DELANEY, CLAPTON, ALLMAN AND FRIENDS
A Conversation with Delaney Bramlett
by Mitch Lopate
One can't say the name "Delaney Bramlett" without thinking of an ever-growing family of musicians and their music - hence the slogan, "Delaney and Bonnie and Friends." The term "Friends" was coined by Delaney to describe his band and soon the world became his friend. There have been many beloved and famous people involved with Delaney over the years: Joe Cocker sang on the "Motel Shot" LP and Jimi Hendrix joined the "Friends" for a couple weeks of touring. Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Duane Allman, Dave Mason, Leon Russell and Billy Preston all have been by his side, too. John Lennon and Delaney collaborated together, and Delaney played the friend role as a member of Lennon's Plastic Ono Band. Jerry Lee Lewis requested Delaney's presence during the recording of his famous "London Sessions" album in England. Duane Allman and Delaney became soul mates, sharing ideas, musical licks and a never-ending friendship, which to this day he fondly remembers.
Legendary producer and founder of Atlantic Records, Jerry Wexler says some of the best music he ever heard was played by Duane and Delaney on his back porch. They played many nights there, doing old Robert Johnson and Jimmy Rogers tunes. A few of the artists who have recorded Delaney compositions are Luther Vandross, Ray Charles, Chrissie Hynde, Phoebe Snow, Staple Singers, Sonic Youth, The Osmonds, The Carpenters, The Everly Brothers, Crystal Gale, and even Lawrence Welk used "Never Ending Song of Love" as an opener for one of his shows. He has produced an assortment of artists such as Etta James, Dorothy Morrison (on "Happy Day") and wrote for and produced Elvin Bishop, John Hammond, and the Staple Singers.
Not enough? Don't pass up the fact that Delaney wrote almost all the songs for Clapton's first solo album, laid down the basic vocal tracks as a pattern for Eric to follow, played guitar, and produced the results. He's been on stage with Jim Price and Bobby Keys (they played with the Rolling Stones in their heyday), Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon, and Carl Radle (this trio was later found alongside Eric on an album called "Layla and other Love Songs"), Rita Coolidge, Booker T., "Duck" Dunn, Isaac Hayes, and Al Jackson. He did the late great King Curtis's last LP and taught Curtis to sing, out of which two hits came, "Teasin"' and "Lonesome and a Long Way From Home." King Curtis kept a room at Delaney's ranch in California, and they spent hour after hour playing and recording together. The big man with the Flying V guitar, Albert King, was a personal friend and frequent guest at the ranch, and recorded there - and Albert was notoriously hard to please.
My search for Delaney began years ago, when I read in a Rolling Stone Music Review Guide that he had dropped out of sight. How could such a legendary musical icon be forgotten? After a little bit of research, I found a message on my answering machine. He was quite thrilled that someone would have thought of asking for his time, and I was soon immersed in CDs. Finding early Delaney and Bonnie and Friends was a harder task than I assumed, as much of the discography was out of print or had to be imported. And if I was going to talk shop with him, I had to load up on Robert Johnson's legacy. This also spun off into collecting Albert King releases, too! In no time, I had seven discs of Delaney's material, including the soulful R&B sounds of "Home" and "Accept No Substitute" - which I later provided to Delaney, as he had not heard them in years. For pure dynamite rock 'n roll, serve up "On Tour with Eric Clapton" - if it doesn't get you off the couch and into your dancing shoes, you need a doctor! Delaney Bramlett has always attracted the best and had the magical ability to make them even better. It's easy to say every musician under the tutelage of Delaney has become a "Superstar". Delaney's world is music!
Hello, Delaney! How are you, and what have you been doing lately?
Well, I just came out of the studio; I've been sitting around and I want to go back to work, that's about what it amounts to. I've been writing for the last 25 years and I've got a lot of stuff here. I've been writing for a lot of other people, also, and writing for myself, and after this album, I'm doing myself a little blues album, and I'll talk to you about that later. But I just love this little album that I just put out, here, and I just got tired of not doing what I do best, you know? (laughs.)
I've been talking to people; everyone says just wonderful things about you, and they all know your work.
