Derek Trucks Interview
Jambands.com has an interview with Derek Trucks where a talks about playing with Phil:
RT - I just want to go back to you stepping in with Phil Lesh on very short
notice when he was sharing a bill for an entire tour with Bob Dylan late in
1999. How did that happen and how were you able to jump in and pull that off
musically, given your, at that time, limited exposure to The Grateful Dead?
DT – I remember checking my messages after a North Carolina gig and
there’s this 415 area code on my cell phone. I check my messages and it was from
Phil Lesh. I was pretty unfamiliar with The Dead, and our soundman Marty Wall
followed The Dead and went to tons of shows. I asked him who Phil Lesh was and
of course, his eyes lit up. Phil had left a semi-urgent message to get back to
him. So, I called him in the middle of the night and he said that somebody had
given him one of our records. He needed a guitar player, and they had 14 shows
and if I was willing could I fill in. I told him truthfully that I would love to
do it, but I was completely unfamiliar with the catalog, with the tunes. But I
also told him that I was more than willing to give it a shot. I think my band
had one more show booked that overlapped with the dates he wanted to do.
Luckily, the owner was a Deadhead, and I think that Phil’s people called and
asked him to let us get out of the show (laughs).
It all fell into place from there. I flew out and got the tunes when I
got there. Every morning they would give me a set list and some CDs with
different versions of the tunes they were gonna play that night. I would just
spend the day listening to old tapes of Garcia playing a lot of these tunes. It
was very much trial by fire. It was great. I was at that age, where I had just
started getting comfortable in the Allman Brothers gig. My confidence was up a
little bit, yet I was also very much in that “sponge stage” – take on as much as
I can, you know? It was a challenge in a good way, in a really eye-opening way.
I had a whole new respect not just for their body of music, but for they way
approached it. I learned tons from Phil just the few weeks I was there. He was
more than generous on many levels, and has been with me and the band since then.
That’s also when he got turned on to Jimmy Herring. Jimmy was playing on the
record of ours that Phil heard. Knowing that I was doing the ABB gig, he asked
me if I knew any guitar players that might fit well in his band. Jimmy was out
there not long after that. It was another one of those calls, like the Clapton
call, that you just never expect but that completely changes the course of
things, another moment that you look back on and realize how lucky you’ve been.
Those were great shows for me. It was a great time to see Dylan again. The first
two shows were with Billy Payne and (Paul) Barrere, and Rob Barraco and Warren
did the rest of them. I would like to check some of that stuff out, I haven’t
heard it since we did it. I would be curious. I know there was some definite
freshness in it, because I wasn’t familiar with it I wasn’t playing those tunes
in the same mindset that the band had been, so it was a good cross-section.
RT – What kind of direction did Phil give you beyond providing the CDs,
did he just ask you to inject your own personality as you saw fit?
DT – I think he was intrigued at the fact that I hadn’t listened to
Garcia or the music. He wanted a fresh approach. There also was a whole mindset
that there really wasn’t soloing much of the time. It was kind of like a
Dixieland thing where everyone is interjecting at all times. That was a
different way of playing for me. It didn’t take adjusting; it was just a
different approach. He was great, and having just gotten the Phil and Friends
thing up and running he had all kinds of enthusiasm and hope for what he was
doing. It’s always fun to catch people on the upswing with any project. It feels
like a happening, it feels like something is going’ on.
RT – And I’ll bet it forces you to listen, being in that setting.
DT – For me, that’s always been key with anything I do. That is what
separates great musicians from people who just play an instrument is the ability
to listen to what’s going on around you. That didn’t feel too different for me
other than the fact that maybe everybody else on stage was listening a little
bit more than normal. That was refreshing. I was on my toes. With Phil, you’re
following him. He was without a doubt the leader of that group. Everything was
alternating so much; no one had established any ground other than him. It was
fun watching him direct things, weaving in and out with him when the time was
right. It was great with Jimmy actually had that stint with him, because people
had different roles and it turned into a band. There was also something really
nice about when the seeds were first planted in the group. When everyone is
feeling each other out musically- he was unfamiliar with my playing. I was
unfamiliar with his. That was a nice time.
Read the rest of the interview here