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Blues couple finds home in Trucks Band

WANT TO GO?

Tedeschi Trucks Band

WHERE: Clay Center

WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday

TICKETS: $33.50, $58.50 and $73.50

INFO: 304-561-3570 or www.theclaycenter.org

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A lot of work can go into naming a rock band. The musicians who've banded together want something that attracts attention, sounds cool and doesn't make them look silly.

It can be more difficult than it sounds. Band names get repeated from city to city and state to state. Different groups of musicians use the same names over different generations.

Even simple names, like the Grammy-winning blues powerhouse Tedeschi Trucks Band, which plays Wednesday night at the Clay Center, isn't really that simple. The 11-piece ensemble, headed by Allman Brothers guitarist Derek Trucks and his wife, singer/songwriter/guitarist Susan Tedeschi, takes its name from the duo, but even that was a torturous process.

Trucks laughed about it.

"It was a process," the 34-year-old affirmed. "Always, naming songs, naming albums, naming bands, that stuff takes forever."

Trucks and his wife have been in bands for most of their lives, and they each had their own solo musical outfits for years before deciding to pool their resources and go out on the road. While it might sound like the pair just decided to skip endless discussions about what to call the band, that's not what Trucks said happened.

"For months, we were asking friends, fans and band members, trying to come up with a name," he said.

They came up with a couple, but none of them seemed to stick. For a while they settled on "The Revelators."

"But it turned out there were two or three bands with that name already," he said.

So, instead, "Revelator," eventually became the name of their Grammy-winning debut record.

For a little while, he said they simply went around as the Derek Trucks/Susan Tedeschi Band, but when they were working on "Revelator" with producer Jim Scott, Scott wrote down "Tedeschi Trucks Band" on something and the name became the obvious choice.

"It just flowed," Trucks said. "Trucks Tedeschi just doesn't roll off the tongue as well."

A family band adds a member

While the Tedeschi Trucks Band has really only been around for a couple of years, Trucks is proud of the band they've become. Recently, they brought in a new bass player after Oteil Burbridge left the band to start a family.

Finding the right bassist took only slightly longer than naming the band.

"I guess over the past eight months, we've played with six or eight different guys and had a lot of different guys on the road play with us."

All of them, he said, were world-class players, each with very different approaches to the music, but none of them were the right fit.

Trucks said, "Talking to the band, we were like we'll know when we have the right player when it [the music] feels comfortable, but also feels progressive and new."

Over the summer, they brought in New York-based bassist Tim LaFave. LaFave came out on the road with the Tedeschi Trucks Band to fill in for a handful of shows the group was performing with The Black Crows.

"I think it was on the second show," Trucks said. "I remember we were two or three songs in and having the feeling -- this is what we've been looking for."

Trucks said he looked over at Kofi Burbridge, Oteil's brother, and the keyboardist was grinning happily.

"He was like a little kid," Trucks said. "The rest of the band felt it, too; they'd found their bass player. That's a rare thing. It's what you hope for, but it actually happened."

LaFave officially joined the band a month ago.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band has a new record out, its second, "Made Up Mind," released in August.

Trucks sounded like he likes the follow-up better than their debut.

"I think the band was just much more confident going in this time," he said. "We knew what was possible and we hit the ground running.

"I've never felt as good about a record as this one. The making of it, from start to finish, just the whole thing, felt right."

He's glad to be out there on the road showing off the new material, though he added that the funny thing about releasing a new record is it makes him want to get started on recording another one.

Not just a family band, a family man

As much as he and Tedeschi are on the road, they try to balance their careers in music with their roles as parents. The two have a son and daughter. Both attend elementary school in Jacksonville, Fla., but Trucks said they bring them on the road in the summer and during breaks as much as they can.

Lately, that's maybe less with their son, who has developed a love of sports.

"He's been playing a lot of baseball," Trucks said. "That's where his head is at."

Their kids, he added, are music fans.

"They listen to good music," he said. "It's still Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder and a lot of great soul music -- at least when I'm around that's what they're playing."

The guitarist acknowledged that might be just for his benefit. He said he doesn't force them to choose only music he likes -- sort of.

"I tell them, I'm not going to tell you what you can't listen to. I will tell you what I will not buy." He laughed and said, "That's my only ground rule."

Heavy weight of success

The work is never ending, but Trucks doesn't mind. He has a lot to live up to. Two years ago, Trucks was honored along with the rest of the Allman Brothers with a lifetime achievement award.

Trucks began performing with the Allman Brothers when he was 13. For several years, he played shows with the bluesy, southern rock as a guest before becoming a full-fledged member of the outfit in 1999, about the age of 19.

Considered something of a guitar prodigy (Rolling Stone magazine lists him as No. 16 on their Top 100 Guitarists Of All Time list), he's a little unsure as to what a lifetime achievement award is supposed to mean.

"I really appreciated the band," he said. "It was a really nice gesture to include us."

Trucks said he didn't think the older members of the Allman Brothers would have accepted the award if the Grammy hadn't also agreed to honor the younger members of the band, which includes him, guitarist Warren Haynes and Oteil Burbridge.

The trio has been credited with reinvigorating the classic rock outfit and breathing new life into the music.

"It was really them making it happen," he said. "The gesture is humbling. I don't think I've fully earned that. I've helped with the past 10 to 15 years and even if I hadn't, they'd have still got the award."

He laughed and added, "But I did keep the trophy. I didn't give it back."

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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