Keeping On Trucking H
eading across the Atlantic in November for the Prudential BluesFest is Derek Trucks, formerly of the The Allman Brothers Band and now playing with the Tedeschi Trucks Band. The first part of the name being his wife Susan, a blues star in her own right. The American spoke to Derek in between tour dates, but there wasn’t much relaxing going on chez Tedeschi-Trucks. “It’s a pretty full summer,” Derek says, “We’ve just finished recording a new album. Once the kids are out of school, that’s usually when we we hit it hard, we take them on the road with us and we can all be together. We have a big band too” Derek was born in Jacksonville, Florida, so there’s another reason for him to make the pond-crossing in the Fall – the NFL International Series games at Wembley. Britain has taken the Jacksonville Jaguars to its heart as the Jags are playing regular ‘home’ games in London. “We were actually there last year. We played the Albert Hall the same weekend the Jags were in town so we stayed and went to the game. We’ve seen the Jags get blown out in London twice now!” Derek laughs. “But they’re turning the ship around – I’m a Shahid Khan fan, he’s gonna do it right. I like that he’s taking the team over there regularly.” We discovered a (tenuous) connection between Derek and The American. A certain blues Hall of Famer called Eric Clapton recently bought a house near our office, in a small village in the rural West of England, and rumor has it that Derek was named after Old Slow-
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hand’s ‘70s band, Derek and The Dominos. “That’s true. My parents were massive music fans. My Dad was at the Fillmore East for those Allman Brothers concerts, and the Atlanta Pop Festival when Hendrix landed in the helicopter. The Dominos album was a big record then and my name came from that – certainly the spelling did.” [Derek’s also recorded an album with Clapton, The Road to Escondido, and toured with him.] That’s a very human example of how rock and blues has a two-way flow across the Atlantic. “It’s an amazing thing that music that essentially started in the Mississippi Delta went to Chicago, then made its way over there. Then when it was kinda being forgotten here it was reintroduced in a whole new light, plugged into Marshall amplifiers. It really did reawaken it over here. BB King and those guys inspired Clapton, then Eric inspired Duane [Allman], then Hendrix headed across the water to make his name. It’s like the neo-soul thing, with Amy Winehouse and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, music keeps bouncing back and forth across the pond. And it always comes down to things that are good, and things that are honest, and things that are real. They’re sometimes not appreciated where they are born, but they have a way of surviving and lasting. You hear a lot of stories about the great jazz and blues artists that had to move to be appreciated.” Is that movement one of the reasons that the music evolves, as artists find new influences and inspira-
tions? And should purists keep the oroginsl form, well, pure? “There’s certainly something to keeping the original form alive, but for me, if you’re born in the world we live in now, you can’t sing about the same things Charlie Patton or John Lee Hooker sang about. It’s not going to mean the same. I’ve had an eventful life and there’s been a lot of twists and turns, but I wasn’t born on a cotton plantation. For me to pretend I was would be dishonest, But you can take from the honesty and the brutal truth of it all, the way they made beauty out of their situations. You can borrow that, and carry on that spirit, but in your context. That separates real artists from people that are playin’ at it.” We should talk about BB King, a perfect example of someone who made beauty from a heard life that started in sharecropping. “There’ll never be another like BB. It’s an impossible story to repeat. He carried the torch for everyone, and shouldered the weight of being that guy for a good 50 years. It never fell on Jimi or Duane or Eric or anybody later. He allowed the rest of us to do our own thing without that burden. BB was always there, with that tone and that note. Even to the very end when his powers were diminished, no-one else could do that BB thing! It’s a different world without him.” You and Susan played with BB at the Albert Hall in London. “We were very lucky. That was the first time I got to play with him and after that there was another dozen times. It was magic every time, to hang out with him and be on stage.