Well, I just sit around here and I've worked with other people, and other writers, and other musicians and things, and I just got sick and tired of not doing what I love doing best, and that's why I decided to do it again. This little cassette; well, I call it a cassette, they don't call 'em albums anymore, I guess they call 'em CD's (laughs), I'm very proud of this thing. I'm really in love with it, and I put it out to do something, that's why I put it out on a website. I'm kinda likeõoh, I guess (The Artist Formerly Known as) Prince, you know--I got tired of the way record companies treat people and I put it on a website. That's why people can order it on a website number, if they want to.
Yes, you had mentioned a website, I want to repeat that again.
My website number? It's http://www.delaneybramlett.com; that's how they can get it.
Right, and that's where I first looked it (the new CD) up--it's a tremendous website, all about you.
Well, I didn't think that many people remembered me (chuckles), but that's where I put it and that's the way I'm goin' about it these days. And I'm gonna do another album after this one, that I love a lot. I'm nearly about finished with it, but this one here, I'm in love with. I love this little CD. It's gotta lotta good stuff, it tells what I'm about, anyway.
I spoke to someone today who saw you playing in Staten Island, NY. She said, "Omigosh, I saw that man, and he was just a live wire!"
Well. I don't know about that; well, I always tried, when I was on the stage, or wherever, man, I tried to present my music and I tried to make people feel good - I always felt that anybody that paid a dollar to see me, I'm gonna give them their dollar's worth.
Bless you, Delaney, we certainly got more than our money's worth from you. Let me turn to one of the lyrics we talked about earlier, where you hit this beautiful high note. It was just like Roy Orbison: "She's been through enough"-- you just held that--it came from "It's Over."
You sure you don't want to hear it again?
I'd love to, Delaney.
Well, let me get my guitar here (chuckles). "She's been throu-u-u-u-u-u-g-h enough, now she's o-o-o-o-o-l-l-l-d-d-d enoughhh (strums).
If the readers were on the other end of this phone.
(Delaney laughs deeply)
Delaney, you've got 13 great cuts here. First one up is "Funky."
Well, that's one of my favorite things on there because it just kinda tells where I'm at right now. That song, actually, is kind of a preview of what my next album's gonna be. My next album's gonna be all little funky tunes, like a little shuffle. I don't know if anyone knows or remembers Robert Johnson and the country blues stuff---that song and a couple of other songs on that kinda tells what my next album's gonna be about. I just absolutely love "Funky" 'cause it just.it''s funky, I like it, and I like it like that, you know? Lettin' mosquitoes bite you, you know, I've been out there, you see?--I like to write about the things I do.
The next song we've got there, "How Do You Know": Delaney, that's a great spiritual album; I say "spiritual" because it sounds like you're talking about your early years learning about the Gospel.
To tell you the truth, I made up my mind up many years ago: I made a commitment to God, many years ago, and I let God down one time. I told Him that when me and Bonnie were together, I would never put out an album without a song that was praisin' Him, and the very last album I put out, it didn't have a song praisin' Him. It didn't sell diddly; it didn't sell nuthin'. And so I broke my word to God about that, and so I have since then been talkin' to the Lord and I said, "That won't ever happen again! That will not ever happen again!"
I'll call that "The Lost Years," when there had been some rough times; you had gone into drinking. Later on, I heard that you had found things all over again, that you had found peace in your heart, peace in your soul.
Oh, yes. Oh yeah. And, as a matter of fact, when I was producing Eric Clapton, I told Eric, I told him one thing. And he still remembers this, because I see it once in a while in a write-up when he talks about me. I taught him how to sing - I can't say I taught him how to sing, but I taught him how to phrase and do things, you know, the proper way? And I said, now listen. He said, "I can't sing!" I said, "Yes, you can!" and if you don't, when God gives you a gift, He will take it away if you don't use it. I really believe that, because if you read the Bible, you'll find out that's exactly what the Bible tells you. So, he justõhe says that, every time he talks about me! So, that should tell some people somethin', you know.
You're right, I think you did teach Eric phrasing. I happen to love his first solo album, the one on which you did so much work and songwriting. We have a reproduction of "Let it Rain." Delaney, how did you get the idea for a calypso sound on that?
Well, when I first wrote the song, that's the way I wanted to do it. And then, when Eric said, "I want to do that song," I thought, well, that won't work on this album. So, I decided to do it rock 'n roll (sings beginning guitar notes), and we did those, him and I played twin guitars, and we tripled 'em and tripled 'em, where it sounds like a wall of guitars. And we did it through little ol' Champ amps, you know, little bitty ol' Champ amps, and so that's how we got that sound. Matter of fact, that's in the Fender Hall of Fame because of the sound that we got (laughs).
