Hey pickers. Just got back from a three-week tour with the Steve Miller Band with Greg Allman opening. I gotta tell ya, the bar was set high on this Spring outing. There’s just something about the tone, taste and twang of guitarists from the South that makes me smile. Whenever Greg is around, the Allman Bros band members seem to just show up as well. Warren Haynes, Oteil Burbridge, and Derek Trucks and his wife Susan Tedeschi.
We started at the Wanee Fest outside of Jacksonville and Derek and Susan opened for us. These folks are like the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz of molten lava blues bands. What a treat to not only enjoy a kick ass band with great guitar playing, but know that the two front people were married! How many of you guys out there have fantasized about having a hot babe wife who can blow the blues on a Les Paul?
After our set doing some blues tracks from our new CD Let Your Hair Down, the Allman Bros closed the festival. Warren is just an absolute taste-aholic and whether he’s on the ‘59 clay dot 335, or his Signature tone-circuit-enhanced ’60 Les Paul, he always plays the right lick at the right time. Not a lot of show-off speed, but just heartfelt Americana slow-hand vibrato with sweet honey saturation. Warren is also an absolute ambassador of Southern hospitality. He came onto Steve’s bus and just gave him one of his Signature Les Pauls as a party favor. Sweet!
I remember taking my record player and stereo on my first tour in 1973. The Allman Brothers Beginnings album was my church, my mentor and my muse. Coping the standard tuning harmonica-style slide techniques of Duane and the major pentatonic frolicking of Dicky Betts was a lesson for a lifetime. I was so into The Allmans that when I met a girl from Macon, GA. at the end of the tour, I dragged her back to LA with me and lived with her for two years. (Hey Sharon, where are ya now dawlin’?)
Even though I was already on a gig and had copped all the Clapton, Hendrix, Santana, Terry Kath, and Jeff Beck riffs I could bleed about, there was something about these Southern guys that made me reconsider my bag of tricks. Then Duane left the planet and Brothers and Sisters came out. I think this was Dicky Betts finest performance. Then came Lynyrd, the Outlaws, and Charlie Daniels. The style of Southern blues-rock guitar playing is unique unto itself. This is not Stevie Ray; we're talkin’ Freddie, Albert, and BB King meets a fiddle player from Appalachia or something.
But I digress . . . We finished up in Memphis for the Blues Awards. Our last album Bingo was nominated for "Best Blues-Rock Album of the Year." We lost to Kenny Wayne Shepard, but it was still such a gas to sit and listen to so many cats from all over the country bustin’ riffs. Chicago style, Texas style, Rockabilly, and even chicken pickin’ Nashville styles were all being represented. But I still had those sweet lofty licks firing off in my head from our tour. Guess what? Derek Trucks won two awards. See what I mean? Southern rock still rules!
So go dig up these old albums and start woodshedding some Southern taste into your style!
—Kenny Lee Lewis, guitarist, Steve Miller Band