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A College Of Musical Knowledge: 15 Musical Groups That Act As Hubs For Emerging Talent
Some acts have few or no original members because they simply can't keep the band together; others turn over their memberships somewhat by design, and act as bona fide academies for new waves of musicians. Here are 15 diverse examples.
Ever hear of the Ship of Theseus thought experiment? It asks the reader to picture a ship whose components have been replaced — hull, mast, sail, rudder, and every single plank of the deck. Is it still Theseus' craft? Or something else entirely? The question still bedevils philosophers.
Now apply this framing to beloved musical groups of the 20th century. That's what Rolling Stone writer David Browne did in his 2022 feature, "The Future of Classic Rock Tours: One or Two Surviving Members…or None?"
As Browne illuminated, estate-authorized acts like the Allman Brothers Band Presents: Trouble No More are bringing beloved songbooks to audiences thirsting for them — without most or all of the parent band's original members. (Lynyrd Skynyrd is down to one.)
And with the passage of time, Trouble No More could become a model for keeping acts on the road — and, in turn, streaming numbers up, and the brand in people's mouths.
Audiences may feel one way or another about seeing Woodstock-era favorites Canned Heat with one almost-original member: Adolfo "Fito" de la Parra. (Side note: they still cook.) But what if the massive turnover isn't an unfortunate hurdle due to members dying or leaving? What if, to some degree, it's the whole point?
Welcome to the sphere of music where classic ensembles act as hubs for emerging talent; they turn over like college alumni or sports teams. Many of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers became jazz legends; John Mayall's Bluesbreakers gave the world Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Peter Green.
And this model applies across the board: to big band, to classical, to cumbia and salsa. Slipknot and Tower of Power arguably qualify. So do Yellowjackets. And so did Miles Davis' and David Bowie's various groups. Doo-wop is full of them. There's one titanically important electronic band, extant since 1967, passed to a new heir.
All ensembles may consist of mortals with shifting priorities, but their music doesn't have to disappear when they do. Here are 15 longstanding acts who replaced most or all of their planks — to borrow a metaphor — and made the most of it.
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers aren't only a serious contender for the greatest jazz band of all time, they functioned as an unofficial jazz university, with drummer Blakey as their tempestuous headmaster. The group featured dozens of cats throughout its four-decaderun: Horace Silver, Hank Mobley, Jackie McLean, Joanne Brackeen, Wynton and Branford Marsalis were all nurtured as Messengers, and that's just scratching the surface. When Blakey died in 1990, saxophonist McLean said just about the only three words you can say: "School is closed."
Count Basie Orchestra
From the Mingus Big Band to the Duke Ellington Orchestra to the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (once known as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra), jazz is replete with big bands whose leaders died long ago. Some call them "ghost bands," whether or not their musicians appreciate the tag. Whatever your chosen vocabulary, Count Basie Orchestra is one of the most prestigious ensembles without their fearless leader, who formed the group in the mid-1950s. As for the Basie band's current incarnation, led by the illustrious Scotty Barnhart? They were nominated for a GRAMMY in 2021, for Live at Birdland!.
John Mayall's Bluesbreakers
John Mayall's Bluesbreakers hold the strange distinction of being written and talked about more than listened to. Any biography of the Rolling Stones, Cream and Fleetwood Mac will invariably mention them, but when's the last time you cued them up on Spotify? That shouldn't be the case, necessarily; they made classics like 1966's Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton and fostered guitar gods in all three of those household names. And best of all, they’re still at it.
Juilliard String Quartet
Founded in 1946, the Juilliard String Quartet is critically important to the evolution of chamber music stateside. William Schumann, the then-president of the New York school, founded it; violinists Robert Mann and Robert Koff, violist Raphael Hillyer, and cellist Arthur Winograd formed the OG lineup. Areta Zhulla, Ronald Copes, Molly Carr, and Astrid Schween are currently in their seats; over the decades, they've won four GRAMMYs and been nominated for 16.
La Sonora Dinamita
Since their founding in 1960, Colombian cumbia greats La Sonora Dinamita have played an instrumental role in the form's popular resurgence. Beneath the unchanging banner, their lineup has turned over, and over, and over: original singer and musical director Lucho Argain's passing in 2002 didn't stymy their constant evolution. In the 2020's, with current players at the vanguard of cumbia, they remain absolute dinamita, releasing music with abandon.
Do you typically think of boy bands as being relatively static, membership-wise? Maybe one or two members in and out, but the familiar faces remaining? Feast your eyes on Menudo's Wikipedia page: a whopping 38 past members. Since the brand's formation in 1977, Menudo has provided a launching pad for international stars Ricky Martin and Draco Rosa, and weathered tragedy and legal battles. But they're not ending anytime soon — thanks to Mario Lopez and his global talent search.
Who's the most prolific, dynamic and influential ensemble in funk history? It's borderline axiomatic that the answer is P-Funk. Together or apart, Parliament and Funkadelic haven't just made bona fide classics — press play on 1971's Maggot Brain or 1978's One Nation Under a Groove — they architected their own bizarre, hyper-imaginative, Afrofuturist universe. And it goes even deeper: under the tutelage of George Clinton, members like Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell and Eddie “Maggot Brain” Hazel became stars. The collective is still going today; looking at the astonishing headcount over the years, it seems hard to find someone who wasn’t in P-Funk. To everyone who was, is, and has been — what a feather in your cap.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
New Orleans is Pres Hall is New Orleans: watch the wonderful 2018 documentary A Cuba to Tuba to find out why. These days, countless historical jazz sites in the Big Easy are crumbling and collapsing, but institutions like the Preservation Hall Jazz Band — as well as Dirty Dozen Brass Band, among others — ensure the music is unscathed. Founded in the early 1960s as the house band for the hallowed French Quarter venue, the ensemble has never reneged on its mission: "nurturing and perpetuating the art of New Orleans jazz."
