Legendary drummer Butch Trucks talks about the Blues, Jazz, Allman Brothers and American literature

"The blues are a feeling. It comes from one group of men taking another group of men and making them their slaves. And it’s one of the greatest contributions that Black America has given the world."

Butch Trucks: Beat, Soul, Heart & Mind

Claude Hudson "Butch" Trucks (born May 11, 1947) is an American drummer who is one of the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band. One of Trucks' first bands was local Jacksonville band The Vikings, who made one 7-inch record in 1964. Another early band was The 31st of February which formed and broke up in 1968. This group's lineup eventually included both Duane Allman and Gregg Allman. They recorded a cover of "Morning Dew", by 1960s folk singer Bonnie Dobson. Trucks then helped form The Allman Brothers Band in 1969, along with Duane Allman (guitar), Gregg Allman (vocals and organ), Dickey Betts (guitar), Berry Oakley (bass), and fellow drummer Jai Johanny Johanson. Together, the two drummers developed a rhythmic drive that would prove crucial to the band. Trucks laid down a powerful conventional beat while the jazz-influenced Johanson added a second laminate of percussion and ad libitum cymbal flourishes, seamlessly melded into one syncopated sound. Trucks continued to record and perform with the Allman Brothers Band until they disbanded in 2014.

Butch actually embraces Internet technology for the group and planned to use Moogis.com to make the Web a real venue for the Allman Brothers and other jam bands. In 2015 Trucks performed at two festivals with a band billed as Butch Trucks & Very Special Friends. This band evolved into a band called Les Brers which is led by Trucks and also features other former Allman Brothers Band members including his longtime drumming partner Jaimoe. He has also been performing with a band called Butch Trucks & The Freight Train band. Trucks has had a long interest in philosophy and literature. In 2005, the New York Times Book Review published a letter from Trucks criticizing Roy Blount, Jr.'s reference to Duane Allman as "one of these churls" in a review of Splendor in the Short Grass: The Grover Lewis Reader. The letter further criticized Grover Lewis for his 1971 Rolling Stone article about the band, which Trucks wrote made the members look like uneducated characters who spoke in dialogue "taken directly from Faulkner."

Interview by Michael Limnios        Transcription by Ioanna Ratseva

Photos courtesy of Butch Trucks archive / All rights reserved

When was your first desire to become involved in music?

BT: Oh God… It’s just something that’s come natural to me since I was a little kid. When I was in the church choir when I was a little kid we started singing and this big, big, big voice started coming out from all the little kids and it was me. And my choir director took me aside and gave me voice lessons and taught me how to read and write music. Then I started taking piano lessons as a kid and then once I got to the eighth grade, what we call “Junior High School” over here, I joined a band and I don’t really know why, but I just decided that I wanted to play the drums. [laughing]  It’s really funny ‘cause I was in a brand new school, it was the first year of that school, and maybe 40 kids showed up to play in the band and about half of them wanted to be drummers you know. So you can’t have twenty drummers and have a band, you can only have three or four out of forty and so the band director had everybody get in line and then we stepped up one by one and he asked us to play something and after going through all twenty of those people, he looked at me and said, “Well you are my drum--you’re the leader.” [laughing] It’s just something that came very easy and natural, and he could tell. Then, you know, once you’ve learned to play in the marching band, playing drums, the next thing you do is you get a set of drums when you’re a teenage man, which is what I did. And then that band led to a bigger and better band once I went off to college. Actually the band that I got involved in when I was in college, I went to Florida State University in Tallahassee Florida , and we left and went to Daytona Βeach Florida to make it big, we didn’t make it very big, in fact, we couldn’t even get a job. While we were auditioning for those clubs, that’s when I met Duane and Gregg Allman. We were playing one night and in came the two of them and it was kind of like in Daytona like the Beatles just walked in, everybody stopped and looked [laughing]. And then several years later that led to us joining the, that band that I was in, joined up with Duane and Gregg, played together for a while. That lasted for about six months, and then it fell apart. And Duane left and went to Muscle Shoals Alabama where he recorded that self- are you familiar with the “Hey Jude” that he did with Wilson Pickett?

