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Keep on Growing: Derek Trucks Talks Col. Bruce and ABB Legacy

Gregg Allman and Derek Trucks, MGM Grand at Foxwoods, CT 11/16/10- photo by Dean Budnick

It’s been a painful year for the Allman Brothers Band’s musical family, beginning with the tragic suicide of Butch Trucks in January. On May 1, Col. Bruce Hampton collapsed on stage, with ABB guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks only a few steps away. The theory that bad things come in threes proved unbearably true last week, when Gregg Allman finally succumbed to his long-ailing body.

Hours after that sad news spread, Trucks took the stage in Jacksonville, his hometown, and lit into the Allman’s “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More.” His stirring slide reminded us that just as the Allmans carried on after Duane Allman and Berry Oakley left this world, the best treatment for sorrow is a joyful sound.

Even if there were there no family connection to the Allmans, Tedeschi Trucks Band would still be filling halls on the strength of their performances, exhibited in their new DVD/album release, Live from the Fox Oakland. But the two bands’ parallels are undeniable. There’s no doubt that if Duane, Gregg, Butch, Berry and Bruce are together in heaven, their smiles stretch across the sky when Derek and Susan Tedeschi take the stage.

On Friday, May 26, the day before Gregg left us, Derek Trucks spoke about the significance of Tedeschi Trucks Band in the wake of his uncle Butch’s passing. Trucks acknowledged that carrying the ABB torch is a responsibility he’s been given and has come to embrace, partially through grooming and mentorship by Hampton as a teenager.

Once the boy-wonder guitar prodigy, Trucks is now a father, a husband and a bandleader. And with the Midnight Rider on his journey down the forever road, he’s a living legacy and a figurehead of the modern Allman Brothers musical family.

These extended excerpts from a casual conversation, unaware that we’d lose Gregg mere hours later, reveal how Trucks perceives and embraces the opportunity and obligation to keep the Allman Brothers Band’s spirit alive.


On Col. Bruce Hampton’s practice of gifting Trucks with books and albums during his formative years:

In the early years when I was a kid, he was always doing that, from 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, when you’re that age where your brain is starting to form these connections. I remember him taking me to the record store once and there was a Sun Ra record and A Love Supreme. They had the Hampton Grease Band on vinyl and he picked that up for me, which is pretty amazing to have.

He would just always drop the right stuff on you, you know? At that age, your eyes start opening up, your ears start opening up and you’re trying to figure out your way through an insane planet. He was the guy who most directly would deal with those things and kind of point you in the right place.

I think what was so different about him was he was never preachy. He was never telling you what to do. He was just kind of leaving a trail.

On the legacy of Col. Bruce:

There are people that occupy a space and if they stop playing, there’s somebody that can take up the slack, but with somebody like the Colonel, there was no mold for him before he was here, and there’s nobody that can take that and roll with it. He taught a lot of people a lot of things, so that spirit will spread. He was a singular individual and a keeper of this oral tradition and history.

I think people don’t realize how many things he was there for. There’s a little Forrest Gump to it. Not in his mentality—it’s just he was there for everything. At first, when you hear some of these stories, you think, “There’s no way that’s true,” and then two, three, five years later, something will come out and then there’s definitely proof, that was a true story. The more outlandish, the more probable that it’s true with him.

The thing I keep coming back to, with the Colonel specifically, is you’re fortunate to know people like that or get to be in their orbit, or to spend time with certain people. That’s really kind of a blessing and you have to hold onto that. There’s not many people like that on the planet and to get to spend time with him and learn and all of those things, those are real gifts that you can’t take for granted.

On being on stage with Bruce when he collapsed:

The synchronicity is just absurd. There was an interview, I think a few days before all of this went down, where they’re asking him about his favorite song of all time, and he said, ‘Without a doubt, ‘Turn On Your Love Light.’ It’s the first song I ever sang on stage, and it’s still my favorite song.’ The fact that that’s what was going on when he passed, it’s all kind of miraculous.

It’s a weird thing because you don’t want to totally hold it up as this awesome beautiful thing because it’s tragic and there are people that are really coping with what happened, but there still is an amazing beauty to the coda. The Colonel is all about spreading the myth and the mythos and all of those things, and that just happened. There will be a statue built of that dude, somewhere, some day. I don’t think that’s in question.

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