Derek Trucks

Derek Trucks

Trucks playing slide guitar with The Allman Brothers Band, 2009
Background information
Born June 8, 1979 (1979-06-08) (age 32)
Jacksonville, Florida, United States
Genres Blues rock, world music, Southern rock, blues, blue-eyed soul, jazz fusion
Occupations Musician, songwriter, record producer
Instruments Guitar, sarod
Years active 1990–present
Labels Columbia, Legacy Recordings
Associated acts The Allman Brothers Band
The Derek Trucks Band
Susan Tedeschi
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Notable instruments
Gibson SG '61 Reissue

Derek Trucks is a Grammy Award-winning,[1] American guitarist, songwriter, and record producer. He founded The Derek Trucks Band and worked as a session musician when he was still in his early teens. Throughout those teenage years, he toured with The Allman Brothers Band primarily as a slide guitarist, finally becoming an official band member in 1999 as an adult. He is married to fellow blues artist Susan Tedeschi. The pair joined together as performers when possible until at last, forging a permanent band, the Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2010.



Early years and family legacy

Derek Trucks (b. June 8, 1979, in Jacksonville, Florida) comes from a family with deep musical roots.[2] Derek's uncle is drummer Butch Trucks, a founding member of The Allman Brothers Band who has continued to perform with them since the band was established in 1969.[3] Trucks first attracted the attention of the music industry as a nine-year old child prodigy on the guitar,[4] and by age 12, he'd worked with some of the biggest names in the music scene. He was sitting in with Buddy Guy and an increasing list of other famous musicians,[5]

From childhood, Derek listened to his parents' vinyl recordings of the Allman Brothers classic, Eat a Peach, and Derek and the Dominos' Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, featuring Duane Allman and Eric Clapton, which was the source of his name.[6][7] He has a younger brother, also a musician, who is a drummer, named Duane Trucks, who frequently tours with him and his band. He is also the proud great-nephew of the former professional baseball player Virgil Trucks, whose baseball card has frequently been taped to the back of Derek's guitar and uncle Butch's drum set.[8]

Livingston Taylor and Derek Trucks

At age nine, Trucks first bought a used acoustic guitar, which he found at a yard sale for $5.00, and secured his first paying gig by age 11.[9] He quickly adapted to performing with the slide as a slide guitarist, explaining that at first, it was simpler, since the strings did not hurt his fingers as much. He learned to love its emulation of the sound of a human voice, as the early Delta blues singers first would sing and then answer themselves with a close approximation on the slide guitar.[6] Trucks began touring after learning the fundamentals on the guitar from his father and Jim Graves, a well known Jacksonville musician, who taught him the basics of the slide guitar. He moved on from the acoustic guitar and quickly adapted to a Gibson SG, which he has used as his primary guitar to the present day.

Initially an adolescent sensation, Trucks gained proficiency on the instrument, and began working as a session player playing with professional musicians who increasingly were highly regarded rock and blues musicians. He was touring with The Allman Brothers Band, at age 12, with his father acting as chaperone and road manager.[3][9] Trucks began to form his own band in 1994 during his mid-teens, and The Derek Trucks Band became one of Trucks' primary musical outlets.[10] Before he had reached his twentieth birthday in 1999, Derek Trucks had played with some of the most influential musicians in the history of rock, including Bob Dylan, Joe Walsh and Stephen Stills.[11]

Career as an adult

Derek Trucks was formally made a full member of The Allman Brothers Band in 1999, after over a decade of performing with the band as a special guest. Trucks has said, "When I joined the Allman Brothers Band was when I first had that feeling of all this music history coming full circle".[2] With The Allman Brothers Band, Trucks has performed on three live releases, which include the platinum-certified DVD Live at the Beacon Theatre, as well as the studio album Hittin' the Note in 2003. His presence has helped stabilize the group's lineup following a period of turmoil around the time of founding member Dickey Betts' departure in 2000, and his familial ties to the band help reinforce the notion of family implicit in the group's name. Trucks continues to act as guitarist in the Allman Brothers Band with Warren Haynes as one of their two permanent guitarists.

Highly regarded with the slide, Trucks was ranked 81st in Rolling Stone's 2003 list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time",[12] the youngest musician, at age 24, to be included.[13][14]

Slowly adding other musicians to the lineup over the years and touring with two of the earliest members since his late teens, the outcome, The Derek Trucks Band became a solid sextet from 2002- 2010. Each member's musical influences cover several genres and territory, so that the music that they wrote and recorded can be best described as world music.

