**Hittin’ the Web EXCLUSIVE**
Last summer, after the ABB’s show at Great Woods, I had the pleasure of taking Lana up on her offer to interview Butch Trucks. Kirk West escorted me and my friend Greg (no relation) back to Butch’s dressing room. What followed was more of a conversation than a formal interview. I’ve had the pleasure of corresponding with Butch for a couple of years now and we were immediately comfortable with each other. He’s always been frank and willing to share his thoughts with me in writing and our in-person experience was equally as candid.
Also present during this interview were Buffalo Evans, Butch’s wife Melinda, and one of his daughters. One and all, they acted like real folks, not celebrities.
I need to thank Gary Seaman (Peachnutt), who lent me his recorder for the interview and then burned it to compact disc. And now, the First Set:
Frim- I had about 25 questions written, but … You opened with Whippin’ Post and ended with Mountain Jam!!
Butch- No, that wasn’t Mountain Jam, that was Molehill Jam. Normally when we do Mountain Jam, it’s about 55 minutes – 60 minutes. When we started Mountain Jam, they told us we had 40 minutes left to do that, Revival and One Way Out some how. So we cut it down from Mountain Jam to Molehill Jam. If you noticed, nobody stretched out too much – just a little bit.
Frim- Ya, but….. but you opened with Whippin’ Post and you closed with Mountain Jam!
Butch- We’ve never done that before. That was a first.
Frim- Did that come up on stage, or did you guys plan to do that for ….?
Butch- No, we’ve been talking about it for a few days. Said, ‘Let’s do something different in Boston’ ya know? It’s something Jaimoe’s been wanting to do for years. He said, ‘Why don’t we play Whippin’ Post at the beginning of the night when I still got some energy – before I’m all beat up!’ So we finally said ‘O.K., we’ll do it!’ And we did it!
Frim- Ya you did! O.K., I do have some questions.
Frim- Let’s see what we can get to, I remember, if I’m correct, that Bert Holman said you were the member of the band that was pushing for involvement on the World Wide Web.
Frim- How’d that get started?
Butch- I got into computers years ago, way back with the little old 286, back before Windows. I was playing around with it when it was in DOS and so by the time the Web came along, I was already doing these on-line games I & N, Sierra Network and all that stuff.
Frim- Sierra Network?
Butch- It was like an on-line Dungeons and Dragons kind of thing that was, at the time, real basic. You just had like a little picture on the screen and then there would be dialogue and you’d talk to each other. You would go through these little dungeons and solve all these riddles and puzzles. Plus some of the early computer games were a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun with those.
So, when The Web came along, these guys, Lana and Rowland … I guess Rowland first …. he approached us and said ‘We’d like to start this web site,’ It was one of the first band web sites ever. I said, ‘Hell, Ya!’
Frim- I’m just curious, how’d he approach you, how’d he find you?
Butch- He called Bert (Holman). He just found out who our manager was and then he called Bert and Bert got a hold of me ’cause Bert really didn’t know anything about computers…
Frim- When was this, Butch?
Butch- This must have been nine years ago! I mean, this was right after the web got really started. Like ’91, something like that. But out of that was where Haht Commerce came from. In designing that web site, Rowland came up with all these things that he wanted to do and there was no software to do it with.
Frim- No kidding!
Butch- Ya! So he developed all this software to do a lot of stuff for our web site and he had enough sense to patent and copyright all of the software; and that’s basically how Haht got started. Ya, he’s a great American success story.
Frim- When you hooked up with Rowland and Lana, was that the first time you really were able to hear from a lot of fans at once in a broad scope?
Butch- It took me a while. It actually took a while for it to really catch on. At the beginning it was more like, ya know, they’d just post news, and people would show up. It took a year or so because there really wasn’t that many people on the web at that time. I mean, it wasn’t like it is now. Back in the early 90’s, there really wasn’t that many people connected.
It was maybe about five or six years ago that I really started paying attention. I started looking at it and going on the Forum and answering questions and that kind of thing. Basically trying to get feedback from the fans about what they thought. Then I’d bring it to the band. Like, people were complaining about us playing the same set every night because a lot of people were going to multiple shows. I kept saying ‘Hey, this is what the kids on the web are saying.’
Frim- When you started hearing feedback from the fans on the web site, were there big surprises?”
Butch- No, No. Although for awhile I just quit going. I just quit going on there for about three or four months when four or five people were just ranting and raving.
Frim- What made you decide to come back?
Butch- Well finally Lana and Rowland exerted some controls on posts, a policy.
Frim- How’d you like the Beacon Run this year?
Butch- I loved it! Are you kiddin’? It was great! Did you come?
Frim- Ya, I went to the Friday and Saturday shows closest to St. Patrick’s Day.
Butch- Well, what did you think?
Frim- I loved it. I saw a big difference between the Friday and Saturday shows. What I’ve noticed is that you guys are taking a lot more chances and are exploring.
Butch- That’s what’s happening. In the beginning it was six guys. Duane was the leader, but Duane was the leader because everybody wanted to follow him. He never exerted any real authority. He didn’t intimidate or bully anybody. He was just strong, charismatic, and if he told you that something was going to happen, put it in the bank; it was done. You just followed him.
Now, when Duane died, Berry, who was kind of the second in command, just kind of fell apart and for about a year everybody just kind of you know “what” (shrugs)… and after Berry died…
Frim- Now when you guys got back together, from ’89 to ’96 it was glorious, man. I mean one the highlights of my year was seeing you create music in different places. What’s it like to have Warren back?
Butch- It’s lovely. I wished he hadn’t left. It’s really nice.
Frim- How’s the summer going?
Butch- You heard it! I don’t have to say anything. I’m having an absolute ball! I feel like a 24-year-old kid right now. In about three hours I’ll feel like an 84-year-old man!
Frim- I was surprised, a lot of people didn’t email me questions to ask. But this one dude, Randy Stevens, did. He goes back to the Allman Joys, and he really dug, more than anything he’s seen, last summer, Derek and Jimmy Herring. That was the greatest thing he’s seen since Duane. What he suggested I ask you is to talk about that and also if you could talk about the different guitar players.
Butch- Ya. I think Jimmy may be the best guitar player alive today. Whether he’s the best guitar player for the Allman Brothers, I don’t know. It’s really a moot point.
Jimmy grew up listening and worshipping Duane Allman and Dickey Betts. Jimmy’s a very special individual. He spent most of life playing small clubs and not making much money. But that doesn’t really bother him. He came out and worked for us last year, made more money than he ever made, but that really didn’t mean that much, you know? What started bothering him is that he started noticing that he was playing just like Dickey and Duane and it scared the shit out of him, it really did.
Then he got the offer from Phil. He sat there and to him, playing with the Allman Brothers was the ultimate, ultimate dream come true. But then it started turning into a nightmare because he started feeling like he was losing his voice. He said, ‘You know, I grew up listening to these guys but then developed my own style. Now, I’m getting up there playing their songs and I’m starting to play like them!’ He said, ‘I’m scared if I stay in the Allman Brothers, I’m going to lose my own voice.’ That’s the reason he went with Phil.
Frim- Probably the first time I saw Jimmy was that show in Vermont where Dickey wasn’t there after Saratoga. Jimmy sat in with you guys with John Popper, who was still in the wheel chair.
Butch- Oh! Wasn’t that great?! That was so much fun!
Frim- Was that the first time Jimmy played with you Butch?
Butch- Oh ya.
Frim- I skipped the Zack Wylde show though…
Intermission, queue Betty Boop, see you soon with the Second Set.