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Derek Trucks: Sliding into Superstardom on Musical Roots

Steve Houk
By Steve Houk
Posted on Aug 06,2009
Filed Under Entertainment , Local Style,

Photo by Flickr/memestate/<br /> <br />The Derek Trucks Band performing at the Granada Theater in Dallas, TX.
Photo by Flickr/memestate/
The Derek Trucks Band performing at the Granada Theater in Dallas, TX.

Any kid named after the title of one of rock music’s most heralded supergroups clearly has their future vocation established pretty early on.
Derek Trucks’ first name came from “Derek and the Dominos”, the short-lived 60’s supergroup that included rock legends Eric Clapton and Duane Allman, and spawned one of rock’s most epic tunes, Layla. Pretty awesome legacy to live up to, eh?
Well, Derek Trucks began living up to that legacy from the get go and he hasn’t slowed down since. He picked up a guitar for five bucks at a yard sale at age nine, and began playing professionally at age 11. Didn’t hurt that his uncle Butch was (and is) a drummer for the Allman Brothers Band, so the young Trucks was already playing sessions and live shows by age 11. Before he was 20, he had played with legends like Bob Dylan, Stephen Stills and Joe Walsh among others.
These days, Derek Trucks is a phenomenal double threat, playing his scorching brand of guitar with the Allmans as well as his own band, The Derek Trucks Band, the latter appearing at National Harbor on August 6th, and is widely considered one of the most talented guitarists in music today. His specialty, although that’s hard to pin down when you have someone of such deep talent as Trucks, is the slide guitar, which bled into his psyche due to the early influence of, yes, Duane Allman, and Elmore James, two of music’s most influential slide players, on his early playing. He has become part of a slide guitar legacy of sorts with the Allmans, given the slide acumen of Allman guitarists like Duane Allman, Dickey Betts, and these days, the great Warren Haynes, whose “other” band Government Mule also plays the Harbor at the end of July.
Trucks appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in 2007 as a member of the crop of “New Guitar Gods.” Nicknamed by the magazine as the “Jam King”, fellow “God” John Mayer described Trucks’ playing as “making the guitar sound like a female singer from the 50’s or 60’s, just belting it out.”
Why is he so adept at the slide, which is not an automatic skill for even the best of guitar aces? Trucks has explained that when he was learning to play as boy, the strings were painful, and his small fingers were too sensitive to adapt quickly, so the slide made it easier for him to advance his skills. Trucks has also adapted the use of a bottleneck slide made of a form of plastic, which produces a sound resembling the kind Allman made famous on songs like Layla and other classic rock tunes.
Music also runs deep in Trucks’ current family, his wife is well-known singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi, and the couple has a recently completed home studio where Trucks recorded his latest album Already Free, which is climbing up the blues and Internet charts. The two do their best to spend time together despite rigorous touring schedules, often in excess of 300 shows a year, even molding a side project called the Soul Stew Revival that highlights both of the talents.
And speaking of legacies, their two kids are named for sax legend Charlie Parker and a John Coltrane song. Seems to me that they are already on the right track for a stellar musical career, if they so choose. Just look at Dad’s family history.

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