Thursday, January 26, 2017

Butch Trucks

This one hurts a lot.

Butch Trucks was one of the founding fathers of The Allman Brothers Band. A band that got under my skin when I was fifteen and stayed there through today and for the rest of my life.

The founding fathers were: Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks, "Jaimoe" Johanson, Dicky Betts, and Berry Oakley.

Duane Allman died in a motorcycle crash in 1971 at the age of 24. Berry Oakley died in a motorcycle crash in 1972 at the age of 24.

Those deaths were devastating. Since then The Allman Brothers have motored on through various lineup changes and three break ups, to get their musical message out to the world.

Through it all they stayed true to who they were.

When they first came upon the scene nobody knew what to make of them. A six man band with two drummers - are you kidding me? - with musical tastes inspired by the blues, by jazz and by country - a band that would jam at length on many songs and then bring it all back home with a precision and ferocious emotion that would blow you away.

Butch put it perfectly in a Rolling Stone interview from last year: "We were out spreading the gospel of this music we had discovered. We never thought that we would be more than an opening act. Atlantic Records was riding our ass constantly to get Gregg out from behind the organ, stick a salami down his pants and jump around the stage like Robert Plant. We told them to go fuck themselves. 'We're playing this for ourselves. We've tried it your way before. We didn't make any money and we had a miserable time.'

The Allman Brothers Band had a unique voice, they knew it and they stuck with it. Butch Trucks was a huge part of that voice.

Jaimoe was the other drummer. He played with a jazz feel; he was not a power drummer. He added subtlety and accent. Butch was the power guy. Wailing away with strength, keeping the band in line, giving them a solid base from which to soar.

He had a strong personality too. Always spoke his mind.

At concerts, when the other musicians walked off the stage, leaving Jaimoe and Butch to jam, very few people moved. Typically, when there is a drum solo, people go to the bathroom, grab a beer and mill around. Not so with The Allman Brothers. Butch and Jaimoe jammed ferociously, delicately, powerfully and in a way that made your jaw drop.

We could always identify the rookies in the crowd - they headed for the bathrooms. They had no clue what they were missing.

When you get something special in your life, something containing the magic to make your life softer, you hold on to it with all your strength.

That is what The Allman Brothers Band was to me.

It has been almost 45 years since an original member of the band died. Plenty of time to get comfortable with having them around. Honestly, I have been worried about Gregg. His health has been fragile for a long time. He cancelled a bunch of shows last fall due to health concerns, and that really worried me.

So Butch's death came as a great shock to me. I did not see it coming. I don't know if he had health issues.

My closest friend Phil C and I saw Butch with his new band The Freight Train Band at a small dinner type venue last summer. Thank God for that opportunity.

What a night. We had dinner. Prime rib for both of us. We drifted into the hall, set up with round tables throughout the room, a small, intimate room with close proximity to the stage.

The band came out and rocked that place to the ground. Phil and I were blown away. We didn't know anybody in the band beyond Butch. Turns out his son, Vaylor Trucks, was playing guitar and man could he wail.

Butch Trucks gave Phil and I the gift of incredible music, a night we laughed together, and ate and drank together, stared in awe at the stage and jumped up for standing ovations again and again.

That was the power of Butch Trucks. That was the power of The Allman Brothers Band.

The Allman Brothers broke up in 2014. Thanks to my sons, I was fortunate enough to see their second to last show ever - at the Beacon Theatre in NYC, the Holy Grail for Allman Brothers fans, with Phil. My sons gave me the tickets. It was yet another spectacular ABB memory for us.

Since then I have been secretly hoping for a reunion concert. I kept that hope alive in my heart because I could not accept the possibility that I would never see The Allman Brothers Band again.

The death of Butch Trucks is too much. Too final. It hurts a lot.

When you get something special in your life you have to enjoy it at every opportunity, every turn, because nothing lasts forever. And when it goes away all you have is memories.

I have the music of The Allman Brothers Band and the music, personality and life force of Butch Trucks to keep me going.

But there is a void. Huge and final that will never be filled.

I am sad and empty today. I believe I will feel this way for some time to come.

Requiescat in pace, Butch Trucks.

Thank you so much for the music and the memories.

I loved, respected and appreciated having you in my life.

I will never forget you.

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