In late October of last year, rock legends The Allman Brothers Band played their final shows together in a six-night run at New York’s Beacon Theater, topping it off with a final performance that spanned three full sets and two encores. The members of the storied Southern rock ensemble went their separate ways after that night, but most of them will meet up again—if not onstage, then backstage—at the upcoming Wanee, a music festival started by the band in 2005.
Butch Trucks, drummer and founding Allman Brothers member, will perform at the Florida festival with some Very Special Friends, as will his former bandmates Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes (with Gov’t Mule) and Jaimoe (with his Jasssz Band). Trucks recently took some time to discuss with us the origins of Wanee, his music camp Roots Rock Revival, those final Beacon shows and even the possibility of a future Allman Brothers reunion.
I wanted to start by talking a little about Wanee Festival, which is coming up in the next couple of weeks. This is your first since the last shows with the Allman Brothers Band, so how are you feeling going into this one?
Well, you know, it’s actually my baby—I came up with the idea years ago, so I’m really, really proud of the way it developed. I mean, Jesus, for my money that’s the best festival going these days. We found the right place—the climate is usually just perfect, and people have really turned out. It’ll be fun. We’ll all be up there playing. We may not be playing as the Allman Brothers, but we’ll be playing a lot of the Allman Brothers stuff. It’ll be good to see everybody, because I haven’t seen everybody in a while—and mostly you just get to play. I’m just bored stiff from not playing. I mean, playing’s an addiction, you know? You just kind of need to do it, and I haven’t done it enough. I’m very much looking forward to it.
When you came up with the idea, was it always something you wanted to build up, so that it would last after the Allman Brothers stopped playing together?
Basically what I saw coming—and this was fifteen years ago—I knew that the day was gonna come when Derek [Trucks] and Warren [Haynes]—especially Derek—would wanna be out doing their own thing and really not have a whole lot of time for the Allman Brothers. So my idea was, rather than doing long summer tours, we’d just do four three-day festivals—one in the Southeast, one in the Northeast, one in the Midwest and one in the far West. That made it as far as Dickey Betts, and Dickey thinks so much of me that if it’s my idea, then he ain’t doing it. So he said, “Okay, you guys go play, but I ain’t gonna be there.” So we had to wait until Dickey was no longer in the band before we could even start doing it. Jon Stoll, the old promoter for Fantasma down here, had been telling me about the Spirit of Suwanee Park and how perfect it would be, and when he took me up there, I went, yeah. So the first year that we were able to, we did it, and it’s been going strong ever since. Things just kept getting bigger, and I think Fantasma just wasn’t quite up to handling it, so LiveNation stepped in, and we partnered up with them. And the last few years have just been incredible. It’s just so damn much fun, you know? You can’t do anything but have fun. [Laughs]
You’re billed for Wanee as Butch Trucks and Very Special Friends. Who’s going to be playing with you in the band?
Well, Oteil [Burbridge] and Marc [Quiñones] and Bruce Katz—Bruce played keyboard with Gregg [Allman] and a lot of other people—my son Vaylor, another guitar player by the name of Dave Yoke from Atlanta, and Lamar Williams Jr. is gonna sing. So it’ll be a pretty kick ass set.
Have you guys played together as a band like this?
Oh no. Come on—we don’t really need to. Everybody knows this material inside and out. The only thing that needed any practice at all was my son and Dave Yoke to get together and work out who’s gonna play which part on those guitar harmonies. And luckily they both live in Atlanta, and they’ve been doing that for the past month or so, so they’ll have all that down. So we should sound like a fairly well-rehearsed band of professionals that actually do know what they’re doing.
It’ll be great to see you and Oteil back up on stage together again.
He’ll be there—everybody’ll be there. I mean, the big rumor that’s going around, of course, is that there’s gonna be a mini Brothers reunion. Everybody but Derek is gonna be there. And who knows? Now, come Peach Festival, it’s gonna be even more likely—there’s gonna be even more people there. I’m really looking forward to Peach Festival—I think it could be possibly the beginning of putting the band back together. We’ll see.
With Butch Trucks and Friends, are you pretty much going to focus on Allman Brothers material?
Yeah, that’s all we’re doing. We’re playing a couple of old blues tunes, but nothing that the Allman Brothers wouldn’t play. [Laughs] We’re making no qualms about it—it’s an Allman Brothers tribute band. We don’t have enough time to start a brand new band, you know? If we didn’t have the material and everything all there and ready to go, this would probably be pretty impossible, but the fact that we all know this and can get together and play a 90 minute set without any real rehearsal makes it possible. Plus, I like the music. It’s fun—it’s what’s kept me coming back the past 45 years.
So, without playing shows to occupy your time, what have you been busy with lately?
I’ve been doing several things. I’ve been going around teaching classes, that kind of thing. There’s this franchise called the School of Rock, and I’ve been going around and giving lessons and doing little concerts with those kids. And promoting this thing I have [had] for the past two years up in the Catskills, called Roots Rock Revival. And that’s what I’ve been doing—getting out with the young kids who are in rock and roll school, who are my audience—the people who I need to get to and get them to roots rock. I did one [School of Rock] down here in West Palm Beach, and then there’s another two or three of them up in New Jersey. I went up there last week and did the same thing—taught some classes, had a little concert with the kids. And it’s really fun, it really is. You know, Roots Rock Revival is where that kid Taz—Brandon [Niederauer]—that’s where he was discovered. It was the first Roots Rock Revival two years ago when he first showed up on the scene, and boy, he’s about to take over. I’m proud of him.