The Allman Brothers Band: The Road Goes on Forever
ALLMAN We made this decision for a simple reason: the music was suffering. It had ceased to be a band—everything had to be based around what Dickey was playing. I was actually getting ready to walk because I could not stand the situation anymore. I even wrote a letter of resignation. Then I spoke with Butchie [Trucks], and he was thinking the same thing, and we just realized that was crazy. After so many years of drinking and abusing drugs, I finally cleaned up, and I didn’t want to waste one minute of time for the rest of my life. God, I had wasted enough time! I was finally sober. That monkey was off my back. I even quit cigarettes and I quit it all at once. I realized I was on death’s doorstep, and I was thankful to God that I had woke up before all the innings of the game were over. I wasn’t gonna put up with nothing—not another minute of bullying or negativity mixed with music. I’d quit music first, and I don’t think I’m ever gonna quit music.
Having a band is like having a relationship with a woman. If you’ve ever been in a real bad relationship, you know how, little by little, you learn to live with somebody who’s absolutely dragging you down, and your whole environment is kind of twisted and you don’t even realize it until it’s stopped. It’s definitely hard to maintain a band for so many years for many, many reasons. It’s a give-and-take thing, so similar to a marriage or relationship. You have to maintain a balance or everyone suffers.
BETTS It was a real family for so long, and we took care of each other. We took care of brother Gregg, and we took care of brother Butch. It’s amazing that we kept going for 30 years with our two big brothers gone. Then it finally flew apart, and it’s kind of okay. I just happened to be the one that it came down on.
Guitarist Jimmy Herring joined the ABB for their 2000 summer tour. That August, Woody passed away. Allman called Haynes and extended an offer to perform with the group. Unsure of the Gov’t Mule’s future, Haynes accepted and returned to the Allmans the following March for their annual residency at New York City’s Beacon Theater. He was billed as a special guest, with no guarantees of what would come next. Haynes and Derek Trucks immediately struck an explosive chemistry, which has continued to deepen over the years. Subsequent to Haynes rejoining the band, the ABB released Hittin’ the Note, their last album of new material, in 2003.
HAYNES No one knew what I was going to do, including me. I had some concerns about coming back to the Allmans, but Gregg’s phone call was really a saving grace, because I needed to stop wallowing in my misery over Woody’s death and plunge into something. I agreed to play some shows and see if the vibe and the music were good.
BUTCH TRUCKS Warren was the guy we needed. I’m not sure we would have continued at all if Warren hadn’t taken the job. I simply can’t imagine who else could have done this gig.
HAYNES The band has certainly undergone a strange transformation, but in a very positive way. This particular unit plays great together and probably listens more intently than any band I’ve ever been in, which makes it easy to go some place different every night. And that is the goal: to take this venerable institution someplace new without ever losing touch with the four-decade tradition that makes the Allman Brothers Band something really special.
DEREK TRUCKS It’s just an underlying respect for the band’s history and legacy, which Warren and I both share. You want to make music that can stand on its own, and you want to be able to listen to it in 20 years and be proud. It’s a big obligation to make music as the Allman Brothers, and both of us want to make sure that the name is back in a very positive way. You don’t want to be the guy who let it slip!
ALLMAN Where does Derek come from? I don’t know, but if you believe in reincarnation...
TRUCKS I can’t explain Derek and don’t even try. I’ve been playing with him nine or 10 years now and I still have no idea what he is going to do. Every time he plays something it’s a surprise, and it’s astounding what that says about his musical depth. I think he is what Duane may have become if he had more time. Remember, Duane was 24 when he died and had only been playing slide for a few years.
ALLMAN Probably not a day goes by that we don’t talk about Duane. It’s almost like he’s with us. Sometimes when I’m onstage I can feel his presence so strong, I can almost smell him. It’s like he’s right there next to me. For years I thought that my brother really got shortchanged because he never quite got to see what he had accomplished, but I’ve slowly come to realize that he left a hell of a legacy for dying at the age of 24.
When we perform, the drummers are back there, behind me, and I’m on the frontline of the stage. One night at the Beacon, I looked down and realized I was the only one left on the frontline. I guess it makes me appreciate the whole thing even more, really. It’s hard to stick together, and that’s probably why a lot of other good bands don’t last this long. My brother, Woody, Oakley—they can’t be replaced because they were all unique individuals. But it doesn’t mean the whole shebang has got to fold. We still have music left to play.
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