Critically-acclaimed bassist David Goldflies talks about Allman Brothers, seventies, and his experiences in music

"Music of the future (and the now) has some of the best tools I can imagine being used by the new crop of composers, producers, DJs and performers."

David Goldflies: The Sky Is The Limit 

David "Rook" Goldflies born 1956, hails from Oxford, Ohio a graduate of Talawanda High School. Played bass early on with Bill Barlett in a group called, Starstruck - and later Ram Jam - back in the 70s era. Yet, David gained his popularity having played bass with The Allman Brothers Band, Dickey Betts & Great Southern and more. He was at Allman Brothers reformed in 1978. It featured new members Dan Toler and David Goldflies, who replaced Leavell and Williams. The group released a pair of critically slammed albums, firing Jaimoe in the process, and then disbanded once again in early 1982. Betts, Chuck Leavell, Jimmy Hall, Butch Trucks and Goldflies formed the band Betts Hall Leavell Trucks (BHLT), would dissolve two years later. Soon after the post-Allman Brothers breakup joined at Jazz Duo Larry Clyman/David Goldflies and worked with saxophonist Matt Eve. The next four year The David Goldflies Group with Miles Osland - a group based in Lexington KY - created a CD called “One Tan Arm”.In 1998 with The Filter Kings, a high energy southern blues band reminiscent of the Allman Brothers complete with dual guitars, a screaming Hammond organ, and a great rhythm section centered around talented dual percussionists and a cascading bass. The 00s find David with Rockin’ Blues band of Healers and recorder a CD. The band is still an area icon for the blues. In 2007 “Rook” with Dr. Hulon Crayton had formed the band On Call. After this, David in turn focused on my double bass chops and began playing with the Panama City POPS Orchestra. Dave has many accomplishments on studio, recorded with Dicky Betts at his third solo album “Atlanta's Burning Down” (1978), with Allman Brothers at seventh studio album “Enlightened Rogues” (1979) where has a co-write a song with Betts ("Try It One More Time"), “Reach for the Sky” (1980), “Brothers of the Road” (1981), and with Miles Osland "Saxercise" (1992). His "busy" style of playing bass has lent itself to a whole "new" style of playing the bass instrument. David's new project is The Allman Goldflies Band (AGB). The band is bringing new energy to Southern music with honest, hard-driving, inspired performances. AGB features raspy-voiced bluesman, Gary Allman (cousin of the late Greg Allman) on vocals and keyboards, and David "Rook" Goldflies. AGB’s performance is a celebration of classic Allman Brothers songs, original material from their upcoming debut album, and a unique selection of standard Southern rock anthems. The group is on track to become a leader and major contender in the new emerging breed of Jam Bands and Southern rock music. Currently based in Panama City Florida, AGB will be touring the U.S. soon.

Interview by Michael Limnios

Special Thanks: Doug Deutsch and Douglas Issac

How do you describe your philosophy for the music? What characterizes the David Goldflies sound and your progress?

Playing music was part of our family. It was a given that we would play violin and in fact dinner was served after practice was complete for the day. This gave me a music ethic of being prepared for performance. That idea has stayed with me over the years and one of my main goals was to be ready for whatever the gig required. This includes equipment as well as the music itself.

Of course the role of a bassist changes depending on the music, the other musicians, where you are playing, etc. So the key philosophy for me was to be sure to make the singer or soloist feel secure in where the groove was, what the harmony is - just in general contribute to the flow of the group. There are times to step out but much of a bassist’s role is to facilitate the good feeling of the music as perceived by the players. The audience picks up on that comfort and confidence in the group when that is done successfully.

How has the music business changed over the years since you first started in music?

The main differences I see both rely on changes in technology. First, music distribution is in the hands of the musician - the record company gate keepers are largely irrelevant. That includes the physical distribution of the audience as well. Social Media is a grass roots, person to person way of building a group of fans no matter where they may be on Earth. The other change is that music production technology is ubiquitous. Every laptop is now potentially as useful as a full blown studio was 15 years ago. These two trends have really empowered the motivated artist/musician to be able to produce a great product for very little money and reach those that would be moved by their vision.

Some music styles can be fads but the blues & jazz music is always with us. Why do think that is?

The short answer is I don’t know. An even shorter answer is people dig it. A friend of mine on a gig recently said “blues endures because everyone has struggles and pain sometime”. But it wouldn’t fair to isolate Blues and Jazz and ask why does it endure? Classical music has endured for a far longer time. Music of the theater is still with us over the decades and now Rock, the chronological successor to Jazz appears to be staying with us.

