RIP Butch Trucks, 1947-2017

Butch had the fire until the end.

Claude Hudson “Butch” Trucks (b. May 11, 1947, d. January 24, 2017)

It’s with a very heavy heart that I report the death of Butch Trucks, drummer, founding member and bedrock of the Allman Brothers Band. I am stunned to be writing these words, having communicated with Butch several times in just the past few days. My fingers are frozen just looking at the top of this page and seeing the words pouring onto my screen

Butch was devastated and angry about Trump’s election and had vowed to live at his house in the South of France throughout the new president’s term, but I doubted his resolve because he loved his grandchildren too much; I watched him light up with joy holding his new grandson at last summer’s Peach Festival. He was also very excited about playing with two bands: his Freight Train Band and The Brothers, recently renamed from Les Brers, featuring his Allman Brothers backline mates Jaimoe and Marc Quinones, as well as former ABB members Jack Pearson and Oteil Burbridge, plus Pat Bergeson, Bruce Katz and Lamar Williams Jr.

Tulane homecoming 1970 – Sidney Smith

To the end, Butch remained an incredibly powerful and melodic drummer whose parts defined the Allman Brothers’ classic songs as much as any guitar riff, bassline or vocal. I was on the road with Les Brers last fall and they put on excellent shows. I can barely find the words to describe my own joy at standing alongside Butch, Jaimoe and Marc again; it was like coming home to something very special and indescribable. It was a physical sensation as much as anything; something I felt deep in my bones and which gave me a feeling that I couldn’t have known I missed so much until I felt it again. I wish every one of you could have watched an Allman Brothers show from the side of this percussion powerhouse. It was an overwhelming experience and one that helped you understand the very deep, profound impact the drummers had on the greatness of the music.

Butch and Duane, Piedmont Park Atlanta, 1969.

Butch was irascible. He could be grumpy. He was also very bright, well versed in all manners of things. And he delighted in talking about it all. In March 2015 we spent a lot of time together over one weekend when he was doing some events in New Jersey and I drove him around while we talked in depth about anything and everything. I heard some wild Allman Brothers stories for the first time; maybe he figured they were safe to let out now that the book was done!

Bothers forever. Photo by Derek Trucks during final Allman Brothers band rehearsals, October 2014.

He came to my house for breakfast with my family in great spirits and was extremely kind and gracious to my wife and children. He also engaged my Uncle Ben, Dartmouth grad and retired judge, in an in-depth conversation about their shared passions for philosophy and physics. He was impressed that my then 17-year-old son Jacob knew his philosophers and that made me very proud. Later that afternoon, we did a talk together at Words, Maplewood’s bookstore and owner Jonah Zimiles was wowed. He later told me that Butch was his favorite guest ever – and the store has hosted a cavalcade of literary stars.

My relationship with Butch first  deepened over a book – and it wasn’t One Way OutHe reached out to me in 2011 after reading about my memoir Big in China in Hittin the Note magazine. He was fascinated by my story about playing music in China and our relationship deepened. Throughout the writing of One Way Out, Butch answered my phone calls and emails consistently and quickly and was always ready to share an opinion or memory. He was, in short, an invaluable resource – and he immediately agreed to write a Foreword when I asked. Then he almost as quickly wrote it by himself, straight through, and it ran with very little editing. That’s not how celebrity Forewords and Afterwords usually happen.

Paul family breakfast with Uncle Butchie.

Butch played with Duane and Gregg long before the Allman Brothers Band formed in March 1969. The brothers briefly hooked up with Butch’s folk rock band The 31st of February and recorded an albumin Miami that Vanguard Records rejected. It included the first properly recorded version of “Melissa” as well as “God Rest His Soul,” Gregg’s moving tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. Musical history may have been written differently if Gregg had not flown back to Los Angeles and learned that he was still contractually bound to Liberty Records. Duane moved on to Muscle Shoals and began establishing himself as a session musician.

Eventually, Duane would appear at Butch’s Jacksonville home. He wrote in his Foreword to One Way Out:

“…there came a knock on my door and there was Duane with an incredible-looking black man. Duane, in his usual way, introduced us to each other as Jaimoe, his new drummer, and Butch, his old drummer…. He left Jaimoe at my house and, for the first time in my middle class white life I had to get to know and deal with a black man. It changed me profoundly. Over forty four years later, Jaimoe and I still best of friends and I am very proud to call him my brother.”