From left to right: Doyle Bramhall II, Derek Trucks, Steve Jordan, Eric Clapton, Willie Weeks in 2007 at the Crossroads Guitar Festival

Early in 2006, Eric Clapton initially called Trucks to arrange a recording session with him for a proposed album with JJ Cale. Although Trucks had met and played with a pantheon of rock and blues' elite, this was Trucks' first occasion to meet Eric Clapton. While working in the studio together on The Road to Escondido, Clapton found a quick compatibility, and invited The Derek Trucks Band to open for him during his upcoming 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival in Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Illinois on July 28, 2007. Derek's wife, vocalist Susan Tedeschi sang with the band, who additionally provided backing support for rock guitarist Johnny Winter's set at the festival. Afterward, Trucks remained with Clapton as his accompanist on guitar during his set within his house band, and after, continued with him during his world tour afterward. Although Trucks was elated, he mentioned some concerns he had regarding his responsibilities with The Allman Brothers Band (Gregg Allman in particular), but his worries were unfounded. Commenting afterward, in 2007, he said, "The Allman Brothers Band has been really great this past year working around Clapton's schedule. I'm really grateful. They understood it was something I couldn't pass up".[2]

In another interview, speaking of performing with Clapton, Trucks said, "He asked me that [to tour] out of the blue". I think he was just looking for a new guitar foil to play off," continuing, "I was weaned on Derek and the Dominos [...] I experienced a moment of realization that I was in Clapton's actual band one night during "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad", when I looked over and saw him there playing!"[15] As a result, in 2006, Trucks found himself playing in three bands in 17 countries.[2]

January 2008 saw the completion of a new studio in the rear of Trucks' home, and The Derek Trucks Band released their album Already Free on January 13, 2009.[16] It debuted at #19 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart,[17] and #1 on the Internet chart, #4 on the Rock chart and #1 on the Blues chart.[17] This marked the band's highest debut on the Billboard Top 200 chart at that date. After touring with The Allman Brothers Band, Trucks performed with his own band throughout the following remainder of 2008. In addition, the band toured through the summer of 2008 as part of the Soul Stew Revival, with vocalist Mike Mattison's band, Scrapomatic opening in most performances.[16]

The Allman Brothers Band performed in March 2009 for fifteen days, marking the band's 40th anniversary, and the string of concerts were dedicated to the late Duane Allman, with several special guests, including Levon Helm, Johnny Winter, Trey Anastasio & Page McConnell {both of Phish}, Phil Lesh, Buddy Guy, and Eric Clapton, amongst others, performing some of their songs, in addition to the usual musical fare by The Allman Brothers Band.

In late 2009, The Derek Trucks Band announced a hiatus of at least one year. In 2010, Trucks dissolved his band and formed a new one with wife Susan Tedeschi, called the Tedeschi Trucks Band. The Tedeschi Trucks Band played during a limited number of music festivals in 2010, turning their focus to writing and recording new material for the project. The band does appears on the DVD release of the 2010 Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival, performing one of their original songs, "Midnight In Harlem," as well as a number of cover songs with guest musicians including Warren Haynes, members of Gov't Mule, and others.

An album, centered on original material from the group, and a more extensive touring schedule are planned for the Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2011.[18]

Although Trucks continues to play with The Allman Brothers Band, at the close of 2009, Tedeschi formally disbanded her sidemen and Trucks disbanded his group as well for what appeared to be a year of downtime,[19] however Trucks has confessed to plans of taking off more than a year; possibly more.[20] They have joined together as the Tedeschi Trucks Band and have been scheduling performances together, albeit at a slower pace, giving them more time together with their children, and Trucks remains busy in their new recording studio at their home in Jacksonville, Florida.

Musical style

Influences and the slide

Derek Trucks performing in his youth on tour

The Wall Street Journal has described him as "the most awe-inspiring electric slide guitar player performing today".[6]

Trucks' early repertoire was influenced by blues-based music, although by his mid-teenage years, he admits that his name and family connections to The Allman Brothers Band prompted him to distance himself somewhat from their music, opening him up to jazz and other genres for a time. The exposure to diverse composers benefited Trucks with a variety of approaches to his own musical expression when playing with his own band.

However, the pull of Delta blues and Southern rock that he'd grown around and loved was strong enough to continue to influence both his musical compositions and performance on the guitar.[21] His playing was more often inspired by older bluesmen like Howlin' Wolf and Albert King, jazz musicians Miles Davis, Sun Ra, John Coltrane,[22] Charlie Parker, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, and Wayne Shorter.

