We’ve Got A File On You: Derek Trucks
We’ve Got A File On You features interviews in which artists share the stories behind the extracurricular activities that dot their careers: acting gigs, guest appearances, random internet ephemera, etc.
Almost nobody has had a career quite like Derek Trucks has. He’s one of the rare people where, as the story goes, music just comes naturally like a bolt of lightning. He was already famous in the ’90s, a child prodigy playing alongside legendary musicians. And then, along the way, he became a fixture in the Allman Brothers Band’s later years — joining the very group that first compelled him to make music. You can barely wrap your head around what a hell of a ride that must be in a person’s life — and, now still only in his early 40s, who knows what else Trucks might get to do from here.
For now, there is the ongoing work with Tedeschi Trucks Band, the group he formed with his wife Susan Tedeschi. Today, the group has a new release — their live performance of the entirety of the classic Derek And The Dominos album Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs. The recording comes from a 2019 performance at LOCKN’ festival, where Tedeschi Trucks Band joined forces with Trey Anastasio to work their way through the album. It should come as no surprise that, with those two playing those songs, there is plenty of transfixing guitar work to sink into.
Ahead of its release, we called Derek Trucks to talk about Layla, but also about collaborations throughout the years, odd left turns, and what happens when you find yourself working within the legacy of the heroes you grew up worshipping.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Layla Revisited (2021)
This new album comes from a 2019 show at which you played Layla in its entirety. Why did you want to dig in and perform the whole thing?
DEREK TRUCKS: It was a few things. One, the nature of LOCKN’ festival is collaborations with people you haven’t normally played with. They asked me and Trey [Anastasio] to hop on with each other. We were trying to think of a neat thing to do with him, and playing a few songs of the Dominos seemed like a good idea. I have a long, deep connection to that music. From being named after the record to the Duane Allman family connection to playing some of that music with Eric [Clapton] years later. It felt like a natural thing to do. I had never really thought about doing the whole album before that show came up, but once the notion was floated around it seemed like the obvious answer. It was exciting to dig into the parts of that record that I hadn’t learned before.
I was curious about that. I found a video of you when you were a kid playing “Layla.” So some of these songs have obviously been a part of your life for a long time. What were the things that surprised you or were left turns as you dug into the record as a whole?
TRUCKS: I think the first tune, “I Looked Away.” It’s just one of those songs that opens a record and makes you feel a certain way but it just kind of goes by. I had never dug into the amount of guitar parts that were in it. It was obviously an extremely creative time for Eric and Duane, who shows up on the album a little later. There was a lot more going on guitar-wise than I ever dug into. I found that when you really dig into the “Layla” track or even the last song, “Thorn Tree In The Garden.” It’s like, “Wait a minute, this isn’t just a guy playing acoustic guitar.” There’s all kinds of little parts. It was fun to deconstruct and really learn it.
Had you ever played with Trey before that?
TRUCKS: I think I sat in with Phish in the mid/late ’90s when I was in my teens. Trey sat in with the Allman Brothers at the Beacon once, maybe twice. He came out and sat in with our band one time as well.
You’ve played with a lot of other acclaimed guitarists, but what was it like playing with Trey?
TRUCKS: He has such his own universe musically. It was fun to get into that world with him, playing his own material. We had only had one full rehearsal with him and our band before we did this Layla show. The thing that really struck me was how well-prepared he was. He really did his homework and showed up ready. Not that I thought he’d come in not knowing it, but not everyone does the deep dive. It makes sense. The way he plays. You can feel him working out puzzles. There’s a very logical thing that’s happening even while you’re still thinking melodies and other things. The way he came in prepared just re-emphasized all that.
I definitely feel [a kinship]. Even though there’s a little bit of an age difference we were kind of coming up doing our thing around the same time, and probably looking to a lot of the same sources for inspiration. And running in a lot of the same circles. Hanging around Colonel Bruce Hampton, that whole scene in the early ’90s. But at the same time, we came from the two extreme tips of the East Coast. There’s a different background in general. That made the collaboration a little more unique. We’re not coming from the exact same place, but there’s definitely a lot of common touchstones.
So you were actually named after Derek And The Dominos?
