Butch Trucks, original drummer and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, won’t let the end of ABB slow down his rhythmic drive. He’s since banded together a crew of professionals for two projects, Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band and another Allman Brothers side-project Les Brers. While there’s no promise of a full-band reunion, it’s nice to know that the members of the Allman Brothers are still playing down their own respective paths. Who’s to tell what the future holds? Because, as we all know, well, the road goes on forever…
This interview was conducted November 24, 2015, but has since been updated with links to news/videos related to the topics of conversation:
L4LM: Butch, it’s been over a year since the last Allman Brothers shows. What have you been up to since?
Butch Trucks: I’ve spent most of the time since last October at our home in France. Very relaxing. And I’ve been catching up on my reading while I work on other projects. I have done a few dates with Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band. I have also played Wanee Music Festival and The Peach Fest with what I am working on becoming a new band called Les Brers. This includes (ABB rhythm section) Jaimoe, Oteil, Marc Quinones, and Jack Pearson (guitar in ABB 1997-99) and his guitar mate Pat Bergeson, Bruce Katz and Lamar Williams, Jr. (son of Lamar Williams, bass in ABB 72-76). If all goes well, Les Brers will be touring and playing festivals in summer of 2016. We are already scheduled to play the midnight set on the Mushroom Stage at Wanee Friday, April 15.
L4LM: How does it feel to not be doing the Allman Brothers for the first time in over 25 years?
BT: I do miss the passion that the ABB brings to my life. Last March was a bit of a downer. First time in 25 years I wasn’t in New York City. Otherwise, I have enjoyed the peace and quiet of Mas Les Baux (our home in France).
L4LM: It’s been said that the Allmans mutually decided to hang it up in 2014. How did you all come to that difficult decision and what was your take on it?
BT: Well I’ve read a few interviews from some of the guys about how we “mutually” agreed to hang it up in 2014. Then it’s followed by them saying that some members (especially me) got “cold feet” and tried to keep things going. What is left out of the conversation is that when we mutually agreed to wrap it up in 2014, it was also MUTUALLY agreed that we would do, for the first time in years, a full tour that would cover the entire country.
When all was said and done, we played about 30 shows, 26 of them at The Beacon. After agreeing to the full tour, the guys doing those interviews seemed to not want to discuss this aspect of our agreement. No matter how hard we tried to put together tours, we were always met with resistance. While we had mutually agreed that 2014 was not going to be the ABB going out with a whimper, but a major tour, in reality we played fewer shows in 2014 than at anytime since our reunion in 1989. Some of the members wanted out and apparently were ready to make those agreements with no intention of keeping them.
L4LM: Do you think there’s any chance of a reunion? What about for the 50th anniversary?
BT: I have no clue what I’ll be doing or where I will be 2019. If we play together again, it will most likely be before then. We’ll see.
L4LM: It seems as though Gregg and Dickey have recently been on the mends. In the event that ABB does a reunion show/tour, would Betts be involved?
BT: No comment. So far “on the mends” has been little more than Gregg talking.
L4LM: In its 45 years, the Allman Brothers Band has had nearly 20 members. How would you describe the evolution of the band’s sound?
BT: I wouldn’t call it an evolution. That implies a movement from one form into the next. What happened was more like “reach the point where we can’t get along well enough to play” then reunite with something different. Most of these reunions were most definitely NOT an evolution. They were devolutions. The reunion in 1989 was the exception and that is the main reason it lasted so long.
L4LM: You recently told us about the moment of epiphany you had on the day Duane Allman “reached into [you] and turned [you] on.” Can you tell us more about that?
BT: As you may know, I had played with Duane and Gregg about two years before Duane began putting together the ABB. I wasn’t the most self-assured drummer around back then and when things weren’t really in a groove, I tended to pull back. When Duane showed up with Jaimoe and began putting his band together, at some point he decided he needed two drummers. He had Jaimoe and Jaimoe kept telling him that I was the guy.