I hear Eric's lead on that and you following behind him.
And then I made him play real basic (croons cascading guitar notes), you know?
Duane Allman had said that Eric could play a sound almost like a human voice crying, or speaking.
Well, but he kept playing it through the Champ amp, but he just used the bottom pickup real basic, and I made him play just real soft, and we just got the sound on that, and that's what made that thing so effective. On mine, I played more growly (sings notes), if you remember how I played it. It's different; I didn't want to play it the same way, you know. Eric did a wonderful job and everything, so I didn't want to play it the same way; I wasn't tryin' to do what I had done with Eric, I was just tryin' to do a different version of the same song, you know, so that's what came out of that thing.
So this was your original concept on that song?
My original concept was to do it with steel drums in the first place. But on that album, I just didn't think it would work on Eric's album.
I like the new version because it's yours; it was Eric's before, now I think you've reclaimed it.
Well, it's something like, when me and Duane played together, we'd never try to do anything that someone else did. We would try and capture the heart and the soul of somethin', but me and Duane, whenever we played twin guitar on stage and stuff like that, we'd do our thing and not try to copy, but we'd also give credit to where it belongs, you know what I mean? That's how me and him, that's why me and him got so close, that's how we got so close. When we got together, everybody used to ask me, and say, "Boy, you guys play twins on the stage and stuff, it's just off the top of your heads?" And I said, "No, me and Duane worked it out at the house!" Me and Duane worked out stuff and he was a perfectionist! Before we'd go on stage and stuff, me and him would sit down and work that stuff out, and of course, it'd sound like it was off the top of our head, and the artists would go crazy and stuff like that, but that was worked out! I mean, man, Duane, he was one of a kind. Now, he was a whole different kind of person than Eric Clapton and all those other people. He was a one-of-a-kind!
Let me ask you for a couple of Duane stories or Duane questions that I've had in my mind for years.
Well, that's where we stood out; see, Jerry Wexler said one time, me and Duane spent two weeks at Jerry Wexler's house over in Long Island (at Montauk Point), and we had a couple of weeks off, and we just sat on his... it's kind of a... I don't know what you'd call it that thing out there: porch over the water, and me and Duane would just sit out there and play all night long. Jerry Wexler said, "Man, the biggest mistake of my life was not having a crew out here to record that." He said that was the most beautiful thing he'd ever heard in his life. I think he even said that in his book, I believe.
I understand you met Duane because you were going to hook up with Ry Cooder, and someone said, I think, Jerry Wexler, "I've got somebody else as good as Ry, if not better - this is Duane Allman."
Well, it's kinda like that. We were gettin' ready to do a session in Florida. I said, "I want somebody to play slide better'n me, Jerry." Jerry liked my slide playin' and everything, but I said, "I want somebody that plays better'n me." So we sit there and worked this out and do this thing properly. He said, "Who're you thinking about?" and I said, "I dunno, maybe Ry Cooder or somebody, I dunno." He says, "How about Duane Allman?" I said, "Hell, that'd been my first choice if I'd have thought of that!" but I said, "Hell, he won't do that." He said, "I'll betcha a dollar he would." He said, "He loves your music," and I said, "You're kidding!" He said, "Let's call him!" So we called and he said, "I'll be there in a minute!" (laughs joyfully.) That's exactly what he said! "I'll be there in a minute!"
Let me ask you about Robert Johnson; I know he (Duane) loved him dearly, and I now understand why.
Well, when I learned to play what I called "southern blues;" I call it "country blues" myself, that's what my next album's gonna be. I didn't know anybody---as a matter of fact, when Eric Clapton started livin' with me in Sherman Oaks, (California), when he first joined the band (Delaney & Bonnie & Friends), he moved into my house in Sherman Oaks, and I said, "I want you to listen to somethin'." Well, Jerry Wexler said, and everybody else said, I had the biggest blues collection in the world. I mean, I had a room stacked full of albums, you couldn't even walk into it. I hate to mention this, but I will: when me and Bonnie split up, she threw all them records out into the rain and destroyed 'em all. That's a fact; I don't mind if it's printed, I don't mind. It's a fact. She even threw out all my baby pictures of mine and her kids. All out in the rain. As a matter of fact, I'm writin' a song right now called, "She Threw it All Out in the Rain." Anyway, when Eric got there, I said, "I gotta turn you on to somebody." So I turned Eric on to Robert Johnson.