TRUCKS: Yeah, that record goes pretty far back for me. [Laughs] That was a big album in my house growing up. That album cover is really one of the first images I can remember. It was leaning up against the peach crates they had records in. That and Fillmore East and this B.B. King album cover, Indianola Mississippi Seeds I think. That was our living room. [Layla] has a pretty striking album cover as well. That goes way back for me.
When we were heading to that rehearsal with Trey in New York, me and Sue were in a cab. For some reason I had in my head that some of the lyrics in “I Am Yours” are maybe an old Sufi poem. So I was looking it up and I saw the release day and it was the day Susan was born, which was news to both of us. A little extra layer of, “I think we’re doing the right thing.” I had to check with a few sources, because I was like “That can’t be fucking possible.” Too strange, considering everything else. But, turns out that’s when it came out.
Touring With Eric Clapton, And Playing On J.J. Cale And Clapton’s The Road To Escondido (2006)
You mentioned before, but this was far from the first time you dug into this album. One time was on tour with Eric Clapton in the late ‘00s, when you two exhumed a lot of Layla material.
TRUCKS: That whole thing was surreal. It was an unexpected phone call. I was home playing poker with my grandfather, my dad, my brother, and a few friends and I missed a call from an international number. I’m generally wary of any numbers I don’t know, so I let it go to voicemail. So I had this voicemail from Clapton saying, “This is Eric Clapton, this is not a hoax.” [Laughs] You’re just getting cold-called by Eric Clapton. “I have a project I’m interested in, call me back.” Took me a little while to figure out how to turn on international calls on my phone, so I called him a day later. I ended up flying out to California for this J.J. Cale session he was doing. Looking back on it, it was the audition to see if the sounds and personalities meshed. Before you hop on the road with somebody for a year, you want to make sure they’re not awful to be around. [Laughs]
It was an amazing session. I got to meet J.J. Cale that day, and Billy Preston was on that session. I really met Doyle [Bramhall] and connected with him for the first time. It turns out that Doyle was the one that was lobbying for me to do the gig, because Eric was looking for a third guitar player for that tour and Doyle put my name in the hat. I met Doyle through Susan, he had recorded one of her solo records. You never know what’s going to lead to what, but that was a pretty incredible experience and that turned into a yearlong tour with Eric. In the beginning we weren’t doing many Layla tunes, obviously “Layla” was a part of the show and maybe “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out.” As the tour went on I would drop little hints and ask about certain tunes and Doyle was doing the same. By the end of that tour we were playing a good portion of that record. I remember being very excited about getting “I Am Yours” into the set. “Anyday” and a few of the others, we got into the mix.
I did also want to ask about that J.J. Cale album. What was your impression of Billy Preston?
TRUCKS: Man, he was such a master. Everyone was set up in a room together, small amps covered up so we could just record everyone live in the room. J.J. was playing songs he’d written, just on a cassette player. Everyone’s listening to the tunes and trying to learn them before we tracked them. Billy would sit there eyes closed. I was like, “Is he awake? Is he listening?” Then we’d roll the take and he’d play the most perfect shit take one. I was like, “Oh, he’s listening.” [Laughs] The whole scene was pretty overwhelming. A lot of your heroes in the room and you met them maybe 10 minutes earlier and this thing is happening.
I remember being pretty keyed into Billy. I was sitting near him and I remember thinking I just wanted to play something that resonates with him. You’re trying to play to the tune first, but I remember after one of the tracks he just looked over and pointed and said, “I hear you.” I remember thinking, “Sweet, this is a good day.” That Clapton tour, Billy was supposed to be on that. He passed right before the tour we did. It was definitely sad not having him out there. I only spent a day or two with him, but he was a character.
This was not the last time you worked with Clapton. Did you wind up connecting with him as you were going through this Layla music with him?
TRUCKS: He was writing his book while I was out with him. There were times he was inquiring about Duane’s history and the Allman’ history. I think he was in a reflective period of his life and trying to piece it back together. It was an interesting time to be out with him. He was looking back, in a lot of ways. It was great. Our kids were the same age, so the families would be out on the road and hanging together. We traveled in pretty tight quarters. The band would fly in a small plane. You were always just kinda there. Me and Eric and Doyle hung quite a bit on certain days off. I think we did 26 countries on that tour. It was a wild year. And also doing the Allman Brothers and my solo band that year, it was busy.