Perhaps this is because given the evolution of recording and storage technology; all eras of music (and film, comedy, theater, dance) are accessible simultaneously on thousands of digital networks. If this wasn’t so the influence of the various blues and jazz artists of the past would be considerably less. This would also explain why classical music has endured since it was also stored in a storage system that can withstand the test of time: written notation. Music that wasn’t written down or able to be recorded, has by and large been lost. Perhaps technology and what we are able to value as artistic expression is intertwined our ability to store and retrieve the information of that art form.

What does the BLUES / JAZZ means to you and what does music offer you?

In the Allman Brothers Band I was witness to the power of the blues. It was really something seeing a tune like Ain’t My Cross to Bear just tear the place apart. There was so much power and soul in that song that I looked forward each night to hearing us perform it.

As we talked, I am two days away from playing a gig with a Jazz Pianist out of Atlanta. We played once before and it was like I had found a brother in music and we had gone to different schools - together. We knew the forms and tunes of jazz without having to talk about it. That is what Jazz has been to me. It has been a way to express myself with other fine musicians in a form of music that by definition lets you put your imprint on it. On my One Tan Arm album with Miles Osland (Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Kentucky) I have a tune called New Blues - an altered blues form funk tune with a bit of Cold Duck Time added in. So it has come full circle - blues, Jazz and then Blues AND Jazz.

David with Miles Osland...New Blues - an altered blues form funk tune with a bit of Cold Duck Time added in.

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician?

Two words - Great Musicians

Well, assuming that on some level I am a good musician in my case it was my interaction with other great musicians, starting with my Grandfather. He was a music director for Vaudeville and Silent Movie performances at the Chicago Theater - I think from about 1910-1925. I still have a large trunk of small orchestra charts from his shows. He taught me to play violin; but more than that he taught me the importance of practice. My father also played and performed and was who set my direction to play electric bass saying; “there aren’t a lot of good bass players - it will be easier to find a job”. I played a harmony bass and played my first gigs with dad’s weekend band.

As a teenager in high school there was a phenomenal guitarist named Tom Mackey. He had a band with some collage guys that did a lot of Allman Brothers Band covers. Their bassist was Bill Jeffreys. Bill shaped my entire concept of what an electric bass is. He was into gear in a way I had never conceived of - round wound versus flat wound string, Jbl 15’ speakers versus other brands, power amps, pickups, etc. He was an avid student of Phil Lesh, Jack Cassidy and Berry Oakley. I didn’t know it at the time but Bill it turns out has been a lifelong inspiration in the hunt for the greatest bass sound (which is still living in the wild, un-captured!).

The next major musician I worked with was Bill Bartlett in a group called Starstruck, which went on to become Ram Jam and have the hit Black Betty. Bill was to me the John Coltrane of the Blues Telecaster sound. The Bill Bartlett school of music blended driving rock rhythms and sounds with roots music, particularly blues and country. It is easy to say that without time spent studying (ok, partying) with Bill’s group that there is no way that I would be ready for the gig that came my way with the Allman Brothers.

Then Dickey Betts. He was a mentor to me in the truest sense of the word. Even through the excesses of the rock and roll life style, Dickey conveyed to me an intensity and immediacy of each performance. We just couldn’t show up for the check - you had to play man! That is a lesson I still carry with me today to each and every gig that I play.

Larry Clyman (guitar), Mike Lacy (Drums), Bill Dorton (guitar and vocals), Miles Osland (Sax), Kelly Hunley (guitar), Rose Docy (Cello), Steve Gilmore (Bass) are all others that I have been fortunate enough to work with and get to know that have pushed my playing and musical concept forward. Currently I work in a POPS Orchestra in Panama City, Florida under the direction of Eddie Rackley. In the last 7 years my concept of the double bass and its roll in the orchestra has really grown. My reading is really coming together which in itself (imho) makes me a much better musician.

And finally, it really comes down to yourself. I had a teacher at Berkely School of Music, Loudon Stearns (Ableton Live Certificate Program) who said; “Good musicians seek out great musicians so they can improve”. That has stuck with me and pushes me each day to interact, learn and invest in relationships with sincere, talented and intelligent musicians.

"It is amazing that the band has endured but the initial band was so great, so innovative and just so damn good that they helped define a generation."

What Do you miss most nowadays from the '70s and '80s?

I came of age in the 70s and there were lots of reflections of the freedom of the sixties still bouncing around. Getting the gigs I had in rock bands and eventually the Allman Brothers to some degree kept that 60s optimistic feeling with me a bit longer than most folks. We dreaded disco and only felt 100% live music was the way to go. Who knew that those cheap drum machines Roland put out in the 80s would be the seed of an entire culture based on machines and computing? Do I miss those days - not really. They were interesting and give me a great way to interact with musicians whose viewpoint is still rooted in those traditions. But I’m also glad to embrace current musical trends. In fact as far as I can tell this is as creative of a time as there has ever been to make music. So maybe the echoes of the 60s optimism live on in my head and give me real freedom to create music drawing on everyone I’ve known and all that I have learned.

