By REX RUTKOSKI
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
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
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
“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
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
“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.”