fuck do we need to be out there at daylight for?” He wanted that natural yellow light, you know? He didn’t want to use flashbulbs or have a bright sun banging away at the situation. So anyway, we stayed up all night and went down there.
Trucks: We all sat down, and Jim Marshall had set himself up in the truck so he could get high enough to get the right perspective for the pictures. Then he started hollering at us about who to be where and do this now, do that now. I mean, he was not at all nice. He was a real son of a bitch who was lucky he didn’t get his ass kicked. At one point, some guy walked up to the side of the truck and right in the middle of taking all the pictures, Duane just jumps up and takes off to the side of the truck. Marshall goes ballistic, but we all saw what he was doing — he was picking up an eight ball from his connection. So he ran back, sat down real quick, Marshall is going, “Blah, blah!” and we all just busted up laughing. Luckily, he had enough sense in his tirade to take a picture, because that’s the picture, and it’s the only one of the whole goddamn day when we weren’t snarling at him like a bunch of pitbulls.
Allman: At Fillmore East went gold on October 25th, 1971. Four days later my brother was dead.
Trucks: [The record company] did not want to put it out. They fought with us and fought with us and fought with us, until they finally realized if they were gonna have anything at all, then that’s what they were gonna have. We were firmly convinced that we would never be a big-money band because Atlantic Records had pounded that into our heads. “You’re a Southern band, and you’re playing music, especially with a black guy in the group …” This is exactly what we heard from Jerry Wexler. “You gotta get Gregg out from behind that keyboard, stick a salami down his pants, and make him jump around onstage like Robert Plant, then maybe you got a chance.” Basically we just said, “Fuck you!” We had tried that kind of shit before and not only did we hate it, we hadn’t made a plug fucking nickel, much less become big rock stars. We decided that the music we were playing was much more important than becoming rock stars.
Allman: It meant so much to us that Bill Graham wanted the Brothers to close it all out at the Fillmore.
Betts: That was a special show. We played until daylight that morning. I remember it was dark in there, and when they opened the door, the sun about knocked us down. We didn’t realize we had played until seven, eight o’clock in the morning. Bill Graham just let us rattle and nobody said, “We gotta cut the time.” It was just a really free kind of thing. All of our performances at the Fillmore were special. For us, just because they had tape rolling in a truck outside, it really didn’t affect us that much. We didn’t play for the tape, we played for the people.
Trucks: We played for roughly seven straight hours with everything we had. We played a three-hour set and then came back out. The feeling from the audience, not necessarily the volume, but the feeling was just so overwhelming that I just started crying. Then we got into a jam, I think it was “Mountain Jam” that lasted for four straight hours. Nonstop. And when we finished, there was no applause whatsoever. The place was deathly quiet. Someone got up and opened the doors, the sun came pouring in, and you could see this whole audience with a big shit-eating grin on their face, nobody moving until finally they got up and started quietly leaving the place. I remember Duane walking in front of me, dragging his guitar while I was just sitting there completely burned, and he said, “Damn, it’s just like leaving church.” To this day, I meet people who say they were there, and I can tell if they were just by the look in their eye.
Allman: Bill Graham’s introduction when he said, “We’re going to finish it off with the best of them all — the Allman Brothers” — that is something I’ll always remember.
Trucks: I think Fillmore East was the last truly honest, from-the-soul record that we ever did. There’s absolutely nothing in there but us playing music. Even by Eat a Peach, a little bit of bullshit had started to sneak its way in, and by Brothers & Sisters, we were almost over the edge of more bullshit than music. We found ourselves in the position we swore we’d never be in of being rock stars playing bullshit rather than being musicians playing music.
Allman: No one did it better in a live setting than the Allman Brothers, and Fillmore East is still the proof, all these years later.
Betts: It was a great band, good music. It’s honest, I guess.
