The Allman Brothers Band

Reflections on the Macon Scene & More, An Interview with Les Dudek

by Oldcoot


“You have to realize,” guitarist Les Dudek begins, “that when I arrived in
Macon, there was a big hole in the bottom of the bucket.” Dudek is referring
to the untimely passing several months earlier by Allman Brothers Band founder
and leader, the late Duane Allman. Then 19, Dudek had first traveled to Macon
with a musician friend to audition for a band that original Allman member,
guitarist Dickey Betts, was supposedly starting. “Dickey was going to put
together another band, that’s how I got involved with it,” says Dudek. “At that
particular time, he (Betts) didn’t really know if he was going to stay with the
Allman Brothers.”

Betts’ band didn’t actually go forward but Dudek quickly became immersed in the
Macon music scene. He lived with Allman roadie (and eventual Grinderswitch
bassist) Joe Dan Petty. Dudek jammed with anyone and everyone. “Back then, it
was like, anything that would go on in that town, at the drop of a hat, let’s
back the truck up and jam, let’s pull the gear out. It was a real big music
scene for such a small town in the south” Dudek recalls. “Man, we’d play all
the time. We’d show up at Grant’s Lounge, this little bar downtown, there’d be
like ten people in the bar. By the time we finished the first tune, you
couldn’t move in there, it’d turn into one big jam session. I just wish they
had camcorders back in those days. You could feel Duane’s spirit everywhere.”
(A picture from Grant’s with Gregg Allman and Dudek can be found at Dudek’s
website, www.lesdudek.com).

Dudek’s playing ability did not go unnoticed. Capricorn Records head Phil Walden
signed Dudek to a personal contract. Walden had plans for Dudek to become a
member of the Allman Brothers Band. Instead, Dudek only ended up playing on the
“Brothers and Sisters” release. He is featured playing guitar on the songs
“Ramblin’ Man” and “Jessica” two of the group’s most well known songs.

One evening Dudek was invited to a session as the band worked on “Ramblin’ Man”.
Dudek states, “They’d be working on the tune and Dickey would come in the
control room and ask “what do you think, how does it sound?” Dudek had made a
few suggestions when Betts asked Les to strap on his guitar and play. “I went
from local bands in Florida to standing where Duane would have stood. It was a
big thrill for me,” Dudek remembers, “a very surreal feeling.”

During the same recording sessions for “Brothers and Sisters” not all of the
original ABB members warmed to Dudek’s presence. “Berry (Oakley, the group’s
original bassist) hardly said two words to me the whole time. The same thing
would happen at clubs. I would be in Grant’s Lounge and Berry would be at the
other end of the bar, just staring at me. I finally asked Dickey, man, why is
he doing that? That’s when Dickey said “you remind us so much of Duane
sometimes, it’s weird.”

While the “Brothers and Sisters” recording progressed (Lamar Williams eventually
becoming the bass player after Oakley tragically died), so too did another
recording project, Gregg Allman’s first solo effort, “Laid Back”.

One night while the sessions unfolded, Gregg gave Dudek a gift, Duane’s National
dobro. “He said I want you to play dobro on “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?”,
here’s Duane’s dobro, I want you to have it. I went home and worked up
something really great for it.” The next day when Gregg told the record’s
producer Johnny Sandlin his idea for the dobro part, Sandlin, according to
Dudek, refused the suggestion. “He said I don’t hear (picture) any dobro on
this song.” Dudek was so disgusted that he gave the dobro back to Gregg.

The ABB wasn’t the only band noticing Dudek’s considerable prowess on guitar.
“Toy Caldwell wanted me to play with Marshall Tucker in the beginning.” Dudek
declined because he wasn’t comfortable with the heavier country flavorings of
MTB music. “For me it was just too country. It just didn’t light my fire,”
Dudek remembers. Former roommate Petty also wanted Les to be a part of Petty’s
new band, Grinderswitch. Instead, Dudek helped recruit several players that
became original members.

Since it was becoming obvious that Walden’s goal to get him in the Allmans
wasn’t going to happen, Les exercised other options. Boz Scaggs, who had
contributions from Duane Allman on Scaggs’ self titled 1969 album, came
courting. He wanted Les to help him on an upcoming tour. Dudek accepted.