Hillbilly Elegy Score (2020)
You did some guitar work for Hans Zimmer’s score for Hillbilly Elegy.
TRUCKS: That was out of the blue. We were in the middle of the lockdown and I got a call from Hans Zimmer, who I’m a fan of but I had never met. He said he had a few scores he was working on, and it turns out he had been a fan of our band. He was familiar with a lot of our music. For me, it felt really important, because Kofi Burbridge — who I played with for 20 years, and who we lost a few years ago — was really getting into Hans Zimmer’s stuff the last couple years on the bus. He was like “D, you gotta check this out.” Kofi was all about it, and before I did the soundtrack with Hans I mentioned to him that our late, great bandmate Kofi was a big fan and I remember the response I got back from Hans was, “Oh, I’m very aware of the great Kofi Burbridge.” It made me feel like that happened for a reason, that connection. I’d never done any work like that. They would send pieces and I’d sit in the studio and try to imagine what could work and what would help. It’s a fun world to be a part of.
I was going to ask, yeah, since you had never done scoring work. Did they give you narrative cues or prompts, or was it purely responding to the music Hans sent you?
TRUCKS: When they were sending the score over, they would send particular scenes that it was in relation to so you could get in the headspace. That was interesting. They sent an early version of the movie that wasn’t completed. They very much wanted you to be in the headspace of what was going on in the moment. They would say not exactly “This is the emotion you’re going for” but they’d spell out the feeling of the scene, so you could get in character in a way.
This movie became quite divisive.
TRUCKS: [Laughs] Yeah, I noticed.
That writer in particular has been a controversial character. Had the story resonated with you or was it just a project?
TRUCKS: To be honest, I was excited to work with Hans Zimmer. [Laughs] I had not read the book, and I wasn’t aware of what the film — I don’t even know if it was what it became. I wasn’t aware of the way it was being debated. I maybe would’ve thought twice about it otherwise. But I was in on the music side. But yeah, I’ve been keeping up with that whole thing these past couple months, and it’s like, “Well, shit, that wasn’t the way I was hoping it would land.” [Laughs] But you can’t win ’em all.
Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Performance With Billy Gibbons And Joe Bonamassa (2012)
TRUCKS: I think it’s the only time I’ve played there, maybe one other time. When I got the call to do the Freddie King thing, the first thought is of course, I’d love to be there for his induction. My next thought was, I’m not sure what my connection is other than being a massive fan. But I was honored to do it and get up there and play one of his tunes and watch his daughter accept the induction. The whole night was pretty fascinating. Billy Gibbons is a damn character. He’s got a little Bill Murray to him, in the sense that he just pops up and you’re like “Oh, shit, it’s a living cartoon.” But he knows the blues and the history deeply. Being from Texas, he was around a lot of that stuff. He’s easy to underestimate, you don’t realize how deep his musical knowledge is. He knows where it came from and he spent time with some of those people.
Did you cross paths with anyone else that night?
TRUCKS: I remember being in the dressing room and crossing paths with Donovan. He’d heard I was playing in the Allman Brothers and he was still fascinated that they took his tune “First There Was A Mountain” and turned it into “Mountain Jam.” This two-minute pop tune became a 30-minute whole side of a record. I remember really enjoying that conversation with him. He was letting me know it was really surprising it happened and he enjoyed the fact it did. I got a kick out of that. That’s a conversation you don’t have every day.
Rolling Stone‘s “New Guitar Gods” Issue (2007)
There’s a video with you and John Frusciante and John Mayer. Obviously you were getting a lot of attention from a very young age, but to be grouped with these other players of your generation — are there other guitarists your age you feel a kinship to?
TRUCKS: You know, I can’t really think of many. You meet a lot of people when you’re doing this and there’s definitely kindred spirits along the way. Someone I think about a lot is Luther Dickinson. I love the way he thinks and plays. He’s one of my favorite people to sit in with. That [Rolling Stone cover] came out of the blue. The whole thing was fun, and then for the photoshoot you’re laying on the ground and picture’s being taken for a long time and it’s like “What the hell’s going on here?” [Laughs] The whole thing was just a little sideways. But, again, it’s not every day you get the call to possibly be on the cover of Rolling Stone. You’re like, sure, I’ll be there.
