How a Southern rock legend’s daughter, son are keeping his music alive

As a baby, Melody Trucks would be asleep backstage in one of her father Butch Trucks’ road cases while he was onstage playing drums with the Allman Brothers Band. As a young child, Melody’s brother Vaylor Trucks appeared on the cover photo for the Allman Brothers’ only number-one album. That album, released in 1973 and containing the Southern rock anthem “Ramblin’ Man,” was titled “Brothers and Sisters.”

Nearly 50 years later, Melody and Vaylor are honoring the legacy of their father, performing vintage Allman Brothers tunes like “Midnight Rider” with their own band. That band is appropriately dubbed Brother and Sister.

“The music is timeless,” Melody says of during a recent phone interview. “And it helps me to feel connected to my father and what they (the Allman Brothers) did, so that’s why I do it. What they did was create such an amazing space for musicians to communicate, and to reach that next place that we’re always chasing.”

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Melody’s mom and dad separated when she was very young. Still, she has treasured memories of visiting Butch, him playing his grand piano for her and them listening to classical music records, such as Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” together.

Later on, after starting off with flute and then saxophone and other instruments, Melody naturally gravitated to percussion on her own. The main thing she learned about rhythm from her dad, who created beats in the Allmans with co-drummer Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson and later percussion Marc Quinones, “was to shut up and listen.”

Melody continues, “You’ve got to let your ego go. And Jaimoe and my dad had such an amazing way of locking in with each other because they were constantly listening to each other. And the same way with Marc once he came in. If you don’t listen to what the other people are doing, you can’t connect like that.”

Brother and Sister divvy up most of the lead vocals between Vaylor, Melody and talented guitarist Willis Gore. The group also features drummers Eric Sanders and Garrett Dawson, bassist Matt Stallard and keyboardist Pete Orenstein, who also contributes some lead vocals. Songs Melody sings lead on include “Stand Back” and “Not My Cross To Bear.”

Melody and Valor Trucks of the band Brother and Sister onstage. (Courtesy Frank Allen Sr.)

The Allman Brothers recorded some studio essentials – particularly the Macon, Ga.-based combo’s 1969 self-titled debut LP, sophomore album “Idlewild South,” “Brothers and Sisters” and the six studio tracks on 1972 studio/live disc “Eat a Peach.” Tunes like “Dreams,” “Revival,” “Blue Sky” and “Jessica,” to name a handful. “Those songs are stitched into my DNA,” Melody recalls of growing up in a rock & roll family. “It’s all just part of my story.”

It was the stage where Allmans music became magical, achieving prog-blues transcendence, fueled by a jazz-seeker soul and, OK, a few chemicals too. The 1971 Allman Brothers double-album “At Fillmore East” is often regarded as the best live release ever. It’s alchemic spirit inspired countless subsequent Southern rockers and jam-bands.

The first five Allmans releases are untouchable within this realm. But Melody is also fond of albums the band made in the ‘90s, particularly 1991′s “Shades of Two Worlds” and 1994′s strong “Where It All Begins.” “Those were coming out in my late teenager and early adult years. So I relate to those records quite a bit just because of the excitement of them (the band) making this massive comeback.”

And while Gregg Allman and Allmans guitarist/singer Dickey Betts are ‘70s Southern rock gods, for Melody looking back on times around them is “like having memories of your uncles.” She has vague memories of being very little and living on The Farm, the 400-plus rural Georgia land the Allman Brothers purchased as a band. She fondly recalls Red Dog, the group’s longtime roadie who was depicted in the film “Almost Famous,” as being “always so sweet and kind. The crew was fantastic, and taught all of us kids how to be backstage without being in the way.”

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The name Melody sounds like a poetic appellation for a musician’s daughter. Funnily enough, she says her name had nothing to do with music. “My mom was at a doctor’s office and she was reading I think it was a Reader’s Digest or something like that, and they had a list of the 10 most beautiful words in the English language and melody was on it. And so that’s how I got my name.”

In college, Melody studied Balinese gamelan and Brazilian sambas. Meanwhile, Vaylor was coming up too, working more on the fusion side of things, with musicians like Col. Bruce Hampton. Eventually, when their father’s side project Butch Trucks and The Freight Train would tour in the Southeast, Melody would join the trek, stepping up to single vocals on tunes like “Statesboro Blues.”

As cool as it was for life to come full circle and Melody play music with her dad, “the really great thing about that wasn’t necessarily the shows,” she says. “While we were on the road, Dad would ride with me in the car. And so we had hours and hours with just me and him. And it was one of the only times in my life where I was able to spend that much time with my father, just the two of us. And that is what I take most from that time is just getting to spend time with him one on one.”

So what kind of conversations would she have with her father, who back in the day put in some many miles with the famously hard-living Allman Brothers? “Oh, I can’t tell you that,” Melody says with a laugh. “He definitely told me some crazy road stories that … ‘Like Dad, I don’t want to hear this.’” Too-much-information jokes aside, Melody says on those drives she and Butch also talked a lot about family. “He absolutely adored his grandchildren. And we talked about life. We talked about everything. That was a period in my life that I’m extremely grateful for.”

Allman Brothers

In this photo provided by StarPix, MSG Entertainment announced Monday, Nov. 22, 2010 that The Allman Brothers Band will return to the Beacon Theatre in New York City and perform eight shows beginning March 10 through March 19, 2011. Pictured from left to right, Gregg Allman, Jaimoe and Butch Trucks from the band. (AP Photo/Amanda Schwab/StarPix)ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Allman Brothers’ latter-day lineup played their farewell show in 2014 at New York’s Beacon Theatre. Butch Trucks and singer/keyboardist Gregg Allman both died in 2017 and are sorely missed. Surviving members of the final lineup – including Melody and Vaylor’s cousin, slide guitar wizard Derek Trucks – played a 2020 show at Madison Square Garden concert billed as The Brothers, in honor of the original group’s 50th anniversary. Since then Derek Trucks and Allmans singer/guitarist Warren Haynes have mostly moved on with their other successful bands.

Although the Allman Brothers achieved fame, fortune and musical respect, it came with great cost. Guitar-wonder and band-leader Duane Allman died from a 1971 motorcycle accident, a devastating loss for the band, finally gaining commercial traction with “At Fillmore East” after years of hard touring. Bassist Berry Oakley was lost a year later, eerily also due to a motorcycle accident. The band’s vices came close to consuming various members at various times. Marriages came and went nearly as often as guitar solos.

Still, the Allmans were always able to transform that blues and pain into musical joy. For the band and for their fans. “They loved what they were doing, and it came through,” Melody says, adding she hopes to bring that energy to fans who come to Brother and Sister shows too. “Music is supposed to take you to a place where joy lives.”

On March 25, Brother and Sister headline an 8 p.m. show at Furniture Factory, 619 Meridian St. N. in Huntsville, Ala. Muscle Shoals band Yes Trespassing is the opener. Tickets are $15 advance/$20 door via factoryevents.ecwid.com. More info at brotherandsister.band.

https://www.al.com/life/2022/03/how-a-southern-rock-legends-daughter-son-are-keeping-his-music-alive.html

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