By: Spencer Patterson
For The Las Vegas Sun
If you think Warren Haynes gives his guitars a workout at his shows, just imagine what his day planner must look like. While many musicians might struggle to keep pace with a single band, the 37-year-old Asheville, N.C., native is a full-time member of three.
He fronts his own Gov’t Mule, plays with the Allman Brothers Band and tours with Phil & Friends, an outfit led by Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh. And that can make for a mighty crazy schedule, especially for a married man with family responsibilities.
“These have been the three busiest years of my career, definitely, so that cuts into my family time a little bit,” Haynes said in a phone interview from his New York City home. “But my wife is in the music business, so she understands.
“There’s been a lot of great stuff happening, and sometimes when the opportunity strikes you have to jump on it.”
Haynes hits town at 8 tonight, when the Allman Brothers Band plays The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel.
Life wasn’t always this hectic for the man Rolling Stone magazine recently called “the hardest-working guitarist on the planet.” From 1989 to 1997, Haynes was best known as a member of the Allman Brothers Band.
Playing alongside longtime Allmans guitarist Dickey Betts, the skillful, multidimensional Haynes was credited with keying that band’s resurgence two decades after the death of founder Duane Allman.
Then in 1997 Haynes’ musical saga took the first of several recent twists and turns.
Along with then-Allmans bassist Allen Woody, Haynes left the band to concentrate on Gov’t Mule, a former side project featuring Haynes, Woody and drummer Matt Abts.
“We felt that in order to be taken as seriously as we wanted to be taken, we needed to become a full-time band and prove to ourselves and to the rest of the world that it wasn’t a side project,” Haynes said.
With Haynes at the helm, Mule toured extensively and gained notoriety as one of the top jam bands on the scene. But in August 2000, the band was knocked off track when Woody was discovered dead of unknown causes in a New York City hotel room.
As Haynes struggled to deal with the loss of his longtime collaborator, he also searched for new paths to travel musically.
One of those new directions turned out to be an old one.
Having asked Betts to leave the band in 2000, the Allmans were on the lookout for a guitar player. Guess who they called?
“Woody had passed away, Gov’t Mule’s future was up in the air and Dickey had left the Allman Brothers, so it seemed like everything was a big whirlwind,” Haynes said. “Gregg (Allman) called me one day and said, ‘The door’s always open here.’ And we just kind of agreed to give it a shot on a trial basis and see how it worked out.”
That trial period soon turned into Haynes’ second stint with the Allmans, as he quickly determined the conditions were right for a full-on reunion.
The Allman Brothers Band that Haynes came back to looked quite a bit different than the one he’d left behind four years earlier.
Though the seven-piece ensemble’s mainstays — singer/keyboardist Gregg Allman and the percussion section of Butch Trucks, Jaimoe and Marc Quinones — were still in place, the band also featured two new faces.
Former Aquarium Rescue Unit bassist Oteil Burbridge took over Woody’s vacated seat, while Trucks’ young nephew, Derek Trucks, had moved into the second guitarist slot.
Haynes said those changes make for some exciting musical adventures during the band’s legendary live jam sessions.
“Derek and I had probably jammed 50 or 60 times before we ever started playing together in the Allman Brothers, so that took shape pretty quickly and it’s growing all the time. The chemistry he and I have now is pretty amazing,” Haynes said.
“And (with Oteil), the sound is a little jazzier, a little freer in a lot of ways. There’s a new wave of energy that’s very fresh. You can feel the band improving constantly.”
Soon after rejoining the Allmans, Haynes began work on the band’s first new album since 1994. Released in March, “Hittin’ the Note” has drawn acclaim as the band’s best studio work since the early 1970s. Haynes had a hand in writing all nine of the CD’s original compositions.
In addition to his guitar duties, Haynes also lends his husky vocals to more of the band’s live material in the new configuration.
“In the old days I’d sing one or two songs a night,” Haynes said. “And now it’s more like four … and there are a lot of instrumentals. You know, 14 songs for an Allman Brothers show can be two hours and 45 minutes.”
Haynes also continues to tour and record with Gov’t Mule. After months of playing with fill-in musicians, the band is set to announce a new full-time bassist, possibly as soon as Monday.
And later this year, Haynes is set to rejoin Phil & Friends for more touring, that band’s first shows since last year.