Warren Haynes plays with Gov’t Mule, the Dead and the Allmans — oh, and there’s that solo project …
By George Varga
17 June 2004
The San Diego Union-Tribune
It may not be possible for someone to be in four places at once, physically or musically, but Warren Haynes is nearly up for the challenge.
The North Carolina guitar wiz is currently on tour with the Dead, as the post-Jerry Garcia edition of the Grateful Dead is now known, with which he performs here Wednesday at Coors Amphitheatre in Chula Vista. The solo artist opening that show, and a dozen more on the Dead’s “Wave That Flag” tour, is … Warren Haynes.
That’s the same Warren Haynes whose summer schedule not only includes 35 concerts with the Dead, but 26 more with the Allman Brothers Band and four solo acoustic dates, followed by a fall tour with his own band, Gov’t Mule.
The Dead and Allmans have conveniently planned their respective concert treks to include vacation breaks between tour segments. This will enable Haynes to conclude the first leg of the Dead’s tour July 3 in Washington state, then kick off the Allmans’ tour the next day in Montana. He rejoins the Dead July 23 through Aug. 19, then jumps back to the Allmans the next day for 16 more shows.
“I guess to some extent I am a workaholic. But I definitely feel like I’m taking advantage of opportunities being presented to me that I would regret if I didn’t,” said Haynes, 44, who started playing with the Allmans 15 years ago and the Dead just this year.
The bearded guitarist’s passion for music is matched perhaps only by his skill and versatility. Yet, despite being hailed as one of the most gifted six-string artists in or out of rock, he is eager to further expand and hone his craft.
“As talented as he is, Warren doesn’t have a big head,” said Dead bassist Phil Lesh, who rejoined the Dead (then known as the Other Ones) in 2002, after a 7-year hiatus. “He’s down to earth, friendly, and brings a range to any kind of music that he plays. He can play (gritty) slide guitar or an out-in-space John Coltrane tune, and he can go anywhere in between. He also writes some of the finest songs I’ve ever heard and sings like an angel. What more could you ask for?”
Haynes has been a member of the Dead offshoot band Phil Lesh & Friends since before the Dead was resurrected four years ago. Lesh was so impressed by Haynes’ instrumental prowess and improvisational savvy that he quickly recommended him when a guitar spot opened in the Dead this year.
“It’s definitely not a coincidence, although it wasn’t that I invited Warren to play in my band so he could play in the Dead, because the Dead didn’t exist then,” Lesh said, speaking from his Marin County home last week.
“Warren was like the final piece of the puzzle for my band. When we first played together, we went out into the realms for 20 minutes solid and it was absolute magic. We brought Warren into the Dead to sing a lot of Jerry’s songs and play guitar. But it couldn’t have happened if he hadn’t spent four years playing that music in my band.”
Haynes first saw the Grateful Dead perform in 1979. He next saw the band in 1989 and then five more times before Garcia, the guitarist whose role he now helps fill, died in 1995.
He didn’t see the Allman Brothers perform until 1981, a decade after the death of guitarist Duane Allman. In 1989, he joined the Allmans, where he played alongside fellow six-string slinger Dickie Betts until 1997, when Haynes left to focus on Gov’t Mule, the band he formed in 1994.
“It was a little daunting because I was such a big fan of the band and such a Duane Allman fan,” said Haynes, who rejoined the Allmans following Betts’ ouster in 2000. “But there’d been so much space between the time I joined and Duane’s death that there wasn’t so much pressure. What made it easier for me is that I’d played in the Dickie Betts Band for three years before that.
“It was surprisingly similar with the Dead, in that I started working with Phil for four years and that led to me doing this now. In both cases, with the Dead and Allman Brothers, they said: ‘Hey, we hired you, so it’s up to you how much of them (Garcia and Duane Allman) you put in the music,’ which is really liberating.”
Haynes second solo album, “Live at Bonaroo,” a live solo acoustic outing, was released last week. He’ll continue to head Gov’t Mule, but hopes to perform indefinitely with the Dead and Allmans.
“Nobody wants to turn into a nostalgia act,” Haynes said. “But both of these bands feel like they have a lot of music to play and a lot left to say. The best that the music can be is when it’s playing itself. On the nights when everything is clicking, it’s almost effortless.”