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Published: 2000/03/15
by Dean Budnick

Butch Trucks’ Flying Frog Records Makes A Splash

When most individuals hear the name Butch Trucks, they think of his role as part of three-headed percussive beast that powers the Allman Brothers Band. In recent years a number of people have also come to associate him with Frogwings, the true all-star project he spearheaded, which has included Oteil Burbridge, Jimmy Herring, John Popper, Edwin McCain, Derek Trucks, and Mark Quinones. However a number of jam bands fans are about to view him in a new light as he assumes the mantle as President of a new re cord label devoted to the stellar groups within this scene.

Flying Frog Records came into fruition a year ago when Trucks decided the time was right to create a band-friendly label for jam-friendly musicians. Indeed, those who attended the Jambands.com tour last June will recall the presence of Trucks along with Allman Brothers Band/Frogwings/ ARU/Peacemakers bassist Oteil Burbridge at the first four shows (full disclosure: it was at that time that I began to serve in an amorphous but ever satisfying advisory role to the label, suggesting notable bands to the Pres.). Trucks’ appearances not only yielded ample musical memories for musicians and fans alike, but they also led to the signing of two groups that he first encountered on that tour: Schleigho and The Slip.

The following conversation touches on the development of Flying Frog records, and Trucks’ goals for the label, along with a bit on Butch’s gig as drummer for the Allman Brothers Band (which currently is in the midst of its annual run at New York’s Beacon Theater). For more information on the label, stop by flyingfrogrecords.com. For the good word on the Allman Brothers Band, your one-stop source is www.allmanbrothersband.com. Also, if you’re in Manhattan on the day this article appears, March 15, be sure to stop by Wetlands Preserve where Trucks will be performing with his signees and labelmates. Schleigho.

DB- How did Flying Frog records come about?

BT- It’s a direct derivative of Frogwings. I’d been wanting to work with Derek for a long time. He’s my nephew, and the same age as my daughter. As he grew up I watched him get better and better. I wanted to do more than just get together on stage with him every few years when he jammed with the Allman Brothers. Well I was having dinner at my house one night, when a friend of mine convinced me to put the band together. Then I called everybody on my wish list- if I had my perfect band, who would it be- and got Oteil, Jimmy, and you know everybody else.

The record company idea came about in a similar way. It began with a dinner conversation. I wanted to create for the first time a label that would be artist friendly and that wouldn’t rip off those bands that go out and build their own followings. So we came up with this concept, that every band on the label will own stock in the company. Not only that but rather than get the normal dollar to a dollar and a quarter royalty rate, we basically will work out expenses and then just split it. This will be a joint venture with the bands. In the beginning bands will receive something like three dollars per CD. Then as all the expenses are paid off and the recording costs are paid off, their royalties will just go up. That’s the basic philosophy of the label. Something that’s fair and makes sense. Also, we won’t sign any groups to any long term contracts, we’ll do it one record at a time. So at any time if you don’t like the way things are going you’re free to leave. I’ve had years and years of having my life signed away to a place I didn’t want to be, and I couldn’t do a thing about it. I was stuck. It’s like somebody making you stay married to somebody you hate. You give the label a record, they spend absolutely no money on promotion, then they give you a dollar and a quarter while they’re pocketing six or eight dollars per CD. At some point you just get tired of being screwed when they don’t even kiss you. We’re going to counter that at Flying Frog and do things a different way. That’s the basic philosophy and how we got started. I’ve spent the past year putting together a team of experienced people who have the same basic ideas that I do. It’s a great bunch of people and I think this is going to be a lot of fun.

DB- I’m sure a lot of people would like to hear your thoughts on the label’s inaugural roster. What do you have to say about Schleigho, for starters?

BT- Well I guess Schleigho everybody should know. The guys are fabulous. We set up Schleigho with their own home recording studio. Another thing I want to do, another philosophy of this label is not to waste hundreds of thousand of dollars in recording studios when there is technology available that will allow bands to do it themselves. So we’ve set up Schleigho with this fabulous recording studio at their house. They’re in the process of recording right now. A few weeks I brought in Tom Dowd [legendary producer- Allman Brothers Band, John Coltrane] to spend a few days with them, and they really hit it off.

DB- What led you to sign them?

BT- Seeing them play. I came out to your jambands.com tour last June, remember? (laughs) When Jesse [Gibbon] starts playing if you turn your back you think you’re listening to Herbie Hancock. They’re all great players. That’s the main thing about this. I want the best players out there. Those two bands along with Frogwings are among the best bands out there in terms of knowing how to play their instruments.

DB- Can you share your thoughts on The Slip?

BT- Oh man, Jesus, those guys are just so much fun. The concept is very similar to what we did with the Allman Brothers- you turn it up on intense and let it eat. They’re free, spontaneous, and when they’re on, they ignite. It’s about as good as it gets. I love Drew [Barr]. That drummer’s a hell of a player. He’s a little intimidating to tell you the truth (laughs). Their disc is already done. Bruce Harris [Flying Frog Production Manager] was at the show Friday night, and he finally got a copy of the Slip record on Thursday. Well Friday night we finished our show, and it was a really good one. It was really smoking and Bruce is a big fan, he loves the Allman Brothers. Well we finished the show and everybody is telling me how great it was and then I got to Bruce. He looked at me, shook my hand and said , “That was pretty good, wait until you hear the Slip.”

DB- That’s some endorsement (laughs). The Frogwings disc will be a live release, right?

BT- Yeah the title is Croaking At Toads. All but one of the cuts we did at Toad’s.

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