Derek Trucks leaving the Allman Brothers Band after 15 years: 'I never thought I'd be a part of it that long'
On Tuesday, guitarist Derek Trucks said the Allman Brothers Band as we know it was “certainly winding down.”
“For me, I’ve been in the band, what, 15 years now? I never thought it would make it that long,” Trucks, 34, said in a phone interview from his home in Jacksonville. “I never thought I’d be a part of it that long. So it all feels like bonus time to me.”
Turns out that bonus clock is ticking faster than anyone realized. On Wednesday, a day after our interview, Trucks and guitarist Warren Haynes announced they would be leaving the iconic Southern rock band at the end of 2014 to focus on their own projects, including Haynes’ Gov’t Mule and Trucks and wife Susan Tedeschi’s Tedeschi Trucks Band, which will headline St. Petersburg’s Sunshine Music & Blues Festival on Jan. 19.
“While I’ve shared many magical moments on stage with the Allman Brothers Band in the last decade plus, I feel that my solo project and the Tedeschi Trucks Band is where my future and creative energy lies,” Trucks said in a statement. “The Tedeschi Trucks Band tour schedule keeps growing, and I feel the time has finally come to focus on a single project, which will allow me to spend that rare time off the road with my family and children. It’s a difficult decision to make, and I don’t make it lightly.”
Few would blame Trucks — whose uncle Butch was the Allmans’ founding drummer — for wanting to spend more time with his family, especially when the Tedeschi Trucks Band is at the top of their game, having won a Grammy for Best Blues Album (Revelator) in 2012. Even Gregg Allman thinks so.
“He’s got the baddest band in the land, he absolutely does,” Allman said in a December interview. “It’s my favorite, it really is. Of all the music I’ve heard lately, they do it for me. That blows my dress way up.”
Still, the announcement came as a surprise to fans of Trucks, the Allman Brothers ... and, well, us, too. A spokesman for Trucks said Wednesday’s announcement was supposed to come later this year, but was pushed up. “Things are going well,” said publicist Jim Walsh. “This has been planned for a while that both would focus on their projects.”
Trucks joined the Allman Brothers Band at age 19, shortly after releasing his first album with his solo band.
“I remember thinking, You can’t really turn this offer down, but I can’t not do my own group,” he said on Tuesday. “They’ve been great about making it work, where you can do both. Granted, you have to work 300 days a year to do it, but over the years, it’s just kind of grown. This is the longest incarnation of the band that’s ever existed. The original group was just a few years, and the group in the ’70s had a lot of changes, so this group with Warren and Oteil (Burbridge) and Marc (Quiñones) and me, it’s going on a little over a decade now, which seems nearly impossible, with the amount of s--- that goes on with that group, but it’s been amazing. Every time I think it’s done, and you want to count it out, it kind of comes roaring back.”
The Allmans do have big plans for 2014, their 45th year, including a concert Friday in Atlanta and a 10-night stand at New York’s Beacon Theatre in March.
“When it’s time to play and the band hits the stage, it’s very much the spirit of the original group, where the time on stage matters,” Trucks said. “That’s church. If you’re phoning it in there, there’s no reason to show up. So no matter what happens off the stage, the hours on stage are taken very seriously. You look at my uncle and Jaimoe (Johanson), and those guys are in their mid-’60s playing 2-1/2, 3-hour sets, blood on the snare drums. They’re throwing down. Nobody’s phoning it in.”
Trucks was raised around the Allman Brothers, and when they invited him to join in 1999, he was initially hesitant to show off his own natural gifts as a teenage guitar prodigy.
“When you get a call to play with a band that’s already in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you’re not going to come in and change it and bend it to your will, at least immediately,” he laughed. “It was jumping into music that I grew up with, and music that was as close to me as the stuff I was making on my own, but it was a different avenue, you know? And there’s something about getting in front of that rhythm section, and when that band gets pumping and playing that brand of music — that they invented — there’s nothing quite like it.
“With the Allmans, there’s always been this sense of, 'When it’s your time to go, go, and we will follow,’” he continued. “That’s very much what that band is. It allows everybody in the band to do their thing. When you’re talking about bringing material in, you defer more often than not, but when you’re improvising, you just roll.”
That said, Trucks said his solo group and Tedeschi Trucks Band create space for a bit more experimentation than the Allman Brothers Band. And for an artist who’s spent most of his life voraciously studying and honing the craft of guitar wizardry, that remains a crucial part of his evolution as a performer.
“Every night, when the improvisational sections come up, it’s an adventure,” he said. “I’ve been really lucky, at least the last 20 years, playing with great musicians, and you can get into a rut. You can find things that work, and whether you know it or not, you’re going to these bags that work, and the last six, eight months with this band, that’s been thrown out the window. So I feel like every night, I have to hold on. I’ve got to keep my ears wide open. It’s a great challenge, but it’s a challenge.”
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*