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Published: 2013/02/20
by Mike Greenhaus

Butch Trucks: Beacon Bound

Photo by Larry Hulst

For the past few years, The Allman Brothers Band have used their annual residency at New York’s Beacon Theatre to celebrate important moments from their rich history. But for the first time since 2009, The Allman Brothers Band will enter the Beacon with some new, originals. The Allman Brothers band singer and organist is in the midst of a creative renaissance after recovering from liver problems stemming from Hepatitis C. As founding Allman Brothers band drummer Butch Trucks explains below, Allman is “is in the best shape he’s probably been in for decades” and all eyes are on the group’s 45th anniversary in 2014. Shortly before heading to New York from his Florida home, Trucks discussed The Allman Brothers Band’s upcoming Beacon run, his Rock Roots Revival event, the future of Moogis and his long-awaited return to Madison Square Garden’s stage.

Let’s start by talking about The Allman Brothers Band’s upcoming Beacon run. The last few years have celebrated different anniversaries (2009 marked the band’s 40th anniversary, 2011 honored At Fillmore East and 2012 emphasized Eat a Peach ). Does the band have any overarching themes for this year’s shows?

I know that Gregg is in the best shape he’s probably been in for decades. He’s finally got his liver squared away—all the medications are balanced out, he’s getting his strength back and, along with that, his motivation to write songs. The word is that he’s got a bunch of new songs ready to go, and that right there in itself is something we haven’t had in a few years. So I’m really looking forward to the run—we leave on Wednesday [February 20] to go and rehearse, and I’m really looking forward to going there and seeing what Gregg’s got in the can. I am excited about what he’s put together for the Beacon that’s new and that people haven’t heard before.

Do you know if these are songs Gregg worked on by himself, with Warren Haynes or with another collaborator? Both of the new songs written for his 2011 solo album Low Country Blues were written with Warren.

Actually, I really don’t know. I just got an email from Gregg a couple weeks ago—and it’s not something he does very often—so you know something special is going on. You could just feel it in the email that he was beaming. He said, “I got all these new songs ready to go, I can’t wait. See you guys in New York.” That just made my day—it made my year and maybe the next three or four years.

[Ed note: During Allman Brothers Band rehearsals it was revealed that these new ABB songs are new Warren Haynes originals that he’s since shared with Gregg and the entire band]

Every Beacon run has featured some surprises. Last year you brought back mini-acoustic sets at the start of ever second set during the run. Where did that idea originate from and do you plan to revisit that concept this year?

That’s something that comes and goes, I don’t know. It kind of pops its head up every few years and I like it—I love it, ‘cause it’s the only time when The Allman Brothers are playing that I get a chance to take a break. In a normal show, I’m the only guy who’s never able to get off of his drums. I’m there for every damn song and I love it when they do those acoustic sets—it gives me a break. But at the same time, there’s nothing like the Beacon.

It’s something that’s inexplicable. I get there and after the third or fourth show, I’m exhausted. I’m 65 years old now but the first show is always exciting because I haven’t played in a while, and I have all this energy built up. The next night I have to come up and grit my teeth, and look at the blood blisters I’ve got on both hands. By the third or fourth night I’m just exhausted. It’s a lot of energy playing those three hour sets and playing as hard as I play—driving the band like I do. So I get to the show, feeling like a 95-year-old man and then I’m looking at those three steps I have to walk up to the drum riser, and it looks like Mt. Everest. I get up there and I get the drums set up. We start playing and about halfway through the first song something happens, and I’m an 18-year-old Superman.

I’m not kidding. With this band, it has been consistent. I mean, every single night. We don’t have bad nights anymore. I get up there and for three hours I’m just riding high and just riding that magic and music with the level of intensity we play.

How do you feel the Beacon compares to a normal Allman Brothers Band show at this point?

You can feel it—the energy and the audience is part of what causes that because it’s a very intimate setting and they’re right there. They’re involved, whereas when we’re playing the big sheds the people are all the way off in the distance and it’s hard to get any communication going. But at the Beacon, being at the same venue every night for a long time, you just have the feeling that we’re much freer to get up and try things that people have never heard of before. When you are only playing one night [in a city] you’re kind of stuck with having to play the greatest hits. You’re coming through for one night and then you have to do the greatest hits and move on. It just makes the Beacon a special event; it’s something that I know is going to end one day, but I hope it’s not anytime soon.

Speaking of the Beacon, what were your personal highlights from last year’s run?

Well, another thing I love about the Beacon is that every night is different—every night is totally different. One night we may start out playing “In A Silent Way,” the Miles Davis tune, and then it lays down a mellow groove and a feel for the whole evening. Then, the next night it could be just the opposite and we’re up there just pounding and jamming and blowing the roof off the ceiling. Last year, we had Bill Evans [on March 16] and we just jammed and jammed and jammed. If we ever add anyone to The Allman Brothers, he’s it.

The year before that we had Dr. John, and that’s a huge change in style and where you’re going and everything else. But also so much fun—it’s what I love about the Beacon, you never really know what’s going to happen. For the last 10 or 12 years [since the band’s current lineup has been together] it’s been consistently good every night—we don’t have bad nights anymore. Obviously there are some nights where it’s just through the roof and there are the nights where we may have to work a little harder but it’s still good. Before [that] it was like 75% of the time the shows were embarrassing, and we pulled out of that. I just love it, I can’t wait. I’m just counting the days. We start rehearsals on Wednesday to work up those songs of Gregg’s and you know. We’ll see what comes out for this run.