There's a song on Robert Johnson's CD that I know Cream did, "From Four Until Late," and I recognize other songs, "Love in Vain" and "Stop Breaking Down Blues," by the Rolling Stones.
(Singing and playing guitar) "Lessee... 'From four until late, wringing my head in my arms, from four until late.' " See, nobody understands what that means (chuckles). You know what that means?
I'd be much more obliged if I learned it directly from the source here!
It's like, from four o'clock until late. That's what the man said, from four until late! (laughs). To him, he's sittin' there, wringin' his hands and moanin'. (Sings again) "From Four until late." Most people would say that four is late, right? but he'd say, 'From four until late, I wring my hands and moan.' (chuckles).
My favorite line that Eric sang: "A woman's like a dresser, someone's always running through its drawers."
Oh, he sang it wrong. He sang that wrong. That's ok, I don't want to go into that.
I was impressed with the soulful, emotional power of Robert Johnson's singing. No wonder you guys loved him so much.
Omigod, man; see, I grew up as a child on him. I had a guy named R.C. Weatherall, whom I wrote that song about, I put it on my live album with Eric, when we did it. (Singing and playing guitar) "Good morning, Robert Johnson's son" Remember that?
Yes, it's on your "On Tour with Eric Clapton" CD. It's the second song, 'Poor Elijah-Tribute to Johnson medley.
Well, 'Poor Elijah' was---I couldn't say 'Poor R.C. Weatherall.' That's the guy who taught me how to play blues, man. His name was R.C. Weatherall. They called him 'Elijah.' (Sings) "Poor Elijah, livin' on the bayou way" He's the man who taught me the shit.
What was it like growing up in Mississippi?
Well, you gotta understand somethin' now, I was born in 1939. We lived in a log house and my daddy run off and left.it was just me and my brother (older brother Johnny) and my mom, and my mom slaved. You know what - I'll tell you about a slave: my mom was a slave---she worked for 30 cents a day, pickin' cotton, and me and my brother picked cotton right along with her, and stuff. We didn't have no bathroom, no electric lights, we didn't have no nuthin'! We lived in a log house - if you look back at that 'Home' album, you see me and Bonnie and my grandpa sittin' there; well, Bonnie wasn't (really) there, it should have been me and my mom - that's the house I was raised in. There was no---we had to walk way-y-y-y down the hill, way down yonder 'bout a mile to get water to drink and to take a bath in our galvanized tub. We did that----pshaw, we didn't have electric lights! (snorts). We didn't have nuthin'! Santa Claus brought me my guitar---my mom's the one who taught me how to play guitar! Santa Claus brought me a guitar, and my mom showed me---I'll tell you what, if there had been TV and radio in those days, my momma would have been a country star. Her, and her sister and her first cousin was the best singers I ever heard in my life. Did you ever hear of a group called 'The Chuckwagon Gang'?
Sounds familiar. Fill me in.
I'll tell you what - my mom is the prettiest harmony (singer)--if she ever gets to feelin' good again, she just fell and broke her hip, you know, but if she ever gets to feelin' good enough again, I'm gonna take her out here in my studio and I'm gonna do an album with her. Leon Russell wanted to cut an album with him and her, a long time ago, just him and her. And I wouldn't let her, because, Leon, at the time, was on drugs pretty bad, and I wouldn't handle, I couldn't handle that. But one of these days, if she gets to feelin' like it, I'm gonna take her out there and I'm gonna cut an album, just with her singin'. Unfortunately, her sister died. They were the most beautiful thing I ever heard in my whole life.
Your mom's living with you now, at the ranch in California. I have read that she was always sought after by the late, great Albert King, when he was in concert. He used to stand up and look for her.
Omigod, man, he rehearsed over here at my studio all the time. He fell in love with my mom, and she made him chicken stew---Mississippi chicken stew. Now, if you ain't never had no Mississippi chicken stew, you don't know what I'm talkin' about (laughs). It'so different. And so every time he'd come to town, he'd come here and she'd make him Mississippi stew. Every time he'd play, he'd insist that she'd be there. We went on the boat with him, a cruise tour out here, and all that thing, and then the last tour---the last thing he did was at the---I believe it was called The Palace - I can't remember, but anyway, we all went down. It was packed, of course, for Albert King, and we were kinda way up, you know. He said, "WHERE'S MAMO?!" Nobody said anything, and I said, "Mamo, Momma, you better say somethin' ". He said, "Where's Mamo?" (I said,) "Momma, you better say somethin' ". He said, "I ain't playin' a note until I hear Mamo say where she's at." She stood up and said, "I'm here, Albert!" (laughs gleefully). He said, "All right!" (sings blaring electric guitar notes).
