Happy early birthday, George Harrison.
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.
Bob Seger is back with his first new song release in over two years. Seger, who hasn’t toured since 2015, just published “Glenn Song,” a tribute to Eagles co-founder and fellow Michigander Glenn Frey, on the first anniversary of Frey’s death. The two had a history of collaboration, with Frey backing Seger on the latter’s first national hit, “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” and Seger pitching in on the Eagles hit “Heartache Tonight” a decade later. Seger, now seventy-one, is in strong voice on “Glenn Song,” which is available for free streaming and download on his website.
A lot of people thought 2016 was, mostly in an admittedly abstract or indirect way, a bad year. Most agree that 2017 will be another year. Before we get there, though, we must make it through today and tomorrow. In the course of doing so, many inevitably will turn their (hopefully not too lonely) eyes to the former home of Joe DiMaggio on Saturday night. This is a Jam:
When I first really found my footing in popular music listening, it was in the vast soundscape of 1970s progressive rock. I didn’t really understand what exactly I was hearing when I listened to Yes or Emerson, Lake & Palmer (or, later, when venturing into darker waters with King Crimson), but it truly captured my imagination. On Wednesday, one of the pillars of that genre, Greg Lake, lost his battle with cancer. With Robert Fripp, a childhood friend, Lake founded King Crimson, the ur-band of progressive rock. Lake then took his considerable vocal talents, along with his bass guitar, and joined on with (the recently late) keyboardist Keith Emerson and later drummer Carl Palmer in ELP, “progressive rock’s first supergroup.” The band’s two-CD live compilation, King Biscuit Flower Hour: Greatest Hits Live, was in heavy rotation in my car stereo and, once I expanded my radio-format horizons at WHCL, on the airwaves. The second disc contains only one song, and I used a portion of it for the intro to every show. The full version, recorded at a live concert performance in Anaheim in 1974, constitutes today’s 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.
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.
Lots of folks have the worried blues these days, something Paul Butterfield called “the worst old feeling I ever had.” Sometimes the best thing to do when you have the blues is to sing. Sometimes it seems like the only thing you can do.
Three weeks ago, this space brought you an Angel Band Jam in memory of Dr. Ralph Stanley. Now it’s time to share another angelic jam, featuring some folks I’m very excited to catch in person this weekend, as well as a very special guest:
As we continue to search for historical context, hope, strength, and community, a shared civic anthem might be helpful. For now, at least, instead of an anthem, I submit this ballad, which has been ringing in my head all morning:
One week ago, Dr. Ralph Stanley decamped for the truly unbroken circle. With this week’s Jam, we remember one of the last of bluegrass’ greatest generation.