I just interviewed Chuck Leavell and Devon Allman about the making of the new Allman Betts album and tour. You can read the full interview on Live For Live Music.
Art Edmaiston, Berry Oakley, Bob Dylan, Bobby Allende, Brett Bass, Bruce Katz, Chank Middleton, Danny Toler, David Goldflies, Derek Trucks, Dickie Betts, Don Was, Floyd Miles, Frankie Toler, Freddie King, Greatful Dead, Gregg Allman, Jack Pearson, Jackson Browne, Jay Collins, Jerry Jemmott, Johnny Jenkins, Johnny Neel, Leon Russell, Lowell George, Marc Franklin, Marc Quinones, Muddy Waters, Oteil Burbridge, Peter Levin, Scott Sharrard, Steve Potts, Susan Tedeschi, Tim Buckley, Warren Haynes
While not directly related to my book, I hope you enjoy this interview that I just did with Scott Sharrard and Chank Middleton for LiveforLiveMusic.
In the meantime I am making progress on the research for the book, and have completed over 80 interviews, including current and former members of the Allman Brothers Band, Willie Cobbs (who recorded “You Don’t Love Me”), Donovan, members of the Rolling Stones, the Spencer Davis Group, Muddy Water’s band, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, sidemen, producers, sound engineers, friends, and family members, and many more. There is still a lot of work to do, but I’m digging up some great stuff!
Allman Brothers Band, Art Edmaiston, Don Was, Francis Clay, Gregg Allman, Howlin' Wolf, Hubert Sumlin, Jay Collins, Little Walter, Marc Franklin, Marc Quinones, Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Pat Hare, Peter Levin, Ron Johnson, Scott Sharrard, Steve Potts, Willie Dixon
The first song the Allman Brothers Band ever played, and the last (at the Beacon Theater, October 28, 2014) was Muddy Waters “Trouble No More” so it is fitting that the first cover song to be released from Gregg Allman’s final album (“Southern Blood”) is also a Muddy Waters tune: “I Live The Life I Love (I Love The Life I Live).”
On a freezing cold December 1, 1956, on the Near South Side of Chicago, McKinley Morganfield (better known as Muddy Waters) entered the modest two story building at 2120 South Michigan Avenue that was the new home of Chess Records. With Muddy was producer, songwriter, and bassist Willie Dixon, who had already composed 10 songs for Muddy, including “Hoochie Coochie Man” (covered by the Allman Brothers Band on “Idlewild South” and “Live at Ludlow Garage – 1970.”) Feeling that he had not been compensated fairly by the Chess brothers, Willie had left Chess Records earlier in 1956 for Cobra Records, but still returned for occasional sessions. This would be his last session for Chess until he returned in 1960.
Joining Muddy and Willie (on bass) were groundbreaking blues harmonica player Little Walter, guitar player Hubert Sumlin (sideman in Howlin’ Wolf’s band, number 43 on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” and featured in the recently released film “Sidemen: Long Road to Glory“), guitarist Pat Hare (who also played with Howlin’ Wolf, Bobby Bland, Junior Parker and others), Muddy’s longtime piano player (and solo artist as well) Otis Spann, and jazz/blues drummer Francis Clay (who played regularly for Muddy and would go on to play behind John Lee Hooker, Jimi Hendrix, and more.)
Willie usually composed and wrote down the lyrics to his songs in advance, and worked out the music and arrangements live in the studio with the band. The band soon settled into a slow medium tempo, and laid down the (mostly) 8 bar blues “I Live The Life I Love (I Love The Life I Live)” in one take, before moving on to record “Rock Me,” “Look What You’ve Done,” and “Got My Mojo Working.”
Muddy and the band would not record again until May or June of 1957, when they recorded “Evil” which would become the B-side of “I Live The Life I Love.” The single was released as Chess 1680 in December of that year, in both the 10″ 78rpm format and on the newer 7″ 45rpm style disk. Today you can find it on youtube.
Muddy recorded “Live the Life I Love” again in 1969 on the “Fathers and Sons” album, and it has been covered by many artists, including Mose Allison, John Hammond, Georgie Fame, Willie Nelson, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin with Keith Richards, and the Steve Miller Band. The Allman Brothers Band, however, has never performed “Live the Life I Love.”
On March 7, 2016, the Gregg Allman Band arrived at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. While his previous studio album (“Low Country Blues”) was recorded with session musicians, this time Gregg decided to use his road band. The band, which backed Gregg on 2015’s “Gregg Allman Live: Back to Macon, GA” (well worth a listen) was led by longtime lead guitarist and musical director Scott Sharrard, with Peter Levin on keys, Allman Brothers Band percussionist Marc Quinones, Jay Collins and Art Edmaiston on sax, trumpeter Marc Franklin, drummer Steve Potts, and Ron Johnson on bass. The album was produced by Don Was and the band was augmented with guests from Muscle Shoals including Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section legends Spooner Oldham on keys and David Hood on bass, and Fame Studios founder Rick Hall on keyboards.
Over the next nine days, Gregg and the band laid down the tracks for “Southern Blood,” which would become his final studio album, including his cover of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon’s “I Love the Life I Live” (recorded by the Gregg Allman Band without any guests.)
Gregg and the band played “I love the Life I Live” eleven times live, debuting the song a few weeks after leaving Muscle Shoals, on April 6, 2016, at The Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia, Charleston, West Virginia. That performance of “I love the Life I Live” is included as a bonus track on some versions the new album. Gregg’s final performance of “I love the Life I Live” was in an abbreviated (6 song) acoustic set with just Gregg and guitarist Scott Sharrard at the 2016 Laid Back Festival, September 25, 2016 at Red Rocks in Colorado. He would perform live only four more times.
“Southern Blood” is set to be released on September 8.
