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Talkin' Blues

Derek Trucks: Moving Forward, Back Where He Started

By Published: February 24, 2009
Eric Clapton

AAJ: You were out on tour with Eric Clapton for over a year. Growing up as an aspiring guitarist, there must have been some things you had always wanted to ask him. Here's a guy who hung out and played with Carl Perkins, Jimi Hendrix, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and was in the studio with George Martin and The Beatles. Could you share a bit about some of the things you asked, or some of the things he shared with you?

DT: I was fortunate that I knew it was going to be a year long, so I didn't have that moment where I thought, all right I'm going to have a few minutes with him, so I just felt like I could kind of let it unfold. It was great, because without having to ask questions you get a more natural story. It was great when it was just going gig to gig, or hanging out between gigs, just hearing those stories of the things you asked about. Hearing about him going to see Hendrix. You know, I'm hearing these stories that should be in the encyclopedia [laughs], it was pretty amazing stuff.

While we were on the road he was in the process of writing his book too, so he was very much in the process of digging that stuff up. Even to the point where I felt he was trying to get insight into the whole Duane Allman Brothers camp from me, so it would just kind of spark memories and spark his recollection of Duane and that time. I could tell that that time left a big mark on him; I think because he got that close with Duane right before he passed, that was a huge part of his life.

Derek Trucks / Eric Clapton Eric Clapton and Derek Trucks

It really is amazing the amount of stuff Eric was there for, just right in the middle. You know there weren't that many guys who made the connection with Capricorn Records, Muscle Shoals, the Deep South, and yet was in there with The Beatles, and Howlin' Wolf. As far as electrified rock music, he had his hands or feet in all of it; it's astounding when you think about it as a whole.

AAJ: There's that story that Tom Dowd told of being at an Allman Brothers show with Eric, and Duane opened his eyes during a solo and saw Eric and stopped playing.

DT: I've heard that same story, and that's when the "Layla" thing happened. Eric came out to see The Allman Brothers and Eric actually mentioned that show and Tom Dowd taking him to see Duane and the band somewhere in South Florida. Eric talked about how impressive it was, those guys -scraggly haired (laughing)—just playin' their asses off with something to prove. When Eric was talking about that very show, you could tell it was a fresh memory, he was reliving it. He actually told me about that show because my uncle (Butch Trucks) was coming out to the Madison Square Garden show we did with Clapton, and I don't think Butch had seen Eric since those days, so it was cool to see that little mini-reunion.

AAJ: I was really moved by the way you and Eric communicated when you started doing "Why Does Love Got to be so Sad" as the tour progressed.

DT: Yeah, yeah, those were some of my favorite moments of the tour.

AAJ: You could just see it, in those moments there was no age difference, no question of fame or icon status, you guys were just so intimate and in the moment. Even as someone in the audience, you could just feel the spirits talking. I'm curious what that's like for the musician, do you get the sense your talking soul to soul in those moments, and does something like that forge a special bond between you?

DT: I think so, definitely, when you're communicating on that level it's total trust. And all of your senses are full on in those moments, you're in a heightened sense of awareness and you're being really sensitive to the other player. You're trying to do your own thing and head down a certain path while also reacting. There were two or three nights when we played that and I felt it really happened. I felt good [laughing], it felt great!

AAJ: I wondered too, you toured extensively in Japan and China, were you ever struck by the sensation that music really is the universal language. You know, when the audience doesn't speak your language and you suddenly realize, we're communicating?

DT: Yes, completely. With The Allman Brothers it's a very American band, and they never really traveled overseas much, maybe one or two tours, but with Eric's thing, I think it has always been a world tour with him. So it was the first time I'd really seen that, almost the same size crowd in every city we went to. The whole world, it was shocking to me, to go to China, which is culturally a pretty clamped down spot, and you could feel the difference in every place we went, but yet there were certain moments in the night when it was pretty much the same across the board, the reaction to certain tunes—it would be the same in Detroit, Michigan as it would be in Stockholm, Sweden (laughs)—it's fascinating, but yes it definitely hit me that there aren't many things on this earth, if anything, that is as universal as music.

AAJ: I think Brian Wilson once said it was the language of God.

DT: Yes, that's pretty much on the mark.

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