When asked about Duane’s memorable contribution to Scaggs’ cover of Fenton
Robinson’s “Loan Me A Dime”, Les recalls little influence from Allman on how
Dudek approached the song during concerts. “I might have heard (that version)
once or twice, but I never really dwelled on it. When I do a blues number, I do
it from my gut.” Dudek does cite a mutual influence on how both he and Duane
developed their slide guitar styles. Dudek states, “If you listen to some early
Ry Cooder and then just imagine it being electric, that’s Duane Allman.
Basically, I got a lot of the same licks from Ry as Duane did, and so people
thought I sounded a lot like Duane, really I sound like Ry Cooder, just
electric.”

Like Allman, Dudek uses glass while playing slide guitar. Dudek relates, “I
actually have one of Duane’s original Coricidan bottles, it was given to me by
Joe Dan.” He states, “Duane and I use glass, but the real secret is we use our
fingers to pick. It’s a whole different tone, it sings a lot more.”

Additionally, Petty gave Dudek a belt steeped in Allman tradition. “It was
originally Duane’s, he gave it to Berry who in turn gave it to Joe Dan. When
Berry died, Joe Dan gave it to me.” Dudek keeps the belt on his mantle, along
with a picture of Oakley wearing it. “I’m the keeper of the belt,” Dudek says
smiling.

As Dudek was touring with Scaggs, another musician became very interested in
him. Steve Miller noticed Dudek in Scaggs’ band while they opened on Miller’s
“The Joker” tour. Once the “Joker” tour ended, Miller invited Dudek to Seattle
to do some recording and to hang out. That union lead to Dudek contributing his
songwriting and guitar skills to numerous Miller albums such as “Book of
Dreams”, “Living In The Twentieth Century”, “Fly Like An Eagle” and “Wide
River.”

With some of the musicians he’d become acquainted with through those tours,
Dudek made some demos and attempted to secure a record deal. He found no
initial takers. During that same period, in San Francisco, a new band was
forming. He was invited to their first rehearsal. The band was Journey. “As I
look back, that’s one band that I should have done, if they’d have had the lead
singer. They were all great players but I didn’t hear any tunes, I didn’t hear
a singer. In retrospect, if Perry (singer Steve Perry) would have been there in
the beginning, I would have probably done the thing.” That same day, Columbia
Records offered Dudek his own solo deal, which he accepted.

From 1976 through 1981, Dudek released four critically acclaimed records on
Columbia. During that same time he also appeared on another album with fellow
musicians Jim Krueger and Mike Finnigan. Dudek, Finnigan and Krueger was
released in 1978. DFK made one tour before disbanding. Dudek remembers “we
had some incredible material, some of it still unreleased”. In remembrance of
Krueger, who died in 1993, Dudek is planning on incorporating an acoustic set
into his shows to play a Krueger penned song (made famous by Dave Mason) “We
Just Disagree”.

In 1980, Dudek appeared with The Black Rose Band, a group including then
girlfriend, Cher. According to Dudek, after several performances and an
appearance on “Midnight Special” and “The Merv Griffin Show”, the band failed
due to Casablanca Records folding after its founder Neil Bogart died. Dudek’s
association with Cher lasted longer.

In 1985, he appeared in the movie “Mask” along with Cher, Eric Stoltz and Sam
Elliott. Dudek played Cher’s motorcycle riding boyfriend, “Bone Tyson.” He also
wrote some music that was intended for an accompanying movie soundtrack. Due to
some scene cuts and editing which disappointed the film’s director Peter
Bogdanovich, the compositions were not included in the film. After many years,
one, “Behind The Mask” appears on Dudek’s most recent release (2002)
“Freestyle”. The song has an added second verse that Dudek wrote after his
mother passed away in 2000. “That was a very difficult time for me,” he says.
Dudek quickly points out the never ending support from both of his parents and
his sister, Sandi. “I thank the Lord every day for all the sacrifices that
they made for me (Dudek’s father died in 1985).”

The inclusion of “Behind The Mask” is only one of several songs developed years
ago that are present on “Freestyle”. The melancholy ballad “Another Love” was
pursued for inclusion on a Huey Lewis & The News release in the 1980’s. “Huey
Lewis got a hold of the tune and he wanted to do it. He was romancin’ me about
it and had his manager call me.” Dudek decided to keep the song for himself.
The title track from “Freestyle” was co-written by Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood
Mac fame. Dudek says that “Freestyle” contains many of the better songs that
he’s written since leaving CBS Records in 1982.