Originally published here: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/allman-brothers-bands-legendary-1971-fillmore-east-run-an-oral-history-20160311?page=8
Drummer recalls cathartic post-Fillmore performance, newly issued as ‘Live From A&R Studios: New York, August 26, 1971’
On April 1st, one of the greatest shows from the Allman Brothers Band‘s most incendiary year on stage — a live radio concert from A&R Studios in New York on August 26th, 1971, aired over the free-form FM station WPLJ — will finally be released in official form by the group’s own label, Peach Records. “Oh, man, I’ll never forget that one,” drummer Butch Trucks says when reminded of that broadcast, which came six months after the New York shows recorded for the iconic 1971 double LP At Fillmore East, has been long treasured by Allmans fans on bootleg and is now remixed for the first time from the original multi-track masters. “We were set up in that studio just like we did on stage,” Trucks says of the band, then in its original, classic formation: founding lead guitarist Duane Allman; his younger brother, organist-singer Gregg Allman; second lead guitarist Dickey Betts, original bassist Berry Oakley; and drummers Trucks and Jaimoe.
That was especially true at A&R Studios, when Duane took the occasion to pay tribute to a recently fallen idol: the R&B saxophonist King Curtis, who had played on many recording sessions with Duane and was murdered on his New York doorstep on August 13th, 1971, two weeks before the Allmans’ broadcast. In an extensive, exclusive interview, Trucks explains how Duane turned his grieving into an epic-medley requiem of Willie Cobb’s 1960 blues “You Don’t Love Me” — an Allmans stage feature — with Curtis’ 1964 instrumental “Soul Serenade.” Two months later, on October 29th, Duane — just out of rehab for drug addiction — died in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia, the band’s hometown. He was 24.
The Allmans are also reissuing five previously released, vintage gigs through a new distribution deal, including two other, classic Duane-era shows at American University in Washington, D.C., in 1970 and at Stony Brook, New York, in 1971. Meanwhile, Trucks has been busy since the last version of the Allmans, with guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, played its final concerts in October 2014. The drummer leads a group, the Freight Train Band, that features his son Vaylor on guitar — “He’s the little kid on the cover of [1973’s] Brothers and Sisters,” Butch notes — and Berry Oakley Jr. on bass.
And on March 20th, Trucks will be back in Macon with a group called Les Brers — after the song “Les Brers in A Minor” on 1972’s Eat a Peach and derived from a Southern colloquialism for “brothers” — that includes Jaimoe, recent Allmans bassist Oteil Burbridge and percussionist Marc Quiñones and ex-Allmans guitarist Jack Pearson. “We are of the opinion that even though the Allman Brothers broke up, there is a void to be filled,” Trucks explains. “Whatever songs we write and play, it’s going to be coming from that direction, with a lot of improvisation and dynamics — and not knowing where you want to go next.
“It’s the kind of thing the Allmans did all the time.” Trucks says. “It could turn into a total train wreck at times. But you don’t find new territory by not taking chances. If you’re afraid to dive off the cliff, you’ll never soar with the eagles.”
How big was the audience at A&R Studios that day?
It was no more than 200. It’s one of the reasons the station chose A&R. Not only were the acoustics great, it was big enough that you could set up a band like the Allman Brothers.
Did you have enough room for your regular stage rig?
We cut everything down. Duane didn’t have his full stack of Marshalls. He went with what he would use in a studio. If there’s anybody who knew how to play in a studio, it was Duane Allman.
Did it bother you that most of the people you were playing for were miles away — that they couldn’t see you?
That the crowd couldn’t see us didn’t mean a damn thing. Duane had two very iconic statements he used a lot. One was “This ain’t no fashion show.” The other was “This ain’t no ballet.” We were up there to play music. All you need is ears. You don’t need to be able to see it. We weren’t putting on a show. And those fans that made it into A&R were, I would imagine, the ones who came to see us at the Fillmore East every time. And they were there to hear what we had to play, not to see how cute we were or how big our dicks were.