Founded in 1967, the German electronic music pioneers join Guided by Voices and the Grateful Dead with this distinction; you could only listen to Tangerine Dream and be well-stocked with jams for the foreseeable future. As the brainchild of Edgar Froese for decades, they made classics like 1972's Zeit, 1974's Phaedra, 1980's Tangram… the list goes on. The band could have understandably folded when Froese passed in 2015, but his successor, Thorsten Quaeschning, remains the bearer of the flame. And by the sound of their stunning 2022 album Raum, rightfully so.
The Four Seasons
If infectious, pre-Beatlemania tunes like "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" have been basically implanted in your skull from birth, thank one man first and foremost: Frankie Valli. His Four Seasons have provided a platform for numberless singers and instrumentalists since then — through the '70s, '80s, '90s, and up to the present day. These days, 88-year-old Valli is the only remaining original member of these Jersey boys — which says much less about the integrity of the original group than his capacity to hand out hat-hanging legacies.
Whether or not the ska revival swept you up or not — and regardless of the volume of checkerboard threads in your closet — the fact remains that the Skatalites are pillars of the form. Like the Four Seasons, the instrumental supergroup began during Beatlemania time, and never stopped mutating and evolving. Decades past their early hits, like "Guns of Navarone," they give younger players like New York saxophonist Anant Pradhan a chance at ska royalty while offering legends the chance to bring Jamaica's freedom sounds to new generations — like 85-year-old percussionist Larry McDonald.
Ah, the Temps: Detroit legends, undersung psychedelic voyagers, the first Motown signees to win a GRAMMY. (That was in 1968, for "Cloud Nine"; how could Membership back then sleep on "My Girl"? We digress.) In 2018, the Broadway show Ain’t Too Proud gave opportunities beyond the purview of the endlessly shapeshifting original band. Come the 2020s, Otis Williams is the only original Temptation; many, many men have been one. Imagine the feeling of learning you're one. A certain jam from '68 might sum it up.
The Wailers Band
We're used to hearing this band name glued to "Bob Marley &"; is their association with Marley the long and short of their importance? Heavens, no, as at least two other members were legends in their own right: Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. After Marley's death in 1981, the band continued under various permutations and spin-offs — including The Original Wailers — with talented members in and out the door. These days, Aston Barrett Jr. and Emilio Estefan Jr. are at the helm of the Wailers Band; Barrett's been nominated for a GRAMMY, Estefan's won two.
Despite being something of a '60s relic, the Yardbirds' whole catalog holds up; they were as psychedelic as anyone, white British boys with a deep command of the blues. In their heyday, they launched the careers of Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck; Led Zeppelin originally took flight as the New Yardbirds. And their lineup churn continues; original drummer Jim McCarty remains.
So many members of the Allmans have dropped, but their popularity remains undimmed. (Crank up 1971's At Fillmore East on a good system and you'll see why.) Their estate has tried a unique tack: sending an estate-approved band called Trouble No More on the road, platforming young talent while giving the people the jams they require. Diehards' mileage may vary regarding a completely reconstituted Allmans. But the magnitude of talent from the multiracial, multigender ensemble might make haters eat a peach.
Ian Anderson On The Historical Threads Of Fanaticism, Playing Ageless Instruments & Jethro Tull's New Album The Zealot Gene
20 Albums Turning 50 In 2023: 'Innervisions,' 'Dark Side Of The Moon' 'Catch A Fire' & More
1973 saw a slew of influential records released across genres — many of which broke barriers and set standards for music to come. GRAMMY.com reflects on 20 albums that, despite being released 50 years ago, continue to resonate with listeners today.
Fifty years ago, a record-breaking 600,000 people gathered to see the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers Band and the Band play Summer Jam at Watkins Glen. This is just one of many significant historical events that happened in 1973 — a year that changed the way music was seen, heard and experienced.
Ongoing advancements in music-making tech expanded the sound of popular and underground music. New multi-track technology was now standard in recording studios from Los Angeles to London. Artists from a variety of genres experimented with new synthesizers, gadgets like the Mu-Tron III pedal and the Heil Talk Box, and techniques like the use of found sounds.
1973 was also a year of new notables, where now-household names made their debuts. Among these auspicious entries: a blue-collar songwriter from the Jersey Shore, hard-working southern rockers from Jacksonville, Fla. and a sister group from California oozing soul.
Along a well-established format, '73 saw the release of several revolutionary concept records. The Eagles’ Desperado, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Lou Reed’s Berlin and the Who’s Quadrophenia are just a few examples that illustrate how artists used narrative techniques to explore broader themes and make bigger statements on social, political and economic issues — of which there were many.
On the domestic front, 1973 began with the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade. Internationally, the Paris Peace Accords were signed — starting the long process to end the Vietnam War. An Oil crisis caused fuel prices to skyrocket in North America. Richard Nixon started his short-lived second term as president, which was marked by the Watergate scandal.
Politics aside, the third year of the '70s had it all: from classic- and southern-rock to reggae; punk to jazz; soul and R&B to country. Read on for 20 masterful albums with something to say that celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2023.