Three drummers – by Kirk West

Over the last four years, Butch established a wonderful, warm family vibe at his Roots, Rock Revival Camp near Woodstock. It was his baby, and Oteil as well as Luther and Cody Dickinson were the other core counselors Bruce Katz, Bill Evans, Roosevelt Collier and others also were involved. I attended the first two and they were fantastic. It’s hard to over-state what he created up there: a small but growing and fiercely loyal band of brothers and sisters.

Trucks is the third founding member of the Allman Brothers Band to leave this mortal coil and the first since Berry Oakley in 1972. Founder and guiding light Duane Allman died in 1971, of course. You either understand how I feel right now or you don’t. If you do, I offer a digital hug of brotherhood. I send my deepest condolences to Melinda, Elise, Seth, Vaylor, Chris, Duane, Derek, Melody and all other members of the bountiful and wonderful Trucks family. Condolences go out also to the entire extended Allman Brothers Band family. It’s a sad, sad day in our little world, friends.

Any media members are free to quote at will from the obituary as long as you promise to not say that Derek Trucks was Butch’s son. He is his nephew!

49 replies
  1. John Guidoni
    John Guidoni says:

    RIP brother…your greatness will live on in eternity. “DREAMS”. MY HEART WAS ACTUALLY BROKEN UPON HEARING THE SAD NEWS OF HIS DEPARTURE…I am shaken right now..sitting here drinking my coffee..
    You should be with us ….but you Are where you will be…looking over your fans and brothers and sisters and most importantly….your family.
    Drum on into eternity BRITHER BUTCH✊

  2. Thomas Pritchett
    Thomas Pritchett says:

    I did have that experience of watching more than one Allman Brothers show from the side of the percussion powerhouse that was Butch. it was mesmerizing. In a way, he was the heart of the Allman Brothers, albeit a grumpy heart at times. A diigital hug sent your way Alan, because I feel it deeply too Brother. Thanks for the heart felt write up on this sad day.

  3. Angelo Ruiz
    Angelo Ruiz says:

    How do you put into words how i feel after all the years of live and recorded music and the project Butch gave us so i could see the 40th ann.shows from the beacon from my home in bklyn,ny,Many thanks for everything you did with your music and everything else you gave us.R.i.p. Butch,and give Duane and Barry a Big hug for me see you soon my brother…..

  4. roy leinfuss
    roy leinfuss says:

    well Alan, you do tell the story better than anyone else……glad to have seen over 200 ABB shows…..i always referred to Butchie as a slap happy drummer propelling one of my favorite musical outfits of all time. i feel more joy than sadness knowing all the heartfelt memories and stories and friends and family that are etched in my DNA . i will miss Butch Trucks and the emotion because i know how good it’s been…hopefully Duane and Berry were the first one’s to greet him at the Pearly Gates…..snakes and all!!! Alan keep doing what you do, it makes the world a better place….see ya back east sometime!!!!

  5. Sal Nuzzo
    Sal Nuzzo says:

    Unbelievable, I just finished reading ” One Way Out” last night and now I’m hearing the news of Butch’s passing. Just feeling heartbroken!!!

  6. John
    John says:

    Hi Mr. Paul,

    When the dust settles and the tears dry a bit, ramble on a bit more with anecdotes about the philosophy thing. I’d dearly love to hear more about all those thoughts that were carried along with the freight train…and this is a facet I think of this legacy which is still under-illuminated…some how those drum tracks are now permanently and unchangeably etched…but I’m sure you have some more color to add to what is now a kind of eternal bedrock in the ABB beat….

    one more sad peach head….

    • AlanPaul
      AlanPaul says:

      Good thought. I am going to talk to my son Jacob and my uncle Ben to see what they remember. We were talking a lot about Locke and Rousseau. The bookstore videoed our whole talk and I am trying to get that from them.

  7. Nancy Nobe
    Nancy Nobe says:

    As a resident of Macon, GA and friends of the Capricorn family, I lived across the street from Butch and family in the early years when the children were babies and Butch was the stable family man of ABB (1970’s circa). I had already known a few of the other ABB members and found Butch to be the more stable, quiet, and good neighbor. AS time went on Butch lived up to be what I had expected and respected. His legacy is undeniable and it saddens me that his life has now been cut short. I hope all the members of his family know what a respected individual he was and loved by so many.

  8. Benita
    Benita says:

    So many artists of my time have passed.
    I had no idea one could hurt so much worse than the others.
    At midnight I heard what I hoped was not true and kept checking through the early morning hours for confirmation and hopefully a denial of what my heart’s aching was telling me is true.
    My tears begin anew each time I think I am cried out.
    I have not ever NOT listened to Mr. Trucks music. The live castings you gave us this fall were incredible Mr. Paul. I enjoyed them immensely and looked forward to many more.
    Mr. Trucks, you were an artist with no credible basis of comparison. The ‘ best ‘ run a distant second to your talent.
    ThankYpu for being part of the road that goes on forever.

