Are you pleased with the Herbie Mann sessions?
Hell, yeah. Herbie Mannís a really talented guy. I felt real good when he asked me to play with him. These sessions are goiní good because everybodyís free. Any session is as creative as you make it. Youíve got to feel free to introduce your own ideas. Like, when I worked on the Wilson Pickett sessions in Muscle Shoals, I suggested he cut ďHey Jude.Ē It ended up that he used my arrangement and it worked out just fine. Everybody was happy.
You worked for Rick Hall in Muscle Shoals for quite a while. Were those sessions freer than, say, the L.A. sessions you did?
Yeah, they probably were. But that was really more because of the artists we worked with. We did mostly R&B stuff and those cats were real loose. They just wanted everybody on the session to play their ass off; they never told you what to play. I guess they did tell you what not to play sometimes.
What do you think of the live At Fillmore East album?
I dig the shit out of it. The whole band does. It's as close as we've been able to come to a real portrayal of what we are. It really sounds like the Brothers.
Seems like Bill Graham never told you what not to play. In fact, he gave the Allman Brothers more freedom than any other band he booked, didnít he?
Yeah. Bill loved us. But we loved him just as much. I think Bill Graham is the best; heís number one with me. I have more respect for that guy than just about anyone. Folks are always bitching about the way he treats them. Iíll tell you somethiní. He treats a band exactly the way a band treats him. You show up on time; you do a professional sound check; you donít hassle him for bread Ė man, heíll treat you like a prince. Thatís the way he treats us and thatís the way we treat him. Anybody donít respect Bill Graham got their head messed around.
When Graham closed the Fillmores, everyone said that rock was dead. What do you think?
Rock has never died and it ainít never gonna die. This sayiní itís dead is nothiní new. People been saying that since it started. And Iíll tell ya: as long as thereís someone who wants to go there, Iíll be there to play it for them.
Donít you think you might someday get tired of it?
Hell, no. Musicís what keeps me together. Itís the thing that keeps us all goiní. Iíd never stop playiní. God, I got no idea what Iíd do if I wasnít playiní. I donít know what would happen.
Youíre finally seeing some success here, probably due to a sound thatís all your own. Would you say there have been any specific influences on either you or the band as a whole?
I donít know how much other musicians have influenced the sound of the band, but probably not very much. I think the guys in the band have influenced each other a lot. I know I have been by other cats. Miles Davis, Roland Kirk, Muddy Waters, B.B. King. Those cats had a lot of influence on my music and on a lot of the music I know. J. Geils is our favorite band, but I canít say that theyíve influenced us; theyíre into a different thing from us.
Your music doesnít sound like those people youíve named at all.
Yeah thanks. It shouldnít. Being influenced shouldnít mean soundiní like or copying anyone else. You gotta strive to play a pure form of music; a kind of music thatís honest to yourself. If you got that attitude and feeliní about what you play, youíll be a lot better off. Thatís the kind of attitude that makes a great performing band. Ya know, a great record is easy to make. I ainít impressed by great records. But a great performance ainít so easy. Thatís why we like J. Geils so much. They know how to perform their stuffóthey donít need studio gimmicks.
How has the band managed to stay together without the usual ego hassles that destroy so much music?
These six guys have always worked for one sound, one direction. But everyone plays like he wants to play. He just keeps that goal in mind. If you know what you can do and youíre satisfied in your heart that youíre doiní it, you ainít gonna have no problems.
You speak as though the band has no real leader. Is that true?
Not really. When we need a leader, Iím it. Everybody understands that. Itís just that we donít usually need a leader because we got that goal, that attitude I told you about. But there is one thing. You were talkiní about bands breaking up. Drugs is one thing that will do it and do it quick. I donít allow no shootiní up in this band. One time, I walked into the bathroom and saw set of works in one of the roadieís shaving kits. I went and grabbed him; I took those works and smashed Ďem under my heel. And I told him, ďIf I ever see that sh*t again, man, youíre out of a job.Ē And that goes for anyone in the band. I ainít puttiní up with none of that sh*t. Iím not gonna sit back and watch this whole thing go down the tubes. I donít hold drugs against no one; I just ainít having no one shootiní up in this band.
When someone mentions the Allman Brothers, people always think of Duane first. Does that bother you?
Folks that ainít musicians canít be expected to understand what does into putting one sound out. They may think itís my guitar thatís doiní it. It ainít, but it donít bother me that folks think that Ďcause thereís nothing I can do about it.
Do you think other guitar players are jealous of you?
I know they are. Thereís all these guitar banditos out there tryiní to outshoot me. I know Iíve got my stuff together, so I see no sense in trying to fight against them. Iím with the other guitarists, not against them. I know thereís always gonna be somebody better anyway, so why fight that?
Do you think the other Allman Brothers get jealous of the attention directed toward you?
Hell, no. Thereís no petty sh*t in this band. We are allies, working together. Thereís a mutual love we share. We was hungry together for a long time. We may be makiní plenty of bread now, but it really donít make that much difference to anybody.
That shows in the way the band dresses at concerts.
Right. A cat comes to my band to pick, not to show off his fancy clothes. We want to share out music with the audience. But, there ainít no stage show. This ainít no ballet. We want people to listen with their eyes closed, to just let the music come inside them and forget their worldly cares. We just want to make music that makes people feel itís easier to go on than they did before they heard us.
It sounds like youíre saying thereís no reason to go and see the band.
Thereís not. Thereís nothing to see. Nobody is going to get dressed up real fine to satisfy someoneís vicarious need to be a rock star. We just want to make music that makes it easier for people to go on than it was before they heard us.
So far, youíve done very little writing. Do you plan to do more?
My writingís in the formative stages right now. Iíve been writiní some music but no words. I gotta feeliní itís all been said already.
Dylan, Jimmy Webb, Stills, those three mostly.
What about Neil Young?
I donít like that catís stuff, especially his guitar playing. He should stick to rhythm work. Maybe itís the guitar playing that makes me not like the songs. Seems like he just uses the guitar as a vehicle for his songs. Itís just a craft. For me itís an art.
What advice would you give a guitarist trying to make it today?
Iíd tell him to remember that you canít never play just like anyone else so you ought not to try. You gotta utilize whatís inside you to create what you want to create. You gotta sort yourself out and sort the music you hear out. Then find something to hang your notes on. You hang your notes on your attitude and on yourself. If it donít come out pure, it donít come out good. I never took no lessons, but I got that attitude.