Band On The Run - Paul McCartney & Wings
Laid down at EMI’s studio in Lagos, Nigeria and released in December 1973, the third studio record by Paul Mcartney & Wings is McCartney’s most successful post-Beatles album. Its hit singles "Jet" and the title cut "Band on the Run" helped make the record the biggest-selling in 1974 in both Australia and Canada.
Band on the Run won a pair of GRAMMYS the following year: Best Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus and Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical. McCartney added a third golden gramophone for this record at the 54th awards celebration when it won Best Historical Album for the 2010 reissue. In 2013, Band on the Run was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame.
Head Hunters - Herbie Hancock
Released Oct. 13, Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters was recorded in just one week; its
four songs clock in at just over 40 minutes. That the album was not nominated in the jazz category, but instead Best Pop Instrumental Performance, demonstrates how Hancock was shifting gears.
Head Hunters showed Hancock moving away from traditional instrumentation and playing around with new synthesizer technology — especially the clavinet — and putting together a new band: the Headhunters. Improvisation marks this as a jazz record, but the phrasing, rhythms and dynamics of Hancock’s new quintet makes it equal parts soul and R&B with sprinkles of rock 'n' roll.
The album represented a commercial and artistic breakthrough for Hancock, going gold within months of its release. "Watermelon Man" and "Chameleon," which was nominated for a Best Instrumental GRAMMY Award in 1974, were later both frequently sampled by hip-hop artists in the 1990s.
Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. - Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen, 22, was the new kid in town in 1973. This debut was met with tepid reviews. Still, Greetings introduced Springsteen’s talent to craft stories in song and includes many characters The Boss would return to repeatedly in his career. The album kicks off with the singalong "Blinded by the Light," which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 100 four years later via a cover done by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. This was the first of two records Springsteen released in 1973; The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle arrived before the end of the year — officially introducing the E Street Band.
Innervisions - Stevie Wonder
This Stevie Wonder masterpiece shows an artist, in his early 20s, experimenting with new instrumentation such as TONTO (The Original New Timbral Orchestra) — the world’s largest synth — and playing all instruments on the now-anthemic "Higher Ground."
The song reached No.1 on the U.S. Hot R&B Singles Chart, and Innervisions peaked at No. 4. The album won three GRAMMYS the following year, including Album Of The Year. Wonder was the first Black artist to win this coveted golden gramophone. In 1989, Red Hot Chili Peppers kept the original funk, but injected the song with a lot of rock on their cover — the lead single from Mother’s Milk.
The Dark Side Of The Moon - Pink Floyd
Critics perennially place this Pink Floyd album, the band's eighth studio record, as one of the greatest of all-time. The Dark Side of the Moon hit No.1 and stayed on the Billboard charts for 63 weeks.
A sonic masterpiece marked by loops, synths, found sounds, and David Gilmour’s guitar bends, Dark Side of the Moon is also a concept record that explores themes of excessive greed on tracks like "Money." Ironically, an album lambasting consumerism was the top-selling record of the year and has eclipsed 45 million sales worldwide since its release. The album’s cover has also become one of the most recognized in the history of popular music.
Pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd - Lynyrd Skynyrd
This debut release features several of the northern Florida rockers' most beloved songs: "Gimme Three Steps," "Tuesday’s Gone" and "Simple Man." The record, which has since reached two-times platinum status with sales of more than two million, also includes the anthemic "Free Bird," which catapulted them to stardom. The song with its slow-build and definitive guitar solo and jam in the middle became Lynyrd Skynyrd's signature song that ended all their shows; it also became a piece of pop culture with people screaming for this song during concerts by other artists.
Houses Of The Holy - Led Zeppelin
The first Led Zeppelin record of all originals — and the first without a Roman numeral for a title — Houses of the Holy shows a new side of these British hardrockers. Straying from the blues and hard rock of previous records, Houses of the Holy features funk (“The Ocean” and “The Crunge”) and even hints of reggae (“D’Yer Mak’er”). This fifth studio offering from Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham also includes one of this writer’s personal Zeppelin favorites — "Over the Hills and Far Away.” The song was released as the album’s first U.S. single and reached No. 51 on the Billboard charts. Despite mixed reviews from critics, Houses of the Holy eventually achieved Diamond status for sales of more than 10 million. Interesting fact: the song “Houses of the Holy” actually appears on the band’s next record (Physical Graffiti).
Quadrophenia - The Who
The double-album rock opera followed the critical success of Tommy and Who’s Next. Pete Townshend composed all songs on this opus, which was later adapted into a movie. And, in 2015, classically-scored by Townshend’s partner Rachel Fuller for a new generation via a symphonic version (“Classic Quadrophenia”). The story chronicles the life of a young mod named Jimmy who lives in the seaside town of Brighton, England. Jimmy searches for meaning in a life devoid of significance — taking uppers, downers and guzzling gin only to discover nothing fixes his malaise. With sharp-witted songs, Townshend also tackles classicism. His band of musical brothers: Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon provide some of their finest recorded performances. The album reached second spot on the U.S. Billboard chart.
Berlin - Lou Reed
Produced by Bob Ezrin, Berlin is a metaphor. The divided walled city represents the divisive relationships and the two sides of Reed — on stage and off. The 10 track concept record chronicles a couple’s struggles with drug addiction, meditating on themes of domestic abuse and neglect. As a parent, try to listen to "The Kids" without shedding a tear. While the couple on the record are named Caroline and Jim, those who knew Reed’s volatile nature and drug dependency saw the parallels between this fictionalized narrative and the songwriter’s life.