  9. Mitch Wood
    Mitch Wood says:

    He was such an incredible force to be reckoned with on the stage. The Les Brers show at Wanee, wad one of my highlights of my career. Being the monitor engineer for the Mushroom stage at Wanee for the past 5 years I have come to love Butch’s company on stage. He will be missed dearly. Nothing like hearing his laugh ring out through the live oaks. Rest in peace my friend.

  10. Bruce Johnson
    Bruce Johnson says:

    Not to diminish the other talents who have passed in the last couple years, but this news has floored me exponentially. I’ve always said the difference between a good ABB show and a great one rested with Butch. Those nights when he would lock in during solos is what propelled them to the transcendent heights I will always cherish. So very glad I found them at a formative time in my life. Condolences especially to his family but to all who are hurting by this.

  11. Paul
    Paul says:

    Shocked, i just had a reply from butch on a religios topic on saturday, i was stunned that he aknowledged me! Im in shock and devestated

  12. Jack Propps
    Jack Propps says:

    ”And if frogs had wings they wouldn’t bump their @$$ all the time” Welp the frog has got his wings.. RIP [Rock in Peace] Claude ‘Butch Trucks.. Jack Propps Nashville [drummer with littledavid wilkins good night special band].

  13. Suzanne Fuchs Davis
    Suzanne Fuchs Davis says:

    Such a beautiful way you have with words, Alan. I believe you captured the true essence of Butch. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and personal memories during this most difficult time. You are a treasure. Thoughts and prayers for his family and the extended ABB family also.

  14. Elaine
    Elaine says:

    I’m so sad to hear the news of your passing. I know you are in paradise jamming with Duane, Barry, and others who left before you. Thank you for sharing your gift of music. I’ve seen many Allman Brothers concerts and I enjoyed every single one of them. I grew up jamming out to the best Southern Rock!! Love, prayers and peace to you and your family.

  15. Doug the Drummer
    Doug the Drummer says:

    Great words. Great drummer.. I didn’t want to believe the rumors last night before I went to bed. This is a big loss to me as a drummer. He was a drumming hero to me. Could play anything anyway with style and force.

  16. Tammy Parise
    Tammy Parise says:

    Very nice tribute Alan, very nice indeed. I know that Butch would appreciate your eloquent words, even the grumpy remark 😉 My deepest sympathy to you and to all of our brothers and sisters who loved Butch so much, even the grumpy Butch 🙂

  17. Joe Bell
    Joe Bell says:

    Thanks for the appropriate words Alan. Well said on this sad day. Hanging with Farmer during the ABB shows always put me on Butch’s side of the stage and it was a dream to watch what magic he, Marc and Jaimoe conjured up.

    Frogwings was a great way to see a number of legends up close and personal and man did they ever deliver. Ron Currens and I filmed a number of Frogwings shows and one day I hope we can put them up on YouTube.

    I can’t imagine the hurt the Trucks family feels right now and they are going to need even more support in the upcoming days and weeks. Death is so final, we must never take life lightly. Treasure it, embrace it and find joy in every day…

  18. J S Donnan
    J S Donnan says:

    Thank you for the touching tribute Alan. Joe as well. Very well put, while I am at a total loss for words. Rest in Peace Butch and thank you for some of the finest musical memories of my lifetime.

  19. Andrew Cottle
    Andrew Cottle says:

    What a great tribute. Can’t begin to explain how much his music means to me. End of an era for sure.

  20. AlanPaul
    AlanPaul says:

    Thanks everyone. It’s hard to describe the feeling amongst ABB members and extended family right now… been talking to people for 24 hours.

  21. Paco Prior
    Paco Prior says:

    Alan, thanks for keeping the ABB legacy front and center. I’m a lifelong fan. Saw a really memorable show with the original lineup at a long defunct venue called “The Manhattan Ballroom” back in the Fillmore East era. My best friend and I still reminese about that particular show, it was mind-blowing. Seeing the original lineup at the peak of their powers. Then, just a few short months later, Duane was gone. Cried alot the day I heard that news.

  22. Gerald Onesi
    Gerald Onesi says:

    Such sad news. ABB was and still is a huge musical influence on me and my musician and non-musician friends. We’re gonna jam out extra hard to ‘One Way Out’ next gig.

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