The set list has some inevitable crossover to the Fillmore East recordings in March: “Statesboro Blues,” “You Don’t Love Me.” But there is a surprising omission: no “Whipping Post.”
We had a time limit. Once we started headlining at the Fillmore East, we were free to play all night, at least for the second set. “Whipping Post” could get lengthy. So we decided, “Let’s go with some other stuff.” That being said, we had no clue that Duane was going to do what he did with “You Don’t Love Me.” That was what “Whipping Post” would have been.
The set was pretty much what we did every night. Maybe half of our sets were structured songs like “Statesboro Blues” and “Trouble No More.” They were all three, four minutes at best. The other half of a set would be no more than four or five songs, but each one would be 10 or 20 minutes.
By this point, “Statesboro Blues” was a signature number in your shows. But even though you recorded it for your second studio album, “Idlewild South,” you didn’t put it on that record. What was wrong with the studio version?
That’s a good question. I really don’t know. It really wasn’t our song. Of all the songs we played, “Statesboro Blues” was the most ripped-off. We played it exactly the way Taj Mahal did it on his first album [Taj Mahal, 1968]. Jesse Ed Davis’ slide guitar on that version is what started Duane on his path as the best electric-slide player of his day. It opened the door for everyone that followed.
Your version was basically an homage to Taj and Jesse.
Exactly. The song wasn’t ours. And we knew that. I think we decided not to use it [on Idlewild South] for that reason. And we had plenty of other material that was ours.
How come “Revival” from that album never took root in the live set? Was it too hard to recreate the vocal-choir effect on the record?
That’s a good question too — because with this last version of the Allman Brothers, we played it all the time. You may be right about the harmonies. When we recorded “Revival,” Gregg was the only one in the band singing other than Berry doing “Hoochie Coochie Man,” which was more like him talking the words. Dickey wasn’t singing yet. The first song he ever sang was “Blue Sky” [on 1972’s Eat a Peach]. And the second was “Ramblin’ Man” [on 1973’s Brothers and Sisters]. To do “Revival” on stage, each of us would have needed a microphone. When we did it in the studio, every member of the band was around one microphone, doing the harmonies.
The Allman Brothers Band were on the road almost non-stop in the first half of 1971. By the time of this broadcast, you were coming off the Fillmore East recordings and your famous sets during the theater’s closing week. How were you feeling — dazed, tired, energized?
We were in another universe. We were out spreading the gospel of this music we had discovered. We never thought that we would be more than an opening act. Atlantic Records was riding our ass constantly to get Gregg out from behind the organ, stick a salami down his pants and jump around the stage like Robert Plant. We told them to go fuck themselves. “We’re playing this for ourselves. We’ve tried it your way before. We didn’t make any money and we had a miserable time.”
This time, we decided, “OK, we don’t care if we don’t make any money. We’re having the time of our lives.” Little by little, people started understanding what we were doing. But it had to start with us. Once the crowd got in and we could feed on their energy, we’d feed it back to them.
King Curtis died two weeks before the WPLJ broadcast. Did Duane say anything before the band went on the air about doing something in Curtis’ memory?
No, that just popped up. But from the time he came back from the funeral, up to that show, he talked about Curtis a lot, about the funeral — and about mortality. I think Duane understood that the way he lived life, he wouldn’t live a long one.
That day, on the air, was the first time we knew we were doing a tribute or, actually, “You Don’t Love Me.” I don’t recall a set list. But if we had one, “You Don’t Love Me” wasn’t on it. Duane was at the microphone, talking about King Curtis. You can hear him: “Have you guys all heard ‘Soul Serenade’?” He played a bit on guitar, then you could almost see a light bulb go off in his head. He stopped and start playing that riff [hums the opening lick of “You Don’t Love Me”].
