Almanac Music: Not Quite Bob – Too Good To Leave Out: The Allman Brothers, Tedeschi Trucks Band

 

Not Quite Bob – Too Good To Leave Out – The Allman Brothers, Tedeschi Trucks Band

 

I’ve wanted to highlight this lot for a while but couldn’t see where they fit the theme.  But then what the hell, if you can do one on Steely Dan and guitarists and any number of loosely Bob related artists then surely I can find a place for this lot.  So here we are.

 

The Allman Brothers

 

If this series of Bob bits was instead about the profound influence of Miles Davis and John Coltrane and others on music across many spheres then I might have an easier transition to discussing the music the Allman Brothers made in particular during the sadly short time of Duane’s life.

 

The brothers Allman, Duane the elder, Gregg the younger, grow up in Daytona Beach, Florida and start gigging in various guises in the mid 60’s as teenagers.  Soon enough they’ve added Dickey Betts on guitar, bass player Berry Oakley, two drummers in Butch Trucks and Jai Johnny Johnson (Jaimoe) and we have the first and greatest iteration of the Allman Brothers.

 

In 1969 they’ve moved to Macon, Georgia and late that year we get their first self-titled album.

 

 

It sets the table for what is to follow with a quick jazzy instrumental first track at just over 2 mins with ‘Don’t Want You No More’ launching into the heavily blues inflected ‘It’s Not My Cross To Bear’.  That and every one of the remaining 5 tracks on this grand debut feature heavily on stage for the rest of All(man) time.

 

The next one is Idlewild South and it follows the pattern of the debut.  Jazz tinged originals, blues including covers of the greats – Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Blind Will McTell.  A big band, big sound, duelling guitars, two drummers, the pounding pulse of Oakley on bass and Gregg’s blues voice – more growl than silk.  Never better than this.  Trouble No More.

 

 

The jazz influence on their early records is undeniable.  Much more so than the blues idiom that also permeates their records.  It’s not just the extended jams on the live recordings that tip a hat to the jazz greats.  I’d be amazed if the band weren’t well versed in the structures and mood shifts in albums like Miles’ Kind of Blue or In A Silent Way or Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.  To whit ‘In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed’.

 

 

The cornerstone of the sound? The duelling guitars of Dickey Betts and Duane Allman.  With verry solid accompaniment from the rhythm section, and Gregg on keys noodling seamlessly through everything, the guitars make the Allmans soar.  Betts is a really good guitarist and songwriter who wrote a lot of the great Allman songs.  He wrote Elizabeth Reed above for instance.  But the undeniable star is Duane on slide.  He is the fulcrum for the whole thing.  The playing that lifts the soul and fills the heart.

 

Live on stage is where the Allmans shine and in late 1970 through until the end of March 1971 they play a series of shows at the legendary Fillmore that become the backbone of live albums that are monuments to the craft.  Here is one of my favorites from that first album, Dreams.  You’ll have to forgive the nong on the mixing desk who seemed to forget that Gregg’s vocals needed to be heard but be thankful that he woke up near the end and grateful that the rest of it is so majestic.

 

 

In July 1971 they release At Fillmore East from those performances and ever since extended releases of that same material (7 songs in the original) have come around with different versions of what adds up to about 12 songs have emerged.

 

I never get tired of them.  There’s now a 37 track compendium available of all the versions made available in 2014 and while I didn’t actually buy it it’s up there on Spotify.  Make it the soundtrack to your day some time.  You wont be sorry.

 

 

What the hell, I might even get it still.

 

In amongst all of the Allmans activity, Duane is a much in demand as a session guitarist.  Eric Clapton tries to recruit him to his new outfit post Cream – Derek and the Dominos – and while he does play on that Layla album (to no better effect than on the title track) he’s an Allman in name and wedded to his brother and those mighty musicians and what they’re creating.