Catch A Fire - Bob Marley & the Wailers
The original cover was enclosed in a sleeve resembling a Zippo lighter. Only 20,000 of this version were pressed. Even though it was creative and cool, cost-effective it was not — each individual cover had to be hand-riveted. The replacement, which most people know today, introduces reggae poet and prophet Robert Nesta Marley to the world. With a pensive stare and a large spliff in hand, Marley tells you to mellow out and listen to the tough sounds of his island home.
While Bob and his Wailers had been making music for nearly a decade and released several records in Jamaica, Catch a Fire was their coming out party outside the Caribbean. Released in April on Island Records, the feel-good reggae rhythms and Marley’s messages of emancipation resonated with a global audience. A mix of songs of protest ("Slave Driver," "400 years") and love ("Kinky Reggae"), Catch A Fire is also notable for "Stir it Up," a song American singer-songwriter Johnny Nash had made a Top 15 hit the previous year.
The New York Dolls - The New York Dolls
The New York Dolls burst on the club scene in the Big Apple, building a cult following with their frenetic and unpredictable live shows. The Dolls' hard rock sound and f-you attitude waved the punk banner before the genre was coined, and influenced the sound of punk rock for generations. (Bands like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and KISS, cite the New York Dolls as mentors.) Singer-songwriter Todd Rundgren — who found time to release A Wizard, A True Star this same year — produced this tour de force. From the opening "Personality Crisis," this five-piece beckons you to join this out-of-control train.
Aladdin Sane - David Bowie
This David Bowie record followed the commercial success of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders from Mars. Many critics unfairly compare the two. A career chameleon, with Aladdin Sane, Bowie shed the Ziggy persona and adopted another alter-ego. The title is a pun that means: "A Lad Insane." For the songwriter, this record represented an attempt to break free from the crazed fandom Ziggy Stardust had created.
A majority of the songs were written the previous year while Bowie toured the United States in support of Ziggy. Journal in hand, the artist traveled from city to city in America and the songs materialized. Most paid homage to what this “insane lad” observed and heard: from debauchery and societal decay ("Cracked Actor") to politics ("Panic in Detroit") to punk music ("Watch That Man"). Top singles on Aladdin Sane were: "The Jean Genie" and "Drive-In Saturday." Both topped the U.K. charts.
Faust IV -Faust
This fourth studio album — and the final release in this incarnation by this experimental avant-garde German ambient band — remains a cult classic. Recorded at the Manor House in Oxfordshire, England (Richard Branson’s new Virgin Records studio and the locale where Mike Oldfield crafted his famous debut Tubular Bells, also released in 1973), Faust IV opens with the epic 11-minute instrumental "Krautrock" — a song that features drones, clusters of tones and sustained notes to create a trance-like vibe. Drums do not appear in the song until after the seven minute mark.
The song is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the genre British journalists coined to describe bands like Faust, which musicians largely did not embrace. The rest of Faust IV is a sonic exploration worthy of repeated listens and a great place to start if you’ve ever wondered what the heck Krautrock is.
Brothers & Sisters - the Allman Brothers Band
Great art is often born from grief, and Brothers & Sisters is exemplary in this way. Founding member Duanne Allman died in 1971 and bassist Berry Oakley followed his bandmate to the grave a year later; he was killed in a motorcycle accident in November 1972. Following this pair of tragedies, the band carried on the only way they knew how: by making music.
With new members hired, Brothers & Sisters was recorded with guitarist Dicky Betts as the new de facto band leader. The Allman Brothers Band’s most commercially successful record leans into country territory from the southern rock of previous releases and features two of the band’s most popular songs: "Ramblin’ Man" and "Jessica." The album went gold within 48 hours of shipping and since has sold more than seven million copies worldwide.
Call Me - Al Green
Call Me is considered one of the greatest soul records of the 20th century and Green’s pièce de résistance. The fact this Al Green album features three Top 10 Billboard singles — "You Ought to Be With Me," "Here I Am" and the title track — helps explain why it remains a masterpiece. Beyond the trio of hits, the soul king shows his versatility by reworking a pair of country songs: Hank Williams’ "I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry," and Willie Nelson’s "Funny How Time Slips Away."
Killing Me Softly - Roberta Flack
This Roberta Flack album was nominated for three GRAMMY Awards and won two: Record Of The Year and Best Female Vocal Pop Performance at the 1974 GRAMMYs (it lost in the Album of the Year category to Innervisions). With equal parts soul and passion, Flack interprets beloved ballads that showcase her talent of taking others’ songs and reinventing them. Producer Joel Dorn assembled the right mix of players to back up Flack — adding to the album’s polished sound. Killing Me Softly has sold more than two million copies and, in 2020, Roberta Flack received the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award.
The album's title cut became a No.1 hit in three countries and, in 1996, the Fugees prominently featured Lauryn Hill on a version that surpassed the original: landing the No.1 spot in 21 countries. The album also includes a pair of well-loved covers: Leonard Cohen’s "Suzanne" and Janis Ian’s wistful "Jesse," which reached No. 30.
Bette Midler - Bette Middler
Co-produced by Arif Mardin and Barry Manilow, the self-titled second studio album by Bette Midler was an easy- listening experience featuring interpretations of both standards and popular songs. Whispers of gospel are mixed with R&B and some boogie-woogie piano, though Midler’s voice is always the star. The record opens with a nod to the Great American Songbook with a reworking of Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael’s "Skylark." The 10-song collection also features a take on Glenn Miller’s "In the Mood," and a divine cover of Bob Dylan’s "I Shall be Released." The record peaked at No. 6 on the U.S. charts.