Does that still faze you after being a kid and having old artists bringing you onstage and such? Like, to get a level of mainstream scrutiny.
TRUCKS: I think it’s a little surprising for me when it happens occasionally. And then when it goes away for a while it’s like, “Well this feels more normal.” Then something will pop up that’s a bit more mainstream. I feel like you do what you do and if you do it well long enough, the cycle reconnects with you once in a while. If you just stay on the path and stay true, taste is a cyclical thing and it comes and goes. I think about my heroes, like B.B. King or some of those guys — they just did it forever. They were in and out of style at times, but never really for people who were paying attention.
I’m definitely not of the ilk where you’re chasing those things and trying to figure out what’s going to get you there. We’re more of the Colonel Bruce Hampton, 95% of it is showing up and doing what you do well. You just have to stay on it. You are constantly trying to… I don’t want to say reinvent yourself. You’re constantly trying to push forward and perfect the thing you’re doing. You do try to reinvent it from time to time, it has to stay relevant and fresh. But we’re not trend-chasers, that’s for sure.
“Younk Funk” In Guitar Hero 5 (2009)
Another mainstream moment is you had a song in Guitar Hero 5. Did you ever play the game?
TRUCKS: We actually did. Before we were in Guitar Hero 5, there were a few people who worked there who were fans and they brought us an earlier version on the tour bus. There was a while when we junkie’d out on that thing. I think “Jessica,” the Allman Brothers tune, was on one of those. I couldn’t play it if it was in the lower settings, because you had to leave notes out. The songs I knew, I had to play on an advanced setting and I could blow through it. I found that interesting. It was very hard to to play “Jessica” on intermediate because you’re popping notes in there that aren’t on the screen. We wrote a song for some other video game. I think that helped us pay for the RV at the time. [Laughs] You do what you can.
It’s funny you’re describing the difficulty of transitioning to Guitar Hero. I had a similar problem with it, where there were songs I knew how to play on actual guitar and then I’d stumble when I played the game. And then after a while I got so absorbed in the game I realized I should probably be playing like, actual guitar.
TRUCKS: There was a little while where I think I spent more time on Guitar Hero than practicing myself. [Laughs] We went down that road together.
Derek Trucks Band Performing At Moondog’s (1993)
I found this old video of you performing at Moondog’s in 1993 when you were a kid. I know this has always been a part of your story. So you get your first guitar when you’re nine, and it was just this immediate, intuitive thing?
TRUCKS: When we had kids, I noticed at a certain age there are some things you just pick up and do. I wasn’t blazing around the instrument, but I could hear things and find things. My dad played a tiny bit, and he had a friend who was a musician around town. I took some lessons from him. It happened somewhat quickly. Shit, at that time you’re into playing baseball and other things and all of it seems the same to you. Something to do. But I started sitting in with, first, my guitar teacher at a local blues bar, and then with this local blues band Ace Moreland & The West Side Story. Started traveling with them around nine years old. I remember the first time playing outside of Jacksonville, we went to Toronto for the jazz and blues festival. It just opens your whole head and world. You realize you can get out there and travel the world playing the same music you were playing at home and it resonates with people. That was a revelation for sure. But yeah it happened somewhat quickly.
When you were that young how much did you perceive that it was unusual that you were doing this at nine or 10 years old? Like when you didn’t see kids your own age around.
TRUCKS: I did, in the sense that, like you were saying, you don’t see other kids around. But you’re playing bars and some of them have food and there’s families. It didn’t feel totally crazy. The thing where you did feel like an outsider in a way was none of my friends at school or anybody gave a shit about Howlin’ Wolf or any of the music I was into and playing. That world didn’t matter to anyone. You definitely led a double life in a way. When you’re at home you’re a nine-year-old just where you came from. And when you’re out doing the other thing it was a totally different world.
And you’re growing up extremely fast.
TRUCKS: A hundred percent. You see things, you see grown musicians, some of them prosper and some of them spin out of control. My dad shielded me from enough of it, but not all of it. I could see what was going on for the most part. A lot of that stuff really helped in a way, helps you see how the story could end if you take the wrong turns. Obviously it doesn’t deter you from all of it, you end up making your own mistakes along the way. But it’s good to see, it’s good to live that stuff.
By the time you get to this performance in 1993, it’s your own band. At that age did you already know this is what you would be doing, no turning back?
TRUCKS: That was right around the time I had met Colonel Bruce Hampton and he had this way of taking raw musicians and talent and setting you on a course of either you’re going to do this your whole life or you should probably do something else. He was amazing that way. I think at that point I had already made the decision of, “If you’re going to do this let’s do it.” There’s a different seriousness to it. Nine, 10, 11 years old, it was a fun thing to do but I don’t think I put my whole heart and soul and being into it doing it. When I was onstage I did. But it’s not all I thought about. I think by that point, the Moondog’s era, my head was probably fully in it. I actually remember years later when Susan and I started dating, she came in and sat in with my band at Moondog’s. That was one of the first sit-ins with her. She just ripped the fucking roof off that place.
Tinsley Ellis’ Storm Warning (1994)
As far as I can tell, this is your first recording credit.
TRUCKS: I’d done a few things before that, but I’m not sure what was released. I remember being down at King Snake Records in central Florida. This guy named Bob Greenlee — who I later found out played in bands with Duane and Gregg early on in Daytona in the ’60s — he was an ex-NFL lineman and he had a blues recording label and that first band I played with, Ace Moreland, was on that label. I was at a session down there with Alex Taylor, who I think was James Taylor’s older brother but he was more of a blues singer — and a hard-living blues singer. I remember playing a session there, I haven’t been able to find the recording. I met Root Boy Slim there. It was just kind of a scene. It was this weird central Florida anomaly, that studio. But I do think the Tinsley Ellis session was one of the very first.
How did it feel to first make that transition into the studio?
TRUCKS: I remember just being really excited to be in the studio, not really knowing how to do it. Other than plugging into the same amp you normally play and letting it air out. I do remember having seen Tinsley a few times and played a few shows with him over the years. I remember meeting Oliver Wood, because he was the other guitar player in that band. Oliver was a young guitar player too. And I didn’t really like a lot of the other guitar players at the time because everyone was a Stevie Ray Vaughan clone. That was just what you heard everywhere. Oliver was different, it was cool. He approached it differently. I later heard from Tinsley that it was Oliver that recommended me. Tinsley wanted a slide solo, and Oliver played slide but he said, “You should get that kid in here.”
Playing With Bob Dylan (Mid-‘90s)
You and I recently talked about Bob Dylan, but he was one of the legends you also played with early on.
TRUCKS: I think it was in Clearwater, Florida the day we sat in with him. We did a few shows in central/south Florida opening for Bob Dylan. The first night, we do our set and you leave the backstage before he gets there and there was no interaction. I think me and my dad went out to watch the set from out front. The second day, something went down with the stage manager and my dad. There was a little kerfuffle. My dad was like “We’re outta here, fuck this, we’re going.” Something to the effect of, “I don’t care if Dylan asks him to sit in himself, we’re outta here.”
Not two minutes later, we’re walking out and Dylan’s walking in and his bodyguard or whoever was with him at the time, Dylan whispers to him and the guy asks: “Mr. Bob Dylan requests your presence onstage tonight.” I remember looking up and my dad’s like “Yeah, of course, I was just kidding, of course this is happening.” [Laughs] That was one of the early moments where life feels a little surreal. Dylan was my dad’s hero. He wrote his senior thesis on Bob Dylan. It was his guy. If I played with Dylan a few years later, I think it would’ve hit me a little harder, but I knew how important a character he was to my father. I’ve since become as big of a fan as my dad was at the time.
What did you play with him?
TRUCKS: I remember “Highway 61 Revisited” if I’m remembering right. It was at least two or three songs. You got up on one and he kept you up there for a minute. I believe there’s a recording floating around somewhere.
And he remembered this when you crossed paths with him like 10 years later?
TRUCKS: Yeah, when I was playing in Phil Lesh’s band. It was a tour with Dylan. That was the next time I ran into him. I didn’t think he’d have any memory of it. I didn’t think he’d equate the 12-year-old kid with me. The one time I ran into him on tour he mentioned that, and the place that it happened. He has a memory on him.