That's a tremendous tribute to a parent, to know your mom could have such an influence on a man like Albert King!
Well, she was, man, he wouldn't play a lick until she stood up and said, 'I'm here, Albert!' She stood up and said, 'I'm here!' All of a sudden, he went (sings notes and laughs). Ain't that fine? I had chills runnin' down to my spine.
Back to Duane--I understand that you found one of Duane's guitars in a pawnshop and wouldn't give it back to him - but that's okay.
I don't remember where we were, Texas or New Mexico or somewhere. Every town - I just love to go to pawnshops, I was a freak about that, I love to do that. In those days, you know, because people didn't know the values of 'em and of course, I didn't either. Well, I went down and there stood this little red - it's a Les Paul Jr., sittin' there. "What you want for that thing?" It's all scrubby-lookin', you know? And the guy says somethin', and I only had so much money in my pocket, so I said, "I'll give you sixty bucks." He said, "All right, it's yours." So I took it back to the hotel (smirks). So you gotta, you gotta remember now, in those days, Duane would leave the Allman Brothers, and join my band at any time. And my mom can tell you, if you want to talk to her, she'll tell you - he called her at the airport any time we didn't know what was goin' on. 'Will you pick me up?' I'd said, "Where you at?" 'In the airport.' I said, "You're supposed to be on tour!" And he'd be kinda cryin', because him and his brother was havin' a, you know, whatever; he'd be cryin' and sayin', 'Can I just go on tour with you?' and I'd say, "Yeah, man, of course you can, any damn well time you please! So, let's go!" But anyway, this thing - I brought this thing back and it was on that tour. I walked in with that little red guitar and he said, "Where'd you get that?" I said, "I found it in a hock shop." He said, "Well, boy, that really looks familiar to me! Damn." He said, "Would you look on the back of it?" and I says, "Yeah" and he says, "Is there a gouge there, looks like a big ol' thumb gouge?" And I raised it up and looked at it and said, "Yeah." "Hot damn, that's where I hocked that sunofabitch! That's where I hocked that bastard!" And I said, "What do you mean?" and he said, "Well, we were comin' through (laughs) here, and I was broke and I wanted to get high and I wanted to get drunk, but I didn't have no money, and so I hocked that sonofabitch!" And then he says, "That was the first guitar my momma gave me. (laughs).
That's great; I'm trying not to laugh at that story, that's wonderful. And you wouldn't give it back to him!
Ain't that awful? He said, "Would you give it back to me?" and right after that, he gave he his favorite guitar! He said to me, "Would you give it back to me?" and I said, "No." (laughs). And then - you know what's awful?
Just before he died, we were playin' in New York, that Stratocaster that he loved so much, you know? - and I would always say, "You play my Gibson and I'll play your Strat." He knocked on my door one night; I guess I was too either drunk or passed out or whatever - and he knocked on my brother's door - Johnny, my brother - he said, "I've got to go, I've got to go down to Georgia." He said, "You guys are leavin' tomorrow." He wrote a little note, said, 'Wear it in good health.' And he said, '"Tell Delaney I said, 'Wear this thing in good health.' I know he's loved it, he wanted it, he's been wantin' this damn thing and I want him to have it!' " Johnny says, "Okay." The next morning, I got up and Johnny handed that thing, that damned thing to me, and I still got it. Well, it's got scrapes all over the back of it and everything, it's the greatest playin' Stratocaster in the world. I never felt so bad about not givin' him back.that guitar! (laughs).
I tell you what, I think you've been forgiven, Delaney, I think Duane would be happy to know you've been holding onto that guitar for all these years.
I'll tell you what: ain't nobody ever gonna get that unless they kill me! Ain't nobody gonna get that Stratocaster.
You got a real special rosewood one from George Harrison. A picture of that on the website, a beautiful-looking instrument.