Imagination - Gladys Knight & the Pips
Released in October, Imagination was Gladys Knight & the Pips' first album with Buddha Records after leaving Motown, and features the group’s only No. 1 Billboard hit: "Midnight Train to Georgia." The oft-covered tune, which won a GRAMMY the following year, and became the band’s signature, helped the record eclipse a million in sales, but it was not the only single to resonate. Other timeless, chart-topping songs from Imagination include "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me," and "I’ve Got to Use My Imagination."
The Pointer Sisters - The Pointer Sisters
The three-time GRAMMY-winning Pointer Sisters arrived on the scene in 1973 with this critically-acclaimed self-titled debut. Then a quartet, the group of sisters from Oakland, California made listeners want to shake a tail feather with 10 songs that ranged from boogie-woogie to bebop. Their sisterly harmonies are backed up by the San Francisco blues-funk band the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils. The record opens with "Yes We Can," a hypnotic groove of a song written by Allen Toussaint which was a Top 15 hit alongside another cover, Willie Dixon’s "Wang Dang Doodle."
Behind Closed Doors - Charlie Rich
This pop-leaning country record of orchestral ballads, produced by Billy Sherrill, made Rich rich. The album has surpassed four million in sales and remains one of the genre’s best-loved classics. The album won Charlie Rich a GRAMMY the following year for Best Country Vocal Performance Male and added four Country Music Awards. Behind Closed Doors had several hits, but the title track made the most impact. The song written by Kenny O’Dell, and whose title was inspired by the Watergate scandal, was the first No.1 hit for Rich. It topped the country charts where it spent 20 weeks in 1973. It was also a Billboard crossover hit — reaching No. 15 on the Top 100 and No. 8 on the Adult Contemporary charts.
1972 Was The Most Badass Year In Latin Music: 11 Essential Albums From Willie Colón, Celia Cruz, Juan Gabriel & Others
Photo: Herb Kossover/Getty Images
Sound Bites: Gregg Allman Recounts The Allman Brothers' Grueling Early Days Of Touring And Being "Hangry" On The Road
In this from-the-vault interview footage, the late singer remembers how the Allman Brothers Band survived 1970 — when they played a whopping 300 days out of the year — and explains what made it all worth it.
In the 1970s, the Allman Brothers Band rose to fame as one of the greatest live acts in Southern rock. But in order to gain that status, they had to tour — a lot. In fact, in 1970 — just one year after they formed — the band played 300 days in one year, meaning they were almost always on the road.
But according to late singer and keyboardist Gregg Allman, the bandmates always kept perspective about their grueling tour schedule, because they knew all their hard work would pay off once they stepped on stage in front of their fans.
"When you finally walked out on stage and hit them first few notes, man, it made everything okay," Allman says in this episode of Sound Bites, GRAMMY.com's video series of interviews pulled from the GRAMMY archives. He recounts some of the discomfort the bandmates put up with in order to make their tours happen.
"Being broke," Allman offers as a prime example. "Back in those days, at the [concert venue] Boston Tea Party, I remember Twiggs Lyndon, who was our road manager, he would come around every morning and give everybody $3, and that's what you had to eat on that day. That was your per diem. So if you had a beer or two with lunch? No dinner."
The musicians quickly learned to ration their resources. "Because one thing you don't wanna be is hungry. Because then you start getting hangry!" Allman adds with a laugh.
Press play on the video above to hear more road stories from Allman himself, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Sound Bites.
Remembering Jerry Lee Lewis: 10 Essential Recordings By The Killer, From "Great Balls Of Fire" To "You Win Again"
(L-R) Derek Trucks, Trey Anastasio, Susan Tedeschi
Photo: Dave Vann
Derek Trucks On Tedeschi Trucks Band's 'Layla Revisited' Concert Album: "There Are Some Nights You Feel Like You Can Play Anything"
Two years ago, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi and Phish's Trey Anastasio covered Derek and the Dominos' 'Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs' live in full. Now, as gigs fire up again, the Tedeschi Trucks Band is sharing the smoking results
The band Derek and the Dominos launched a generation of guitarists, but they arguably only launched one full-fledged human being. "I was named after that record," the two-time GRAMMY-winning guitar slinger Derek Trucks told JamBands soon after performing their sole studio album, 1970's Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, front to back at a festival.
The connections didn't stop there, though: One of his earliest memories is of the LP leaning against—true to Duane Allman's involvement—a peach crate. The GRAMMY-winning singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi, his wife and creative partner in the Tedeschi Trucks Band, was born on the very day it was released. "I was named after this thing; she was born on the day," Trucks continued. "Pretty good stuff!"
With almost no rehearsal, Tedeschi, Trucks and their pal, Trey Anastasio of Phish, convened to perform Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs at Lockn', an annual jam-band bash known for unique pairings. The result—after a gig-free year and a half—is Layla Revisited (Live at Lockn'), a document of that unrepeatable evening, due out July 16 via Fantasy Records, that will blow your hair back.
Whether together or separately, Tedeschi and Trucks had performed in various settings some of the Eric Clapton-led band's tunes, like "Bell Bottom Blues," "Keep on Growing" and the classic "Layla," Clapton's wounded howl to his BFF George Harrison's then-wife, Pattie Boyd. Trucks had even shared stages with the Strat man known to some as "God," peppering him with requests to perform some of the tunes.
