Vol 1 Issue 17
Derek Trucks Is Genius Love
It was blind chance when I first was aware of Derek’s guitar playing. Flipping channels one evening, I came on a live concert, the 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival. I caught Slow Hand and settled in to watch. Clapton is God was a poster back some years ago. True that, as the inner city linguists like to say. But Eric needs to hear good slide guitar as much as the rest of us, and at one point in the show I was watching, this yellow-haired ponytail dude came out and had Eric shaking his head.
Has to be something in the genes or in the water down south, is all I can figure.
I was listening to Duane Allman long before the band played the Fillmore East. Saw him in the rain at Watkins Glen, playing with the Band and Grateful Dead. Saw so many concerts and Duane always seemed lost in his music. He’d light a cigarette, wedge it between the tuning keys and soar off to a world of his own creation while the thing smoked down by itself. Jimi Hendrix was a genius showman; Duane Allman was the anthesis of a showman, but could he ever play slide notes so they told a plaintive story. Greg Allman was the voice, but Duane was the passion at the band’s core. Allman Brothers’ one drummer was Jaimoe and the other Butch Trucks. Derek is his Butch’s nephew.
I may have cried and certainly mourned when I heard Duane had been killed on a fucking motorcycle. Duane was part of why Deric and the Dominoes became so loved. It was recorded in 1970, the same year Hendrix died. Next year Duane was gone as well.
I wrote a poem to my son Ryan, about trying to describe Hendrix’s genius without glorifying his lifestyle or my own. Watch on Winter is part of the book of poems I’ve yet to finish.
But the gods of music said they hadn’t finished either.
And Derek, this nephew of a rock drummer was playing by ten. Do they just grow musicians like mushrooms in down there?
Rock guitarists have always picked single notes on an electric guitar, doing a melody line, a wandering scale, or an arpeggio, to use the classical music term. Clapton does his in a blur of blues mostly without a slide. Hendrix was famous for his raw, blistering fields of sound and feedback. I understand Santana has a new CD out and I need to get it. But what Duane did with a slide, even if for so brief a time, set him apart. Some white boys down south play the blues right from the crib. Though after that 70s deluge of artistry, what remained to be explored in the blues?
Most guitarists, Clapton and Allman included, pick single notes and strum full chords. Derek Trucks finger picks three-note chords against his bottle slide, becoming rhythm and lead all by himself. There’s video of him playing with the Allman Brothers at thirteen, and he’s wailing, but what he’s matured into as a man, what Tedeschi Trucks Band has evolved into, is orchestral sound.
Tedeschi Trucks Band Live Listen to Derek’s opening licks–if you want to hear where the blues will take you? Raga, anyone? Add a woman’s vocals as pure and powerful as Tedeschi’s. Then build the sound slowly until it’s a full, raging spirit, then bring it back down again. Hearing them live for the first time at Warner Theater in DC was like listening to a Ferrari going through its gear changes, smooth, fast and powerful–beautifully so.
We celebrate genius because it’s fundamental to what we perceive as the human spirit.
As we approach the end of the great 60s-70s rock explosion, I think about what will be follow. Classical music, as often as it’s said to be dying, has preserved the compositions, with successive generations of musicians carrying them forward. Listening to a Bach concerto speaks to the genius of his age. Likewise Jazz, Rock’s older sibling isn’t the raging success it was in the 40s and 50s, but is still around if you know where to find it.
Unlike classical compositions, rock’s finest contributions are improvised night to night. And with few exceptions are welded tightly to their composers. And I can’t say we need another Led Zeppelin (though if you haven’t heard Jimmy Page with the Black Crowes at the Greek, you need to put it on your list.) So what will follow for rock?
In 1970 when Duane was still alive, Susan Tedeschi busy being born, and Derek Trucks was yet to be. So perhaps they represent what comes after. Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Austin City Limits is an interview published in 2016. Graceful, gracious musicians will be always welcome.