Trucks Jam

Butch Trucks, drummer, Allman Brothers Band founding member, and uncle of modern guitar legend Derek, died this week. Even as the ABB tapered off its touring schedule and eventually concluded its historic run, Trucks continued a vibrant performance life, playing both with established musicians like his band mates and forming new bands with younger players.

One of Trucks’ lesser publicized projects was his personal blog. He started it about a month before this site went live, and it remains the most memorable thing I read online during that period. After speaking, essentially exclusively, through his drumming for decades, his unfiltered, direct, intelligent written communication revealed more of the personality behind his rhythm. And the writing was revealing. He wrote about controversial points in the band’s history, racism, Duane, Dickey, Skynyrd, the reality of his own upbringing, and more, and he even read and responded to reader comments. A rare opportunity to peer inside the active mind of one of the many pillars of rock and roll. The second half of 2011 was his busiest time on the site, which felt like it should have been shut down at any moment by a band PR rep, and he didn’t post there after 2013, but it is essential reading for any fan of the Allmans.

If you want to read something else, here’s an interview with Trucks and Jaimoe, the band’s other original drummer, in connection with the 40th anniversary tour two years ago. Otherwise, I’d recommend leaving all that behind for now and getting into these jams.

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Related
Silent Film Series: Virgil “Fire” Trucks (Detroit, MI 1956)

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The End of Tulsa Jam

The Tulsa Sound is defined in large part by the work of its two principal pillars, J.J. Cale and Leon Russell. Cale passed three years ago, and, on Sunday, Russell too returned to the eternal dust bowl:

Russell, known as “The Master of Space and Time,” was a master of the blues, country, rock, gospel — whatever styles of music were put in front of him and whatever he could pull from his creative mind. With dozens of albums, hundreds of songs recorded by musicians at the top of their game and thousands of contributions to recordings from The Beach Boys to J.J. Cale, Russell’s influence on music in the last 50 years has been profound.

In 1969, Russell performed in the Delaney & Bonnie and Friends band, with several members of the band coming on with Joe Cocker for the Mad Dogs and Englishmen recordings and iconic tour. That tour put a spotlight on fellow Tulsa musicians, with Jim Keltner and Blackwell on drums and Carl Radle on bass performing on the tour and on the album.

Russell launched his solo career with the release of his self-titled album in 1970, an album that included one of his best-known songs, “A Song for You.”

Russell moved back to Tulsa in the early 1970s to establish Shelter Records and build recording studios in Tulsa and near Grand Lake. A memorial to Russell grew throughout the day Sunday on the steps of his old Tulsa studio, The Church Studio on Third Street, which the city renamed Leon Russell Road in 2010.

His solo career produced multiple hit albums and songs, including “A Song for You,” “Tight Rope,” “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “Lady Blue.” His work spanned genres from the rock sounds of his self-titled 1970 album to the honky-tonk of “Hank Wilson’s Back,” incorporating blues, gospel and soul across his albums.

“He played and recorded with the heavyweights of country music — George Jones and Willie Nelson — and of course rock ‘n’ roll royalty — George Harrison and Eric Clapton,” said Jeff Moore, director of the forthcoming Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture, to which Russell donated a large part of his work for future display.

Relix adds this note from Russell’s appearance at the 2015 Lockn’ Festival:

But when it came down to brass tacks, he was straight business—playing and singing with all his might, giving tips to the musicians, beaming with joy as Derek [Trucks] ripped a solo or Susan [Tedeschi] wailed on the mic, and even leading the troupe through some surreal improvised jams. He was fully engaged with everyone in that rehearsal room, even though it must’ve been an overwhelming experience for him (he was working with dozens of people he hadn’t seen in over 45 years). He was like the elder statesman of the experience and treated everyone with love, respect and humility, which ultimately guided that massive collective to deliver one of the finest and most memorable shows any of us had ever seen or any of the musicians had been a part of.

Enough chatter. I’ve featured the exact same take of this first jam in this space before, but its opening makes it too perfect to omit this time around:

Russell also played a featured role in Ravi Shankar and George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh, and this spotlight medley is a highlight of the night:

I’m not sure what’s going to happen now to the Tulsa Sound and scene without these two, and I’m hardly in a position to say, but I know that they made something special, authentic, and perfectly delivered. We don’t deserve more, and we probably don’t even deserve that.

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Previously
J.J. Jam
Stranger in Town Jam

The madness nearly is upon us

In about ninety minutes, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament tips off in Auburn Hills, where Valparaiso meets Michigan State in a 14-3 matchup at 12:15 Eastern. That means you still have time to do the following while you aren’t working today:

UPDATE: Last-minute insider tip from a family with a strong athletic background:

Hang out at the Hangout

Get down at the go-round. Flip flop at the tip top. Perhaps there have been music festivals with better names, but you would be hard pressed to find any better arranged than the Hangout Fest, which I attended last weekend.

In its third year, the Hangout Festival happens right on the beach in Gulf Shores, AL, and its 2012 lineup featured a high-end collection of popular rock, indie, jam, and other sorts of acts. The headliners were Jack White, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the Dave Matthews Band. Other notables included the String Cheese Incident, the Flaming Lips, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, M. Ward, Alabama Shakes, and many, many more.

Two of my favorites, Steve Winwood and Space Capone, were playing on Sunday, but we started the day with another one I really enjoy: Mavis Staples. The 72-year-old singer was in strong voice and persona, and her band was working hard to keep up with her. Although she may have thrown the crowd off a bit early (or played right into its hands) when she became convinced, as a result of some eager heckling, that she was in a town called “Roll Tide, Alabama,” she soon reminded everybody she was hip to the modern scene, forcefully invoking the spirit of Levon Helm after performing “The Weight.” Overall, her set was enjoyable, drawing on different periods of her long career, and the hour was up much too soon.