"He had a funny response at one point," Trucks tells GRAMMY.com. "He was like, 'I didn't know people really like that [Derek and the Dominos] record. It seemed like the record that kind of flew by.'" On the contrary, Clapper: Most people think it's your best work. And now, two of your finest protoges are making sure rock fans in the 21st century know it.
GRAMMY.com caught up with Trucks while on the road with Tedeschi Trucks Band to discuss his lifelong relationship with Layla, how the tribute concert came about and why—true to the one-and-done band—they may never try this album onstage again.
Tell me about your history with Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.
It's one of those records that's always been a huge presence from the very beginning. I've had connections with some of the tunes over the years, whether it was playing with my solo band or the Allmans or, eventually, with Eric. But I never sat down to learn the whole thing! [Chuckles.] It was really nice to finally dig into something that had always been there. You uncover more and more the deeper you go into something like that.
I remember that album cover as one of my first memories. It's a striking image—when I was growing up with parents who had vinyl leaning against peach crates in the living room. It's the first stuff you see, so it was a strange thing to eventually play some of that music with Eric in London. I remember Pattie Boyd—"Layla"—came out to one of the shows. A lot of it felt full-circle along the way, but finally playing the whole record felt like something that maybe we needed to do at some point.
To you, is the essence of the record the interplay between Eric and Duane?
That's a lot of it. You can feel what Eric was going through the more you dig into the lyrics of the record and the whole thing. But I think some of it was when you start learning all those guitar parts, you kind of start imagining the way the songs were written. There's a lot of open tunings and capoed guitars and little quirky st that just I never thought to dig into.
You realize he was probably listening to a lot of singer/songwriters at the time. Some of it almost feels like that Tulsa, Western-swing thing. It feels like a different era for him. It wasn't just straight Bluesbreakers stuff. You can tell they were getting into some other things. That's one of the things I noticed digging into the tunes, but definitely, the Eric-and-Duane interplay and that connection.
From what I hear, Eric was excited about the Dominos and they were writing tunes, but the record wasn't really getting off the ground in the way they had hoped. When Duane stepped in out of the blue, the whole thing took on a different life. But also, from what I hear, Duane was that kind of character. He came into the room with the pedal pretty much to the floor. That's how he operated.
It was this perfect collision. They met at the right time and this amazing thing happened.
What weird little quirks did you find? I'm sure as with many other albums of the era, there are things that wouldn't fly in a studio today.
Yeah, totally. All the best st is kind of made that way. You don't think about what it takes to get there; you just hear something in your head and figure it out.
Even digging into a tune like "Thorn Tree in the Garden," me and Sue recorded it, and I always imagined it sounds like a few people in a room playing and singing. There's at least a third guitar in there. There's one that's just kind of pedaling the harmonics and there's guitars that are not doing much, but if you take that little piece away, you all of a sudden notice that it changes the whole movement of the thing.
"I Am Yours" is a really uniquely constructed song. You wouldn't pick up a guitar and start strumming those first-position cowboy chords. That's a different way of going about it.
I think you're right on the money by implying that it's not a traditional 12-bar blues album. As you said, there are those cowboy chords and singer/songwriter influences.
Yeah. But then when it's time, it goes straight 12-bar! They're like, "Oh yeah, and then there's this. Let's not forget where it came from." It's a pretty amazing balance in that way.
I'm sure Eric has told you stories about this record.
When I was out with him, I was certainly lobbying to play some of those tunes. He had a funny response at one point. He was like, "I didn't know people really like that [Derek and the Dominos] record. It seemed like the record that kind of flew by." Obviously, "Layla" became the song of the record. But I was like, "No, that's the one, man. That's the one everyone goes to!"
I've noticed that when we did the Mad Dogs and Englishmen thing with Leon Russell, some of these seminal records don't feel that way to the artist when they do them, because maybe it wasn't received that way when it came out. That's your impression of it, and then you just move on down the road and have bigger hits with other things. It doesn't dawn on you that this is the one people really come back to. [Laughs.] So, I thought that was an interesting revelation.
Your Layla concert took place in 2019. Why, at that stage in the arc of your development, did it feel right to tackle that whole record and make a live album out of it?
It was specific to that festival. Every time we play Lockn', part of the thing that makes that festival unique is that they try to pair artists and have these big collaborations. They reached out about doing a few nights with me and Trey—me sitting in with his band one night and him sitting in with our band one night.
When we were bouncing around ideas, I thought maybe some of the Dominos tunes would be fun, and he had a list of tunes of ours that might be fun to play. We were in Red Rocks, I was about to get on the phone with Trey about finalizing the set, and I mentioned to a friend of mine that we might play a few Dominos tunes, and she was like, "You should just do the whole f*ing record!" [Laughs.]
Right when she said it, it felt like the most obvious thing in the world. It wasn't something I ever thought we would do. It wasn't something that was long-planned. It was just kind of an idea that made sense. And then the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I remember when I mentioned it to [Trey], that was a record he had studied and listened to a bunch. Susan has an amazing connection to that music too. So, it felt like home at that point.
What was involved in learning the songs and preparing for the gig? I don't know if you had the multitrack—if you could hear the guitars layer by layer.
He was on the road, I believe, and we were on the road pretty nonstop, so it was everyone in their headphones just listening as we were out doing other things. We didn't have any access to anything other than the same material [everyone has]. It was just a lot of listening. Everyone in our band really did our homework and dug into it and [dedicated] a few soundchecks to working up a song at a time.
