Butch Trucks Shares Thoughts On Grateful Dead & Watkins Glen 1973
All week long, Forbes Magazine has been rolling out posts featuring an interview with Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks. Yesterday’s article includes Butch’s thoughts on the Grateful Dead and of the historic Summer Jam at Watkins Glen in 1973 which saw hundreds of thousands watch sets from his group, the Dead and The Band.
Butch was asked for his take on the music of the Grateful Dead and he doesn’t hold back. “Pretty much when we played with them, it bored me stiff. They would just mill around on stage, and half the time tried songs they didn’t know. They would fall apart in the middle, quit playing and stand there and just look at the audience. But still, they’d draw these massive crowds!” Trucks said. He went on to share a story about a conversation he had with impresario Bill Graham, “I asked [promoter] Bill Graham once, ‘What is it?’ He said, ‘Butch, it’s not about the band, it’s about the crowd. They go because they know all of their friends are going to be there. They will find their group, look up at the stage once and say ‘Yeah, there’s the band,’ and that’s the last time they ever look.’ And I said to Bill, ‘Well, yeah, that kind of makes sense.'”
While he did take aim at the Dead, he also was forthright about the issues his band faced in the mid ’70s, “The Dead is just the place where the party happens. And they are the beneficiaries of that. I guess that’s what we did for three or four years, too. I was drunk pretty much that whole time and don’t remember much. But somehow we just kept packing them in. I remember one time at Madison Square Garden we sold out four nights in three hours. And then there was Watkins Glen, 600,000 people, with The Band, The Dead – and we closed.”
Trucks doesn’t have fond memories of the music at Watkins Glen and feels all three acts were inebriated in their own ways. “I think a lot of those people came to hear the greatest jam of the three best jam bands in the country. So after we finished playing, we all came out for the jam and all I can say – I’ve heard the tapes – is it was an absolute disaster. I kept listening and listening, then thought about that night. It was a jam that couldn’t possibly have worked because of the mixture of drugs. The Band was all drunk as skunks, The Dead was all tripping and we were full of coke,” Butch said.
Head to Forbes for more from Butch Trucks.