That’s where he did that and worked with Aretha Franklin and Percy Sledge and a lot of the rhythm and blues singers back then, back in the Sixties. But Duane got bored with that and one day I’m living in Jacksonville Florida and there’s a knock at my door and there’s Duane with Jaimoe, who is the other drummer in the Allman Brothers. And one thing led to another and within—all about a month that would have been around February of 1969 and within about a month we--Duane put together the band and he called Gregg, who was in Los Angeles trying to make a living and not doing very well at that. So Duane called him and that was the start of the band and here we are coming up on 45 years later still having a ball. We just finished a big festival this weekend that we started nine years ago and it was fun… It was one heck of a good weekend, and right now I’m very tired [laughing] cause I’m 65 years old now. When we play I’m having more fun now than I ever had, but once we finish playing it hurts more than it used to.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of rock and roll, blues, and jazz with acid music and continue to southern rock and beyond?

BT: I wouldn’t call what we do… Definitely is not acid music and I really don’t like that term southern rock, cause… What we did is we started out with a background of blues and rhythm and blues and rock and roll. All of us heavily influenced by the Beatles and then what really—the band that really got our attention and gave us a lot of influence was Cream. Clapton [pause] he took the blues and started improvising and started doing the long jams. And that was really the big influence on us and then after that we started listening to people like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, a lot of jazz… Charlie Parker. And I think what we did was unique, that maybe Allman Brothers was unique and that I’m most proud of is we took blues and rock and roll and added jazz to it. And you listen to—especially by the time we did that Live at Fillmore East Album we were heavily influenced by John Coltrane and Miles Davis especially and we really started to get into Charlie Parker and people like that. That gave us a lot more room—up to then even with Cream they did a lot of jamming but it was all blues-based. It was all pretty much—no more than using one cord, maybe two or three but not much more than that. What we found out listening to people like the jazz players is you can go and you can do a lot of different things. You can play more than one or two cords and that’s what we started doing, we started getting much more sophisticated. And of all the things we’ve done I think that’s what I’m most proud of, making music a little more professional and more sophisticated…Well like I (said), sophisticated I guess, it’s a good word. Do you understand what I mean?

(Yeah, of course.)

BT: Oh, okay [laughing]. So, anyway, that’s pretty much it… I mean we’re still doing that, we’ve got Derek my nephew, playing guitar with us now and I would venture to say he’s one of the best guitar players, if not the most—he’s right at the top right now, (with) what’s going on with guitar playing and the world and I’m very proud of him and I’m having a great time playing with him.

"Jean-Jacques Rousseau is a huge favorite of mine and of Duane’s. Bottom line is reading philosophy… It makes you think and you get a little more complex and you think a little bit harder and you don’t settle for simplistic stuff."

What do you miss most nowadays from the feeling and music of the sixties?

BT: Yeah I really don’t listen to music that much anymore. When I’m riding out in my car, believe it or not, mostly what I listen to is college lectures, literature, and philosophy and things like that. And—yeah I love playing music and when I do listen to music now it’s gonna be Miles Davis or John Coltrane or, I’ve got a big background in classical music, I’m a huge fan of Beethoven and the impressionists Debussy, Ravel and  people like that. I’ve never really been a big listener to rock and roll bands, I preferred to listen to people that can play better than I can. And that’s the jazz players and the classical players. Most rock and roll bands are pretty simple and that’s really one reason I don’t like the term southern rock. Cause all of a sudden we’re thrown in the same group with Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Molly Hatchet and people like that. They do what they do, but you know… I think what we do is on much, much, much on a higher plane than what they do, strictly as music. Skynyrds’ music is thoroughly simplistic and I don’t think ours is. Like I said the term southern rock it kinda… Gregg has a phrase that he likes to use when people call us a jam band, he says, “We’re not a jam band, we’re just a band that jams” [laughing] and I think that’s pretty appropriate. Jamming is another word for improvisation and improvisation is what jazz is all about and that’s where the kind of jamming we do, the kind of the improvisation we do comes from... It’s from jazz and like I say I’m quite proud of that, quite proud of what we’ve contributed to the musical canon.