In recent years, the influence of traditional Southern Sacred Steel can be heard in Derek's slide work. Trucks credits Allman Brothers' primary founding member and guitarist Duane Allman and second-generation blues man Elmore James as the two slide guitarists that most significantly influenced his early style. Additionally, Freddy King, and B.B. King were some of the original blues and roots musicians that Trucks mentions as influences.[23]

Trucks developed a love of Pakistani and East Indian qawwali music, and was moved by the sound of artists like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, prompting him to study at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, California which is where he learned to play the sarod, leaving lingering strains of Indian music in his guitar work.[24]

While learning to play the sarod, he also found himself schooled in discipline, which in one manifestation, shows in Trucks' posture on stage. He was taught by Khan to focus entirely on his performance, which he attributes to his lack of movement around the stage, where he rarely moves from the same spot for the duration of each song.[6]

Although The Allman Brothers Band turned out several excellent slide players, including Warren Haynes and Dickey Betts, Derek Trucks has been hailed as one of the greatest slide guitarists since Duane Allman.[6][25] In 2007, Trucks was pictured on the cover of Rolling Stone (#1020) in February 2007, along with John Frusciante, guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and John Mayer. Named as one of the "New Guitar Gods" and nicknamed by Rolling Stone as "The Jam King", Trucks' signature move, according to John Mayer, is "making the guitar sound like a female singer from like, the '50s or '60s, just belting it out".[23]

Trucks at the Hard Rock Cafe 2009

Asked about his choice of becoming a slide guitarist, Trucks has explained initially, it was because he learned to play at a young age, and that the strings were painful, and his small fingers too tender to adapt quickly, and the slide made it easier for him to advance on the guitar.[26] Once he learned the basics on the guitar, Trucks found only an elite few musicians to pursue the slide guitar above all else. That short list includes Duane Allman, Ry Cooder, Sonny Landreth and, Trucks feels the person to come the closest to be the late Lowell George. Because of this, Trucks sees greater possibilities in taking the sound in a new direction, which has intrigued him.[27]

Trucks uses open tuning, mainly open E[28] – a practice familiar to most other slide players. Duane Allman's bottleneck slide was originally made from a Coricidin bottle, but since such pill bottles are not manufactured anymore, Trucks explained in an NPR interview that the only way to get them is to look for them in antique stores, or buy the re-issues. Trucks has used the use of a replicate of the late Allman's bottleneck slide, made of Dunlop Pyrex to approximate the sound closest to that of Duane Allman.[15]

The sound

Trucks, playing his resonator guitar in 2007

When playing older Allman Brothers material, Trucks sometimes takes parts originally played by Duane Allman, most notably the long slide guitar solo that takes up much of "Dreams". In other cases, there are no direct correlations between what Trucks plays and what previous guitarists in the band have done. Butch Trucks said in 2009, "My nephew is just scary. I have played with a lot of really good guitar players. And with every one of them, I start figuring out what they are going to do [...] even with Duane. There are certain patterns they play that lead to something else and you kind of get used to what they are going to do. After all the years of playing with Derek, I still don't have the faintest idea of what he is going to do. Every time he starts off his solo in "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed", he comes from a different direction. He never does the same thing twice".[29]

The Derek Trucks Band plays an eclectic blend of blues, soul, jazz, rock, qawwali music (a genre of music from Pakistan and Eastern India), Latin music, and other kinds of world music, drawing on the wide variety of the different musical influences of each member. The Derek Trucks band, according to one Allmusic reviewer, are a "group of musicians that share a passion for improvisation and musical exploration".[13] Trucks, in a 2002 interview commented that "When you hear people like Coltrane, and the search that he was on, I think that's what it's ultimately about... I heard it on a Sun Ra documentary, he was always talking about making a 'joyful noise'".

Equipment and style

Trucks playing his primary guitar, a Gibson SG

Trucks avoids processing and effects, preferring to get the purest tone possible by connecting his guitar (a modified Gibson USA SG 1961 reissue with factory Vibrola), which has had the tailpiece modified and a stopbar tailpiece installed, directly to his amplifier, a 1965 Fender Super Reverb loaded with four Pyle Driver MH1020 speakers. He modifies his tone with the controls on the guitar.

In early 2006, an equipment trailer with Trucks' gear was stolen. Some of the gear was recovered from a field outside Atlanta, including the 1965 Fender Super Reverb (an amplifier he's been playing with since he was a young boy), a 1968 Super Reverb (one of the backup amps), a Hammond B-3, two Leslie rotating speaker cabinets, a Höhner E-7 Clavinet, and a few other minor items.[10] He said, fortunately, nobody was home at the time, he "was away gigging with the Allmans", so nobody was hurt.