Sure did. Well, when I played---when we first went to - well, the whole deal was we were the openin' act for Blind Faith over here, for a tour. Everybody said, I was the reason I broke 'em up - I didn't break up Blind Faith, I really didn't. Eric just enjoyed the music that we were playin', so about half-way through the tour, he was just on the stage with us. And that group - they wouldn't even travel together, you know what I mean? So, he just started ridin' on the bus with us, and said, "Can I be your guitar player?" and I said, "Hell, yeah, you can be our---I love your guitar playin'." And I wasn't even aware of Eric Clapton in those days, you know, I wasn't even aware, I was a Duane Allman fan, I wasn't even aware, you know. So, it all came about that he ended up bein' the guitar player and all that stuff. We ended up goin' to England and doin' a big tour with Eric, you know, and I had started producing Eric's album, just, just started. It's an entertwined-type deal. We did the Albert Hall concert, and Leo Fender had made a special guitar, a one-of-a-kind for George, a solid rosewood Telecaster. And so, after that show at Albert Hall, all the Beatles were out there, they were standing on their (chairs), just like the rest of the people, just goin' like - screamin' (laughs). We were havin' a good time. I looked out and saw the Beatles, standin' up on their chairs, and I went, "Jeez!" And here I am, I'm in awe, man, I can't believe it, the Beatles, for goodness sake, screamin' for me? (laughs).
Folks, you read it here. Delaney, I have that CD, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends - On Tour With Eric Clapton. It's available in stores and by on-line order. Some of the songs were the tribute to Robert Johnson (mentioned earlier), —Things Get Better,‚ —Comin' Home,‚ —I Don't Want to Discuss It,‚ —Only You Know and I Know,‚ a Little Richard medley--you were a smokin, cookin' band!! I'd be on the roof, yelling!!
(laughs) Well, I couldn't believe I saw the Beatles out there, jumping up and down on chairs, you know? I went, "What in hell is going on?" And I was so in awe of the Beatles, you know, of course, everybody was in those days, especially me, as a songwriter and singer. But when I went back to the back - when I went to the dressing room - George Harrison presented me with this guitar. And he said, "This is to you for what you just did for me." And I went, "WHAT?!" And he said (again), "This is for you for what you just did for me." I had a meeting with Leo Fender before he died, and I told him, "I got that George Harrison guitar." He said, "How'd you get that?" And I said, "He gave it to me." He said - Leo said, "Why would he do that? That's a one-of-a-kind." I said (laughs), "I dunno!" (laughs heartily). I said, "I just don't know, man!" I said, "I guess he liked me! you know." He says, "God, I guess he must have!"
Delaney, let me ask you about the New York City show of 7.26.71 you did with Duane, Sam Clayton and Kenny Gradney of Little Feat, and of course, a one-of-a-kind man was there: King Curtis. You did some slide and other things, you said some really funny things, especially referring to Duane, you said, "Come on, hillbilly!"
I remember that! We were sittin' on stage, we were sittin' there, and I said, "Hey, hillbilly." What I wanted him to do was get up closer to me, 'cause he was sittin' too far away from me. I said - can I say anything I want to?---I said, "Get your fuckin' chair over here in front of me." I said, "I can't see your hands," and he said, "Okay, bro!" And then, what you'll probably hear on that, he said, "I gotta go pee!" And I said, " 'Scuse me folks, but Duane Allman's gotta go take a piss. You probably won't hear it all on that tape.
No, they censored it a little bit; you said something close to it. You also said later on, "And now, King Curtis is gonna tell a joke," and I think you caught Curtis completely off-guard.
(laughing happily) I did! And he - Curtis didn't have a' thing to say! He didn't have nuthin' to say! Curtis didn't have a thing to say, 'cause I was waitin' on---for Duane you know. Duane says, "I've got to pee." See, what it was, they had been sittin' there waitin' and waitin' and waitin, because it was a live radio show from New York, you understand? And I said, "Well, there he goes, folks!" I said, "I ain't playin' another song because Duane's gotta take a piss." (laughs) I said, "I don't know when he's gonna be back, but I ain't gonna play one until he gets back." And when he got back, I said, "Duane, now move your damn chair over closer to me 'cause I can't see you!" He says, Okey-doke!" and he said, "Okay, bro!" So he moved over there and we started playin - oh, yeah, and I said, "While he's gone, Curtis, tell a joke! We're losin' time, here!" And Curtis went, "Wha-a-a-t?"(laughing).
I have a copy of that tape from a friend, Jules (Fothergill) in London, and that's when I realized what a naturally funny, humorous man you are. I also recall your surprise at being on the air and realizing you had been polite - you hadn't said any curse words by mistake.
