Tedeschi Trucks Band is guitarist's dream come true
Derek Trucks might not be the most recognizable name in the world as far as guitar heroes go, but the 33-year-old picker in the Tedeschi Trucks Band is doing all right lately in the accolade department. His group’s debut album, Revelator, won a Grammy this year for Best Blues Album, which followed his being ranked 16th in Rolling Stone’s 100 Top Guitarists of All Time poll.
The slide specialist—who is also a member of the Allman Brothers Band—takes the latter honour with a grain of salt, though.
“Pretty funny stuff,” says Trucks from a tour stop in Pittsburgh. “You never know how they put that stuff together, and you certainly don’t put too much weight in it.”
When I tell Trucks that I had some major beefs with Rolling Stone’s Top 100—like the fact that Rory Gallagher only placed 57th, and that Trucks’ coguitarist in the Allmans, Warren Haynes, didn’t even make the cut—he admits that “it’s just an opinion list”. He was actually one of those asked to vote in the poll.
“For the sake of just tryin’ to get him high up on the list I had Elmore James as number one,” he reveals.
That’s not too surprising, as the bluesman best known for ”Dust My Broom” and “The Sky Is Crying” was one of Trucks’ earliest influences—along with Duane Allman. Trucks was actually named after Eric Clapton’s early ’70s group, Derek and the Dominos, whose sole studio album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, prominently featured Allman’s guitar. Trucks was lucky enough to have parents who were big Allman Brothers Band fans, partly because his uncle was original ABB drummer Butch Trucks.
“I would say that from listening to [Live at] Fillmore East and Eat a Peach, Duane’s slide was one of the first sounds I really remember,” he explains. “We would fall asleep to those records quite often.”
The six-string ability Trucks developed at an early age has paid off with some choice gigs, including playing for Barack Obama at the White House last February with a lineup that included Jeff Beck, B.B. King, and Buddy Guy. Three days earlier in New York he played a similarly star-studded tribute to blues great Hubert Sumlin, who passed away in December.
“When we first got called about that it was actually an invite from Hubert himself to play his 80th birthday party at the Apollo,” recalls Trucks, “so it was sad that it went from bein’ a birthday party to a memorial. But I was glad everybody showed up and paid their respects. There was some amazing musical moments, and just a really great hang.”
Nowadays Trucks’ “really great hang” involves the members of the 11-piece Tedeschi Trucks Band, which includes his wife, singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi. He says it’s like a dream come true to be part of an ensemble that size.
“You kind of always wish you could do that,” he says, “it’s just not really feasible. When we decided to put this band together our managers and business managers thought we were out of our minds—and maybe we are—but it sure is a lotta fun. ”
The Tedeschi Trucks Band plays the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts on Tuesday (June 19).
You can follow Steve Newton on Twitter at twitter.com/earofnewt.