I was introduced to Butch Trucks in 1988 give or take a year. It was a stretch of time in between one of The Allman Brothers Band reformations and Butch was occupying himself with his own studio called Pegasus in Tallahassee.
My friend Rick Block had pitched Butch regarding my original band Dear John,. I don’t remember the business details but there must have been a speculative nature to them for I had to pass muster with Butch before I could record at his place. Because the original Allman Brothers Band had always been my standard by which all other bands were judged I felt so honored that Butch troubled himself to show up at my gig at The Warehouse (maybe The Moon). In our dressing room after the show, Butch humbly shared stories that demonstrated the passion of “The Brothers” during the early days. When he and Duane first started playing Duane tolerated nothing less than full performance commitment. When Butch’s intensity was not to Duane’s liking, Duane would lean over the toms, grit teeth and shout “Come on!” or “Play!” to fan the flames. Butch recounted that the band would often commandeer space in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park on days off, play and draw crowds, permits and monetary reward be damned.
Butch liked my band that night so I started work on Dear John,’s second album at Pegasus soon thereafter. Butch poked his head in from time to time during tracking and offered serious useful advice. We were recording the day Butch got word that Gregg wanted to get the band together. Butch was elated, for relief of the pressures of studio ownership seemed at hand.
The bass guitar has always been my favorite instrument and I assumed that “The Brothers” might be looking to fill that seat. Probably no more than to squelch my persistence on the matter, Butch consented to pre-auditioning me before he could ever present me as a possibility to the band. I had studied hard for the audition. Butch’s only guidance had been the kind, stern and fatherly warning “just learn the songs”. In the cavernous Pegasus main room that was large enough for a symphony I was poised for success upon my very wrong G&L active pickup 80’s bass powered by my very wrong SWR 8x10s. Into Statesboro Blues I dug, comedically in retrospect, with only with Butch Trucks on drums.
My incessantly impatient nature and sensitivity to not wasting too much of Butch’s time, guided me to incorrectly assume that Butch would surely only need to confirm that I could play the right grooves. Certainly, in the absence of lyrics nor other musicians, he would have had enough of the the classic I, IV, V blues progression a minute-and-a-half in. At some random point I changed up and went into the break. Butch yells out “We’re still in the guitar solo”. All along, he had been piloted by Gregg’s imaginary first verse and Duane’s solo. He clearly had forewarned “learn the songs” and piloted from good intention I did not heed. ’Twas a valuable lesson on listening carefully to direction and making assumptions.
As it turned out the magnificent Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody would be asked to bind this resurrection of The Allman Brothers together. I finished my Dear John, record and moved to New York as planned. Butch was always nice to me at the springtime Beacon shows. I last spoke with him backstage at Hunter Mountain when Richie Havens, with whom I was playing, and The Allman Brothers shared the marquee.
I am very grateful to Butch Trucks for taking me under his wing if only for a moment and for being half of the Allman Brothers rhythm powerhouse at every gig since day one.