What’s your impression of him otherwise?
TRUCKS: He was a ghost, man. He would just come and go. We’d be playing and every once in a while you’d look over and there’d be a guy with a hoodie on and you’d be like, “Shit, that’s Bob Dylan.” [Laughs] Then you wouldn’t see him anymore. He’d come out for his set and then just disappear. He was an enigma. We’ve run into him just a very few times along the way but he’s always been incredibly sweet and generous and very complimentary of Susan and my thing and the band. Those are humbling things to hear from somebody like Bob.
McCoy Tyner’s Guitars (2008) And Herbie Hancock’s The Imagine Project (2010)
You’ve played with a lot of old blues and classic rock artists. And there’s some jazz in what you do as well. But did you have to get into a different zone for this project?
TRUCKS: You walk in the room and it’s Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette and McCoy Tyner. It’s like you’re stepping into a major league batter’s box with someone throwing 95. [Laughs] That’s a different feeling, for sure. I was so excited to be asked to be on that. The session was great, but even better than that was, leading into it, when they asked me to do it they asked me to meet with McCoy. So I went and met him at his apartment in New York City, spent a little time with him there, went to lunch. I just remember going into it thinking, “I’m not gonna be that guy and just ask him about the John Coltrane Quartet” as much as I wanted to ask for Coltrane stories. I was just gonna be there and be present and meet this hero. But not too long into it he started telling Coltrane Quartet stories and I remember being the happiest person on Earth. Like, yes, this is happening.
The look in his eye when he would talk about that shit, man… you just knew that they were a part of something incredible unique. I would get that feeling talking to my uncle when he would talk about Duane Allman in those early days. Sometimes, people tap into some shit and everyone that’s there is forever changed by it. Meeting McCoy just reemphasized that. I had read quotes from Elvin Jones and gotten to meet Elvin, spend time with him as well. There was a quote from one of the Coltrane boxsets from Elvin that said, “To play the way we played together, you had to be willing to die for a motherfucker.” [Laughs] That’s exactly how they played, and I believe each one of them would’ve taken a fucking bullet for the other when they were in the thick of it. That always resonated with me. It made me think of the Allman Brothers, because that’s the way those guys were. They’re all going to be buried together. It’s incredible. That’s next level.
A couple years later you also recorded with Herbie Hancock, though it was quite a different project — you all collaborated on “Space Captain,” a song very much not from the jazz world.
TRUCKS: That was the beginnings of this band, the Tedeschi Trucks Band. We were just talking about putting a project together. Then the Herbie thing came up and, obviously, hell yeah — and Herbie wants to come to our studio? Let’s do it. That whole session out of the gate felt amazing. But I remember how exciting it was to see Kofi and Herbie and playing together, Kofi on B3 and Herbie on piano. Those late ‘60s, early ‘70s Herbie records, that’s why Kofi and Oteil Burbridge do what they do. That was their shit. So getting to watch them, between takes, getting to play “Maiden Voyage,” and how open Herbie was, it was all amazing.
My dad and my brother made shrimp and grits and Herbie was over the moon about it. Fast forward almost a year and we did, I believe, his 70th birthday at Carnegie Hall. He did an acoustic set, and an electric band set, and we closed out the show doing “Space Captain” with him. I was standing side stage with him, and he was like, “You know what I’ve been thinking about the last hour? Your dad’s shrimp and grits.” [Laughs] I was like, “He’s going to be really happy to hear that.”
Joining The Allman Brothers Band (1999) And Hittin’ The Note (2003)
Obviously you came up in this world, Duane as a formative influence and your uncle being in the band. What was going through your head when you officially became a member?
TRUCKS: When I got the call, it was just the furthest thing from my mind. Warren Haynes and Allen Woody had already left the band. Jack Pearson was in, and I didn’t imagine that the guitar chair would ever open up again. It was completely out of the blue. Our band was just getting going, and I was thinking, “There’s no way I can’t do this, but I have to be able to do both.” It felt fully surreal, in a way like Oteil and Kofi playing with Herbie — this is the reason I play music. This is the sound that made me want to do it. That whole thing was life-changing on a million levels. The first gigs were at Red Rocks, which is a pretty crazy place to have first gig. Within a month, I met Susan. The whole course of everything changed for me, there’s a lot wrapped up in that time.