Which memories from Allman Brothers era make you smile?

Gettin’the gig man! After working with Dickey Betts and Great Southern for about a year we played a concert in Central Park in NYC. About half way through the show Gregg Allman, Jaimoe and Butch came on stage. It was a reunion! After that plans were made to reform the Allman Brothers Band. But, they were to audition other bass players besides me. I don’t recall where the auditions took place - I want to say Macon, Ga. There was one bassist that had this really incredible banjo roll picking technique. It was Very impressive. I thought; “That guy is awesome - no way I’m going to get this gig”. But it turns out I did. And I feel the reason for that was that I had worked with Dickey for a year before the ABB reformation. Dickey is a formidable band leader on stage. Unlike a conductor in an orchestra who uses a baton or his hands to set the tempo, control dynamics and expression, Dickey conducted with his whole body while he was playing guitar or singing. I could “read” his body language and was able to be tighter with the cues than the others bassists. And yes, that made me smile!

                                                 David with Allman Brorhers ...on the Road

Why did you think that Allman Brothers music continues to generate such a devoted following?

It is amazing that the band has endured but the initial band was so great, so innovative and just so damn good that they helped define a generation. After that, and a lot of ups and downs credit should be given to the many fine musicians that have played in the band over the last 20 years. Jam bands have a deep following of devoted fans and the Brothers were right at the root of that musical tree.

Are there any memories from recording and touring time with ABB, which you’d like to share with us?

There were many days and nights in the studio but the one that stands out was working with Tom Dowd. We were recording Enlightened Rouges and Tom was producing. After one of the takes Tom came out in the studio and talked to my about the difference between playing in the studio and playing live. I have come to look back on that as one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received - play clean, clear bass lines. These days while I write music I am amazed at how the simplest bass lines actually are the best sounding. I’ve come to appreciate the roll bass (the part, not the instrument) plays in a lot of music and I can trace this back to my having worked with Tom Dowd.

Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory from Dickey Betts & Great Southern?

Great Southern Band was the gateway drug to the Allman Brothers for me. I was 19 years old and was blown away with the road trips, living in Florida, making a bit of money. Life was good. I remember Danny Toler talking to me on the bus to the first gig at the Roxy in LA about tone and how important it was to look for and develop a great sound. He showed me a cool sus4 funk lick - I still remember it. I felt my musical growth kick into high gear in those days as I tried to wrap my head around what a life of playing concert venues would be like.

I do remember also at the first rehearsal in Nashville Dickey Betts listened to my Rickenbacker 4001 bass and said that would never work. The road manager Bill Hoyt had a Fender Jazz bass that I started using that day. I eventually got my own bass - an alembic but the jazz bass was what I used while learning about Dickey’s band.

                                        David and Dickey Betts Band with Toler Brothers

When we talk about blues/jazz/rock, we usually refer to memories and moments of the past. Do you believe in the existence of “real” music nowadays?

Ya man, there is real music now. No doubt. About 2 weeks ago (Jan. 2013) I had my first orchestral piece, New Hope performed  by the Panama City POPS Orchestra. It sounded like real music to me. I also have a Ableton Live Users Group here on the Gulf Coast of Florida and the people in that group and others using Ableton Live are generating entire musical styles. Ableton is made to be used live - like a guitar. Music of the future (and the now) has some of the best tools I can imagine being used by the new crop of composers, producers, DJs and performers. And the full palate of guitars, Sax, bass, drums, harmonica, etc. are still available to be used. In fact I am finding it interesting to improvise in Ableton but then score the results in notation software and have it played by “real” musicians. Sort of a hybrid, best of both worlds approach. That is how my piece New Hope started - as a software improvisation that was eventually scored for orchestra.

This is a great time to listen to artists of all types of genres - Blues, Jazz, Dubstep, House, Classical, Country and every shade in between. I think John Cage said in 1957 that the musician of the future will have all sounds that are possible at their fingertips. One neat example is Izotopes Iris software which enabled me to get musically useful sounds from the summer cicadas at my house.

Real music? You bet. And the sky is the limit!

What is your music DREAM? What turns you on? Happiness is…

A swingin’ band, great music, a cool promoter, an happening crowd, roadies, great pay, an nice breeze, a great mix - well you did say dream right?

Maybe a dream closer to where my life is now is writing good music that is accepted by the public and my peers, playing with heartfelt, talented musicians on most interesting music and spending some time working with young people in education to give them the chance to express themselves musically. Days spent like that are truly a gift.

David Goldflies – Official website

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