How does the philosophy and literature affect your mood and inspiration?

BT: You mean like philosophy… Like Nietzsche, Aristotle and Socrates? This is something that Duane Allman and I used to get into a lot, as I said before I always—when I started out as a kid I always loved mythology. We have a collection of mythology by Edith Hamilton that I got into when I was in—I couldn’t have been more than 12 years old and that led to things like Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau is a huge favorite of mine and of Duane’s. Bottom line is reading philosophy… It makes you think and you get a little more complex and you think a little bit harder and you don’t settle for simplistic stuff. And you can hear it in the music, especially with Duane how he evolved, added structure to the slide guitar from the old blues cats like Robert Johnson and Blind Willie McTell. So yeah, I’m a huge reader of philosophy… Have you ever heard of a man called Nassim Taleb?

I’m about half way through with that one right now and I’ll tell you it’s a wonderful book. It’s the kind of thing, I thing that if everyone would do a little more thinking and a little more reading there wouldn’t be so much trouble in this world. [laughing] So much of what is going wrong comes from people who just can’t think you know. I mean I wouldn’t consider these guys who flew the planes into the world trade centers to be the smartest of people. I have no problem with their religion but I have a real problem with what they’ve done with it.

Islam is not about violence, it’s not. No religion is. But somehow people get convinced, get told that that’s what it is and they don’t have enough brains to understand that that’s not true. All religions at their core are about peace and love. If I have a philosophy, it comes from a guy named Kurt Vonnegut. Are you familiar with him, Kurt Vonnegut, American writer? His great line is, “If there’s any purpose to life, it’s that we be kind to each other”. And—you know that’s what I try to do, and it’s what I try to teach my children and I think they’ve learned well. And it’s one thing I love about music, cause one saying Duane always used and it always made a lot of sense is that music never hurt anybody…And it doesn’t, I mean it can’t. I don’t care what kind of music you play, it’s not gonna hurt anybody. Some of the quote, music that’s out there, I mean… I may not think it’s the greatest stuff in the world, but it doesn’t hurt anybody. So, anyway next question. [laughing]

Are there any memories from Atlanta Pop Festival and other festivals which you’d like to share with us?

The biggest festival we did was one called “Watkins Glen”. It was a one day festival that we headlined. The Band played first and then The Grateful Dead and then us and there was 600,000 people there.

Yeah, and that’s the biggest memory—is playing and looking up—that afternoon we did sound check… And seeing 600,000 people. That’s a lot of people. I think the biggest thing we ever did in Europe was at a place called… Oh God what was it (called). It was outside of London…Knebworth Castle. Knebworth Castle, where we played for 150,000  people there back—about 1975 and that was really good, at the time that was the biggest concert in Europe and that was fun, that was a great deal of fun. It was one of the places I took my wife too. I’ve been married for 37 years now, which I think may be a record for a rock and roll drummer I don’t know, we’ll have to find out. [laughing]

"I’m very lucky because I’ve been able to play music my entire life, make a very good living at it and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I couldn’t even imagine doing anything else."

Which meetings and acquaintances have been the most important experiences for you?

BT: You know, from where I’m sitting right now… We just finished a festival that we do every year, called the “Wanee Festival” and we just had one hell of a weekend, it was incredible. Playing two and a half hours sets, it’s our festival and we had lined it Friday and Saturday nights, we played both nights and… Well there was no roof to blow up cause it was outdoors, [laughing] but we had a hell of a time with about 20,000 kids. Before that we just finished… In March we had an eleven-day run at the Beacon Theatre, and we do that every March—we have been doing that every March, for about twenty, twenty some odd years now and I think that’s one thing we’ll continue for quite some time now.

Which memory from the late great Duane Allman makes you smile?

