Butch Trucks talks Allmans, being ‘Superman’
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.”