Butch Trucks

An American Drummer

Butch Trucks
Photo by Derek McCabe

BUTCH TRUCKS is an American drummer who is one of the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band. One of Trucks’ first bands was local Jacksonville band The Vikings, who made one 7-inch record in 1964.  Another early band was The 31st of February which formed and broke up in 1968. This group’s lineup eventually included both Duane Allman and Gregg Allman. They recorded a cover of “Morning Dew”, by 1960 folk singer Bonnie Dobson.

Trucks then helped form The Allman Brothers Band in 1969, along with Duane Altman (guitar), Gregg Allman (vocals and organ), Dickey Belts (guitar), Berry Oakley (bass), and fellow drummer Jai Johanny Johanson (a.k.a. Jaimoe).

Together, the two drummers developed a rhythmic drive that would prove crucial to the band. Trucks laid down a powerful conventional beat while the jazz-influenced Johanson added a second laminate of percussion and ad libitum cymbal flourishes, seamlessly melded into one syncopated sound.

Said founding member and co-lead guitarist Dickey Betts of Trucks’ addition to the original band lineup, ” …When Butch came along, he had that freight train, meat-and-potatoes kind of thing that set Jaimoe up perfectly. He had the power thing we needed.”

A Drummer’s Life

Butch TrucksA little anecdote from the Allman Brothers Band’s Butch Trucks tells the tale of a drummer’s life. “We were playing North Lake Amphitheatre near Atlanta several years ago. Two offensive linemen that played with the Atlanta Falcons were at the show. They were obviously football players, or if they weren’t, they should have been. I introduced myself, and they told me their names. I said. “Yeah, I’m quite familiar with you. We’ve got a lot in common. ” And they looked down at my little shrimp butt and they said, “Well, what do you mean by that?” And I said, “Well, we do all the work and the quarterbacks get all the credit.” They laughed their butts off.” Trucks keeps his sense of humor about his life in the back of the stage, but seems quite serious when he says, “It’s a band, and what we have in this group is a band. And all the elements are necessary.”

A No Hassle Approach

Butch TrucksAt the same time, Trucks’ relative anonymity is an easy fit. “I don’t worry about it too much. In fact, in a lot of ways, I’m kind of glad because I go out with Gregg and his blond hair and this, and that and the other. He’s recognized quite readily and it’s difficult for him to get any peace. He can’t go outside without getting a lot of hassle. And I get just enough to keep my ego up, and people recognize me and make me feel a little special, but not enough to drive me crazy. So I kind of like that.”

Butch Trucks has been creating rhythms with Jaimoe in the Allman Brothers Band for over 30 years. Marc Quinones came aboard in 1991. Trucks says, “We’ve gotten him to the point where he’s sweating. He’s changed a lot. He’s freed things up a lot because what I’m always looking for is a way to get out, to really get away from what you expect and start doing something different, and the more that’s going on, the more I can do that. The toughest thing for me was back when it was the band with just Berry Oakley, me and Jaimoe. Berry was so out, and so was Jaimoe that I was kind of forced into staying at home, something to hold it all together while everybody went to Uranus or wherever they went.”

“When Lamar came along, it got a lot better for me because he was much, much more a bass player and I could start getting lost – you know, start trying and experimenting, and if I did get lost I’d just look at Lamar’s left foot and find the one and come back on in and act like I knew what I was doing. And everyone would think that it was jazz or something. This is what you can do. The set-up we had with Woody was kind of a cross between the two. I had some of the freedom, but at the same time, I still had to stay back a bit.”

“I’ve worked with a lot of musicians in my life and some of them just happened to be bass players (hard to find animal, almost as hard as musician drummers). THE BEST of ’em is Oteil Burbridge. Oteil has more natural talent than anyone I’ve ever played with. He is innovative and is always in complete control of what he’s doing even when what he is doing is impossible. When it really gets dicey for me is when I head out with Frogwings and he and Quinones get going on one of their convoluted Latin rhythms. All I can do is hold on by the skin of my teeth and turn around and check with Marc every couple of bars to find out where the one is. “

A Frog is Born

Butch TrucksButch has been intimately involved in the business affairs of the ABB for over 30 years. It was at his suggestion the Allman Brothers Band became the first major rock band to have their own web site, Hittin’ the Web With the Allman Brothers Band. In 1998, Butch founded a new jam band, along with Derek Trucks, called Frogwings. The people and music Butch encountered on the road with Frogwings became the inspiration for Flying Frog Records. “I see Flying Frog Records as an opportunity for me and other artists who feel as I do to finally have a voice in how our recordings are being presented; to be involved with other artists that have the same passion for music; to get the people who love to listen to and live this kind of music involved with us; the finally have NO REGRETS about how we and our music are being exploited, because we are doing it ourselves, as a family.”

Les Brers

Les Brers
Photo by Derek McCabe
After the Allman Brothers Band’s last performance, Butch Trucks assembled Les Brers in collaboration with ABBand-mates Jaimoe, Marc Quiñones and Oteil Burbridge. Joining them were former ABB guitarist Jack Pearson, Pat Bergeson, Bruce Katz and Lamar Williams, Jr., son of the late ABB bass player, Lamar Williams.

Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band

Freight Train BandButch Trucks and The Freight Train was formed in 2016.   Butch was joined on stage by world renowned blues guitar slinger Damon Fowler, keyboard master Bruce Katz, Florida based percussionist Garrett Dawson, of The Dickey Betts Band, blues hall of famer Chris Vitarello, and 27 year old Matt Walker on Fender Bass. Rounding out the band is the young and very talented Heather Gillis, whose vocals, guitar playing, and performance tied together this amazing representation of the past, present and future of Roots Rock and the Blues.

RIP Brother Butch

We lost brother Butch tragically on January 24, 2017.  On Monday, Feb 20, in Macon, Georgia at the Cox Capitol Theatre, Butch Trucks’ family and friends held a private memorial service celebrating his life. Memories were shared and stories were told, and it was abundantly clear that Butch had just as profound an impact on people as he did on the music we love so much.

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