• Derek Trucks

    Posted January, 2017

    tedeschi trucks band 001 photo creditduo general 3For the uninformed, the Tedeschi Trucks band is one of the best blues rock jam bands touring the planet today. You can take that to the bank so just go right ahead and buy their three studio albums (Revelator, Made Up Mind, and Let Me Get By) and their live album (Everybody’s Talkin’).

    For a little background, the band is led by husband and wife team, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, and are backed by ten (originally eight but things have a way of growing in a band like this) of the best musicians jamming today. Derek was considered a child prodigy on the guitar not long after buying his first six string when he was seven years old.

    In the years that followed, Trucks made a name for himself with his own band as well as playing with the likes of Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy (when Derek was thirteen), Stephen Stills, Bob Dylan, and many others. His reputation also led to repeated guest spots in the Allman Brothers band, who his uncle, Butch, co-founded. The guest spot ultimately led to a permanent position from 1999 until the band split in late 2014.

    Susan Tedeschi is an amazing blues guitarist in her own right and is the primary lead vocalist in the Tedeschi Trucks Band.  If you haven’t heard her sing and play ‘Midnight In Harlem’, you’re missing out on a real treat.

    But I digress.

    Susan is a Berkley grad and her talents led her to opening gigs with icons like The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Allman Brothers, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, John Mellencamp, and many others. As the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Derek, Susan, and the band have delighted audiences all over the world and even at the White House.  Along the way, they’re building an ever-growing fan base that is sure to serve them well in the years to come.

    I recently chatted by phone with Derek just before the band performed their last of three shows at Boston’s Orpheum Theater. I wanted to talk about their latest CD, Let Me Get By, and their current tour. The status of the latter is what I first asked him about.

    “It’s been good, you know? Tonight’s our last show of the year. We’ve been hittin’ it hard this year. It’s been a great year but it’s been pretty intense. We’re pretty excited – maybe go out with a bang tonight.”

    When I followed up with asking how this tour was different from past tours, Derek said, “The one we’re on right now is three shows in Boston at the Orpheum. I feel like the last six months – really, in some ways, since we put out this last record – the band’s just in a better place musically, personally. I think we’re in a really healthy spot at the moment. Every tour seems to get a little better. There’s been one or two runs this year that we played our best stuff to date. I feel like we’re on the right track.”

    tedeschi trucks band 002Shows from bands like the Tedeschi Trucks Band tend to be very fluid, spontaneous, and (obviously) improvisational. Still, I asked Trucks what fans could expect from this run of shows, including the upcoming visit to Knoxville on January 26.

    “You know, we really try to keep the material kind of flowing through the band. We really don’t know until we get out. Before we head out on the next run we’ll have a little rehearsal. Try to add some new tunes; try to write some tunes on this little break that’s coming up. But, you know, it’s a pretty healthy mix of all of the records we’ve made and just a pile of tunes that we’ve played, whether they’re covers or whatever from over the years; stuff from our old bands. It’s a pretty constantly changing set list.  that we have.

    “We just did the Beacon Theatre not too long ago and I think over the course of six shows we did close to seventy tunes – something like that. We try to keep ‘em movin’.”

    Any chance of those shows being recorded for future release?

    “We record all of our shows – at least the last six months or so. Yeah, we’re working on a DVD from our Oakland shows at the Fox Theater. We’re gettin’ close to that. (We’ll) Do a live record, too. I’m thinking about doing a Beacon Theatre live record somewhere down the road.”

    The band’s new CD, Let Me Get By, is a phenomenal body of work – probably their best yet. I wondered how much of the new album would be performed during this tour.

    “We play most of those tunes – at least two or three of those tunes a night but . Like I was saying, it does shift quite a bit from show to show. Those tunes have kind of taken on a life of their own. They’ve been a lot of fun to play.”

    Obviously proud of – and excited about – Let Me Get By, Derek continued about the disc.

    “You know, I do think that record was a turning point for the band. It was all done in-house. We wrote all the tunes as a group. It was a great moment for the band and I feel like we got better, musically, coming out of making that record. So, it was a pretty big turning point for us. I kinda feel like we’re ready to get back in and hit another one. WI do think that we’ll look back on that record as being kind of when the band became realized.

    “There’s a lot of stuff on the record that I still enjoy listening to. I don’t put on our records and listen often, but I do go back – we’re mixing a live record now and I go back and listen to the album just to check in on it to see how the mixes hold up. Something feels really natural, to be honest about it.”

    As for which song he would point people to as the calling card for the entire CD, Trucks said:

    “Let’s see. There’s a few that I can say that we enjoy playing a lot right now. ‘I Want More’ and ‘Let Me Get By’. I loved recording the tune, ‘Hear Me’. We really haven’t played that one live yet. For some reason, those three seem to stick out.”

    Artists are always nervous about what their fans’ reception to a new project is going to be. I asked Trucks what fan reaction has been like for the new material.

    “I think that record and, really, this year there’s been a big wave. We can feel it. You look out in the crowd when you play some of those tunes you can tell that people know the music. They know the record. We’ve had that a little bit in the past, but I feel that everything kind of ratcheted up a little bit. I think Iit’s the most well received of anything we’ve done as a band.”

    “I think the fact that we have our own studio and this was the first record we did tedeschi trucks band 003 photo credit tedeschi trucks band band general use 1everything on our own. We were between record labels. It’s just all in-house. From top to bottom we just did it the way we wanted to do it. That’s a rare thing. You don’t get that chance very often. We’re somehow avoiding being micro-managed.” 

    The sign of a great album or performance is when a band or artist leaves his fans craving for more. That’s how I feel after devouring Let Me Get By so I asked if there were already other albums in the works. 

    “Yeah, we have a live record that’s close. We’re probably a few days away from finishing that. That’ll be next and, then we’re heading back into the studio sometime on this next break to start writing and digging in on a new record. But that will probably be a little further down the road.” But there’s definitely a live record that’s pretty much finished.”

    As for what’s on the band’s radar for the next year to five years, Derek says:

    “Next year, we’ll probably play a few less shows than we did this year, but we’re still going to be hitting it hard. We’ll have a live record and then the DVD coming out. With a band this big, you have to tour. Five years out, who knows? I feel like this band is in a really healthy place. I can see it steadily growing – musically growing and charging down the road. If it’s still inspired and music keeps rollin’, I see no reason to change course.

    Wrapping up our chat, I asked Derek Trucks how he hopes to be remembered and what he hopes his legacy is. Like most musicians, it’s about the music.

    “You know, I think everything that I’ve done up to this point and with this band, I think that I just want people to appreciate the integrity. WI feel that we’ve never pandered. I hope that it never gets cynical – that we never get out there and are just playing and going through the motions. AI think that as long as you keep it honest and you try to tell your story and dig deep and do your thing, I’m not too concerned with how it’s perceived. But I do hope that, at least, that sentiment will ring true.”

    Keep up with the Tedeschi Trucks Band atwww.tedeschitrucksband.com and complete your personal library of their work by clicking on any of the widgets, below.

  • Race With The Devil: The Gene Vincent Story

    racewiththedevilcoverRace With The Devil: The Gene Vincent Story
    Author: Susan VanHecke
    Review Date: February 28, 2016

    Gene Vincent is probably most famous for his classic 1956 single "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and is arguably one of the most influential rock 'n' roll artists of all time. Race with the Devil is the first American biography of this musical pioneer. Updated and revised, featuring new information, interviews, and photographs, this 2016 edition of the critically acclaimed 2000 original is the most comprehensive survey ever written of Vincent's groundbreaking career and turbulent personal life.

    Penned with a novelistic intensity, Race with the Devil examines Vincent's breakneck life of heady extremes. Signed by Capitol Records as the next Elvis, the poor boy from Norfolk, Virginia, enjoyed meteoric success with his hit "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and popular follow-up sides. Proto-punk Vincent's earthy, delinquent rocker posture ultimately proved unpalatable, however, to a middle-class America singing along with the sanitized offerings of Fabian and Ricky Nelson, so in 1959 Vincent moved to England, finding his most enthusiastic audiences across Europe. His leather-clad, street-tough persona and raucous rockabilly stylings met with instant acclaim; Vincent quickly became a revered hero of teenaged England and the idol of aspiring musicians like John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Jeff Beck.

    Race with the Devil digs deeply into the devastating personal struggles that darkened Vincent's life at nearly every turn. From the motorcycle accident at age twenty that left the singer with a permanent, painful leg injury (remedied with a metal brace he would wear the rest of his life), to his lifelong struggle with alcoholism—which took its toll in erratic and frequently violent behavior—Gene Vincent's life is startlingly revealed. From the 1960 car crash that killed his dearest friend, fellow rocker Eddie Cochran, and from which he never psychologically recovered, to the constant infighting with friends, family, and band members, to his death by internal hemorrhaging at age 36, Race with the Devil is a riveting look at an incredible life of rock 'n' roll triumph, torment, and tragedy.

  • Rock ‘N’ Roll Soldier

    rocksoldierhc finalRock ‘N’ Roll Soldier
    By Dean Ellis Kohler with Susan Vanheck Forward by Graham Nash
    Published by HarperTeen
    Reviewed: March, 2010

    When one hears the phrase, “Vietnam War”, a wide variety of images, phrases and emotions are conjured up. I was too young to fight in that war but not too young to remember the impact the war had on friends as well as society.

    ‘Nam impacted our politics, news and entertainment. It became the subject of protests, songs and movies. The pros, cons and impact of that lengthy war is still being felt and discussed today.

    Rock ‘N’ Roll Soldier is an engaging tale of a young man, Dean Kohler, who made the quantum leap from Portsmouth, Virginia, to Qui Nohn, Vietnam. His long sought after, and worked for, dream materialized literally on the same day that he received his draft notice, dashing that particular dream.

    Kohler and Vanhecke weave a captivating story of how circumstances in boot camp led Kohler to an opportunity to purse a different version of his dream in a nightmarish environment. After a cathartic encounter with PFC Goodridge, with some fellow soldiers, Dean formed a band called The Electrical Banana. This band provided a welcome, uplifting distraction for both the band and its uniformed audience, bringing to them live covers of their favorite songs of the day.

    The book isn’t all about music. It also details young men who bury their natural fears with incredible amounts of bravery. Some icons from the 60’s are mentioned in the book (Nancy Sinatra and Graham Nash, to name two) as are tales of friendships, chain of command, homesickness and girls left behind in two countries. Also told is the process of Kohler’s adjustment to civilian life and fitting back into society. The story provides insight into how our minds can be so conditioned to routine that, when that routine is altered, time is needed to adjust back into the new norm.

    The book’s forward by Graham Nash is worth the price of the book by itself. Nash closes his remarks by saying, “Through the transcendent power of music, Dean created his own bit of order out of the chaos of the Vietnam War . . . to survive another day.”

    The books final words honors Kohler’s Electrical Banana band mates. In them he poignantly states, “ . . . with their help, during a time when none of us knew for sure if we would live or die, I came to know the true power of music – to communicate, heal, connect. Unite.”

    I couldn’t say any better, gentlemen.

    Mr. Kohler and the thousands of men and women who served your country in an unpopular war: We can never repay you enough for your sacrifice nor will we ever forget. Thank you so much!

    PFC Goodridge, thank you and may you continue to rest in peace.