Allman Brothers Band, B.B King, Billy Boy Arnold, Bo Diddley, Good Morning Schoolgirl, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Curtis "Sonny Boy" Williamson, Junior Wells, Leonard Chess, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, The Unbroken Circle, The Yardbirds, Willie Dixon
I recently interviewed Billy Boy Arnold following a show at New York City’s City Winery. This is the third and final part of that interview (see part 1 and part 2.) As a solo artist Billy Boy recorded “I Wish You Would” and “I Ain’t Got You” which were famously covered by the Yardbirds. (Bo Diddley’s “She’s Fine, She’s Mine” with Billy Boy blowing his harp was the first recording of the song that became “You Don’t Love Me,” recorded as an extended jam by the Allman Brothers and forming the entire second side of “At Fillmore East.” That story will be in the book The Unbroken Circle.)
Early blues musicians frequently recycled music and “floating verses.” That began to change in the 1920’s when record companies began recording the blues and valued originality. Billy Boy Arnold learned from some of the greatest blues artists ever, and in a recent conversation he talked about his influences and originality in the blues.
Friday night I caught up with Butch Trucks after his show with his Freight Train Band, at the Tarrytown Music Hall an hour north of the famed Beacon Theater. Butch and the band started the show, as he often does, with the Allman Brothers instrumental “Hot ‘Lanta,” and continued the two hour set with fan favorites including “Trouble No More,” “Jessica,” “Dreams,” and many others. The audience immediately recognized the rumbling bass line when the band returned for an encore that began with a thunderous “Whipping Post” before segueing into “Mountain Jam” and back to conclude the evening. Butch didn’t just play Allman Brothers material though, playing original material from keyboard player Bruce Katz, and treating the audience to a cover of “Highway 61 Revisited.” Butch isn’t known as a singer, but as he said “it’s a Bob Dylan song, so I don’t give a shit!” After playing “Statesboro Blues,” Butch took a minute out to quiz the audience on the authorship of the song (Blind Willie McTell) and making sure that the audience knew that Jesse Ed Davis (playing for Taj Mahal) was the first to play slide guitar on the song that became the Allman Brothers signature song. Continue reading
I recently interviewed Billy Boy Arnold following a show at New York City’s City Winery. This is the second part of that interview. As a solo artist Billy Boy recorded “I Wish You Would” and “I Ain’t Got You” which were famously covered by the Yardbirds. (Bo Diddley’s “She’s Fine, She’s Mine” with Billy Boy blowing his harp was the first recording of the song that became “You Don’t Love Me,” recorded as an extended jam by the Allman Brothers and forming the entire second side of “At Fillmore East.” That story will be in the book The Unbroken Circle.)
There have been many stories told about how Ellas McDaniel became Bo Diddley, including theories that the name derives from the Diddley Bow (essentially a one string guitar, typically a single wire attached to the side of a sharecroppers cabin in the Mississippi Delta.)
Billy Boy was there on the south side of Chicago, and he is very clear on the origins of the name Bo Diddley: Continue reading
Allman Brothers Band, B.B King, Berry Oakley, Buddy Guy, Cream, Dickey Betts, Howlin' Wolf, Jack Casady, Jeff Beck Group, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Reed, Led Zeppelin, Muddy Waters, Richard Price, Second Coming, The Load, The Unbroken Circle, Willie Dixon
Dickey Betts is usually associated with the country influences on the Allman Brothers Band, and with songwriting contributions such as “Rambling Man” and “Jessica” it is clear that Dickey brought country to the band. Less frequently acknowledged are his blues and jazz influences.
I spoke with Richard Price, bass player for the The Load, and later for Second Coming (the band that contributed both Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley to the Allman Brothers Band), who talked about the early musical influences of the Allman Brothers Band and some of the “Jacksonville Jams” that gave birth to the band.
Allman Brothers Band, Billy Boy Arnold, Bo Diddley, Eric Clapton, Good Morning Schoolgirl, Jimmy Reed, Leonard Chess, Little Walter, Otis Spann, The Unbroken Circle, The Yardbirds, Willie Dixon, You Don't Love Me
A few weeks ago I was at the City Winery in New York City, watching Phil and Dave Alvin perform a set of acoustic blues, when they brought out Chicago harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold, harmonica player for Bo Diddley. As a solo artist Billy Boy recorded “I Wish You Would” and “I Ain’t Got You” which were famously covered by the Yardbirds. (Bo Diddley’s “She’s Fine, She’s Mine” with Billy Boy blowing his harp was the first recording of the song that became “You Don’t Love Me,” recorded as an extended jam by the Allman Brothers and forming the entire second side of “At Fillmore East.” That story will be in the book The Unbroken Circle.)
After the show I caught up with Billy, who has clear memories of his recordings in the 1950’s, just as the blues and R&B were giving birth to rock and roll. Billy has a lot of great memories; today’s post will focus on Billy’s most influential recordings and his relationship with Leonard Chess.
In 1965 Bob Koester and Delmark Records recorded Junior Wells debut album, the legendary “Hoodoo Man Blues.” Featuring Junior Wells on harmonica and vocals and Buddy Guy (billed as “Friendly Chap”) on guitar and vocals, with the rhythm section of Jack Myers playing bass, and Bill Warren on drums, “Hoodoo Man Blues” is considered one of the greatest blues records ever.
In a recent interview Bob Koester, credited as producer for the album, shared his secret for recording the blues:
I had the opportunity to catch up recently with David “Rook” Goldflies, bass player for the Allman Brothers Band from 1978-1982 (appearing on Enlightened Rogues, Reach for the Sky, and Brothers of the Road.) David shared the story of how he joined Dickey Bett’s “Great Southern” and got the nickname “Rook”: