Butch Trucks, Allman Brothers Band Drummer and Co-Founder, Dead at 69: We Look Back at the Band
Considered “the” southern rock band Trucks was there for all of it. Besides Gregg Allman he played on everything.
His booking agent Page Stallings said that Trucks died on Tuesday in West Palm Beach, Florida. The cause of death was unknown.
In his book the bands former guitarist Dicky Betts said, “We needed Butch, who had that drive and strength, freight train, meat-and-potatoes thing. It set Jaimoe up perfectly.” He was talking about the bands other drummer Jaimoe Johanson who was with them almost as long as Trucks. Jaimoe was the pocket drummer and Trucks was the storm.
Anyone with even a curiosity of southern-rock drumming knew who Butch Trucks was.
He was born in Jacksonville, Florida on May 11th, 1947. He started playing drums in the eighth grade. His parents were strict baptists and only bought him a drum kit after he promised to play where liquor was not served.
For many years this group had the The Three Musketeers motto, “All for one and one for all.” They lived together, played and traveled together and partied together which certainly helped at the groups inception in 1969 when they were starving, malnourished and looking for their audience. They still stayed up all night raising hell. When they weren’t practicing it was party time.
Duane’s vision was to have a “different” band with two lead guitarists and two drummers. They even toyed with calling themselves Beelzebub.
Those first two Allman Brothers Band LP’s, the self-titled debut from 1969 and 1970’s “Idlewild South” were not big hits at first even though there classic tunes on both. The first had “Whipping Post” which Rolling Stone magazine called an “enduring anthem … rife with tormented blues-ballad imagery” and it also contained Muddy Waters classic “Trouble No More.” “Idlewild South” had “Midnight Rider” which Gregg Allman called, “the song I’m most proud of in my career.” It also featured a future concert mainstay, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” a jazz flavored groovy instrumental.
These architects of southern rock found their commercial footing however on their third. A little light bulb went off for Gregg Allman when he realized that without commercial success the band could still survive as a concert act and their drummers were a huge part on that sound. After all the crowds were building so maybe it was time for a live album?
In July1971 they released, “At Fillmore East.” It’s considered one of the best live albums of all time and it was a hit on the charts peaking at #13 on the charts. Everything changed after that.
With increased popularity came the usual rock n roll carnage, drugs and booze. Duane Allman, bassist Berry Oakley and a few of their roadies went into rehab.
The bands biggest blow came on October 29, 1971. At 24, Duane Allman, was killed in a motorcycle accident. On deciding the future of the band Trucks said, “We all had this thing in us and Duane put it there. He was the teacher and he gave something to us—his disciples—that we had to play out.”
“Eat a Peach” did feature Duane and was dedicated to him and reached #5 on the Billboard charts. It feature the gorgeous tune, “Melissa” that was originally thought to be too soft for the group. Gregg wrote it in 1967 and would later play it at Duane’s funeral. Then bassist Berry Oakley was killed in another motorcycle accident a few blocks from where Duane died. They are buried side-by-side.
Interestingly they called their next project “Brothers and Sisters” even though the family atmosphere in the band was fading fast via drugs and arguments. It did feature, “Ramblin’ Man their only top 10 hits it was their only #1 album.
From 1999–2014 Trucks’ nephew Derek Joined the group as a guitarist. On his Twitter, Derek wrote, “Rest in Peace Uncle Butch. They broke up and re-formed three times and ended it in 2014.
Last year Butch told Rolling Stone magazine, “We were in another universe, 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.’
In a statement Gregg Allman said, “I’m heartbroken, I’ve lost another brother, and it hurts beyond words. Butch and I knew each other since we were teenagers, and we were band-mates for over 45 years. He was a great man and a great drummer, and I’m going to miss him forever. Rest in peace, Brother Butch.”
In the 70’s as a teen my musical palette was not sophisticated enough to appreciate The Allman Brothers Band but thanks to drummers like Butch Trucks and Jaimoe Johanson I caught up. – by John Beaudin
John Beaudin has been in major market radio (Edmonton, Vancouver & Calgary) for 33 years and a music journalist since 1989. He graduated from Broadcasting school as a news man so he would have the skills to write about the artists that inspired him since he bought his first album, “Madman Across The Water” by Elton John as a teen. In the 80’s Beaudin was the host of the syndicated radio show “The Cross Canada Report” which had two version (Rock and A/C). Beaudin was also asked to be a judge at the Juno Awards (Canada’s answer to the Grammys) Twice. He has anchored every position in radio including morning and afternoon drive and was a Program and Music Director for The Breeze and California 103 in Calgary. He currently hosts the popular Lovesongs at QM-FM in Vancouver and on iHeartRadio.
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