What is an Allman Brothers Band rehearsal like at this point? Do you focus on newer material, run through the back catalog or work on different types of improvisation?

I can’t think of a way to rehearse that we don’t do. Bottom line, it gets down to what the song is. Gregg wrote “Midnight Rider,” and that is a “song.” It has a very definite structure and there’s not a jam there. And then on the other hand you’ve got “Whipping Post” or something like that where only 10% of it is song and 90% of it is jam. So, you have to take every song for what it is and if it’s a song that should be structured then we work very hard on developing an interesting structure so we won’t get bored with it. If it’s one that has a jam, then that’s easy. We just learn the song and then let it go.

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Comments

There are 20 comments associated with this post

T February 21, 2013, 09:37:18

I love the Allman Brothers, but Butch is an arrogant ass. You didn’t play on all the tracks to the new Duane box set. It is overwhelmingly Duane’s session work with other artists.

dk70 February 21, 2013, 09:55:17

Butch rules. I met him at DTB w Susan gig and he was totally cool. Plus he never gets his due as one of the greatest and well rounded drummers ever.

Luke February 21, 2013, 14:34:43

Reality is that the Allmans are phenomenal now and they were also astoundingly great in the 90s. Great to know Gregg is, seemingly, ok, that they may be doing a new album, and may be touring a bunch this year and next. Rocknroll

Whats done is done February 22, 2013, 05:32:33

I hope Butch is right and their is going to be new music.

Craig Ruskey February 22, 2013, 06:53:42

Arrogant? I don’t think so. I don’t think Butch is saying that he played on every track. I think he’s referring to having played on all the Allman Brothers tracks that will be included in the box set.

D February 22, 2013, 17:21:07

Couldn’t help himself-still had to take a swipe at dickey a decade later…love the ABB, but these days Butch is an angry little man with the stink of moogis’ failure still wafting from his bike shorts.

Bab's Uvula February 25, 2013, 12:16:57

“In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” written by Dickie Betts, is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written in the rock era. I wonder what Butch is thinking these days as he’s playing it? Is it, “Man this sucks, I HATE playing Dickie’s shitty tune!” or is it, “I wonder what color I’m gonna paint the walls in my chalet in France?” You know, the chalet he can afford because people are still paying him to play Dickie’s tune?

Rocco Walsh February 25, 2013, 13:54:07

I’m not old enough to have been able to see the original lineup, so I take what I can get whatever lineup ABB is. They are one of my favorite bands ever, it will be great to get out hopefully this year and check them out again. One thing I think that is so cool, is the whole family of great music that has grown as a result of ABB. Derek and Susan (Tedeschi Trucks), Devon Allman, Govt Mule, Warren’s solo work. Jaimoe’s got some cool stuff.

Peter Geromini February 26, 2013, 13:52:39

Great read here,the life of a rock and roll band has its turbulance for sure, Im Greatful Greggs health has improved and they are still putting their fans FIRST, much love and respect for Mr. Trucks

dk70 February 26, 2013, 17:56:25

Butch is thinking “Liz Reed is an awesome tune, too bad the guy that wrote it was an intolerable drunk, or else he would still be standing center stage.”

Rich Boehme March 1, 2013, 12:35:25

I’m going March 5th to t’he Beacon.I can’t wait for that special night. The Brothers have been the music of my life for 42 yrs.

Rich Boehme March 1, 2013, 12:38:43

I’m going March 5th to t’he Beacon.I can’t wait for that special night. The Brothers have been the music of my life for 42 yrs.

Rich Boehme March 1, 2013, 12:38:50

I’m going March 5th to t’he Beacon.I can’t wait for that special night. The Brothers have been the music of my life for 42 yrs.

Rich Boehme March 1, 2013, 12:38:54

I’m going March 5th to t’he Beacon.I can’t wait for that special night. The Brothers have been the music of my life for 42 yrs.

JE March 1, 2013, 21:18:41

Rich is going March 5th to t’he Beacon.He can’t wait for that special night. The Brothers have been the music of his life for 42 yrs.

tpc March 2, 2013, 12:40:00

fukin unions crap all over everything

rocket1air March 3, 2013, 15:23:36

As many people already know, ‘In Memory of Elizabeth Reed’ was a collaborative effort of the original lineup even tho Mr Betts got the writing credit. The song is what it is today because of the contributions of the entire band. Peace, brothers & sisters.

JKD March 4, 2013, 11:29:06

I don’t know Butch or Gregg or Dickey and it’s safe to say no one who has commented on this topic does. I only know that they haven’t played together in over 10 years. I haven’t gone to see the band since that split happened and I first saw them in 1974. Doesn’t mean that the band all of the sudden stinks. For me without ALL of the surviving original members on stage it’s not the band I want to see. No knock against Warren and Derek, who are outstanding guitarists.

Tom March 8, 2013, 15:13:28

Dickey should replace him on drums…

Hotlanta May 26, 2013, 21:54:41

I am very excited about attending this. I hope there is a two drummer seminar as that would help me alot. I can’t wait to get the opportunity to play beside Butch! Ready for some Trout fishing too!

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