Prodigy trucks into adulthood

Derek Trucks, with Government Mule, House of Blues, April 16, 1998

Back when Jonny Lang and "Monster" Mike Welch were still in elementary school, the adolescent Derek Trucks was sparring onstage with the Allman Brothers and trading licks with Joe Walsh, Tinsley Ellis and Jeff Healey. After seven years of frustration flirting with major labels in search of a suitable recording deal, Trucks released "The Derek Trucks Band" on Landslide Records last fall.

"We wanted to wait until it felt somewhat right," says Trucks, 18. "It's always the case, especially when you're that age, that a record company wants to have complete control over the music. It gets very scary when a record company says what music you can do and who should play with you."

Trucks and his bandmates -- bassist Todd Smallie, keyboardist Bill McKay and drummer Yonrico Scott -- have cooked up a concoction of blues, soul, Southern rock and '60s post-bop jazz on their acclaimed, mostly instrumental album. The quartet successfully redesigned John Col-trane's "Mr. P.C." and "Naima," Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" and Miles Davis' "So What."

The nephew of Allmans' drummer Butch Trucks spent his formative years listening to blues legends Elmore James, Robert Johnson, Son House, Bukka White and, of course, Duane Allman. He later discovered bop horn players, and blues and soul singers like Howlin' Wolf and Ray Charles. "A lot of those jazz guys, especially John Coltrane and Charlie Parker, were really blues players," says Trucks. "It wasn't the obvious approach. But as far as the purity and where it's coming from, it has the same ethic."

Trucks went on to record with Gregg Allman, Junior Wells, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and the late Johnny Copeland. "I wouldn't trade (child-prodigy status) for anything," he says. "I got a lot of opportunities that I wouldn't have had otherwise. I had a chance to meet or play with a lot of the remaining blues players before they left the planet. That was definitely a thrill."

It looks like Trucks will be playing a long time before that thrill is gone.

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