From The Archives:Allen Woody Turns Pink Floyd A Shade of Blue
With the release of Blue Floyd’s Begins, which presents the band’s original line-up, this seemed an appropriate time to take an another look at the early days of the group. Blue Floyd originally featured Gov’t Mule’s Allen Woody and Matt Abts along with Marc Ford, Berry Oakley Jr. and Johnny Neel. This interview with Woody ran in January 2000, the month of the quintet’s first gig. Tragically, Allen Woody passed away eight months later.
*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. *DB- How many songs are you going to bring to Blue Floyd? *
AW- I don’t know. Just when I think we’ve got it, we say, "Hey, we can do this one too." The next thing you know we’ve got another one worked up. We’re going to have a pretty wide repertoire so we can spin it around on the audiences. We don’t want it to be the same every night by any stretch. *DB- So what’s the band’s specific approach going to be? *
AW- We’re going to put our own slant on this music, by giving most of these songs a more traditional blues flavor. People who are familiar with the music of Pink Floyd will obviously recognize the songs but they will be completely different from what you would expect. We’re not going to perform them in any way you’ve ever heard them before. *DB- Can you give me an example? *
AW-Well for instance, we’re going to do "Money" as a blues shuffle. We’ve been rehearsing it for a few days and right now it’s one my favorite ones we have going on. "Have A Cigar" is another song that has been totally transformed. It’s radically different and really good. "Wish You Were Here" has got a nice treatment to it. But I don’t want to say much more because we want people to come out and be totally surprised by who’s playing what, who’s signing what. That’s going to be part of it all. *DB- So there are going to be vocals? *
AW- Johnny Neel will be doing a lot of them. We’re hitting these things from the standpoint of playing blues and he’s tailor made to do that. Everybody’s going to sing a song or two but Johnny’s going to do the bulk of it because it is a blues project and that’s right up his alley. Johnny’s aura is one of being a true blues man. We are called Blue Floyd, and he can play the hell of out of a Hammond, and when we have occasion to use blues harp he can also play that. Plus, as I said, he’s a fine singer. *DB- So you have a few tunes that you’re going to sing yourself? *
AW- Yeah but I ain’t telling (laughs). We’re going to change it every night. It’s already been a situation where the tapers have been out there on-line talking about it, so we know we have to go out and mix it up and make it good every night. *DB- So you’re taking into consideration the fact that some people might be showing up more than once? *
AW- Yeah we know that, so we’re going to change it up on them. It’s certainly something that will be considered before each and every show. We know that people will be there who were there the night before and we’ve got to keep it interesting for them.
DB- Well you have a line-up that certainly is equipped to do that. You’ve already mentioned three of the players, why don’t you introduce the other two members of the band.
AW- Marc Ford will be playing guitar. What he brings to the table is being one of the hottest lead players walking around. There are all these lead players today you listen to and it’s like a bat buzzing around your head. But he plays meat. And Matt [Abts] very simply brings what I believe to be the best rock and roll drumming to a project. *DW- What would you say that you contribute? *
AW- I bring a lot of nice guitars to the gig (laughs). *DB- Do you think the band’s music will appeal to some of your fans who are drawn to the blues but might not be all that enamored with the more progressive side of Pink Floyd? *
AW- I think so. What you’ve got to work with are great songs. After that it’s up to the band’s interpretation of the songs. What we’re doing is playing the blues, so I think our guys would like it. I think they will appreciate our intentions which were to go out and take a body of really cool music and put a spin on it that hasn’t been done before. People should expect a great night of beautifully-written music performed by a really cool band in a format they wouldn’t expect the songs to played in. It will be a slant on Pink Floyd that you’d never thought you’d hear. What’s not to like?