Warren Haynes on the Allman Brothers reunion, Dickey Betts’ signature sound, and Where It All Begins



By Steve Newton

Word on the street is that the Allman Brothers Band is playing some of the finest, most intense gigs of its illustrious career. And according to people who have seen the group recently, it’s not just the best-known members—Dickey Betts and Gregg Allman—who are making things happen. From all reports, the sterling guitar work of one Warren Haynes is really inspiring the band to new heights of southern-rock splendour.

“I think the young blood has something to do with it,” says Haynes, who—over the wires from New York—is quick to share credit with new Allman percussionist Marc Quinones and bassist–background vocalist Allen Woody. “With Marc and Allen, the three of us add somethin’ to the band that is significant without takin’ anything away from the established sound, which is the sound we all fell in love with.”

Haynes was an 11-year-old nonmusician when his legendary forerunner, Duane Allman, died in a motorcycle crash on October 29, 1971, but shortly thereafter the North Carolina native began studying guitar with a passion. At the age of 20 he joined David Allan Coe’s band, and through that connection he met Dickey Betts, whose solo band he played in for three years.

“The whole time that we played together in his band there was never any indication that the Allman Brothers would get back together,” says Haynes. “If the topic was ever brought up, nobody was really excited about it. But then things kinda started comin’ around. Stevie Ray Vaughan was gaining some momentum, as was Robert Cray, and things started headin’ back towards the blues a little bit. I think as that started happening, Dickie and Gregg and Butch and Jaimoe all got together and thought, ‘Hey, maybe it’s time we buried the hatchet.’ ”

Haynes—who joined the reunited Allmans in ’89 to perform on the band’s 20th-anniversary tour—was the ideal choice to take over Duane Allman’s old spot opposite Betts, especially considering his superb talents on slide guitar. Nowadays he plays almost all the slide in the band—and there’s a lot of it on the band’s latest release, Where It All Begins. (There should also be a lot of it when the Allman Brothers play the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Sunday, October 30.)

“Dickie’s a really good acoustic-slide player,” says Haynes, “and occasionally when we’re doin’ some acoustic stuff he’ll pull out the slide and we’ll swap roles. But I play all the electric slide in the band, and it’s cool, because one of the things that was missin’ in some of the other incarnations of the band was the combination of Dickie’s guitar and slide guitar at the same time. If Dickie was playin’ the slide, then his signature sound was missing.”

As well as handling lead, rhythm, and slide guitar with the Allmans, Haynes also contributes lead and background vocals. His talents as a songwriter are evident on one of Where It All Begins’ most uplifting tracks, the 6 1/2-minute “Soulshine”:

When you can’t find the light to guide you through a cloudy day/When the stars ain’t shinin’ bright, you feel like you’ve lost your way/When the candlelight of home burns so very far away/You gotta let your soul shine, just like my daddy used to say.”

“My dad was a big influence and inspiration to me,” says Haynes, “not that he’s a musician, because he’s not, but he has this natural singing talent that he was never given a chance to pursue. He could see early on that I was obsessed with music, really, and he encouraged me to follow my heart and my dream.”

Not only has Haynes managed to live the dream of being in the Allman Brothers, but last year he also branched out with a fine solo release, Tales of Ordinary Madness. Produced by onetime Allman Brother and current Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell, that CD showcases Haynes’s vigorous vocals as well as his exceptional guitar chops and songwriting skills. It’s dedicated to Albert King, who died while Haynes was recording it.

“I felt compelled to do that,” says Haynes, “because he was a huge influence on me, and I think in a lot of ways possibly the biggest influence on rock guitar ever.”

King’s biting blues style is also deeply embedded in the improvisational southern-rock tradition, one that Haynes feels is still alive and well in ’94.

“Having gone through the ’80s, I think people are realizing that a lot of music during that time was headed away from what we refer to as real music. Machines are great for making demos and for writing songs—and technology is a wonderful outlet—but at the same time some of the best music ever made was made on a $40 guitar with a human voice. So the music starts inside, and you translate it to the audience. It doesn’t always take 64 tracks of digital technology to do that.

“And that’s kind of the premise behind Where It All Begins,” he adds. “That record was done like an old record, where everything was recorded live on the fly. We joke around about it, but if it was up to us we’d never make another studio record—we’d just make live records and that’d be it, because there’s something about playing to an audience that brings things out of you that you can’t bring out of yourself otherwise.”


To hear the full audio of my 1994 interview with Warren Haynes–plus interviews with Allman Brothers Dickey Betts, Gregg Allman, and Derek Trucks–subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can also eavesdrop on my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joe Satriani, 1990
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1995
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001
…with hundreds more to come

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