We knew what was coming then, although we didn’t now when or exactly how. Duane played “Soul Serenade” a little slower than I was expecting. I was ready to kick into something more uptempo. But Duane was still so torn up by the fact that King was dead. It ripped him apart. When he came back from the funeral, that’s when Duane started talking about his own funeral. He really did.
Actually, it was about a month after the A&R Studios broadcast — and right before his death — that Duane went into rehab for heroin addiction. Did drug use affect his playing?
It did for awhile. It was one of the few times I actually got in Duane’s face. But you have to know Duane to know how something like this could happen. You ever read Faust by Goethe? His Faust — all he wanted to do was experience everything life had to offer. Good and bad didn’t matter. His deal with Mephistopheles was, “The minute I tell you I am content where I am, that is the minute you can have my soul.”
Duane Allman was very much Goethe’s Faust. He wanted to try everything. When I first met him, he was eating Black Beauties [diet pills with amphetamine and benzadrine] like they were going out of style — just wired out of his gourd, until the night he realized it was messing with his music. That’s the night he stopped. I saw him go through many periods where he would experiment with some drug — psychedelics, whatever — until he realized it was messing with his music. Duane had this laser-like focus, and it was his music. He was also living life to the fullest.
I remember we were playing in San Francisco [in early October 1971]. Duane followed me back to my room, walked in, closed the door, looked me in the eye and went, “Butch, what the fuck is going on with you guys? Every time I start to play, you give me nothin’. When Dickey starts playing, you guys are kicking ass.” I stared him in the eye and said, “Duane, you are so fucked up that you’re not giving me anything. How can I give you anything if you’re not giving me anything to play off of? That’s the way I play. I follow you, every single thing you do.”
He stood there, it seemed like forever. It was one time when he knew I was right. Finally he turned around and walked out. It was almost right after that — he grabbed Berry, [roadies] Red Dog and Kim Payne and checked into rehab in Buffalo, New York. Then Duane walked into the common room there, saw Red Dog laying there out of it on methadone. Duane went nuclear: “We didn’t come here to get fucked up. We came here to get straight.” They slipped out that night, back to Macon. But that was the last time Duane touched heroin — from that night in San Francisco, when I told him that shit was screwing with his music and he believed me. He was that strong as a human being.
Several important live albums have been released from the Allmans’ archive in recent years. How did the A&R Studios broadcast escape scrutiny until now?
We have so many recordings of unreleased shows that absolutely smoke. We were putting out two recordings a year for awhile, old stuff with Duane and Berry; one with just the five of us before [pianist] Chuck Leavell joined the band [Macon City Auditorium; Macon, Georgia; February 11th, 1972]; and with Chuck and [bassist] Lamar Williams [Nassau Coliseum; Long Island, New York; May 1st, 1973]. For some reason, we stopped putting them out.
Are there other vintage shows that you would like to see released?
There are some nights we did at the Warehouse in New Orleans that I’d give anything to have out. And we have ’em. Also pretty much anything from the Fillmores [East and West]. But definitely the Warehouse — every time we played there, it was magic.
Originally published here: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/allman-brothers-butch-trucks-talks-epic-1971-radio-concert-20160308?page=5
Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band will join Duran Duran, Alabama Shakes, Train, Death Cab For Cutie, ZZ Top and many, many more for Sunfest 2016
Founded in 1982, SunFest is Florida’s largest waterfront music and art festival. Held annually in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida the first week in May, SunFest attracts more than 175,000 visitors. The festival and the patrons have a positive impact on the local economy. For tickets, information, schedule and full lineup: http://www.sunfest.com/
Feb. 8, 2016
Joining host Bill Donohue on this Super Bowl Sunday was Grand Funk Railroad‘s Mark Farner, followed by Butch Trucks from The Allman Brothers and former New York Rangers and Islanders defenseman Tom Poti. Bill then closed out the show talking about the NFL’s Hall-of-Fame selections this past weekend prior to the Super Bowl.
