Talkin' Blues with Jaimoe

Alan Bryson By

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AAJ: That's important to know, because that is out there that Otis didn't want to be booked with them.

Jaimoe: You know, it's not that they were so much more, but it was like, "There's two of them and only one of me." So somebody took something out of context, because Otis loved working with those guys because they put fire on his ass.

Joe Tex, James Brown, Otis, Wilson Pickett and a couple of other guys, they had this thing going, this positive competitive thing. So if one of them ran into another, it was like, "I'm not gonna be outdone." But it was positive, and they were the best of friends.

From left: Dickey Betts, Jaimoe, Gregg Allman

I remember one day down in Muscle Shoals, I figured I'd been there long enough, so I asked Duane Allman, "Man, tell me something, why do you want to have two drummers?" And he said, "Because Otis Redding and James Brown had two drummers." So I didn't ask him anything else, I said something like, "Well, that's cool, because I was one of the drummers with Otis." But when I played with Joe Tex and he tried to do that two drummer thing, it never worked like the way Butch and I play, because those guys weren't that kind of player and I didn't know what I was doing. I did that double drumming thing in high school.

There was this guy named Benny Lockhart who was a great drummer, but in football season he played football. I was only a partial drummer because Benny Lockhart and Lem Barney, you know the football player—we all played drums together in the band in high school. At halftime Lockhart would go to the locker room and change into his band uniform, play with us, then change back into his football uniform and finish the game! And that's the truth.

AAJ: That's wild! And the coach let him get away with it?

Jaimoe: As long as he could do what he was gonna do, and the coach was somewhat of a drummer himself. You know, in black schools all kinds of stuff happened, people were basically allowed to do what they wanted to do as long as it didn't screw up something else.

You know, like these guys playing football and baseball—man, there ain't nothing new about that. Everybody did that. Football, baseball, basketball, it just got down to a point where some schools might not stop you, but if someone was a really good basketball player, they might say to him, "You don't want to go out there and play tight end, you're too good of a basketball player." You know, they were afraid he might get his leg broken, a knee injury or something, and then not be able to play basketball.

That's the way it was in black schools, a kind of convenience. Why were they so good at what they did? Because you had to do the best you could with whatever you had. And when you do that, you always find out things that last much longer.

Man I wish they would have had these videos when I was growing up. But then it's also kind of like the way you learn to play the drums in Africa. I heard Max Roach talking about it, the master drummer sits with his back to his student. He makes a sound on the drum, then you make the sound, but you don't see what the hell he does. He just makes a sound on the drums, if you can't make the sound, you don't come back for your next lesson until you can make the sound.

AAJ: Wow, that's interesting, and it breeds creativity.

Jaimoe: Right!

AAJ: I also wanted to ask you, when you were backing Otis Redding, did you ever run into Jimi Hendrix on tour when he was with the Isley Brothers?

Jaimoe: No, he was a little before me. I think he was a paratrooper or something when I was in high school, so he must have been two or three years my senior. He must have been about Otis's age.

AAJ: You guys played with him at the Atlanta Pop Festival in 1970, did you get a chance to meet him then?

The Allman Brothers Band Live at Fillmore EastJaimoe: Oh, I knew Jimi before that. When I first went to Macon, Georgia in July 1968, it was to work in Phil Walden's recording studio as a session player for what would become Capricorn Records. I had no idea who the Allman Brothers were when I went to Macon.

But they had only just found a building for the studio at that point. So I started playing around town with some guys I knew from being in Otis's band and Percy Sledge's band, and that rhythm and blues circuit. So I was playing with this guy Percy Welsh, who was a drummer for John Lee Hooker in his hot days, and Eddie Kirkland, the guitarist who got killed in a car accident about a year ago. They had played in John Lee's band together, so I was playing with them at Ann's Tick Tock club.

You know the Little Richard song, "Whoa oh oh Miss Ann, you doin' somethin' no one can?"

AAJ: Oh yeah , sure.

Jaimoe: Well we were playin' at that joint for a while, it was still there when I got to Macon in '68. Anyway, one day I get a call from the office down at the recording studio, it was Twiggs who would later become the Allman Brothers' road manager, and he had been the road manager for Percy Sledge when I had been in his band.

He said, "Hey Jaimoe, I got something I want you to listen to man. I've got an idea." So he had an idea involving a guy named Johnny Jenkins, who was a blues player—he played some Chuck Berry and stuff, but he was a real blues player, and a hell of a guitarist.


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