It’s just something you never imagine you’re going to get to do, play with your heroes. Much less for 15 years and really become a part of it in a way. I always knew I was just helping keep the legacy alive in a small way, or just helping keep the quality of the music at a certain level. When you’re part of something like that, it’s not your baby. You weren’t there for the beginning, even though it becomes your thing. You’re always aware you just want to do whatever you can to make this thing as great as it can be. I have as much respect for that music as anyone on the planet. Even when we play some of those tunes with our band, unless we’re hitting it a certain way, I don’t want to do it. The spirit has to be right. But yeah, that whole time was a lot of twists and turns and ups and downs and crazy, crazy shit. When that band was on, there was nothing quite like it.
A couple years later you recorded the final Allman Brothers album, Hittin’ The Note, which is the only one that features you in the studio. On the road, like you said, you’re honoring this legacy. How did that change once you’re actually in the studio and making something new with them?
TRUCKS: Those were heady times, too. You’re thinking, again, “This has to hold up.” You can’t just turn out some BS, this is an Allman Brothers studio record. I really didn’t think it would be the last one. When we were in there… I think my uncle especially, he didn’t enjoy being in the studio the way he enjoyed playing live. There was never time and energy put into getting back into the studio and what it would take to make a great record again. I don’t want to say it’s a regret, but I do think there maybe was another great record in that band, maybe a better one than we did. I’ve only listened back to that a few times over the years, and there’s some really incredible moments. I thought Gregg really sounded amazing, and the drummers sounded amazing together.
But yeah I just think time and energy wasn’t put into going back to that. I think Butch had moved on from studio records at that point. He enjoyed the feeling of just airing it all the way out live. He could barely walk getting to the drum riser and then getting up there and ploughing it for two and a half hours. I just don’t think he could get that high in the studio. Different mindset. I think probably up until we did that record Songlines, that was probably my mindset too. I just didn’t enjoy being in the studio nearly as much as I enjoyed playing live. But I came to love it. It’s a different set of musical muscles and a different mindset entirely. At the time of Hittin’ The Note, I was probably with Butch. I’m really happy that record happened, though. There’s some great songs. I think “Desdemona” is one of the last great songs that Gregg wrote.
We’re talking about a lot of music that is fading into history a bit more. Now that you’ve been doing this for decades and you are still relatively young but were in that history for a while, how does that effect what you think about when you’re doing your new stuff? Is that a conscious consideration?
TRUCKS: I’ve been starting to make that mental shift a little bit. Understanding you’re not the youngest guy in the room anymore. [Laughs] Like you said, some of this is fading into history. You should be aware of your role in carrying some of that on, keeping people aware of this music. Nobody’s doing anything like, and nobody’s doing anything better. It’s one thing if it was bullshit, but this stuff holds up and this stuff was important. We watched that documentary Summer Of Soul a few nights ago. That shit is fucking powerful. Almost every act you saw, that is life-changing stuff. Just the other day we had a day off in Connecticut and I rented a car and drove up to see Jaimoe. He just turned 77, I hadn’t seen him since the lockdown. Went and spent the day with him, and he starts telling me stories. I had the feeling yesterday like, “We have to film this, we have to get these stories out.”
I mean, Jaimoe was playing in Biloxi, Mississippi and New Orleans in 1961. He was playing with James Booker and Professor Longhair and Ellis Marsalis. He was in Otis Redding’s band. All these stories were coming out — Aretha opening for Otis at the Apollo. Just the most incredible history, and we didn’t even get up to Jaimoe being in the Allman Brothers. It was the most amazing thing, and I was thinking, this guy is living history. And I’m a few decades removed from that. These guys are still here and we gotta get this stuff down. I realized we’re starting to creep not quite to that level, but being a part of it. You do have to remember these things and pass along the stories and infuse your music with it. When I hear Jaimoe play, I know he grew up playing that music. The way he picks up the sticks and hits ‘em, I know that motherfucker played with Otis Redding. You can’t fake it. It’s in your DNA. Not a lot of people have that. You have to honor it and nurture it.