It was really one full rehearsal with Trey in New York City and then a little half-day of rehearsal when [guitarist] Doyle [Bramhall II] showed up on-site at Lockn'. It came together pretty quickly once everyone was there. When Doyle finally showed up, he was that last ingredient. He had played with Eric so long and I'd played with Doyle together with Eric, so some of those parts fell right into place.
He's a master of putting things where they need to be. You almost don't notice they're there, but you notice if it's not there. [Laughs.] When Doyle stepped in, I knew the set was going to feel good. It went off, right out of the gate, better than any of us could have hoped, from the first note.
You could tell there were good nerves onstage from the first song. You can feel everyone's excitement about what we were doing. A few songs in, you can feel that the energy shifted where everyone was fully in it and letting it fly. There are some nights you feel like you can play anything. You don't have to think about it at all. It got to that place, which is rare when you're not doing material you know all that well.
That was nice, you know? You hope it's going to go off that way. It doesn't always go off that way. It's refreshing to know it wasn't just the energy of the crowd or the excitement of doing it, but it actually held up when we listened back to it. You never know.
Sometimes, you play a show you think is great, then you go back months or even years later and you go "Well, maybe it'd be more fun if you were there." This one had a different feel to it, and it held up.
Is this the only time you and Susan have performed it in full?
Yeah, and I think it's probably the only time we will do it that way. There's something special about keeping it to that.
Well, it's like the band itself. One and done. Get in and get out.
Totally. Don't let anything f* up your legacy!
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Photo: Cole Bennetts/Getty Images
Alice Cooper On 'Wayne's World,' Mixing With Motown & The Musical Heritage Of Detroit
"I always believe that nothing's going to stop a great song. No matter who it's coming from, a great song is a great song," Alice Cooper tells GRAMMY.com
At 73, Alice Cooper is in the middle of his first extended break from touring. Time away from his black-caped, blood-soaked alter-ego has given him plenty of opportunities to continue working (for instance, before our call, he was demoing ideas for the next album by Hollywood Vampires, a project he shares with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry). But mainly, he’s looking forward to performing tracks from his newest release Detroit Stories, which was released on February 26—even if his signature outlandish live visuals are still TBD.
When it does come time to add to his collection of concert props, there’s plenty of inspiration to choose from. Cooper’s twenty-eighth album is stomp through the Midwestern city where he was born and later readopted as his own in 1970. Populated by fictional colorful characters and performed by local musicians, it’s both a hard-driving look at the spirit of the city and—in the case of "$1000 High Heel Shoes"—a cheeky departure from his signature sound with the help of Motor City Horns. (Motown, as it turns out, plays well with shock rock.)
Even Lou Reed doesn't escape Cooper’s clutches. The musician sincerely calls his cover of the Velvet Underground frontman’s "Rock 'n' Roll" a "V8 engine," a blending of sounds that received the blessing of Reed’s widow, Laurie Anderson, who declared that her late partner would have loved the song’s transition from heroin chic to a full-fledged rock anthem.
Alice Cooper spoke with GRAMMY.com about spiritually dragging Lou Reed to Detroit, giving in to fate, and why he’s refusing to let COVID get him down.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How has it been, taking a break from your onstage persona and all the theatrics that come with it for the first time in years?
It's sort of like I have to remind myself, "What do we do on stage now?" Because it's a complicated show. Just to keep yourself in the game, you have to remember, "I did this on that song." I always surround myself with the best players. We've been around for 28 or 29 albums. There are maybe 15 songs on the show that fans have to hear. If you don't play those songs, they would revolt.
I remember talking to Bowie one time and he said, "I'm gonna do a whole show without doing any hits," and in the back of my mind I went, "That's the worst idea I've ever heard!"
Has putting out so many albums changed your definition of what can be a hit?
I used to be able to listen to an album and say, "Okay, that's the single." And it was pretty obvious what the three-minute single was going to be on the radio. It was pretty easy to pick "School's Out" or "Poison" or one of those songs. It just jumped off the album. I could listen to somebody else's album and go, "Oh, that's the single right there." Because there were sort of boundaries.
Now, I don't even know what a single is. I honestly don't, because it's such a different venue out there. It's such a different technology. I don't know if there is such a thing as a single.
Interesting. So how does a concept like Detroit Stories come together? Is it all just one high point?
It's one of those things where the single will emerge. You do 12 or 13or 15 songs, and certain songs just emerge, and they just go, "Okay, that's, that's one, it's so obvious that one's gonna get airplay." I think we knew when we did Lou Reed's "Rock ‘n’ Roll," that that was going to get airplay because it just had everything. It had all the elements in it: Joe Bonamassa on guitar, Steven Hunter on guitar, and everything about the song was relentless—it never stops.
Then you have a quirky song like "Our Love Will Change the World," and that song is getting played to death in London. That's weird. Why would that song get played?
How did Lou Reed, who's emblematic of New York, get folded into the Detroit theme?
Well, we played [the track] for Laurie Anderson. And she says, "He would have absolutely loved this." I knew Lou back in Chelsea Hotel, in New York back before all this, when The Velvet Underground was living there and we were living there. We knew each other pretty well.
But when I thought of the song, their version was so New York heroin chic. Yeah, that's cool for that. But when I heard that, I said, "Well, what if we took this and put a V8 engine in it?" Turn it into a song that you can't miss. It's just a rock and roll jam. It was one of those songs, it felt like Detroit. And I'm sure he would not mind if I switched Detroit station from New York station.
