The Allman Brothers Band

Allmans Reaching New Generations

By REX RUTKOSKI

Weekender Correspondent
8/22/2001

The Allman Brothers Band plays on.

And people are continuing to take notice.

“Regardless of lineup, the Allmans remain a nightly wonder,” observes

veteran chronicler of the music scene, David Fricke. “In their middle

age, they have evolved beyond band-dom into a great repertory

orchestra, a rock equivalent of the Count Basie and Duke Ellington

organizations, revisiting classic material with fresh, practiced swing.”

There’s Gregg Allman, Hammond B-3, acoustic guitar and vocals;

Butch Trucks, drums and timpani; Jaimoe, drums; Warren Haynes,

back in the fold again on lead and slide guitar and vocals; Marc

Quinones, congas and percussion; Oteil Burbridge, bass and vocals;

and Derek Trucks, founding member Butch’s nephew, on lead and slide

guitar.

While the ABB’s lineup has evolved continuously over the past 30-plus

years, the group has retained its essence.

Gregg Allman believes what they offer continues to speak to people

because “It’s just good, honest, music.” “We don’t cut corners. We don’t

try to kill any time up there.”

These members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have always

delivered a no-frills message, he suggests.

“It’s just straight-ahead, no-frills. No costumes,” Allman says,

chuckling. “One good thing about this band is you don’t have to worry

about the clothing expense. We can’t write off too many clothes in this

band. We’ve got a few lights. That’s about it.”

Willie Nelson put it into perspective in his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

induction speech for the Allmans.

“They took what moved them and merged it into something unique that

audiences love: a sound that redefined the direction of rock’n’roll, and

opened the doors to a spirit of experimentation that continues in today’s

music,” he said.

They’ve always found a way to survive. The group’s most recent

celebrated departure was that of guitarist Dickey Betts last year.

“If you have a good, tight, family team, any outside problems bounce

off a team,” Allman says. “When you’re eating, living, talking, sweating,

traveling together for 30 years, there ain’t no way to get that many

people together without there being some sort of dissension.”

That the Allmans have been able to forge ahead and speak to a new

generation is a source of rich satisfaction to Butch Trucks.

“That’s probably the most gratifying thing in my life right now,” he says.

“To me that’s just something that’s never supposed to happen. By

definition you’re not supposed to like what your parents like (he laughs).

To see this going on really is gratifying. To have a daughter who thinks

her dad is cool, most fathers don’t get that luxury.”

Playing music is still “fun and vital,” he says.

Fun is what playing live continues to be, Trucks says. “Oh man, that’s

the art! The stage is a place where you can forget about technique and

really focus on inspiration,” he explains. “The studio gig is tedious. It’s

like laying bricks, as opposed to a live show, which is more like

sculpture, where you can really cut loose and not be so worried about

making a mistake. Plus you have the audience to feed off of. Live gigs

are the only way to go.”

The Allmans celebrate that live experience in their latest concert

album, “Peakin’ at the Beacon.” This March the band played their ninth

sold-out New York City performance in 2001, extending their streak of

sold out shows at the Beacon Theatre to 103 straight.

“Peakin’ at the Beacon” is a 74-minute offering from their shows from

2000. The group emphasized selecting material for the CD that is not

on previous live albums.

The ABB’s 2000 shows were the Beacon debut of Derek Trucks, who

replaced Jack Pearson in the summer of ’99.

“It’s a thrill and an honor just to be asked and to be able to get up and

create music with those guys,” Trucks says. “In a way they were one

of the first fusion bands. Their early stuff is timeless. It still holds up.

“Gregg essentially is an R&B and blues player and singer. (The late)

Duane (Allman) was starting to listen to other things, and (drummer)

Jaimoe is coming from a straight-ahead place. It’s just kind of a

collision of a lot of things. It’s hard to really categorize them.”

What did he learn from Uncle Butch?

“I wasn’t really around him that much. Listening to the Allmans’ music I

got interested in music. Early on I learned indirectly through the music

they created. It’s a great thing to be able to play music with a family

member.”

People called the Allmans southern rock. “But it’s much more than

that,” Derek says. “When you listen to the early stuff it’s coming from a

lot of different places. The legacy’s always growing and moving. It

depends on what people do with their music.”

The early material is timeless, he says. “You can listen to it now and it

still holds up,” he says. “They showed it was not about dressing up

pretty and looking pretty. It was just getting up and playing music.

That’s a lost art now a days.”

When it’s cooking on stage, it’s difficult to describe those moments,

Derek says. “You really don’t feel that at any other time in life. Usually

when it’s going on (the magic) you really don’t feel like you are part of

it. You feel like it’s flowing through you. You have to get in touch and

let it flow through you. It’s a thrill. That’s what keeps us doing it.”

Butch Trucks agrees.

“The intensity is still there,” he says. “When things get rolling and you

reach that point where you feel like you can’t make a mistake, you’re in

the groove and things are flowing, that’s what it’s all about. It still

happens. As long as it does, it still will be fun.”

You won’t get any argument on that point from Gregg Allman.

The live experience remains the most enjoyable, he says. “The people

are so wonderful. Now they are young. More than half of them weren’t

even alive when I wrote ‘Midnight Rider,’ ” he says, laughing.

“About every fifth to seventh night you are blessed with one of those

nights where you usually think you are too damn tired, or not in the

mood, and all of a sudden, little did you know, there just happen to be a

bunch of people right in front of you who are just really pouring their

hearts out. Man, they love you! Stuff like that puts you in the mood.”

What’s coming through the many moods of the Allman Brothers

musically is an inspiration, suggests Derek Trucks.

And they really are an American institution, he adds. “You realize how

many people have been touched with their music.”

Butch Trucks is proud of The Allman Brothers Band’s contribution to

music.

“We’ve opened the door a little bit for more freedom,” he says. “We

added an element of jazz, the improvisation, to (rock) music that I don’t

think was there before. It wasn’t done quite the way we did it. We

definitely opened the door for southern musicians to decide to stay at

home.

We came along at a time where if you were a southern band you

were supposed to move to New York or LA to make it. As far as the

music goes, we were true to ourselves. We started playing this music

that was so intense and vital, we said ‘To hell with it. Let’s just go out

and play some music.”‘ They played for anybody who would listen, he

says.

“And even if you didn’t want to listen we would go and play it,” Trucks

adds, laughing. “Eventually people caught up on that spirit. If you have

something intense and vital and it’s sincere, you can communicate.”

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