photo credit: John Patrick Gatta
With Jesse Lauter’s stellar documentary, Learning To Live Together: The Return of Mad Dogs & Englishmen, now out in theaters, we look back to this 2015 article by John Patrick Gatta, which served as a preview in the LOCKN’ Times newspaper for the set that Lauter chronicles in his film.
Both Gatta and share some photos from the subsequent performance as well (with some bonus pics of the rehearsal and the LOCKN’ set from Dean Budnick).
From the Mississippi Delta to New Orleans’ Congo Square, the clubs in hip ‘60s London, Chicago’s bluesy southside and church gospel choirs is a musical connection that extends from Joe Cocker and Mad Dogs & Englishmen to Tedeschi Trucks Band.
That will be on display when TTB hosts a tribute to Mad Dogs & Englishmen, which celebrates Joe Cocker, on Friday. The band will be joined by alumni from that 1970 tour including bandleader Leon Russell, vocalist Rita Coolidge and keyboardist Chris Stainton as well as special guests Warren, Haynes, Chris Robinson, Dave Mason, John Bell, Doyle Bramhall and Anders Osborne.
Due to contractual obligations, Cocker had just over a week to put together a band for a U.S. tour. Enter Russell, whose diverse studio and concert background allowed him to pull together a touring unit of nearly two dozen musicians and vocalists who were disciplined under his direction yet performed with a looseness and swing that was as much R&B as it was rock ‘n’ roll.
“Leon was that element in the middle of that chaos in the Mad Dogs thing. He was airing it out too, I’m sure, but he had that mind and that presence where at any given time he could make it go where he wanted it to go. He was the Space Captain.”
Relating it to the present, Trucks compares the merry ways of the Mad Dogs musicians with today’s TTB’s lineup.
“The music from that era and that specific window, early ‘70s, it was very much an experiment. It was a human experiment,” he said, laughing. “Some of it was magic and some it didn’t end so well when I think about the Allman Brothers and all the things that’s gone on. There was a lot of tragedy and a lot of things that came along with that way of living and being. Our band is very much in the spirit of that. It’s not a church choir going down the road, that’s for sure, but we think of it as a marathon. We hope to be doing it for a long time. With that there’s a little bit of responsibility that goes with it.
“In a lot of ways our band is a mixture of that tightrope walking [like Mad Dogs] but kind of the ethos of Bobby Bland’s bands and some of those groups where it’s gonna be tight as you’re gonna get it. There’s a high level musicianship in all of this but there’s also a sense of all hands on deck and everybody pay attention.”
While Mad Dogs & Englishmen hit 48 cities before disbanding, an album that featured timeless classics such as “The Letter,” “Feelin’ Alright,” “Delta Lady,” “Let’s Go Get Stoned” and “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” as well as a film documenting the tour gave their brief time together legendary status. It didn’t go unnoticed by Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi.
During an interview Trucks said, “When I started talking to Susan about forming a band together, around that same time we watched the “Mad Dogs” movie again.
“It hit us. If we were ever going to do a big band or some rock ‘n’ roll circus, now’s the time. If we wait five, 10 years we won’t have the energy to do it,” he said, laughing. “Seeing that and hearing that music reinforced the notion.”
He lists the Mad Dogs lineup as a major inspiration as well as other late ‘60s, early ‘70s acts including Sly & the Family Stone, Derek & the Dominos and Delaney & Bonnie & Friends.
“A band like [Tedeschi Trucks Band] and Mad Dogs is the same way. The joy that comes off the stage is unchanged depending on where is. Talking to Claudia [Lennear] and a few of the other original members you can definitely feel that there’s a kindred spirit between the two groups. They’re very much coming from the same place, a lot of love for the same music and the same musical history and just reinterpreting it through the musicians that are onstage.”
Discussions started two years ago between Tedeschi, Trucks and Cocker. The idea at that time was for the singer to sit in with TTB. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out and the following year Cocker was battling lung cancer. He died several days before Christmas. A tribute to him at this year’s Lockn’ coincides the 45th anniversary of the “Mad Dogs” tour, album and film.
Once Mad Dogs musical director Russell agreed to take part in the show, other 1970 alumni signed up. The performance will include onetime bandmates Claudia Lennear and Pamela Polland (lead and background vocals), Bobby Torres (percussion) and Bobby Jones, Matthew Moore and Daniel Moore (background vocals).
“The fact that Leon agreed to do it with this band says a lot about the musical similarities.”
Trucks added, “Everyone’s excited about this one. Just being able to connect and work on this with Leon and some of the alumni, it has a unique feel. It reminds me a little bit of the feeling I had going into those last Allman Brothers shows. The difference is the alumni have been looking forward to this for 30, 40 years. The reunion for whatever reason never came together. So, there’s a lot of potential energy, and I’m excited to see where it goes and what happens with it.
“It was a lot of energy when that was going on, a lot happening. From what I’ve read and what I’ve heard from Joe [Cocker] it took a toll on him but there were still a lot of great memories from that tour. You can definitely tell when talking to the alumni that they hold – it was just one tour, which is pretty amazing — that it resonated as far as it did. You have that much talent onstage and everybody rooting for the same thing and throwing their energy in the same direction, that’s a rare occurrence.”
Photos by John Patrick Gatta:
Photos by Dean Budnick: