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Published: 2012/02/13
by Larson Sutton

Red Carpet Chat with The Allman Brothers Band at the Grammys

Oteil Burbridge

What does this day mean to you?

I’m just tickled they included us. I think it is a real testament to the same level of band spirit that Duane started out with; putting the roadies on the cover of At Fillmore East. They said, ‘If it’s a Lifetime Achievement award it has to be for the life of the band. Bert (Holman, the band’s manager) said, ‘You’ve been the bass player longer than any of the others, out of all of them.’ I was like, ‘Holy shit, I have.’ But, still, they didn’t have to do that. They could have rightfully, and I wouldn’t have had any bad feelings, given it to Gregg, Dickey, Jaimoe, and Butch. Derek and I were thinking that we might be the youngest recipients of the Lifetime Achievement in the history of the Grammys. I mean, my God, it’s insane. I’ve never been to the Grammys, and for the first one, I know I’m going home with one before I even get on the plane, for something that started when I was five, six years-old.

What have you learned from over 15 years with this band?

I was a jazz snob when I joined the band. I ended up learning quite a lot about other forms of black music like blues, R&B, and even gospel from some really long-haired white dudes with tattoos. I didn’t even own a four-string (bass guitar) when I joined, and now I play a lot of vintage stuff, even on my own music. It’s reconnected me with deep parts of my own black history. I’m really grateful.

Derek Trucks

You’ve got a lot of your own career left. Are you ready for a Lifetime Achievement award?

It’s an honor to be a part of the legacy. I don’t pretend that this is my Lifetime Achievement award. At 32, it feels crazy to even be here. To support the guys, there is no band that deserves it more. There have been a lot of incarnations, and this current lineup has been together for 12 years, so it was nice of the original members to make sure the young guys were here. I appreciate the nod but it’s their night. Duane, Berry, Dickey, and everybody that wrote the playbook.

But, in essence, being the nephew of founding and current member Butch Trucks, this has been the music of your entire lifetime.

My Dad was at the Fillmore when he was young. Those stories, seeing Duane, it was his religion. Growing up, even when I started playing, I never once thought I would join the band. A lot of it has come as a huge surprise and honor along the way. You never know what is going to happen. I’ve been fortunate that a lot of my earliest musical heroes, that I’ve listened to and studied, I’ve ended up on stage with them. When you put all the work and time in, sometimes crazy shit happens.

What do you take from the Allman Brothers Band and apply to your current Tedeschi Trucks Band?

The honesty of the music that they have always created. The family aspect. The traveling circus aspect. Much in the spirit of the early group, you take people from different backgrounds, musical and personal, and throw them together. The common thread is the love of what you’re doing and trying to make magic on stage. The brutal honesty of it, personally and musically, is definitely a lesson I’ve learned. You learn from your mistakes. To keep the drama out of it you have to face issues when they come up. You can’t bury them for 20, 30 years. You can’t have arguments like, ‘Remember in 1975…’ You have to get that out right now. There is good and bad and you learn from all of it. The Allman Brothers Band and others from that era really paved the way. It was an experiment; from what they were doing to their bodies, to musically, to the whole rock stardom thing. Some of it went amazingly well and some of it not so well. We put the band in a certain spot and the family in a certain spot and try to make it all harmonious and work together. We’re trying to find that sweet spot.

Chuck Leavell

As a member of the band during its most commercially successful period, what does this award mean to you?
It’s a tremendous, tremendous honor. It really is. To be included is very special for me. It was a golden era, in the ‘70s, when I worked with the Allman Brothers. We had a ton of fun and I think we made some great music. It’s an amazing feeling.

You were very young when you joined the group. Was there anything about the band at that time that would’ve indicated this was a group that might be accepting an award like this today?

I was barely 20. My focus was on the music. It was a great honor for me to come in and a great opportunity. I think it was a clever move on the band’s part because you’re never going to replace Duane Allman. Duane was such an iconic player and such an amazing leader. If they would’ve tried to replace him with another guitar player at that time I think it would have probably fallen on its face. So, it was an interesting twist to say, ‘Let’s put a piano player in the mix.’ I think a lot of people scratched their heads, but fortunately for me the guys gave me some room to play. They pushed me as a musician and gave me great opportunities in songs like “Jessica” and on the Brothers and Sisters record, and of course, the live performances.

Are there moments in the studio or on-stage that stay with you?

We were recording Gregg Allman’s Laid Back record at the same time we were recording Brothers and Sisters, so there were so many great moments. The music was wonderful and both projects turned out to be very popular. It was an honor to be involved. We were a stadium band back at that time so some of the shows that took place were in RFK Stadium and JFK Stadium and, of course, Watkins Glen with the Grateful Dead and The Band with 600,000 people in attendance. There were shows out here in California that stand out. It was a special time for me. My wife Rose Lane and I had just gotten married and we had our first child in 1975 and we were carrying her around with us and the Allman Brothers Band. I have nothing but tremendous memories.

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