As a baby, Melody Trucks slept backstage in one of her father Butch Trucks’ roadside suitcases while he played drums onstage with the Allman Brothers Band. As a young child, Melody’s brother Vaylor Trucks appeared on the cover photo of the Allman Brothers’ only number one album. This 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 their father’s legacy by performing vintage Allman Brothers tunes like “Midnight Rider” with their own band. This group is aptly nicknamed Brother and Sister.
“Music is timeless,” Melody said in a recent phone interview. “And it helps me feel connected to my dad and what they (the Allman brothers) did, which is why I do it. What they did is create such an amazing space so that musicians can communicate and reach that next place that we are always looking for.
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Melody’s mother and father separated when she was very young. Still, she has fond memories of visiting Butch, playing the grand piano for her and them listening to classical music records together, such as Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.”
Later, after having started with the flute then the saxophone and other instruments, Melody naturally turned to percussion. The main thing she learned about rhythm from her father, who created beats in the Allmans with co-drummer Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson and later percussionist Marc Quinones, “was to shut up and to listen”.
Melody continues, “You have to let go of your ego. And Jaimoe and my dad had such an amazing way of shutting themselves up with each other because they were constantly listening to each other. And the same with Marc once he entered. If you’re not listening to what other people are doing, you can’t connect like that.
Brother and Sister split most of the lead vocals between Vaylor, Melody and talented guitarist Willis Gore. The band also includes drummers Eric Sanders and Garrett Dawson, bassist Matt Stallard and keyboardist Pete Orenstein, who also contributes lead vocals. Songs that Melody sings on lead include “Stand Back” and “Not My Cross To Bear”.
The Allman Brothers recorded a few studio essentials – in particular the Macon, Georgia-based combo’s self-titled debut album in 1969, second album “Idlewild South”, “Brothers and Sisters” and the studio record’s six studio tracks /live from 1972 “Eat a La Pêche.” Tracks like “Dreams”, “Revival”, “Blue Sky” and “Jessica”, to name a few. “These songs are stitched into my DNA,” Melody recalls growing up in a rock & roll family. “It’s all part of my story.”
It was the scene where Allmans’ music became magical, achieving prog-blues transcendence, fueled by a jazz-seeking soul and, OK, a few chemicals too. The Allman Brothers’ 1971 double album “At Fillmore East” is often considered the greatest live release of all time. His alchemical spirit has inspired countless Southern rockers and jam-bands.
The first five versions of Allmans are untouchable in this area. But Melody also loves the albums the band made in the ’90s, especially 1991’s ‘Shades of Two Worlds’ and 1994’s ‘Where It All Begins’. of my adult years. So I kinda identify with those records just because of the excitement of them (the band) to make this massive comeback.
And while Gregg Allman and Allmans guitarist/vocalist Dickey Betts are ’70s Southern rock gods, for Melody, reminiscing about the times around them is “like having memories of your uncles.” She has vague memories of being very small and living on The Farm, the more than 400 pieces of rural Georgia land the Allman Brothers purchased as a group. She fondly remembers Red Dog, the band’s longtime roadie who was described in the movie “Almost Famous,” as being “always so sweet and kind.” The team were fantastic and taught all of us kids how to be behind the scenes without being in the way.
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The name Melody sounds like a poetic appellation for a musician’s daughter. Curiously, she says her name has nothing to do with music. “My mum was at a doctor’s office and she was reading, I think it was a Reader’s Digest or something, and they had a list of the 10 most beautiful words in the English language and a tune was on it. And that’s how I got my name.
In college, Melody studied Balinese gamelan and Brazilian sambas. Meanwhile, Vaylor was coming in too, working more on the fusion side of things, with musicians like Colonel Bruce Hampton. Eventually, when their father’s side project Butch Trucks and The Freight Train toured the Southeast, Melody would join the trek, switching to single vocals on tracks like “Statesboro Blues”.
As cool as it was for life to come full circle and for Melody to play music with her dad, “the really cool thing about it wasn’t necessarily the shows,” she says. “While we were on the road, dad rode with me in the car. And so we spent hours and hours with him and me. And it was one of the only times in my life where I got to spend so much time with my dad, just the two of us. And that’s what I remember the most from that time, it’s just being able to spend time with him one-on-one.
So, what kind of conversations would she have with her father, who at the time traveled many miles with the famous Allman Brothers? “Oh, I can’t tell you,” Melody laughed. “He certainly told me crazy stories on the road that… ‘Like dad, I don’t want to hear that. “He absolutely adored his grandchildren. And we talked about life. We talked about everything. It was a time in my life that I’m extremely grateful for.
The Allman Brothers’ Last Days lineup played their farewell show in 2014 at the Beacon Theater in New York City. Butch Trucks and vocalist/keyboardist Gregg Allman both passed away in 2017 and are sorely missed. The surviving members of the final lineup – including Melody and Vaylor’s cousin, slide guitar wizard Derek Trucks – performed a show in 2020 at the Madison Square Garden concert billed as The Brothers, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the original group. Since then, Derek Trucks and Allmans vocalist/guitarist Warren Haynes have mostly evolved with their other successful bands.
Although the Allman Brothers achieved fame, fortune and musical respect, it came at a heavy cost. Guitar prodigy and bandleader Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, a devastating loss for the band, which finally gained popularity with “At Fillmore East” after years of difficult touring. Bassist Berry Oakley was lost a year later, strangely also due to a motorcycle accident. The group’s vices have come close to consuming various members at various times. Weddings came and went almost as often as guitar solos.
Yet the Allmans have always been able to turn that blues and pain into musical joy. For the band and for its fans. “They loved what they were doing, and it came to fruition,” Melody said, adding that she hopes to bring that energy to fans who also come to the Brother and Sister shows. “Music is meant to take you to a place where joy lives.”
On March 25, Brother and Sister will headline an 8 p.m. show at Furniture Factory, 619 Meridian St. N. in Huntsville, Ala. Muscle Shoals group Yes Trespassing is the first. Tickets are $15 in advance / $20 at the door via factoryevents.ecwid.com. More info on brother and sister.