(laughing) Well, I'll tell you what, I used to tell people back in those days, it wasn't like I was trying to be funny or nuthin' like that; there weren't any cameras around! I remember that! (the non-swearing cue). I said, "Well, I ain't cussed yet; something like that." But I was getting upset - somebody was messing up and it was not in the musicians, I think it was somebody in the radio people; I believe so, I'm not sure.
I recall a great song from that show; it's featured on a Duane double-CD bootleg ("Duane Allman-In Memorium) called "Twelve-bar Blues," and you told Curtis to hold the solo, and he did a lovely job - that's where you said, "My fingers are so fast they hardly leave my hands."
(Laughing happily) Well, my hands were pretty fast!
Something else you did, you confused Bonnie, too, you said, "The next song is gonna be a 'ballard.' And she said (confused): "A 'wha'?" You said, "You heard of a mallard; this here's a ballard!"
(Snickering) Well, at that time, we were having a little trouble and stuff, and I really wanted to piss her off! That's the truth - you gotta understand somethin' - I had a room at Duane's house in Macon, and he had a room at my house in California. I had a room at King Curtis' house in New York. He had a room at my house in California. So, we actually used to call ourselves 'The Three Mosquitoes,' because anytime you'd see one of us, you'd see us all. Whenever I'd perform, King Curtis would do the same thing with his band that Duane did with his band - he'd show up to my concerts. They'd both show up. We loved each other so damn much, man; I tell you what: if they had both lived, we'd have had a (musical) thing that people would be tryin' to copy to this day. To this very day!
For me, hearing your recollections of those two men is justification for my effort to find you and talk about them. Tell me about King Curtis: on that solo (on "Twelve-bar Blues"), it sounds like he was playing a saxophone of pure gold.
We used to sit and talk about it: he said he was 'me' and played sax like I sang, and I tried to sing like he played sax - me and him, we used to talk about that. Same thing with Duane: we used to play what we thought one of the three of us would do, and we'd do it, like what we thought the other one would have done, and that's what was golden about that whole thing. You have no idea - nobody will ever know---what the whole thing was about. Nobody will ever know. See, me and Duane and Curtis would sit in one room, by ourself, and we'd play, and we'd sing. I'm the first one that ever taught King Curtis how to sing. And when he sang that song that I wrote for him - my God! - it was the most beautiful thing. He said, "I have a lisp, I can't sing" and I said, "Yes, you can; oh, yeah, you can." (Sings) "Out on the lonesome highway." Did you ever hear that song? You'd better find it! "Lonesome and a Long Way from Home."
I've heard you did that; I heard that (on Clapton's first album) and on "Motel Shot."
Forget that---King Curtis! Hear King Curtis sing it. We all made a pact - I'm tellin' ya, we were 'The Three M'skeeters,' man: you get us three together, you're gonna need nobody else. I'll tell you right now: we'd walk in and sit in a nightclub, and people didn't know what to think. We didn't need no drums, we didn't need no bass, we didn't need no nuthin'! Just us three, just sittin' there. Bonnie didn't fit in that group; she's a good singer; no animosity, but she didn't fit in there. Like this here (picks and strums a blues tune): that was the three of us, that wasn't Bonnie.
You really seem dedicated to preserving the heritage of the blues and the music you grew up with - really concerned with the old traditional style of playing, the Robert Johnson material.
That's correct, what you just said! It's (legacy) is what I think is proper!
Your singing - I think it's a 4-octave range - reminds me a lot of the gospel sound of Edgar Winter in his early days.
Well, in another way, yes. I love his brother, Johnny, but I do it a lot differently. My phrasing is different than Johnny, but Johnny's wonderful! I do (sings and picks out tune). I'm a fan of Johnny and Edgar, both, but I don't do what they do, and they don't do what I do. But I'll tell you what: it's all in conjunction.
Let me ask you about something you did a while back - you did something for kids, about two years ago.
