Butch Trucks passed away at his Florida home Tuesday night. A founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, Trucks’ impeccable rhythm skills propelled a new musical genre known as ‘Southern rock’ from the swamps of Jacksonville to a worldwide audience. The cause of death has not been determined, but news of Trucks’ demise at age 69 was confirmed by his booking agent, Page Stallings, in the Knoxville News Sentinel this morning.
On December 30, Butch Trucks brought his funkified, six-piece rock band, Freight Train, to the Center for the Performing Arts in Bonita Springs, Florida. The band served up a mixed plate of Allman Brothers songs along with several exciting new originals. According to attendees, Freight Train also surprised the audience with a jazzy cover of the Les McCann hit, “Compared to What.” Shortly after the sold-out show, Trucks told the Naples Daily News that he and his wife, Melinda Trucks, had recently established legal residence in France.
Legendary vocalist Bonnie Bramlett performed and recorded with Butch Trucks many times. This morning, she shared this picture of Butch with her Facebook followers.
The Allman Brothers Band came to prominence as the 1960s segued into the 70s. Founded by brothers Gregg and Duane Allman, the band was considered quite progressive for its time. The band featured a multi-racial cast of musicians, including Gregg Allman on keyboards and lead vocals, Duane Allman on lead and slide guitar, Dickey Betts on co-lead guitar, drummers Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson and Butch Trucks, and Berry Oakley handling bass duties.
The Early Years
Born Claude Hudson Trucks in Jacksonville on May 11, 1947, Butch attended Florida State University where he studied tympani and percussion under the tutelage of Gary Werdesheim and performed with several school ensembles. Trucks also played in the Jacksonville Symphony as well as in a number of local bands, including the Echoes, the Vikings, the Bitter Ind, and the 31st of February before joining the fledgling Allman Brothers Band in 1969. Prior to forming the ABB, Gregg and Duane Allman had released a couple of records on the Liberty label that went nowhere. Once Trucks was aboard, the band signed with a brand new label called Capricorn Records in Macon, Georgia. In the summer of 1969, the band went to New York City where they recorded their debut album, The Allman Brothers Band, in a mere two weeks. Produced by Adrian Barber, the seminal album featured a five-minute version of the Gregg Allman composition, “Whipping Post.”
— Allman Brothers Band (@allmanbrothers) November 6, 2016
The ABB’s second studio album, Idlewild South, was produced by Tom Dowd and featured two of the band’s biggest hits, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and “Midnight Rider.” Subsequent Allman Brothers’ albums included the 1972 Eat a Peach and Brothers and Sisters in 1973. Eat a Peach hit #4 on the charts; Brothers and Sisters made it to #1. Win, Lose or Draw, released in 1975 and 1979’s Enlightened Rogues, did not fare so well.
In 2016, Trucks told Rolling Stone what life was like in the early days of the ABB.
“We were in another universe. We were out spreading the gospel of this music we had discovered. We never thought that we would be more than an opening act. Atlantic Records was riding our ass constantly to get Gregg out from behind the organ, stick a salami down his pants and jump around the stage like Robert Plant. We told them to go f*ck themselves. ‘We’re playing this for ourselves. We’ve tried it your way before. We didn’t make any money and we had a miserable time.”
Triumph and Tragedy
At Fillmore East, a two-disc live album recorded over three nights at the now legendary venue, went from gold to platinum on the Billboard charts within weeks of its release in July 1971. In October of that same year, four members of the ABB band and entourage checked into Linwood-Bryant Hospital in Buffalo to overcome heroin addiction. Duane Allman, who provided the stellar slide guitar that defined the early Allman Brother sound, was killed in a motorcycle crash one day after returning to Macon. Thirteen months later, bassist Berry Oakley also perished after crashing his own motorcycle into the side of a truck just three city blocks from the spot where Duane was killed.
The Trucks family influence on music continued long after the end of the ABB. Two of Butch’s nephews have made their own mark on music. Derek Trucks performs to packed houses with his wife Susan as the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, and Derek’s brother, Duane Trucks, plays drums in Widespread Panic. In addition to his talented nephews, Butch Trucks is survived by his wife, four children, and four grandchildren.
In Memory of Butch Trucks
Persons interested in making a donation to the Trucks family or leaving a memory of Butch are invited to do so at the Big House Museum.
— PanicStream (@PanicStream) January 25, 2017
[Featured photo by Jud McCranie / Cropped and resized / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0]