Knowing Duane, I don’t think he wanted an insecure player in his band and one day I think he decided to see what I was made of. We were jamming at a top 40 AM radio station outdoors. We started a shuffle and it just didn’t go anywhere. I pulled my usual stunt when that happened and pulled back. Duane whipped around at some point and looked at me dead in the eye and played a very strong lick with little misunderstanding that he was calling me out. My first reaction was to pull back more and then he challenged me again. Then he did it again and I noticed that he was showing me up in front of a lot of people.
I got mad and Duane and I got into a musical fist fight for a while. I was hitting my drums like I was hitting Duane upside the head and he would keep coming back at me. After a few minutes of this, he stepped back smiled at me and said, “there ya go.” The band was soaring. Duane had gotten me so angry I forgot to be scared, and that made all the difference in the power coming from the group. It was like he reached inside me and flicked a switch. The light went off in my head and I realized that I may not be the greatest drummer in the world, but I could play and from that moment on I have never played in fear. After seeing how I handled myself, Duane added me to the mix he had and I have never looked back. If that moment had not happened, I am certain that Duane would have chosen another drummer and my life would have taken another route. That was the kind of man Duane Allman was. He changed people that were lucky enough to know him.
L4LM: Tell us about “Eat A Peach”. Where did the record’s title come from?
BT: We had finished recording the album we were in the middle of doing when Duane was killed. I walked into Phil Walden’s (manager) office one day soon after and he had that cover art on his desk. He asked me what I thought and I said, “That cover is great, but the title sucks.” They were gonna call it “The Kind We Grow in Dixie”. Duane had done a big interview with Rolling Stone not long before, and in it, they asked him what he did for the revolution. He laughed and said, “there ain’t no revolution, it’s all evolution.” Then he told them that every time he headed South he would “eat a peach for peace.” I told Walden to keep the art but call the album “Eat a Peach For Peace”. That became “Eat a Peach”. Was years later I was re-reading the “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot and came across the line, “Do I dare to eat a peach?” Duane loved Eliot and I’m sure that’s where he got that line. Ya can’t eat a peach without getting messy.
L4LM: Being the backbone of the band, you have also been called the “Freight Train” and that name kind of stuck. In fact, you’re even about to embark on a mini-Florida tour with Butch Trucks and the Freight Train. Tell us about that band.
BT: Been having a lot of fun Playing with Berry Oakley, Jr, my son, Vaylor [Trucks] (kid on the cover of Brothers and Sisters) and some other special guests. We’re doing a six-show run Dec 26 – Dec 31 all around Florida. Got some new tunes and it will be fun and powerful. BE THERE!!!!!
Butch Trucks & The Freight Train Band includes some particularly interesting characters, mostly all Allman-related, with Berry Duane Oakley Jr. on bass and vocals (the son of original bassist Berry Oakley), Vaylor Trucks on guitar (Butch’s son, Derek’s cousin, and also the little boy on the cover of the ABB album ‘Brothers and Sisters’), Damon Fowler on guitar (previous work with Greg Allman, Chris Duarte, Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, Jeff Beck, and more), Bruce Katz on the Hammond B-3 Organ (member of Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band and past member of Gregg Allman Band), along with sensational young guitarist and vocalist Heather Gillis, and Tad Isch behind the second drum kit. Catch Butch Trucks & The Freight Train Band on the road in a city near you. All tour dates can be found here.
Les Brers is another special act that came together as a “Butch & Friends” show at Peach Music Festival last summer. In addition to the original drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe, the band is complete with ABB’s latest rhythm section, including bassist Oteil Burbridge and percussionist Marc Quinones. Before them, stand guitar master Jack Pearson, who played with the Allmans from 1997-99, his guitar mate Pat Bergeson, along with longtime collaborator Bruce Katz on keys, and Lamar Williams, Jr., son of bassist Lamar Williams who played with ABB from 1972-76, belting the vocals. Having just played a rocking midnight set at Wanee Music Festival, the all-star band will return to their birthplace at Peach this August.
The road, indeed, goes on forever!