I’ve been putting this off, along with sleep and anything resembling confidince that my country isn’t going down a fascist shithole, since late January. It’s probably no news to anyone what the Allman Brothers Band drummer, Butch Trucks, is dead. He used the Republican healthcare plan and shot himself on January 25th.
In the 70’s, the Allman Brothers band was the poster band for musical committment. Post-Dwayne, the band combined with a southern fusion jazz band, Sea Level, and the result was “Win, Lose, or Draw” and a terrific collection of additions to the Allman history. I was lucky (Thanks Mike!) to see the group perform in ‘75 and it made an impression on me that still sticks.
Like today, those were tough years. The Vietnam War turned the US into a deficit nation and we have never recovered. The resulting recession was beginning to close off opportunities and hope for the future. Music was about the only positive thing happening for many of my generation. The Midwest, in particular, was undergoing a change that would be relentlessly painful for the next 40 years. By 1983, that change was so complete that it drove me to move to southern California because technology jobs were no longer available anywhere else. Nixon escaped his criminal prosecution with a deal Ford made to become “president for a moment.” The right-left split that finally resulted in Trump and the likely end of the United States of America experiment went into full throttle.
The Allman Brothers Band was a standard of excellence and energy that could levitate listeners above all of that depressing reality for a few moments. Butch Trucks was the “freight train” that moved the band. “High Falls” might be the best example of how important Butch Trucks was to that large and talented ensemble. There are, as far as I can tell, no good video recordings of that band live.
About five years later, a greatly reduced (in talent, energy, and inspiration) version of the Allman Brothers played at the college in Lincoln, Nebraska. My company provided the stage monitors and I did the stage left monitor mix. Butch Trucks was almost close enough to touch throughout the show.
For the most part, it was Dickie Betts’ band and that was not a good thing. Greg Allman was a drug dazed shadow of himself and when he sang his keyboard playing stopped almost entirely from the effort required just to manage the lyrics of songs he’d been singing for two decades. He had to be led onto and off of the stage, like a brain damaged child. Dickie’s solos were interminable and boring. Getting to work with the band was something I’d looked forward to since the first time I saw them, but after the first couple of songs, I just wanted it to be over with so I could pack up our gear and go home.
The only worthwhile bit in the gig was getting to help Butch Trucks setup and watch him play. Regardless of the band’s turmoil and dysfunction, Trucks just kept truckin’. He was a human freight train who propelled the band through their repertoire, in spite of themselves. Unlike the rest of the band members, Butch stuck around to help disassemble his kit and thanked us for our work on the show.
I’m sorry his last years weren’t happy enough to make him stick around to see how it all turns out. I understand, though. My wife says that age illustrates a person’s character in the lines of their face. I think you can see Butch’s character pretty clearly in this picture.