BUTCH TRUCKS, a drummer’s life
Jacksonville, Florida 1955.
The little boy doesn’t want to leave the music shop showcase. He is still here, he doesn’t move, he just looks at the most beautiful object he ever seen. He is eight years old, he just stares at a drum kit that shines under the sun beams. He can feel that between that music instrument and him, a strange passion is growing. That passion will last during all is life.
Later he joins the school band and obviously plays percussions. His very religious parents don’t really enjoy his new passion. And when their son asks for a drum kit, they refuse. But the little boy insists and at the end he gets his own drums, his parents just ask him not to play in a place where alcohol is sold. Poor parents! They won’t imagine that, many years later, their son, Claude Hudson Butch Trucks, born May 1947 the 11th at Jacksonville Florida, will be drunk every day for three long years!
The boy is getting older and he seems to be gifted to play drums. He joins two different teenage bands, “The Vikings” and “The Echoes”, playing in the same time in Jacksonville symphonic orchestra. Vietnam War arrives when he is a student at the college, but he’s fire because of his absenteeism. He creates a band “The Bitter Ind.” and plays on the road as much as he can not to join the US army.
In 1969, during a show at Daytona, he meets two brothers crazy about Blues music. This meeting will change his life. Duane and Gregg Allman, playing as the “Allman Joy” ask him to join them and do enjoy his way of playing the drums. Some weeks later, they ask him to join them in a new band they are creating. Butch doesn’t hesitate and leaves the only job he ever had in his life (he only worked for two weeks). Then it’s just history. The Allman Brothers Band has just arisen and will play music for forty-five years.
This mythic band creates the Southern Rock foundations in mixing different musical influences (Rock, Blues, Country, Jazz) and shows his originality with two different drummers. It’s not a problem for Duane Allman who thinks that if Otis Redding and James Brown did it, there’s no reason they can’t do it too. Jazz and smooth way is played by Jaimoe Johanson and Butch Trucks has the heavier and rock side of the drums. Butch will soon be called “Freight Train” because of the power of his play. Strength of his way of drumming can be heard on life version of songs such as “Statesboro Blues” or “Whippin’ Post”. Real live band, the Allman Brothers Band becomes famous for his long live shows with long improvisation parts for the pleasure of the audience. Butch Trucks enjoys these jams with uncommon endings that bring musicians to unknown musical areas. This all fits his artistic sense. And he can play any song rhythm for hours, an important gift because no one knows how long the improvisations will last (the famous Mountain Jam!).
The audiences enjoy and the Allman Brothers Band becomes really famous in the United States of America.
Butch is a quiet man, quieter of the band. He focuses on music and enjoys lying with his pals. He really does enjoy playing improvisations that can happen everywhere, in a park, in the street, in the fields or in a cemetery. He also enjoys living in a community, in a big house in Macon Georgia that he shares with the band other musicians at the beginning of the 70’s.
He’s also will have high and low moments, as a rock star life, especially drugs and alcohol excess. Tragedy too! October 1971 the 29th, Duane Allman is killed in a motorcycle accident. His friends are devastated but Butch is more hurt than the others. He was Duane closest friend and used to talked long moments with him about books they read (literature, sociology, philosophy and writers such as Nietzsche or Jean-Jacques Rousseau). Butch will always miss his friend. He will also be very sad because of Berry Oakley’s death. Bassist died in another motorcycle accident one year after Duane, close to the same place.
The Allman Brothers Band becomes really famous but also gets its inconvenient. Easy money, too much alcohol, too much drugs and internal fights will ruin the band that disband a first time between 1976 and 1978, and a second time in 1982. They joined again for a last resurrection in 1989 until they retire in 2014.
For forty-five years Butch Trucks has given his best in this legendary group he played in, from the beginning until the end. His nephew Derek Trucks enters in the band as a second guitar player when Dickey Betts left. He married a famous painter Melinda, younger than him, and got two children, and also had kids from a former marriage.
He was strong enough to ban drugs and alcohol of his life, he just drank wine. He totally stopped alcohol in 2001, alone, without any help.
He bought an old house of the middle age in the South of France where, as Voltaire used to say, he enjoyed working in his garden when he retires. Butch really enjoyed France and remembers the audience welcome at the 1991 Paris show.
He kept on playing until the end of the Allman Brothers Band, then he created the “Freight Train Band” with his son Vaylor and Berry Oakley’s son.
He has been nominated as one of the top 100 best drummer of history by Rolling Stone magazine.
He enjoyed his life as much as he could, playing drums and giving tempo to the other musicians.
In one of his last interview, he talked about becoming old: “Something happens when music begins and at the same moment I’m not tired anymore!”.
His life could have been going in the same way, but unfortunately fate has decided to do it differently.
West Palm Beach Florida, January 2017 the 24th : at 6pm, 911 get an emergency call. On the phone, a frightened woman hardly speaks. She tells that his husband just committed suicide with a gun in front of her. Police and paramedics arrive soon at Butch’s home, in a building in front of the sea.
Butch’s wife and her son wait for the emergency units. Policemen take care of them and paramedics go inside the apartment. Butch always respires but dies some minutes later.
Claude Hudson Butch Trucks just died at the age of sixty-nine years old, leaving his wife Melinda.
It’s hard to understand why he committed suicide after such a beautiful life. Neighbors didn’t hear anything and even didn’t know that a famous Rock star lived close to their homes.
It appears that Butch Trucks had real money problem for the last years. In 2011 he sold his villa in Palm Beach to fill an 800 000 US dollars mortgage. In 2014, he just bought his apartment in front of the sea for a 500 000 US dollars amount. But in 2016 the IRS threatened to take it to pay 540 000 dollars taxes.
In front of so many problems, did Butch panic?
Or was he sadder because of the end of the Allman Brothers band than what he told?
Did he get a nervous breakdown he could hide?
Only one thing is sure: this tragic end is the end of a wonderful artist whom remembrance will never fade. Butch Trucks has joined Duane Allman and Berry Oakley in a cosmic and eternal jam .
Here, we just get his records and sadness!