Trucks regularly plays without a pick. He generally plucks or strums (together or independently) with his thumb as well as his index, middle, and ring fingers. An article from The Washington Post describes the sound, saying Trucks "harvests notes and chords that soar, slice and glide, sounding like a cross between Duane Allman on a '61 Gibson Les Paul and John Coltrane on tenor sax".[30] He uses custom gauge DR nickel-wound strings on both his SG and resonator guitars: .011, .014, .017, .026, .036, and .046. Most of his guitars are tuned to open E. Although he still prefers Super Reverbs when playing with the Derek Trucks Band, currently Trucks is playing Paul Reed Smith amplifiers almost exclusively when performing with The Allman Brothers Band.[31]

Personal life

In 2001, upon learning of girlfriend and singer Susan Tedeschi's pregnancy, the couple married, and their first child was born by the end of the year in December, 2001.[32][33] Named Charles Khalil Trucks, for saxophonist Charlie Parker, guitarist Charlie Christian, and author Khalil Gibran, he was followed in 2004 by their second child, a girl, Sophia Naima Trucks, who takes her middle name from a John Coltrane ballad, which was also the jazz legend's first wife's name. Again, Naima was unplanned, but welcomed as was her brother; as Trucks points out, it is nearly impossible with two full-time bands touring around the world to plan for children.[32] The Derek Trucks Band recorded a cover of "Naima" on their first album, seven years before her birth. Trucks' marriage to Tedeschi has been an atypical domestic life, with both Trucks and Tedeschi frequently touring, although up to 2010, infrequently in the same place at the same time. The pair endeavored to perform as much as possible together, occasionally merging their respective bands whenever possible. This included others that often included Trucks' younger brother Duane Trucks, singer Mike Mattison's band Scrapomatic, and Tedeschi's former sideman, saxophonist Ron Holloway. Together, they billed their concerts as the "Soul Stew Revival". The difficulty in finding enough time for this led the pair to set aside most dates in December to spend time together. With both Trucks and Tedeschi touring throughout the better part of each year, their two children have been often with them, with Trucks' mother acting as a nanny when Tedeschi was touring. The children began growing through an age just a little younger than when Trucks himself began touring as a child.[34]

Soul Stew Revival

Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks

Trucks and Tedeschi began combining the talents of their two bands during the celebration of New Years' concerts, seeking ways to spend more time together. The Soul Stew Revival can be heard on the internet, in streaming music, with various sources, such as their performances from the Bonnaroo Music Festival, in Manchester, Tennessee, on June 16, 2008.[35] As of 2008, the Soul Stew Revival had officially grown to an eleven-piece ensemble for the summer including a three-piece horn section.[16]

Trucks has estimated that he spent 300 days a year on the road, which required the couple to carve out additional time to tour as Soul Stew together. He commented, "There's a lot less sleep, but the kids are old enough now to be on the road and it's not a complete drain. It's a lot but it's great to have the family together."[36] They have received such positive feedback, that they began booking concerts more frequently together. However, Tedeschi mentioned the difficulty of touring with school age children in an interview with All About Jazz in 2010.[37]

Since both Tedeschi and Trucks have let go most of their backing band members, they have been able to spend more time with their children. Taking out more time to write songs with a recording studio has been an advantage. Although they continue to record piece work with a few former members, they permanently dismissed their horn players. They had previously attempted to move toward another component to their music with a horn section, but instead have found a fresh sound in backing vocalists.[37]

Selected discography

With The Tedeschi Trucks Band

  • Revelator (2011)

With the Derek Trucks Band

With the Allman Brothers Band

Recording collaborations


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  12. ^ Rolling Stone Magazine The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time 2003-08-27
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  14. ^ The Derek Trucks Band On Tour
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  16. ^ a b c Soul Stew Update Derek Trucks/Soul Stew Update
  17. ^ a b WNEW; CBS Radio, Inc. (2008). "Where Rock Lives; Derek Trucks Band". Derek, Conan and Cash. CBS Broadcasting. Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  18. ^ Bryson, Alan. "Susan Tedeschi: Dreams and Legends". All About Jazz. Retrieved June 7, 2010. 
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  20. ^ "The Derek Trucks Band Come To The End Of The Road..... For Now". Nightwatcher's House of Rock. Sunday, July 4, 2010. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
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  22. ^ "Derek Trucks Legacy Recordings". Legacy Recordings Website. SONY BMG Music Entertainment. 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
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  26. ^ Trucks, Derek Multimedia Interview, 2002 with Trucks about The Derek Trucks Band, their album, Joyful Noise Official Website
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  31. ^
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  36. ^ Tennille, Andy, Jam Base Derek and Susan, It's a Family Thing Accessed 28 September 2008
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External links

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