Are you talking about the kids in Indiana? I've done kids' things for years, yes, it's called "Kids First", I've been involved with that for like four years now. I only flew back there once to perform, and what this is about, is children - I can't believe that we're giving billions of dollars that's against us, (that's our enemies), to fight against us, and we've got all these children, that are walkin' around in their dad's poor, two-year old shoes. Kids First, whether or not I do a concert, I'm involved with them. These little children have nuthin', and this is the poorest county in Indiana. To see those little kids, they have no coats, they got no shoes, they got their daddy's worn-out hand-me-downs to wear around in the snow and stuff. So, yeah, I'm involved in the kids - it's called 'Kids First'. I wish more people would get more involved in those kind of things. I can't hardly pay the rent; I'm supposed to be a rock 'n roll star? I can't stand to see little kids walkin' around like that. Not just in Indiana, it's all over the world. So, yeah, I'm involved. I just think it's a horrible thing that in our country, as rich as we are, to give away billions of dollars all over the world, and see these kids, runnin' around and sleepin' on the streets. And I'll be involved this year, too.
You mentioned the Concert for Bangladesh at your 1971 show in New York; you always seem to have an awareness of people who are in need, people who have been suffering
Yes, anybody in this country who don't get involved with little children, we got a problem, we have a problem. You look at the Bible, and (it says), "For God so loved the world," and it comes back to the little children. Can't we take care of (them)? First of all, our country - before takin' care of anybody else in the whole world, take care of our own children first - then let's go take care of somebody else. That's the way I feel about it.
Back to your new album: "Locked Up in Alabama"; is that something that happened to you?
It's a true story, yeah.
It's a little scary, it sounds like what happened to the late Roy Buchanan.
It's a true story. I was drivin' through there, and I got bopped in. That's when me and Bonnie was havin' our big problems, and she wouldn't help me. I got locked up and she wouldn't do a thing to help me. She flew on down to her momma's, where she lived; somewhere in Indiana. She wouldn't---I was stuck there - stuck there in Alabama!
The next song has a real Delta flavor, I believe you're on dobro, called "Mississippi." I think I could hear those chickens in the yard.
You might have; we have chickens here on the ranch!
You've got a song, "Rock 'n Roll Lane," that just hits you in the belly-button and says, "It's party time!" It's a good, safe party, so come on down to Rock 'n Roll Lane!
What we did is, we named our little driveway, 'Rock 'n Roll Lane'. We got a little two-acre ranch; I call it The Miniature Ponderosa (laughs). It has a long driveway and I named it 'Rock 'n Roll Lane.' '"Welcome to my place, up here on Rock 'n Roll Lane.‚
There's a song you've got, 'Idee Idee Idee Oh.'
"Aidee Aidee Idee Oh."
Oops, sorry about that. It sounds like downstream on a raft, with fishing poles out there.
That's right! (Sings) 'Singin' Aidee Aidee Idee Oh, singin' my way down the bayou, oh.' You know what? To me, that's one of the 'fun' songs on that album.
The song I call the 'sleeper,' is 'Free.' It's got tremendous backup vocals, but the thing I like the most are the lyrics and the way you sing them, because I can relate to how you've confronted things that you've put away, and it sets you free!
I can't say anything about that song except for what it says, because that song is me. Listen to where it goes, listen to where it comes out, listen to where it gets its freedom, and listen to where it ends up at.
It's my favorite song on the CD, Delaney.
Delaney, I want to leave you with a thought: I want to welcome you back to everyone who's gonna go out and find your music, and buy your new CD. I'd like to give you a very warm, open embrace on behalf of 'The Allman Family', all the folks amongst us who love the band.
Would you do me a favor: would you tell the boys---all the boys still with the Brothers---that Delaney says 'Hi' and that I love them very dearly. Ask them if they'd like to call me, to please feel free, and also say to Red Dog, I would really appreciate him callin' me. He's a special friend of mine. Do me another favor - do you know the boy - I say 'boy' because I'm an old man---that plays slide with them, now---I'd like the number of the guy that did the last show they did---what was his name? I'm talkin' about the slide player.
Ok, Jack Pearson was playing guitar with Dickey, he wore a hat onstage. Do you mean Warren Haynes? Warren's gone on with Gov't Mule. Derek Trucks, Butch's nephew, just joined them.
I'm just wonderin, is he ever out here, I'd like to hear him play with me. You think he'd be good playin' with me? Does he play anything like Duane?
Oh, yeah! You mean a big-sized man?
Yeah, I think it is.
Ok, I'll tell them, we'll find the right man for you, we'll tell all three of them.
Just tell 'em to give me a call. What about Dickey? Dickey must be 'the force,' now - I mean (the force behind) the guitar. Could you do me one more favor: just tell Gregg to call me, will ya? Tell him Delaney needs to talk to him.