Rock and roll is Detroit! If you think of Los Angeles, they had The Doors, and all these kind of hip, sexy bands. San Francisco has the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, sort of the psychedelic country. New York City has The Rascals and Billy Joel, and that very sophisticated stuff.
Detroit, though, has Alice Cooper, Iggy and the Stooges, MC5, Bob Seger, Suzi Quatro, Ted Nugent—every band that came out of the Midwest in Detroit was a hard rock, guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll band with a lot of attitude. And that's what Detroit wanted. You couldn't be a soft rock band in Detroit; they would kill you.
Alice Cooper with his python, Rachina, in 1971. Photo: Victor Crawshaw/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
Was there a moment in Detroit you wanted to freeze or immortalize in this album?
I kind of invented characters that would have been from Detroit that I would have known. Like Hamtramck Hammer, and his girlfriend Painkiller Jane. They were just the absolute hell-raisers of all time. There are three guys sitting in an alley and they can't wait for Hail Mary to come by, because she's a great-looking girl and that's the high point of their day. They just sat there and drank wine, and couldn't wait for her to walk by and they would just go, "Hail Mary, full of grace, what are you doing in this place?"
When you've got Wayne Kramer from MC5 on guitar, these guys live in Detroit. Johnny Bee on drums, who is the premier drummer in Detroit. They have a certain amount of R&B that's in the DNA. They'll play hard rock, but there's a certain taste of R&B in there. And normally I would go, "No no no, I don't want that." In this case, I said, "I want all of that!" Because that is Detroit.
And even a song like "$1,000 High Heel Shoes," I said, let's just do a Motown song. Let's give Motown a nod, because we would do the Grand Ballroom, let's say, in 1970, and it would be us in the Stooges and the MC5, and The Who, and 1,500 sweaty rock ‘n’ roll kids. I would look down and see, Oh, there's Smokey Robinson. There's a couple of guys from The Temptations. Rock ‘n’ roll and Motown, we're all in bed together.
I mean, nobody saw color. It was just music. They came because they loved hard rock and they loved the energy behind it. We would go to their shows because they were just so well done. The Motown bands were classy.
I think it's still there; I really do! When we went back, we didn't have a theme when we decided to do this album. And normally, we go into the thematic kind of thing; almost every album we've ever done has been thematic.
And I said, let's do 12 really good hard rock songs. We'll just get the best players, and really put out a real classic Alice Cooper rock ‘n’ roll album. And we went, OK, that's from Detroit. Let's write the songs in Detroit. Let's record it in Detroit venues, all Detroit players. And then it became a theme.
Do you believe in the idea of fate, that you were meant to be in this place this time?
It was just something that fell into place. And a lot of people have mentioned, "Well did you realize Love It to Death is having its 50th anniversary, and you're going back to Detroit where all that happened?" That's a total coincidence.
I don't live in the past. I'm not one of those guys that lives in nostalgia. I talk about it. And I certainly don't deny any of it. But I'm always thinking about the next album. And if I can incorporate that Detroit sound into a new Alice Cooper album that sounds fresh and like a lot of fun, that's what we're gonna do.
Do you see COVID changing the nature of those places in Detroit that you love?
I'm a total optimist. I believe that I think that this vaccine is going to really make a big difference. By the end of summer, I'm expecting everybody to be back on the road because now you've got 70-80% of the country protected. Why wouldn't you go back on the road? Why wouldn't there be concerts like there used to be? What are you afraid of at that point?
COVID had its day. That's how I look at it. I don't look at it as COVID is going to be here forever, and we're never going to do concerts again. It's not going to last forever. COVID has got a departure date coming up.
And you know, the thing about it is, there's going to be such a glut of albums coming out. You have to figure every single guy in every band has got his own studio. And if you have a year off, what are they going to do? They're going to write and demo songs. So, there could be like 400 albums coming out in the next two years. Everybody is going to.
I'm already working on the album after Detroit Stories and the next Vampires album. So, that's really the most creative thing you can do—to sit and write and do demos.
What would your advice be to a musician who is just starting out their career and might be worried about falling through the cracks in the middle of this surge of music?
Well, that's that will be a problem with young bands. They’d better show up with something pretty interesting because you're up against everybody now. I would say if you're a young band, if you have something that's just going to knock everybody out, great.
I always believe that nothing's going to stop a great song. No matter who it's coming from, a great song is a great song, and it doesn't matter if it's a brand-new band or if it's a band that's 60 years old. That song will live. So, my advice to young bands is to write the best songs you can write. Not riffs, songs.
I tell young bands all the time, want you to listen to three albums. I want you to listen to Meet the Beatles, any Beach Boys album, and Burt Bacharach. They sit there and they go, "We don't want to sound like that!" You don't have to, but look at the way the songs are constructed. It's okay to be angry and write an angry song, but put a melody to it.
With Wayne's World being revived recently for an Uber Eats ad, do you still have fans declaring "We're not worthy" when they meet you?
This is not exaggerating: I would say if I'm in an airport, I get it at least two to three times per airport. And everybody thinks it's the first time I've ever heard it! It'll be three businessmen chanting, "We're not worthy!" And I try to pretend like it's the first time I've ever heard it. "Oh, that's clever!"
I'm not exaggerating—probably 1,000 times it's happened. And then Mike Myers says, "I could have stuck you with something much worse than that!"
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