 

And then on 29 October 1971, tragedy.  On that day Duane jumps on his Harley to head back home to Macon after a recording session and is killed when, at high speed, his bike plows into a stalled truck at an intersection.  He’s 24.  A year later a heartbroken Berry Oakley dies in much the same way and the soul and pulse of the band is gone.

 

They decide to continue on and in the lull of grief further live tracks from the Fillmore dates are released on Eat A Peach and accompanied by a bunch of songs that are a clue to the future direction of the band.  ‘Melissa’, ‘Little Martha’ and ‘Blue Sky’ are more Americana than blues/jazz jam band.

 

In early 1973 they release their most commercially successful album to date in Brothers And Sisters.  As Gregg has declined into depression and addiction it has become Dickey Betts’ band.  I kind of get it and this sound had a lot of fans.  It is, despite the immense setback, a cohesive and good album but for me, not the Allman Brothers I loved.

 

They plug away for a long time adding and dropping lots of bass players and guitarists until in late 1989 in come Warren Haynes on guitar and Woody Allen on bass, both the key men in Gov’t Mule and the Allman beat marches on.

 

They tour in that fashion for a long time but really they’re relying on former glories and the sets are heavily studded with (often very decent) versions of the signature songs.  By 1999 Butch Trucks’ nephew Derek is in (more on him later) and the sublime overlay of the Duane slide sound is back.  If I was being picky it’s a kind of Allman karaoke but that’s probably not fair.  Here, live on Whipping Post.

 

 

There’s a last gasp though and it’s really, really good.  In 2004 with Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes steering the boat, originals Gregg, Butch and Jaimoe along with Marc Quinones on percussion and Oteil Burbridge on bass they’re in familiar surroundings at the Beacon Theatre in NY.  The result is One Way Out.

 

 

Close your eyes (no don’t do that, it’s not a video anyway) and you’re back to 1971, back to the Fillmore.  Back to that sound.  Magic.  Here’s one of those nights.

 

 

In 2014 both Haynes and Trucks (Derek) leave and in 2017 uncle Butch and Gregg die.  That’s it.  Trouble No More.  Brightly and briefly from 1969 to 1971 while Duane was alive they were as good on stage as any band ever.  Thereafter with persistence and A Grade recruiting they pushed on without ever scaling the heights of the original band.  Kudos to them because the scale of those losses is hard to imagine.

 

It’s hard not to include a nod to Duane’s immense talent via a non-Allmans track recorded in 1969.  It’s Boz Scaggs on his second self-titled album.  Fenton Robinson’s ‘Loan Me A Dime’.

 

 

The anecdote is that Duane took a very long lead on his guitar into a bathroom at the Muscle Shoals studio where this was recorded, donned headphones so he could hear the band and played the magnificent slide over the top in the extended outro jam to the song.  It’s inspired.  Consider that’s he’s 22.  If someone tells me that that’s bullshit my faith in music folklore will crumble like a stock cube in boiling water.  It underlines the loss of this great talent.  As a side note Boz Scaggs never made a better record and every one of the next 4 are better than Silk Degrees.

 

An essential – essential I tells ya – item on the shelves of any fan of the Allmans is a box set called Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective.  Buy the real thing, no downloads or any of that malarkey.  The accompanying book is worth the price alone and the nuggets of the tracks he features on include songs by Wilson Pickett, Arthur Conley, Otis Rush, Eric Clapton, King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, John Hammond, Lulu (ffs), Ronnie Hawkins, the Grateful Dead, Herbie Mann, Delaney & Bonnie, a lot you wont know but will like.  And of course The Allman Brothers Band (including early iterations).  Once and for always, the best of the best, creators of a completely unique sound that many have tried to imitate, none bettered.

 

 

 

Tedeschi Trucks Band

 

When I started this piece I was going to include Bonnie Raitt and Little Feat.  But I got lost in the Allman Brothers.  Not hard to do.  But as a coda to that is the Tedeschi Trucks Band.  It’s a musical and actual marriage between Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks.