Dudek and Nicks first played together at her home in the Hollywood Hills in Los
Angeles and later at some area clubs in the mid-1980’s. Dudek joined Nicks’
touring band to support her “Whole Lotta Trouble” tour in 1991. He also put in
a stint with John Kay & Steppenwolf in 1989 followed in 1990 by extensive tours
of the U.S. and Europe by his solo band.

After the tours in 1990, Dudek began recording with long-time friend and drummer
Jeff Porcaro (Toto). Those sessions and other work lead to the 1994 release
“Deeper Shades of Blues”. Porcaro many years previously had been rehearsing
with Dudek when the melody line to “Old Judge Jones” emerged. “Jones” appeared
on Dudek’s “Say No More” album which is Dudek’s only Columbia release presently
available. Dudek has been trying to influence Sony’s Legacy division to
release his other three solo efforts. Additionally, Dudek would like to
release a “Best Of” anthology set, which would feature artists that have
performed his compositions and songs that Dudek provided guitar work for such
as Steve Miller, Dave Mason and Maria Muldaur. An anthology would also include
new works (“I have another album that I’ve written over the last several years”
he states) plus some vintage previously unreleased material. He recalls
incredible jams with Jaimoe, Butch Trucks and Leavell. Those took place during
the “Brothers and Sisters” sessions after Allman, Betts, or both would “get
frustrated and leave.”

Dudek currently tours in a trio format with drummer Ernie Peghini, who has
worked with guitarist Pat Travers, and bassist/vocalist Chris Dawson. Dudek
also sings in addition to his guitar work.

After so many tours, experiences and collaborations Dudek mentions two
particular jam sessions that stand out. “Once in Phoenix, Miller and I are
sitting in the trailer tuning guitars and rap, tap, tap on the door.” Elton
John, who was in the area on a tennis vacation, enters. Miller invites him to
come on stage and play. John declines since he “just couldn’t do it.” After
John leaves, Dudek tells Miller maybe they should have insisted more. Miller
says “he’ll be back.” Sure enough, more tapping at the door, and the Englishman
returns. Later, they all play on Little Richard’s “Lucille.” How did Miller
know the famous rock star would return? Dudek laughs, “well, after all, for not
being prepared, he had on a matching lime green outfit and just happened to
have three backup singers with him.”

The other memorable occasion was one of the many jamming opportunities in Macon.
It occurred at the wedding of Red Dog (Joseph Campbell, long-time Allman
roadie). It involved Dudek, Gregg Allman, Berry Oakley, Jaimoe, Butch Trucks
and Ricky Hirsch and Jimmy Hall from the band Wet Willie. “We must have jammed
for four hours straight, we never stopped.” It was after that occasion that
Oakley went out of his way to speak to Les for the first time. Dudek recalls,
“I remember leaning down and wiping my guitar off. I get a tap on my shoulder,
and I look up and it’s Berry. “Man you played your ass off tonight. Let’s jam
again this week,” Oakley told Dudek. “I had a feeling at that point that Berry
would have been a big ally for me being in the Allman Brothers. I think Berry
was starting to dig me as far as playing with me,” relates Dudek. A week later,
Oakley died from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident. It was eerily
similar to and just more than one year after Duane Allman’s fatal motorcycle
accident.

“That morning,” Dudek reminisces, “Joe Dan, Dickey and I were out at the farm
drinking coffee, getting ready to ride some horses. Dickey got a call from
Willie Perkins (the ABB’s road manager) saying that Berry was in an accident
and they didn’t know if he was going to live or not. We got in my Cougar and
hauled ass to Macon.” Upon arriving, Dickey “said (to hospital personnel) that
he was Berry’s brother” so Betts would be allowed to see him. They told him
“no, he just passed away.”

The fifty-one-year-old Dudek, who now resides in Florida, admits to only
recently purchasing a compact disc player. Included among his initial purchases
are some of his earliest influences, The Ventures and The Beatles. “I just dig
The Ventures oddly enough. They had some really innovative styles and sounds.
They had that wacky surf stuff goin’ on and the fuzztone thing. Obviously,
(Jimi) Hendrix was one of my favs. I don’t know too many guitar players that
didn’t like Hendrix.” Dudek laughs, “I dug him more for his blues and R&B
roots, before he was introduced to Marshall amplifiers.” Dudek’s musical
library also includes numerous albums by The Fab Four. “I just love The
Beatles. None of my stuff sounds like ‘em, but I just love their harmonies and
tunes.”

Dudek can be reached at, and his two most recent releases are available from his
website, www.lesdudek.com.

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