BT: Oh God… There was one day… In fact you know what? I actually wrote this story out, rather than me trying to tell you this story go online and go to a place called—go to TheButchTrucks.blogspot.org. Well then one of my articles in there is a story about Duane Allman and the day that he turned me on. The day that he basically reached down inside of me and got me to stop being afraid and open up and start playing and I mean [pause] it changed my life. When people talk about a religious experience or whatever I would have to say that’s what that was. After that, Duane was the leader of that band without trying to dominate anybody, he never told any of us what to do or how to do it, he got the right people in the band and let everybody have their own voice. That’s something that is very rare. A leader that leads by who he is and the way he acts, rather than by demanding it, you know. When Duane died and Dickey Betts tried to take over he was just the opposite, he was the kind to say, “You do what I say, or I’ll kick your ass or I’ll quit” or whatever and that just got tiresome, that was just no fun.  And it’s not what the Allman Brothers were about and it’s one of the main reasons we’re not playing together anymore. But with Duane, like I said he was just such a powerful personality and such a good man. If he told you something was gonna happen then take it to the bank it happened. You could always count on him, he was always there for you and he was like I said… He used his brain; he did a lot of reading. I mean he dropped out of high-school in tenth grade and he was better educated than most college graduates I know. Because he read, he read constantly. And he read books that had depth to them like I said. He and I used to discuss, we somehow became the guy we both just fell in love with. He was just so natural; he was so much into people being natural. When people lose that naturalness… Damn it I lost my train of thought my cell phone is ringing [laughing] I don’t know who it is I’ll call back. But anyway when you lose that naturalness and get into society… Have you ever read Rousseau? Well then he laid it out perfectly and it’s exactly what’s going on in the United States right now. In fact my wife and I have bought a house in the south of France, out in the country a 14th century farmhouse that we’re converting, and by this we are already… Have it planned and we’re going to spend June and July moving in, it’s finished .We completely knocked out the floors, the ceilings, did everything, put in geothermal heating in there, dug a 300 feet well, and we put a whole field of solar panels so the house is run on the sun, and I’ll have electric cars and run them off the sun, and we’ll grow an acre or two of crops and—cause I you know—and Rousseau just lays it all out. You know this country started out on the right track but then it got broken and it always happens and that’s what Rousseau was writing about. Countries tend to start out with most of the country being small farms and then those small farms are gobbled up by the rich and then the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and then it reaches a point where it breaks. And it always doe,s it never does not. And that’s where America is right now. 400 families in America control 70% of the wealth. Last year in America in 2012, there were 220 new billionaires and 30 million people fell below the poverty line, 80% of them are working 40 hours plus a week. And this is exactly what Rousseau says, he predicts that’s exactly what happens with any big society. It’s always going to happen and it’s never not going to happen. And I—right now don’t see any evidence that he was wrong, I think he’s exactly right and that’s the reason we’re moving to that place out in the country we found in France. Not necessarily cause I think France has all its problems solved, they’ve got their problems like everyone does, but we’ll be in a place where we’ll have control of our own lives and our own destinies. We’ll grow our own food, make our own electricity, and you know live our retirement in peace, rather than having to go through what I’m damn sure this country is going to go through, and it’s starting already. It’s getting pretty nasty here, people really don’t like each other that much and it’s just not… And it really breaks my heart, because this was a great place to grow up in. I mean of course I could say that because I’m a white male, but even though we had a lot to learn while I was growing up, we seemed to be headed in the right direction, and little by little women gained more power, minorities were given more freedoms and more chance to make it, and things were getting better and now I just don’t see that happening, everything’s turning around and heading back the other way. So I’m getting out, I just don’t think this is a place I want to be. But anyway.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you and what advice would you like to give to new generation?

BT: Oh God, that’s got to be with Duane and he never said a word. If you read that story, it’s right there. He just looked me in the eye and he was kind of challenging me, like “Well alright come on damn it play! Quit siting there acting like you’re scared to death, play!” And it changed my life. Had that not happened, I don’t know where I would wind up. Cause had I not… I think Duane knew that I was a damn good drummer, but I don’t think he was gonna have someone in his band that wouldn’t get up and play with everything they have in every situation, he just couldn’t take that fear. That’s one of the things that really separates the men from the boys, when you get in front of thousands of people. If you’re able to, you know open up and play with everything you have without worrying about it, without any apologies, without any fear, then you’re ready for the big time. If you can’t do that, you better go learn how to sell used cars because you won’t make it in the music business. And I would have to say that you know… It wasn’t words said, but it changed my life. Duane, he was just able, and it’s the way he was with everyone, he was a messianic kind of character, if you got to know Duane Allman, you weren’t the same from then on, it’s been how long, he died in 1972, so what is that… 41 years ago and I still have dreams about him. He’s still a part of me and he will be until the day I die. In that moment right there, I would say it has to be the most important moment in my life and it wasn’t… Like I said it wasn’t spoken, it was just the force of his personality and his character that just reached down inside of me and flipped a switch and changed who I was. So read that story, it’s right there on my blog of mine and it’s a lot better than I can tell you on the telephone.

"I wouldn’t call what we do… Definitely is not acid music and I really don’t like that term southern rock, cause… What we did is we started out with a background of blues and rhythm and blues and rock and roll."

You talk a lot about Duane... What happened with the other late great Berry Oakley?

BT: After Duane died, Berry just fell apart. I don’t think Berry wanted to be in a world without Duane. He spent the next year trying to do himself in, I mean he was drunk, he was fucked up, he just couldn’t deal with it. Berry, he was one of the finest human beings I ever knew, and he wanted to take care of the world. In a way Berry led the band on a certain level, as far as taking care of each other, as far as being the big brother to everybody and making sure everyone was taken care of. Not just the members of the band, but their wives and children, the road-crew, everybody that was part of the extended Allman Brothers family. But once Duane was gone, the anchor, that one thing that held him and all of us together, to Berry was gone and he just couldn’t cope with it, he just couldn’t do it. It was almost a relief, you know… And as crazy as it was, he got himself messed up so much, and got himself  in such a bad shape and he got sideswiped by a city bus, and that’s what killed him. But on one level it was almost a relief, because he was in such pain and it was so hard to watch, he was such a wonderful human being and to see him suffer like he did, it was just so hard to watch.

What does “The Blues” mean to you?

BT: The blues are a feeling. It comes from one group of men taking another group of men and making them their slaves. And it’s one of the greatest contributions that Black America has given the world. And I don’t know… I guess to really, fully appreciate what the blues really means, you’d have to be a slave, and I could never understand that level of pain and suffering, that’s just… I know that’s beyond my comprehension. But I could feel it, when I hear Robert Johnson and Blind Willie McTell and people like that. And that’s what we tried to put into, when we played the blues, we’re not playing it like that, but we’re playing it with all the feeling that we can. If I’m feeling bad, we get up and play some blues and I’m feeling better, that’s where it leads, it’s the reason it was invented, so that people that were living an intolerable life, could still live.

Are there any memories from the “31st of February"?

BT: Yeah, well that’s the band from my college days, and we were very into… When I went off to college I kind of quit, ran away from rock and roll, there wasn’t anything going on but the early Beatles, until Rubber Soul the Beatles, I don’t think they really—they were a pop band. In best they were playing bad copies of Chuck Berry, but you know, they changed that culture no doubt about it. And then, after Rubber Soul, then things got interesting. That was when rock and roll started getting more than just one more fire and more than just a bad beat. For the first time you had a pop band and a really big, big band like the Beatles playing much more sophisticated music. But that still… We were influenced by that but our big influence was Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Lovin Spoonful and that’s the music that we played. I don’t think Bob Dylan wrote a song that we didn’t play. [laughing] The band was called The Bitter End and when we put out our first record, there was a club back then in New York, it’s still there, called The Bitter End and they wouldn’t let us use that name. So we had to come up with another name and we had to do it on the spur of the moment. The 31st of February, isn’t the greatest name in the world, I mean but… [laughing] I think our bass player came up with it, I just looked at him and said, “There’s no such thing as the 31st of February”, he looked at me and went, “Yeah, yeah, right”, that’s supposed to be deep or something, I guess, I don’t know. But that really did open the door to me, to being able to play, like I said more sophisticated music. And like I said my first real musical experience and one of the biggest moments of my life as a senior in high-school, I was timpanist with Florida High School all-star symphony orchestra and one day there was a competition for a student conductor and I won and I got to conduct Dvorak’s, I think it’s called Symphony No.9 “from the New World”.

Everyone knows the second movement. The second movement had been written into a kind of a gospel song called “Going home” [starts singing the melody]. I know you’ve heard that. That was powerful. Playing rock and roll as a teenager was kind of fun, but once I got a little older and got off into college I needed more than just that, while I was playing in High School, which was the Ventures, and really simple stuff. And like I said till Dylan, the Byrds and Rubber Soul came along it just wasn’t there. But I was off to college and I was there with two—just happened to be two guys on the same floor at the same dormitory I was in Florida State, that I had gone to High School with. We didn’t particularly like each other in High School, but… David Brown who was the bass player, was actually a saxophone player, with one of the competitor bands with the Vikings, I was in the Vikings he played in a band called Tony & the Surfers. Tony and the Surfers they were our big competitors in Jacksonville, for the biggest teenage band. And like I said we didn’t like each other that much in High School but then we got off to college and all of this Byrd stuff came out, and Scott Boyer was the lead singer, he had been playing Dylan, he’d been playing in folk clubs for a year or, so he was pretty well into it, cause he got into those… the early Beatles—I mean the early Dylan albums. So we started that and it was a three piece band and all three of us sang, so we’d have the three part harmonies, and I guess that was the door… That band opened the door for me to join the Allman Brothers. Like I said that’s where I met Duane and Gregg and that’s led me to where we are now. 45 years later we’re coming up on our 45th anniversary.

"Hell you’ve heard the records, I mean you know 'Statesboro Blues' by Blind Willie McTell but the way we do it is all different from the way Blind Willie did it. We actually were influenced more by Taj Mahal...Taj was kind of the bridge between Blind Willie McTell and the Allman Brothers."

What are your hopes and what are your fears about the future of art, music, and the world?

BT: Oh God, I can’t even imagine. I’ve never been anything but a musician. It’s just part of who I am and I couldn’t even imagine life without it. I mean I’ve never done anything else. I’m very lucky because I’ve been able to play music my entire life, make a very good living at it and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I couldn’t even imagine doing anything else. I couldn’t really answer that question. I wouldn’t even begin to know what to tell you.

How important was the psychedelic art and counterculture to Allman Brothers’ music?

BT: Not much at all.  Yeah if—I guess the closest we get is… I know that Duane, I mean Dickey and Berry, the band they were playing in, “The Second Coming “, they did a lot of Jefferson Airplane stuff. We actually did a lot of Jefferson Airplane tunes with the 31st of February. Scott could sing the hell out of “White Rabbit” and there was one other… Yeah “Don’t you want somebody to love”. So that was about it, if there was any… We never really took too strongly to The Dead. This stuff… I mean I did hear them one time and it was really quite amazing but then we did a lot of shows with them after that, and mostly they would get into one chord and just noodle on, and noodle on, and noodle on for a very long time. And that kind of stuff didn’t really influence us at all. Like I said when Jaimoe showed up with John Coltrane and Miles Davis there was definitely a conscious effort not to listen to, you know contemporaries. We really did spend our time listening to John Coltrane, and Miles, and Herbie Hancock, and Charlie Parker, and people like that.  And never—just didn’t listen to anyone that you would consider to be our contemporaries, so we didn’t want to be influenced by them. We really did want to make our own music, and speak with our own voice and not copy someone else. And, you know we would take some of the old blues tunes, but then we’d always do them our way. We’d change them, I mean we’d use that—you know like… Hell you’ve heard the records, I mean you know…“Statesboro Blues” by Blind Willie McTell but the way we do it is all different from the way Blind Willie McTell did it. We actually were influenced more by Taj Mahal. And Taj Mahal was kind of the bridge between Blind Willie McTell and the Allman Brothers.

