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Published: 2000/01/15
by Dean Budnick

Allen Woody Turns Pink Floyd A Shade of Blue

Allen Woody certainly qualifies as a bluesman. From 1989 through 1996 he assumed the role of bass player for the Allman Brothers Band. In 96, he and fellow band member Warren Haynes left the Brothers in order to devote themselves full time to their group Gov’t Mule. The Mule will release its third studio album next month, entitled Life Before Insanity, and will likely hit the road in March for a national tour. However, prior to then, Woody and fellow Mule member Matt Abts will devote themselves to a new project which will occupy many of the intervening days. Blue Floyd, is a band that will interpret the music of Pink Floyd through the idiom of the blues. The quintet, which features Woody, Abts, Marc Ford, Johnny Neel and Berry Oakley Jr. performed its first live show January 14th in Anaheim. From here Blue Floyd will cross the United States gigging on the east coast and midwest through February. For more information visit the group’s web site at www.bluefloyd.com.

DB- Before we start talking about Blue Floyd, I was wondering if you wanted to comment on Joe Dan Petty’s passing? [Petty, the Allman Brothers Band guitar tech for many years, died in a plane crash on January 8th]

AW- I can hardly talk about it. Joe Dan was a wonderful guy. When I first got into the Allman Brothers in 89, he helped me immensely. There I was, wet behind the ears and all of a sudden playing in the Allman Brothers. Not only that but I had some very big shoes to fill, those of Berry Oakley, who was quite a unique player. Joe Dan helped me through that. Over the past few years a lot of times we’d be in New York when the Brothers were also there, and Joe Dan would be at our shows on his nights off. That meant a lot to us. Frankly, you just don’t meet too many people like him. He was a simple man without being simpleminded. He was plenty smart and plenty on the ball, but he was very humble and just a sweet cat. I cannot even begin to tell you how much he’ll be missed. He was a great soul, and he was also an extremely calming force in a band that often needed it. All I can say is the earth was a better place with him here so I imagine heaven is better with him there. He was a wonderful cat and we’ll love him always.

DB- I know there are many people out there who share that sentiment. Why don’t we start from there. You mention filling Berry Oakley’s shoes. One interesting aspect of your new project Blue Floyd is that you’re playing with his son. How did that come about and what has the experience been like so far?

AW- When we decided to put this together we went out and approached him. I’ve known Oakley for 10, 11 years now. When I got into the Allman Brothers in 89, that’s when I first met him. I’ll tell you, he’s come a long way. He’s singing really fine and he fits rights in. As we dig into the material and really start rehearsing I find that he’s been a real pleasant surprise.

DB- You mention approaching him, how did Blue Floyd even come about?

AW- Basically it was the brainchild of Michael Gaiman. He first came up with the idea and approached me. I thought it was a pretty good one, so we went out and talked to a group of players that we knew could make it special. And I’ll tell you, it sounds really damn good.

DB- Did he know that you listened to Floyd while you were growing up?

AW- I think it’s safe that that anyone from our generation at some point listened to them and liked something they did. I think that everybody likes some Pink Floyd, and some people love a lot of it but I think all of us have a common thread coming through where we have a favorite song and a familiarity with what they’ve done. Everybody has their own favorite period of Pink Floydom if you will.

DB- Do you consider Pink Floyd to be a blues band?

AW- I think that their intent was to pay homage to great blues players. [Syd Barrett put together the names of two Georgia bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council to create Pink Floyd]. They’re English and English cats have a different slant on the blues than we do. At any rate they’re a wonderful band. Their songs are really good and we thought it would be cool to do them in a different way. And we are (laughs).

DB- How have you selected the tunes?

AW-. When we started rehearsing we just walked through them. “What did you think about this song? What about this song? Well that one’s cool too, great.” So everyone kind of threw their two cents worth in as to their favorite Pink Floyd songs. We decided to pick the ones we thought we could justice to, and also those that we could change enough to make them interesting.

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