Listen to Butch’s segment here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NA2MTO-eZiM
Or hear the entire show here.
Butch Trucks and The Freight Train Band
w/ Thomas Wynn and The Believers
The Plaza Live, Orlando, FL
Let’s travel back in time and pretend I’m writing for a weekly publication, and that this is not late, or overdue, or any of them tardy related phrases. In all fairness, my laptop up and died before Christmas and I just got the replacement, so I beg forgiveness on this late thing.
This said, Butch Trucks and The Freight Train Band were insanely good. They brought their Trucks Family roadshow to Orlando and put on an event for the ages. Not content to sit about idly following the 2014 finale of the Allman Brothers Band, of which he’s a founding member, Trucks formed the Freight Train Band.
The band was originally a four piece, Trucks, son Vaylor Trucks on guitar, Berry Oakley Jr. (bass, naturally), and keyboard legend, Bruce Katz. The band has since been expanded with Damon Fowler on second/slide guitar. This night they were joined by Tad Isch on second drum set. Isch helped add the percussive depth people are used to hearing on the Allman’s numbers through the night. “Hot ‘Lanta,” “Jessica,” and In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” were all bandied out and warmly received.
But true to his nature, Butch (forgive the lack of formality, but there are a lot of people with the same last name involved) wasn’t interested in doing a greatest hits, by numbers, sort of show. Early on he announced, “This is only the fourth time I’ve ever sung onstage.”
He was quickly corrected by the band, “Fifth!”
“Alright, the fifth time. I’m having a good time, so I hope you’re all having a good time too.” The band launched into a raucous reading of Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61.” Damon Fowler’s slide work was fiery and fluid.
FSU marketing student and remarkable singer/guitarist Heather Gillis joined the band for “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Gillis also sang a duet with Berry Oakley Jr. on the classic “Only You Know and I Know.”
Daughter Melody Trucks joined the band with Gillis to sing back up on Knockin’ on Heaven’s door.” Later, she sang lead on “Statesboro Blues.” Granddaughter Astrid Trucks song back up and took a verse on the classic, “Ophelia.”
The show closed out with “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” which leapt into new territory during Vaylor Trucks solo. The song twisted and turned itself into a manic swirl of notes reminiscent of Coltrane’s wild squalls of abandon. It wound it’s way out, back to the melody, held together deftly by Oakley’s solid bass playing.
Heather Gillis was brought back out to sing the encore, “Whipping Post,” which she positively killed. The song live, is positively visceral. The audience reaction nothing short of fervent. And the performance, over the top and imposing. Through the course of the night guitarist Vaylor Truck proved himself at every turn. “Whipping Post” allowed him one final opportunity to provide a combustible climax to the legendary number. His soloing was emotional, inspired, and thoroughly volatile. Vaylor Trucks is a name more people need to know.
The big takeaway from the evenings entertainment, is that Butch Trucks has no interest in leaving the stage behind him, and is just as solid and energized as he ever was. He seemed to be enjoying himself and loved having his family alongside him. The show ran over two hours and felt hopeful and cathartic at once.
Orlando’s Thomas Wynn and the Believers opened the show with a bluesy set of original numbers. Thomas Wynn and his sister Olivia provided provided memorable dual lead vocals. Harmonica player Chris Bell was explosive each and every time he took a solo. His performance was a highlight of the set.
Read the full article online here: http://indiemusic.co/2016/01/07/butch-trucks-and-the-freight-train-band-roll-through-orlando/
Former Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks chats with Marvelous Marvin about his upcoming NYE Concert at the Capitol Theatre!
Published: Thursday, December 24, 2015 at 11:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 24, 2015 at 11:15 a.m.
One might wonder if drummer Butch Trucks is prone to nostalgia when performing classics he made famous with the Allman Brothers Band in a new group that includes his son on lead guitar.
In reality, if it’s going well, he’s not thinking at all.
