Guitarist Warren Haynes has performed with The Allman Brothers Band roughly 220 times at the Beacon Theatre -- he's so familiar with the Upper West Side fixture that he has a secret room in the back, with what he calls "a little Batcave sort of entrance." ("For all the covert missions," he says, by phone from his Westchester County home.) But the Allmans' upcoming 14 Beacon shows are likely to be their last -- Haynes, 53, and guitarist Derek Trucks recently announced they'd quit at year's end, prompting frontman Gregg Allman to predict the dissolution of the band. In a half-hour interview, the Gov't Mule guitarist discusses the band he first joined for a 20-year reunion tour in 1989.
Q: This being the Allmans' 45th anniversary, walk me through the first time you ever played with the band. Did you and Dickey Betts, then the guitarist, click right away?
A: I was fortunate that Dickey and I played together for three years prior to me joining the band, so we had had a chance to really hone in our guitar relationship. I felt like I was much more ahead of the game than I would have been had I just auditioned and the next day I was in the band.
Q: At what point did you realize, as you once called it, "the uncanny chemistry between the original members and the new members"?
A: I very much remember the first time we played together with that new chemistry and the look on everybody's face. We all knew there was something special going on that hadn't happened in a long time. We didn't talk about it at that point, but it was special enough that we would all want to continue past what we just thought was going to be a reunion tour.
Q: Why give up now?
A: Well, the band as a whole has been talking for several years about making the 45th anniversary the final tour, a good place to stop and going out on a high note. Derek and I have been making plans based on that scenario for quite some time. It's not based on any personal or political decisions or environment, it's just more based on what we feel is the right thing to do. Who knows what the future will bring.
Q: What did you learn, early on, from playing with the Allmans that you hadn't learned on your own, as a musician?
A: I'd first met Dickey and Gregg in 1981, so I'd known the guys, albeit casually, for quite some time. But the Allman Brothers were one of my absolute favorite bands, and I'd played a lot of that music in garage bands and bar bands -- in some cases fairly well. But when you start playing it with the Allman Brothers, it rises to a level that can only be achieved by that combo of musicians playing together. And that feeling was pretty astounding, the first time we played "Dreams" or "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" or "Whipping Post," and just feeling the power, especially from the inside. You get to look at it and experience it in a different way figure out what makes it tick.
Q: So what kinds of things did you notice from the inside?
A: One thing I found fascinating -- Dickey told me early on in our relationship that he always played the melody and Duane always played the harmony when there were two guitar parts. A lot of stuff was totally unrehearsed.
Q: I was just listening to Derek & the Dominos last night, and it seems like vocally, Eric Clapton does the melody and Duane does the harmony and it's a similar dynamic.
A: I think that's totally correct. It was so off-the -uff, and that's why it had such a looseness to it. It didn't sound over-rehearsed, because maybe it wasn't rehearsed at all. That's one of the things I miss about that approach to music that doesn't exist in modern music -- there's too much concern about looseness and imperfection being a bad thing, where a lot of the beauty of music gets lost.
WHO The Allman Brothers Band
WHEN | WHERE 14 shows, starting tomorrow through March 29, Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway, Manhattan