Butch Trucks, Allman Brothers Drummer, Dead at 69

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Butch Trucks, 1947-2017

Butch Trucks, one of the two drummers in the Allman Brothers Band, passed away on January 24, 2017, in West Palm Beach, Florida. The cause of death was not initially known but new information on Jan. 26 revealed Trucks took his own life. He would have turned 70 on May 11.

Along with the band’s other drummer, Jai Johanny Johanson, known as Jaimoe, Trucks was a founding member of the Southern Rock giants, along with Gregg and Duane Allman, Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley. Duane Allman and Oakley precede him in death.

A statement on the Facebook page of Satisfied Entertainment, which represented Trucks, reads, “We are beyond saddened by the news of drummer and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band that Butch Trucks has passed away around 10PM last night at the age of 69. Our heavy hearts, prayers and condolences go out to the entire Trucks family, continued family and music fans everywhere.”

According to several online posts by various news agencies, most traced to England’s Daily Mail as the originator, Trucks shot himself in his wife Melinda’s presence Tuesday night at their West Palm Beach, Florida, condo at around 6 p.m. The source article states that a 911 emergency recording exists of a “frantic” call made by Melinda. When police arrived, the report states, Trucks was still breathing but “expired seconds later.”

The Daily Mail piece gives no indication as to the reason for Trucks’ action, however, it does mention that he had been undergoing financial difficulties. Trucks had a full slate of tour dates planned with his band Butch Trucks and the Freight Train. A section of that itinerary, taken from the band’s Facebook page, is below.

Claude Hudson Trucks was born May 11, 1947, in Jacksonville, Florida, and played with local bands such as the Vikings and the 31st of February in the mid-’60s. The latter band included both guitarist Duane Allman and keyboardist Gregg Allman, who had both been in a band called the Hour Glass. By 1969. Duane was enjoying success as a session musician but was becoming frustrated with the lack of control he had as a player. He and Gregg put together the Allman Brothers Band that year, featuring Trucks and Jaimoe on drums, Betts on second guitar and Oakley on bass.  They recorded their self-titled debut album that same year and Idlewild South in 1970 but the group’s reputation truly took off in 1971 with the release of At Fillmore East, often called the greatest live album of all time. The release of 1972’s Eat a Peach solidified the ABB’s place at the top of the American rock pantheon and while the deaths of Duane in 1971 and Oakley the following year naturally altered the group’s personnel in a big way, their popularity only increased.

On what would have been Trucks’ 70th birthday, came this tweet from Gregg Allman…

One of rock’s greatest live albums, from 1971. Butch Trucks is at far right.

Although the group’s history was filled with many highs and lows, Trucks, along with Gregg Allman, remained a member of the Allman Brothers Band throughout their entire career. The Allman Brothers Band, having split up and reformed a few times through the years, disbanded for good in 2014. By that time, one of the band’s guitarists was Derek Trucks, the nephew of Butch, who also performs with his wife in Tedeschi Trucks Band.

In 2012, Trucks earned a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award along with other members of the Allman Brothers Band. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

Trucks had been playing in recent years with his own band, Butch Trucks and The Freight Train. He also played with an Allmans tribute band called les Brers and hosted a rock and roll summer camp each year in upstate New York. Trucks’ final gig appears to have been with les Brers at NYCB Theatre at Westbury, on Long Island, October 16. Here is a video of “Hot ‘Lanta” from that show.

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Watch Butch Trucks give a drum clinic on how to play “Whipping Post”

And here is an epic live performance…

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