- Butch Trucks, 1990, Modern Drummer
|The Allman Brothers, 1971|
|Jaimoe, Butch Trucks, Duane Allman|
|Duane Allman, Jaimoe, Dickey Betts, Butch Trucks|
That's right, melody. It may surprise some people, but drums are tuned, and even a novice ear can tell when a tom is out of tune. Listen to the "Mountain Jam" drum section on Ludlow Garage and you hear something almost hummable on top of Butch & Jaimoe's beats. Those who tuned out when the guitars take a break on "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" will recognize when the melody is coming back because Butch and Jaimoe are telling you it is.
And now it is no more. Butch Trucks left us, very suddenly, at the age of 69.
|The Allman Brothers in the Park|
|quickly thanking Butch|
As a band of the people, fans of the Allman Brothers often feel like a collective family, and not just because the band was literally made up of family. Every show, the stage was a family affair, not just on, but backstage as well. Butch was well-known family man who brought children and grandchildren on tour with him often. Even his son and daughter have played in his recent bands when they could. That familial bond extended to the vast community of people it has brought together and from that, the band members become like family to fans. There is a deep caring for the people that maybe fans of the Rolling Stones or Eagles never gained. Glenn Frey is famous and an icon, but was he as beloved as much as the music he made?
Duane Allman's messianic shadow looms large over the band, but especially, it seemed, for Butch. He often eagerly repeated stories of Duane's impact upon him, saving him from a life as a high school math teacher. Butch seemed to feel the need to spread the Gospel that Duane preached, often referring to he and his fellow Allman Brothers as "Apostles". It kept the band going for 45 years, at times beyond reason considering the specter of tragedy. For a band filled with as much tragedy as the Allman Brothers have had, it would seem unfathomable that a band member would choose to leave us. But suicide is only rational to a single person in a single moment, and as much as the band feels like family, this is a stark reminder that for all of Butch's candor, we fans only see 3 of the best hours of a musicians' day: on stage, under the lights, doing what they love most, preaching to their adoring choir. Searching for reason is fruitless, and nowhere to be found in Butch's final interview, given just hours before he left us, in which he spoke of mostly the future: upcoming tours, Roots Rock Camp, his garden in the south of France.
After surviving the tragic deaths of Duane and Berry, many fans felt the remaining members escaped tragedy themselves, thereby earning the right to carry on indefinitely until old age, exacerbated by a long life on the road, caught up. But searching for meaning is irrelevant for those of us who are reminded that we are on the outside looking in, fortunate just to have this wonderful music. Our lives aren't defined by how we leave, especially a life as colorful as Butch's, who inspired so many young musicians, and likely will for years to come. So while I still don't fully understand drums, and likely never will, it is irrelevant because I will keep listening and watching all the same. And I will never witness drums played played better than by Butch and Jaimoe.
*** Author's Note: if any of these photos used are yours or you know the artist, please let me know so I can credit ***