At the Daytona Beach Oceanside Convention Center last night during the drum solo in the new instrumental, Warren motioned for us to follow him to his dressing room. I was amazed at first, thinking “Who me?” but Warren motioned again and said “C’mon!” We sat down with him for about ten minutes and listened to him talk about whatever was on his mind. What transpired in that short break was amazing, something JNB and I will never forget! Although we were fried, tongue tied, and overly excited, we still remember most of what was talked about. The conversation was not recorded and the following account is subject to our faulty memory, but to the best of our recollection here are the highlights:
Warren said he read an article in the Palm Beach paper, a pre-show review, which stated the Allmans were an over-the-hill band just going through the motions using rent-a-guitarists. He understands how someone could say that and he respects their opinion, but it is obvious to him that they have no feeling for the history of the band and haven’t taken the time to listen to what they are doing now. They reviewed the show before they even heard it. He said, “I hope no one ever thinks of me as a rent-a-guitarist. I’ve been with this band for ten years, after all.” I added that Derek was as much family as Warren was and he said, “Even more so, looking at his paterfamilias.”
Warren then told us a few comments about the new record. He said he talked to Gregg before they even agreed to do a new album and suggested maybe they should do a new GA record with Warren producing instead of a new ABB record. There are people out there who will accept that with open arms, he said, but are lying in wait to criticize any new ABB album because it doesn’t have Dickey on it no matter what it sounds like. Even with that potential issue, he said that every one of the band members wanted to do the new record anyway. They are having so much fun, writing great songs and enjoying each other so much, that it was the right time to do it. He is as proud of this CD as anything he has ever done — he thinks it’s terrific. He wants people to listen to it with their ears and judge it on its own merits, and he thinks if they do that, they will love it.
Later, Warren told us that the Grateful Dead were planning to reunite and tour — using that name — and they asked him to be part of it, but he turned them down. With the time he wants to devote to the Brothers and to the Mule he wasn’t able to do a month’s rehearsals with them and then their tour. He said that growing up he was not a Deadhead and that he was much more into the ABB. In fact, it was only in the last ten to twelve years or so did he start to listen to the GD music — and it was the songwriting that brought him into it. Once he began listening to Garcia and Hunter’s immense repertoire of songs he really started to understand the Dead.
We talked about the beautiful new songs on the new album … Desdemona, High Cost of Low Living, Old Before My Time, and so many more. He mentioned that they have continued to polish the songs since the original studio work and have updated the record with some changes. I commented about how wonderful Derek’s solo was at the end of High Cost. Warren said that it reminded him a lot of the Eat A Peach record … where there were lots of major keys in the songs, so that it feels uplifting with joyous chords. I mentioned that there were times that the crowd really gets behind Derek and you can hear them respond to his playing. Warren said, “Yeah, Derek’s amazing — he kicks my ass every night!” He later added that the band has really come together behind Derek, with each guy adding to Derek’s solo as he builds it instead of every man for himself. He said that Derek had really established himself and it shows. He said that when Derek solos he can take the whole band in any direction he wants to go. Warren then told a very telling story about Derek.
Just the night before at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Gregg, Warren and Kirk West were sitting in a small dressing room during the dTb set listening to it piped in on speakers. They caught the last three songs or so, when suddenly they all started listening intently and Gregg said damn, he sounds just like T-Bone Walker! They all started listening closer and sure enough it did sound just like T-Bone. Then the vocal came up and … it was T-Bone Walker! Turns out they’d been joking around right at the end of the dTb set and hadn’t noticed it ended and that the house PA came on with the T-Bone Walker tune. They had such respect and regard for Derek’s talent and his ability to play so many different styles of music that they all thought he’d added a T-Bone Walker song to his set!
JNB mentioned how much Warren’s voice had grown and matured over the years. Warren said he was really intimidated singing on the same stage with Gregg when he first joined the ABB, but that he’s been pretty comfortable with it for some time now. It also helped being out full time with the Mule because he was the only singer there and he had to sink or swim.
And finally, just before Kirk came to summon him back to the stage, Warren told a story about how he, Derek, and Jimmy Herring were hanging out together recently. They were joking around, looking at each other and Warren said, “We should call ourselves the Jamband Rescue Unit!”
The two of us so enjoyed the audience with Warren that we just kept saying to each other, “Did that really happen?” We missed Southbound because we sat down to write everything we could remember of the conversation. Then we rushed back into the venue to catch the most incredible Whipping Post we’ve seen Warren and Derek perform. Watching Warren’s solo at the end I once again found myself transcended, surfing the ocean rollers of joy.