“Once we start playing, I’m not thinking about anything; I’m playing music,” the gregarious Trucks said by phone from the South of France, where he lives when he’s not at home in his native Jacksonville. “One thing I learned, thanks to (guitarist) Duane Allman, is to quit being introverted, sitting over there into yourself and insecure. Open up and let it go! Once you do that, you can’t think about it too much. You just play.”
Trucks, 68, will play again with on Sunday with his Freight Train Band at Ponte Vedra Concert Hall in Ponte Vedra Beach. The lineup features his son, guitarist Vaylor Trucks, as well as bassist Berry Oakley Jr., whose father famously handled that duty with the Allman Brothers Band until his death in a motorcycle accident in 1972 at age 24.
Although the most famous Trucks relative in musical circles is undoubtedly slide guitarist Derek Trucks, a much younger Vaylor Trucks also made a timeless contribution to the Allman Brothers legacy in 1973.
“He was that cute blonde-headed kid on the Brothers and Sisters album,” the elder Trucks said. “Well, he’s not that cute anymore, but he’s one hell of a guitar player and I always wanted to play with him. Believe me, they both picked up the DNA. They know what they are doing.”
Augmented by veteran keyboardist Bruce Katz and Tampa-based blues guitarist Damon Fowler, the band embraces Allman classics such as “Statesboro Blues,” “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and “Whipping Post,” along with material by John Scofield, Jeff Beck, Billy Preston and Bob Dylan.
Trucks does wax nostalgic about playing in the Jacksonville area, where he was raised and first started performing in bands, with fairly modest results.
“Ponte Vedra is where I started my professional music career,” Trucks said. “It’s where I used to go with the Jacksonville Beach Boys and we’d play for all these rich snotty kids at a club. These kids did not come up and request songs. They would come up and tell you what to play —and if you didn’t play it, they went and got their mommies.”
Fortunately, maternal interference isn’t as likely this time.
“If they don’t like it they can leave,” Trucks said. “But we’re playing a lot of cool stuff.”
Obviously, it would be hard for any performance to match the kinetic energy of the star-studded final stretch of shows at the Beacon Theatre in New York before the Allman Brothers Band split in 2014.
“I’m in the upper 60s now and after six or seven days, I was tired,” Trucks said. “I’d walk to the theater and there’s three steps up to the drum riser. Well, I’d look at those steps and they’d look like Mount Everest. But I’d crawl up there, get all hooked up and half way through the first song I’m an 18-year-old Superman. Something happens when the music starts and all that tiredness just goes away. When it’s going like that, I’ll take on any 20-year-old hot-shot drummer who wants to try me. In those hours, I’m just soaring.”
Trucks expects at least some kind of magic whenever he plays music anywhere.
“If it’s not there, then I’m quitting,” he said, “and as long as it’s there, I can’t quit.”
In addition to the Freight Train Band, Trucks is excited about the prospects of Les Brers, a collaboration with Allman bandmates Jaimoe, Marc Quiñones and Oteil Burbridge on the bill at the 2016 Wanee Music Festival in Live Oak.
Nor does he close the door on a potential Allman Brothers Band reunion.
“What I’ve learned, after 45 years, is that you never say never,” he said. “We shall see, but I think probably we’ll do something. Whether it’s short or long depends on a lot.”
Founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Butch Trucks knows what he wants to play and knows what he want us to experience when we see him playing live. Since the Allman Brothers Band went their separate ways after the 2014 Beacon Theatre run, Butch has been searching for that sound, that visceral feeling that comes from creating something much more than the sum of the parts. He didn’t have to go far from family and friends to put together The Freight Train Band. With son Vaylor Trucks playing a mean guitar, along with reknowned Florida picker Damon Fowler, plus new addition on keys the venerable Bruck Katz, and Sarasota’s own Berry Oakley Jr. on the rock bottom, this band has the talent to take the intensity off the Richter scale.
Listen above or read the full article here: