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Author: Subject: Allman Brothers Band Interview - 1999

Peach Master

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  posted on 4/12/2009 at 02:34 AM
Interview that was posted over at the Dickey site. Very interesting in that they talk about what great shape dickey was in, playing wise, and how they felt the whole band was better then ever. Butch even says positive things about Dickey.

Billboard Salute: The Allman Brothers: The Billboard Interview
December 18th, 1999

Thirty years into their amazing rock 'n' roll journey, members of The Allman Brothers Band were showing no signs of slowing down during a recent interview. A high-
spirited Gregg Allman was in the process of moving
from his 10-year home in San Francisco to "back down South, near the water." Butch Trucks had recently moved into a new home himself. Jaimoe was motoring down the road, taking a trip down memory lane on his cell phone for Billboard. Derek Trucks was on the road with Bob Dylan and Phil Lesh. Marc Quinones was gearing up for another Brothers run, and Oteil Burbridge was preparing to get some work in New York to bide time until the Brothers reunited for another March stand at the Beacon Theatre. And Dickey Betts? He was moving so fast Billboard wasn't able to pin him down for an interview. Here's what the Brothers had to say.

What was your first exposure to music that really had an impact on you?
GREGG ALLMAN: That would be when me and my brother [Duane] still lived in Nashville, about 1959. We went to see one of those rhythm and blues revues as they called 'em. They had those little pastel rainbow placards, it was before they had posters. The headliner was Jackie Wilson, and second was Otis Redding. Johnny Taylor and B.B. King were also there, and Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles. We were way up in the cheap seats. That was the first Hammond organ I'd ever seen. And there was this guy in B.B.'s band that was the first black guy I'd ever seen with bleached hair. It was like a sideshow, man, and the most incredible music. That night pretty much planted my feet in the mud. It was at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, and the dream started at that moment. We filled that place 10 or 12 times since then.
In the early days, did the band have a specific musical direction, or was the melding of musical styles simply a case of playing to the individual players' strengths?

GA: We all pretty much liked the same kind of music. As long as there was a six-and-a-half-foot groove, no way you couldn't like it. What was iffy or strange to me was when we first dove into the jazz thing. Spontaneity was like taking physics and learning you really enjoy it.
Who brought the jazz aspect to the band?
GA: I'm not sure, because I was the last one to get there. They were listening to Pharaoh Sanders and Roland Kirk, [Miles Davis'] "Kind Of Blue" and "My Favorite Things." Dickey was into Django Reinhardt, and I'm like "What happened to Jerry Lee?" I was strictly Motown and Stax. The blues I knew was [Bobby] Bland and B.B. and Junior Wells. But we melded it all together with rock 'n' roll. It was an incredible journey.
BUTCH TRUCKS: Jaimoe was the one who turned Duane onto jazz. Duane was never too sure about using two drummers at first, but he figured if it was good enough for James Brown, it was good enough for us.
JAIMOE JOHANSON: Duane turned me onto Dylan, Buffalo Springfield and Taj Mahal, and I turned him on to Coltrane and some of Miles' records.

Can you describe the scene in those early days in Macon?

JJ: We were the heroes of the town.
GA: It was great. All that company coming together, everybody immediately digging each other so much. Lo and behold, we all got along. We were constantly laughing or doing some crazy-ass foolish thing. To me it was like going to Disney World. We didn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of. Mama Louise Hill at H&H Restaurant, she fed us many times. Goodness gracious! That was soul food, man. Collard greens and black-eyed peas and fried chicken. There was a lot of laughter, great food, no worries. We had a two-room apartment we lived in, with one room full of instruments and the other with mattresses on the floor and a Coke machine filled with Budweiser and Cokes. It only cost a quarter, and they kept it stocked.
BT: It wasn't hard to keep it stocked, 'cause half the time none of us had a quarter.
GA: I was writin' like a bandit, at the pinnacle of total happiness. I had stepped away from being about to say the hell with it and going back to med school, and within a week I was on top of the world, playing with the damnedest band I'd ever seen, much less played in.
BT: The first thing Gregg did was look at Duane and say, "I'm not good enough to be in this band."

What was the studio process like back then?

GA: It was live, same thing as onstage. It just wasn't as loose; we had to tie it down a little bit. Being in the studio is like when you send in your tax forms: if you miss one line, they'll send it back to you. We didn't write in the studio at first, we didn't do that until later on when demand outstripped supply. Writin' in the studio is no good, it's like writin' with the grim reaper standing over your shoulder. Everything in the studio at first was like happenstance. It was like a good crop of pot coming up. By the way, anybody that thinks chemicals make the music sound better-other than to them at the moment-is crazy as hell. Don't waste your time, it's not a through street.
BT: The studio process was horrible. With music as spontaneous as ours is, and the crowd being so much a part of it, it's not good to put it under the microscope of a multitrack tape machine. The way I describe it, playing a live concert is like creating art, like a statue. Going in the studio is craft, like building a house.

Did the band have a pretty strong work ethic from the beginning?

GA: We were working like dogs, man. We were young and had energy to burn. Later on, we had help with our energy to burn. But 12 days into it, we'd be a constant ball of fire. I used to get out of bed like I had a spring under me, go eat a little breakfast, maybe a bite of one of them mushrooms, then we'd start playing, and the next thing you know, it was dark and we'd still be playing.

Watching the band play live, at times you guys get into such a groove, it's like you just reach another level of playing. Few bands have managed to meld its individual complex parts into such a live machine. Describe how this happens and how you manage to keep it going despite personnel changes.

GA: Onstage, there are certain signals and landmarks we use, like a signal to stop the solo. The signal changes from time to time, it just evolves. It's not like it's announced or there's a note slipped under the door. We just know. We don't rehearse anymore, except when we're doing a new album.

How do you tell if a new guy is going to fit in?

GA: You don't. Sometimes, they'll fit in for a while and then maybe take another course, like Warren [Haynes] and Allen [Woody].
DEREK TRUCKS: With a band like The Allman Brothers, with such an amazing chemistry, when somebody new comes in it either works or it doesn't. When I got the call, I was excited, but I was hoping the chemistry would be right. Thank God it was.
OTEIL BURBRIDGE: It's pretty tough to come into a band like this. They've been at it for 30 years, and in some ways they've changed the material. I had a lot to catch up on; you couldn't learn it from the record. A lot of the gig I had to learn on the gig. [Original bassist] Berry Oakley had such a unique role, and he was a unique bass player. He had some very distinctive bass lines in songs like "Stand Back" and "Don't Keep Me Wondering," I'm pretty sure he must have written them himself.

Do you feel that, in some ways, the live performances can surpass the recorded versions of the classic songs?

GA: Oh, yeah. There are some hot nights where I'm like, "Man, I wish we could've captured that kind of energy in the studio." It's hard to get the same energy in a studio cut because you don't have all those great people there. Their energy and warmth can pull some incredible performances out of you. They play quite a part in it, and you can let "em know it.
BT: We're a live band, and we should always be live.

The Allman Brothers Band has often been described as a "people's band." Was that a goal early on?

GA: Absolutely. Not too many people you go see nowadays play longer than an hour and a half. We used to never play less than three hours, and now it's two-and-a-half hours, with encores. We always, from the beginning, set out to give people their money's worth. We used to jam in the park all afternoon for nothin', in cities like Philadelphia and New Orleans, everywhere. Any place with a park that would let us get away with it. Try and do that now. We're a people's band in that we give a damn. Speaking for myself, I go onstage like it just might be my last chance. You never know what's going to happen, and every now and then I'll think it sure would be essential if it was your last show for it to be a kick-ass one. I always heard that Stevie Ray Vaughan's was the best show he ever did.
BT: The Allman Brothers Band was never about money in the beginning. We had Atlantic Records up in New York telling us that white boys from the South just standing there playing would never work. They told us to get Gregg out from behind that organ, stick a salami down his pants and have him jump around and it might work. We didn't care what they said. We thought they were right, but we didn't care, we were just doing it for ourselves. We were about spreading this gospel we discovered. It very much was like Jesus and the disciples meets the James gang and the outlaws.

You guys were on the forefront of what turned out to be an explosion of Southern rock bands, although you always seemed somewhat removed from that scene. Did you feel a kinship with other Southern rock bands?

GA: No. If you can't say nothin' nice... [laughs]. We all got along, but we were all in different parts of the country at different times. We did have some very, very fun times. I remember one time all of the Brothers and Skynyrd and the Charlie Daniels Band and Lonnie Mack were all in Macon at this place called Grant's. We kept that place open until the cops came and told us we had to leave or they would throw us in jail. That was one of the very, very few times we all got together. We'd just see each other in passing.

The Allman Brothers were never big rebel-flag wavers.

GA: Berry Oakley was from the south side of Chicago! Jaimoe, he played with Otis and Percy Sledge and Clifton Chenier. We all came from totally different kinds of music, except for me and my brother.

Any idea why this thing has lasted 30 years?

GA: Absolutely not. The first album hit the dirt, No. 200 with an anchor. I was the agnostic of the whole band, always have been. But I always kept an open mind as to new music, and the hirin' and firin' and all that stuff.
BT: Last year was the most fun I had in years. Everybody is in incredible shape. Getting Derek was a great move; it seems to have really rejuvenated Dickey. He's playing better than he has in years. Last summer was the first time in years we were onstage with no negative **** going on at all.
JJ: Derek is making people approach the music differently. As amazing as Warren [Haynes] and Jack Pearson were [on guitar], Derek has a whole different thing going on. It sounds like a combination of Duane, Jack and Warren, which makes the Derek Trucks sound. The kid is something else.

What does the future hold for The Allman Brothers Band?

GA: All I can tell you is that all is well right now. It has been well since 1989. It's better than it ever has been. Now that we're off the drugs, it feels really good to play.
OB: All I care about is that they're still having a good time playing. That's what music's all about: to make you feel good if you're bad, and to make you feel better if you feel good already. It goes as long as it goes.
DT: It's great to see the guys with such clear heads and in such a positive frame of mind. Playing with them is an amazing experience. I hope we can get in the studio.
JJ: **** , man, I can't wait to go back to work.


Dickey Betts



Zen Peach

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  posted on 4/12/2009 at 12:01 PM




Extreme Peach

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  posted on 4/12/2009 at 02:59 PM
BT: Last year was the most fun I had in years. Everybody is in incredible shape. Getting Derek was a great move; it seems to have really rejuvenated Dickey. He's playing better than he has in years. Last summer was the first time in years we were onstage with no negative **** going on at all.

Kind of an ironic statement. Seems like every interview I've read with Butch, he says the last year was the best year ever. And in his most recent interview, now 10 years later, he talks about how there is finally no negativity in the band. I just find it interesting.


True Peach

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  posted on 4/13/2009 at 11:05 AM
This is pretty much a constant w/the guys & most musicians, as it almost has to be -- you just can't say through the media how bad things are going -- somewhere around I have on tape an interview from the early 1980s w/Gregg saying he was as proud of the new album (Reach for the Sky) as anything he'd ever done -- in that same interview Butch mentioned how much he enjoyed playing w/Frank Toler -- hey, things change -- music is such a constantly evolving thing that it's sort of understandable that comments that might make sense today, may not tomorrow -- even their 1980s swan song on Sat. Nite Live Jan. 1982 w/Frank, Mike Lawler, Johnny Cobb & those guys, the band sounds excellent to me -- same thing the 1999 shows I have too (Great Woods, SPAC) -- 10 years on, same thing --
the music has never been lacking -- musicians come & go but the chops remain -- am loving all the wonderful reviews of the Beacon run & Dickey's shows


"I know y'all came to hear our songs, we like to play 'em for you but without Gregg here it's really hard for us to do. He sings & plays so much & does such a good job. He's really sick, 103* He might've come, but no one would let him." Duane


Extreme Peach

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  posted on 4/13/2009 at 11:20 AM
There was also a big article in Rolling Stone at about the same time, late '99. I read while on Jury Duty. The smoking bus for Dickie, the non-smoking bus for Gregg......

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