Later that afternoon, on the same stage, Winwood turned in an excellently crafted set, the best I heard all weekend. Like Mavis, he used his hour-long set to hit on different points of his career, and it just so happens that he has one of the richest, most dynamic careers of any musician. He started and finished with his two early hits from the Spencer Davis Group days (circa 1966), opening with “I’m a Man” and closing with “Gimme Some Lovin’.” In between, he grabbed a couple Traffic tunes (“Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” and a very extended “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”), two Eric Clapton-related numbers (Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” and, from Winwood’s most recent album, Nine Lives, “Dirty City”), and brought everyone to his and her feet with a rousing rendition of maybe his biggest pop hit, “Higher Love.” On Hammond organ, Stratocaster, and signature vocals, Winwood turned in a solid set that lived up to great expectations and was a highlight of the festival.

For all their possibility, opportunity, sun, and sand, festivals can be pretty tiring, so we found … Keep reading …

Silent Film Series: Virgil “Fire” Trucks (Detroit, MI 1956)

I’m sort of cheating with the second featured film in ALDLAND’s Silent Film Series, because a) it already is a silent film and b) its selection largely has to do with the music indirectly associated with it. Still, I’m guessing most artists would be willing to cheat a little if it meant avoiding a sophomore slump, so I don’t feel bad at all.

And this short (7:23) movie really is kind of beautiful. It’s amateur footage shot on 8 millimeter film by members of the Capurso family depicting an outing to see the Yankees play the Tigers on a sunny summer afternoon at old Tigers Stadium on August 4, 1956. It opens with scenes of downtown Detroit as the family heads to the ballpark, where the Tigers would win a game that featured home runs by both Mickey Mantle and Al Kaline.

Of greater interest to me is the Tigers’ pitcher that day, Virgil “Fire” Trucks. He’s the great uncle of guitarist Derek Trucks and was no slouch on the mound. From a Peter Gammons profile piece:

Virgil Oliver Trucks was born on April 26, 1917. He won 177 Major League games from 1941 until he retired in 1958. Ted Williams once said he might have been “the hardest throwing right-hander I ever faced.”

He is one of four pitchers who threw two no-nos in a single season and he finished fifth in the American league MVP race in 1953 for the White Sox (he started that season with the Browns). And back when the Tigers won the 1945 World Series, Detroit’s great staff was called “TNT” — Dizzy Trout, (MVP) Hal Newhouser and Trucks were three of the best in the game.

Go back to the beginning. Andalusia of the Alabama-Florida League. 1938. Including the playoffs[, he] struck out 448 batters.

448. That, Sweet Melissa, is the most strikeouts ever recorded in an organized professional baseball season.

And for the full season, he was 25-6, with a 1.25 ERA and two no-hitters.

After a strong 1939 split between Alexandria and Beaumont, in 1940 he pitched for Beaumont in the Texas League and threw another no-hitter, in 1941 threw another no-no for Buffalo in the International League and by the time he made his debut on Sept. 27, 1941, he had four Minor League no-hitters on his resume.

Somewhere along the way, they tried to figure out how hard he threw. “They found an old Army gun,” says Trucks. “It read 105 miles an hour.”

Gammons’ piece is full of stories about Virgil, including how he helped the Tigers win the World Series after taking two years off to join the war effort, how he nearly became the only pitcher ever to throw three no-hitters in one season, how he’d add two more World Series rings to his total, and how he decided, after meeting with Derek– who keeps one of Virgil’s baseball cards on his Gibson– and learning that his great nephew is considered one of the best guitarists who ever lived, that maybe he ought to start listening to the Allman Brothers Band (the 95-year-old former pitcher’s nephew, Butch Trucks, was a founding member of that band, with which Derek now plays).

The younger member of the Capurso family who uploaded this added some generic classical music from the London Metropolitan Orchestra, but I maintain that it’s best experienced silently, the original audio being lost to technology, and the music of Virgil’s descendants yet to be born.

(HT: @DerekAndSusan) 

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Previously
Silent Film Series: Baron Davis (Oakland, CA 2007)

Related
Album review: Tedeschi Trucks Band – Revelator

Album review: Tedeschi Trucks Band – Revelator

I have been meaning to review Revelator since before it came out earlier this summer, and I was excited when my vinyl/CD package finally arrived a couple weeks ago. Revelator is the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s first album, though it’s hardly the first release for any of the eleven members of the band.

To understand this band and this recording, you have to know that the named members of the band, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, were independently successful musicians before they got married in 2001, a matrimonial match made in music heaven. Tedeschi sang the blues with soul and fire as a solo act. Trucks, the nephew of Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks, has been wowing audiences with his guitar since he was a child, later joining his uncle’s band and leading his own outfit, the Derek Trucks Band. The two did collaborate over the last ten years. The DTB didn’t add a permanent lead singer until Mike Mattison joined for 2006’s Songlines, and Tedeschi sang a track on 2002’s Joyful Noise and 2009’s excellent (and Grammy-winningAlready Free. The two also joined their guitars with Eric Clapton’s as a part of Slowhand’s Crossroads tours. Although they followed the wedding ceremony, these and other collaborations were like musical flirtations or dates between the two, who largely appeared to live separate, if overlapping, professional lives.

Revelator, though, represents the marriage. Keep reading…