What is your best memory from the legendary reconding ‘Live At Fillmore East’ 1971?

BT: Oh God, there’s just too many, too many. But the best one was the next to the last night of the closing weekend. You know we were the last band that played the Fillmore East and Bill Graham chose us to be the last band. And you hear in the introduction he says, you know like we are the best of them all, “Now we are gonna close it out with the best of them all.” But the closing night wasn’t the Fillmore, it was a bunch of special guests and they were mostly from the record business, and Bill invited everybody that had ever played the Fillmore to show up, and we didn’t get on stage till about 3 o’clock in the morning. And by that time everybody in the crowd had been drinking free all night long so they were pretty much passed out drunk.

But the night before we played our set about three hours and came back for the encore. In some way you did two shows, you did one at seven and another one at eleven. And we came on for the second set around midnight, played till about three in the morning, and came back out, and the feeling from the crowd was just overwhelming, just unbelievable. And we wound up playing till seven—seven, eight o’clock. I mean it was like seven, eight hour set. And when we finished there was no applause, none. I mean everybody just sat there, everybody in the crowd just sat there stunned. And I remember I was just sitting there with my mouth hanging open and Duane came walking by in front of me, dragging his guitar behind him going, “Damn, it’s like leaving church”. And it really was, and I still—to this day I meet people that say they were there, and I can tell if they are bullshitting or not, just by the look in their eye. Cause there’s a whole lot of people that have heard the story of that night and they like to say that. Even just by looking at them, if they’re lying, and a lot of people do… But you know that was something very, very, very special that happened that night, and those who were lucky enough to be there, that’s something they are not gonna forget—that’s something I’ll never forget.

"We really did spend our time listening to John Coltrane, and Miles, and Herbie Hancock, and Charlie Parker, and people like that.  And never—just didn’t listen to anyone that you would consider to be our contemporaries, so we didn’t want to be influenced by them."

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

BT: Well what I’m waiting for is for somebody to come along and pick up the ball (from) where we left it and raise the bar again, you know. I haven’t heard it yet, I’m still waiting. I’m waiting for somebody that can come along and make the music better, more sophisticated, and still be able to be—you know, draw big crowds so that… I mean shoot—those people like [pause] Mahavishnu Orchestra and—I mean there’ve been bands to come along…

(John McLaughlin…)

BT: Yeah, you know great, great, great bands there’s no doubt about it. But they haven’t been able to really capture a big audience. They haven’t been able to affect the music scene enough, to make a change. I mean the first couple of years that Mahavishnu was out, they toured with us. Their management felt like our audience would be the best audience to understand what they were doing. And trust me, it used to intimidate the hell out of me to go out there and watch Billy Cobham play just before I had to go out and play. But the crowd would be screaming, “Hey Allman Brothers, Allman Brothers” while they were playing. It almost got me to the point where I didn’t want to play for those idiots. [laughing] But you understand what I mean is, you know, there have been bands (to) come along, that have—can play, and have added and raised (the) bar, but so far no one has been able to do that, and do it on a big enough scale to where it really changes what everyone else is doing. And I just want—I keep waiting for it. I think if anybody’s got a good shot at it, it’s my nephew, it’s Derek. Pay attention to him cause Derek’s got a lot left to say, and I think Derek… Once he finds, fully finds his voice… I mean he was so influenced by Duane, that it’s taken him damn near 20 years just to, you know, to start playing his own staff, and finding his own voice, but he is in the process of doing that. And I don’t think what he is doing right now is quite there yet, but at some point I think it will be. I’m waiting.

What memory from the Vikings makes you smile today?

BT: Oh that was that teenage band I was talking about. That was when I was in—oh maybe—God 16 years old, 17 years old and we were one of the best bands in Jacksonville Florida, and that was… Like I said that was the first band I ever played with, and that’s where all this stuff started so…

Butch Trucks & the Freight Train Band - Home

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