 

With each having their own estimable solo careers they unite in 2007 in the Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Soul Stew Revival while on a tour.  They become Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2010 by merging both bands rather than cherry picking their way through both outfits.  It’s a big operation, 13 members at last count, two drummers a la the Allmans, brass, singers, keys and the twin guitars of the named partners.

 

The first album is Revelator in 2011 and it wins a Grammy for Best Blues Album.  But like the Allmans the stage is where they shine.  I’ve seen them live a few times and can’t wait for the next opportunity.  Here at the Beacon (sounds like my kind of venue) a full concert.

 

 

They’re just awesome live.  Is it the blues?  Rock? Funk? Soul?  It’s all that and more.  Every player is a gun, they all take turns at the forefront with other singers leading some songs but it’s the husky Susan voice and the other worldly Derek guitar that are the highlights.  And they can go smaller to good effect too.

 

Here are a bunch of them jammed into the Tiny Desk format very,very effectively.

 

 

That set was focussed on songs from this album.  Let Me Get By.  All killer, no filler.  I’ll come up with a better catchphrase one day but that one does it.

 

 

Every track guaranteed to bring a smile.  That was 2016 when we saw them in New Orleans.  They’re at the top of my bucket list of future live gigs.

 

Since then, another good studio album in 2019s Signs, a live album, then a brilliant re-boot of Eric’s Layla album based on live sets at the LOCKN’ Festival which is a jam band extravaganza held in Virginia each year since 2013.  That’s another bucket list item.

 

Lately they’ve set out to release into the world a concept album called I Am The Moon.  It’s conceived as a 4 parter with 3 of the 4 instalments out already, the 4th coming in September.  With none of the physical assets out yet I’ll be heading for the shop when the 4th one drops to get the full package.  No doubt it will be as impressive as the first 3 sets (5-7 tracks each, clocking in at 35-40 mins each) suggest.

 

But to leave this for now and to highlight the almost ethereal connection Derek Trucks has with the playing of Duane Allman (noting that Derek was born several years after Duane died) here he is channelling the great man on ‘Layla’.

 

 

I mean, really, how could I leave them out?  Maybe next time for Bonnie and the Feat.

 

 

You can read more from Trevor Blainey HERE.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Trev, I rarely take any drug that isn’t alcohol these days, but listening to Live at Filmore East after a joint is one of life’s last best journeys.
    And I swear this is true… there is a headstone in the Melbourne Cemetery that says: In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.
    I saw Government Mule at Byron Bluesfest in 2017 with Willie Nelson’s son singing Southern Man. Superlative. What a great live band.

  2. Sorry not to answer this sooner. As it arrived yesterday I was off to a performance by the Two Ronnies. Great fun. Govt Mule are the ultimate jam band who do covers for fun. Everything from Black Sabbath to Humble Pie to Neil Young. I saw them when you did but at The Forum in 2017. They subbed in for Gregg Allman who was ill. His son Devon supported them and also appeared with them. Live is their thang. I’ve got hours of it.

  3. Colin Ritchie says

    Another cracking musical treat Trev, thank you!

  4. If you’d like to see a great local version of The Allman Brothers’ set-up taking the stage in 2022, check out the wonderful Fools at a Melbourne gig some time soon. At least two of almost everything: drummers, guitarists, keyboardists, backing singers (sometimes extending to three), horns (three is standard), and Travis on bass…proving once and for all that only more is more.

  5. Got the album Ian. Looking out for a gig soon.

  6. Keiran Croker says

    Good stuff Trev. Two of my favourite bands. Have long had the Live at Fillmore album. I try to remember to play it at least once a year, particularly for In Memory of Elizabeth Reed (one of the great instrumentals). I love Brothers & Sisters. A very different album but great all the same. I got to see them play circa 2007 at New Orleans JazzFest. A musical highlight for me.
    I have two Derek Trucks Band Albums that I actually prefer to the combined bands, goid and all as they are, Great live band. Have seen them up at BluesFest.

  7. Trevor Blainey says

    Both better live than in the studio. Stretching out on the jam suits what they do I reckon.

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