Drummer Butch Trucks, who helped set the Southern rock beat for the Allman Brothers Band, died Tuesday. He was 69.
Trucks, one of the band’s six founding members, died at his home in West Palm Beach, Florida, The Associated Press reported. The cause of death was not immediately released.
Trucks had played with a new band, Butch Trucks and the Freight Train, lately. The group had shows booked for this spring, though Trucks played what would be his last show on Jan. 6, according to Rolling Stone.
“He was a good man,” said Kirk West, who traveled with the Allman Brothers and has known Trucks about 40 years. “They called him Freight Train because he propelled that band.”
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Trucks’ representative issued a statement published by Rolling Stone:
"The Trucks and Allman Brothers Band families request all of Butch's friends and fans to please respect our privacy at this time of sadness for our loss. Butch will play on in our hearts forever."
In October, West was on the road with Trucks and his Les Brers band, which he assembled after the Allman Brothers stopped touring.
The group’s moniker hails from the Dickey Betts instrumental “Les Brers in A Minor” on the Allmans’ “Eat a Peach” album.
West, who used the Les Brers title for his commemorative Allman Brothers photography book, said it’s bad French for “The Brothers.”
Trucks, whom West called the hardest worker in the Allman Brothers Band, played three-hour concerts for six straight days on the tour last fall.
The entire rhythm section of the old Allman Brothers Band was with them, West said.
“It was a good, solid band. They played amazing,” he said.
Many fans may be familiar with Trucks’ music, but not everyone knew of his great mind.
“He was one of the most intelligent, well-rounded and inquisitive people I’d ever been around,” West said.
He loved a good conversation and frequently shared his views on politics, religion and sports.
Jessica Walden, whose father and uncle helped co-found Capricorn Records, which launched the Allman Brothers to fame from Macon, sent her condolences to the Trucks family on Facebook.
“If there is anything I learned in this crazy world of music history is that it’s full of freakin’ anomalies of creative, outer-worldy, brilliant minds, which all too often fight an internal battle against the most tender of hearts,” posted Walden, who runs a Macon music tour company with her husband.
Walden credited Trucks with nurturing young talent in Macon and other communities.
“He was just an amazing mentor to so many musicians,” Walden said Wednesday. “I love what he was doing now. ... It’s heartbreaking to lose him so young.”
Trucks grew up in Jacksonville in north Florida playing classical music, piano and the tympani in high school.
The Byrds lured him into rock, he told a Telegraph reporter during a 1976 interview at his double-wide mobile home in Juliette.
One of his first bands, The Vikings, cut one 7-inch record in 1964.
Another of his groups, The 31st of February, formed in 1968 and included Duane and Gregg Allman.
They formed the Allman Brothers Band in 1969 with Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley and drummer Jaimoe Johanson.
The pair of percussionists developed the “rhythmic drive” that would prove crucial to its sound, according to Trucks’ blog.
After Trucks’ death, Gregg Allman, Betts and Johanson are the only survivors of the original band.
Duane Allman and Berry Oakley died in separate motorcycle accidents in Macon in 1971 and 1972.
In 1984, Trucks told The Telegraph of his fondness for the late Duane Allman: "Duane put that fire and that confidence into everybody. And, after he was gone, that was the one thing that stayed, that kept us vital and kept us strong. He kind of started the religion and left us as the apostles. I really miss him."
Trucks continued to record and perform with the Allman Brothers through their farewell concert in 2014.
For him, it was not about the fame or the money, but the music.
“I know what it’s like to live like a millionaire, and it ain’t no big deal,” Trucks told The Telegraph in 1984.
He continued to play clubs and small theaters, West said.
“Butch played music because that was his life.”
Telegraph writer Joe Kovac Jr. contributed to this report.