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Published: 2011/12/30
by Randy Ray

Jaimoe: 21st Century Renaissance Man

With the debut studio album release of Renaissance Man, Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band finally establishes itself as an act with a recorded legacy that should endure. Jai Johanny Johanson, aka Jaimoe, an original drummer and percussionist with the Allman Brothers Band, sat down with Jambands.com at the dawn of the release of the album to discuss his band’s origins, the nature of their evolution from live work to the new studio album, his other bandmates, his early influences, and his feelings about what it is like to be considered not only a fine journeyman musician in a very tough profession, but one that makes a difference, too. Jaimoe is a serious yet playful man, while being a humorous and grounded soul that appears to take flight behind his drum kit, his true calling in life, while always keeping an ear out for what sounds just right in the mix.

RR: Congratulations on the recent announcement that the Allman Brothers Band are to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2012 Grammy Awards.

JJ: Thank you, man. That’s quite a step there. We in the business now, man.

RR: How does that make you feel, while you continue on down the road making fairly fresh and vibrant music?

JJ: It makes me feel great. I hope it makes my partners feel as great. I know Gregory will. My partner, Butch will possibly have something to say about it, but deep down inside, I’m sure he feels the same way, so I won’t speak for anyone except myself. We have one Grammy from a live session I think in South Carolina, or Virginia, for “Jessica.” It was a Dickey Betts song, an instrumental. Interesting thing was that I think I was in Mississippi at a funeral, and my friend Paul Riddle played on the record.

But when you get a Lifetime Achievement Award, man, that’s like [whistles]...that’s like really saying something. Neil Portnow at the Grammys called me. But, first, my manager had told me I had an interview with Rolling Stone. So I called him up and said, “Hey, man, are you going to the Grammys, you know, to support Gregory?” And he said, “Well, you’ve got an interview on Friday with Rolling Stone. After you talk to them, talk to me, and I should know by then.” I said, “Oh, O.K.” (laughs) And Neil called, man, and after talking to him, he started stringing me on, man—ran it like a carrot on a line. I was thinking, “What does this guy want?” And then, I had the thought: “Is he going to ask me to play at the Grammys with my band?” Things just started going all over in my head. I said, “Wait a minute, man. Is this Portnow?” And he said, “Yeah. Who did you think it was?” I said, “I don’t know how many Neils you got over there. I know only one Neil there, and I never met you, but I know who you are.” And he kept stringing me on, and then, I figure he thought, “Oh, I’ve strung him along enough.”

He said, “You know, we used to do this by mail, but now, I thought it would be much more higher class to call people and tell them. And the other thing, I didn’t know what their reaction was. You won the Lifetime Achievement Award.”

I said, “GOD DAMN!” (laughter) Man…after all that stuff he said, stringing me along, and he finally told me, it was worth him stringing me along. (laughter) That’s one hell of an award, man.

RR: Let’s talk about something else worthy of praise—your new studio album.

JJ: I need to clear up something before we continue.

RR: Sure, man.

JJ: Jambands.com.

RR: Yeah.

JJ: We are a jamband. (laughs) We are a jamband. The Allman Brothers. On my part, we are a jamband. I wanted to clear that up. We were doing it, not before anybody else, but we were one of the great disciples that has brought it quite a ways. We’re a jamband with a little class.

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