When I was 16, my dad took me to New Orleans for the Jazz & Heritage Festival. Sunday night, The Allman Brothers Band closed out the festival weekend. I went to New Orleans pre-Katrina. In 2010, I returned. Seeing the watermarks on the homes in the Gentilly neighborhood humanized what happened when Katrina came marching in. At 16, I was starting to learn guitar, I was starting to get interested in music, and I was listening. I became connected to music’s spiritual power.
My dad put a band in my ears, in my heart and in my blood. And they were called The Allman Brothers Band. Luckily, I saw them play twice: In 2010 at the Jazz Festival and again in 2014 at Interlocken Music Festival close to where I was attending college. It was their last outdoor concert ever. I am so lucky. In 1989, Warren Haynes joined the band. Later, Derek Trucks would join to play slide guitar.
After the Interlocken show, I started reading Gregg Allman’s autobiography, My Cross to Bear. Early in the book, Gregg writes about how he lost his father before he was really cognizant. His father was murdered by a hitchhiker whom he picked up on the side of the road. Duane, Gregg’s older brother, tragically died in a motorcycle accident at the height of the band’s musical exploration. Duane was such a special musician.
In the book, Gregg writes about his last interaction with Duane. Gregg stole [cocaine] from Duane and lied to him about it, and that was his final interaction with his brother before he rode off on his motorcycle. Gregg faced so much tragedy and coped by drinking and drug use. Music, however, is what kept him alive. His saving grace.
Butch Trucks, the drummer of the band, took his own life tragically in January 2017. I believe Gregg’s heart couldn’t take any more pain after that. He would soon pass away months later. I was so emotional after Gregg’s death. I felt so connected with him. I am so grateful for the love, energy, pain and sound that The Allman Brothers Band transferred into me. I wondered how Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes felt. I wondered how excited Duane was to see his brother again and grant him forgiveness. I wonder how many tears were shed in the band’s extended family, crew and friends.
The ABB gave me an interaction with my soul. My father gave me access to search my soul. A vibration echoing through me for eternity. A vibration created from the spirit of expression. A vibration.
In 2010, when I first saw the Allman Brothers play, I was very close to the stage. As they ended “Whipping Post,” something fell out of the sky, hitting me on the crown of my head. It was a guitar pick. Warren Haynes had just tossed his guitar pick and it fell on me. Since then, his pick has stayed in my car for the last decade. It has been my totem guiding me through my life, while reminding me of who I am and where I come from. Warren Haynes grew up in Asheville. I grew up in Charlotte, and I now live in Asheville. For the first time, I attended the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam last [month].
Stepping into the U.S. Cellular Center, I could feel the energy. An early winter snowstorm loomed over the event, which elevated the excitement. Friday night at the 30th Christmas Jam was incredible. From start to finish, each musician brought the goods. The most important show of the night was Warren Haynes’ band, Gov’t Mule, rendering their take on Pink Floyd. Warren took the night to another level. Jim James joined the band to sing the song “Us and Them,” which is a song I have always connected to the big question of “Who is in charge?”
As I stood there watching this performance, that now registers as one of the best shows I’ve attended. The final song played was “Wish You Were Here.” Let’s all reflect on the people we have lost and those we love. “Wish You Were Here” makes you. I just thought of my dad. I thought of how much joy he has brought me. How much he has taught me. How much I love him. I couldn’t help but think Warren was singing that song to someone. To the Allmans? To his dad? The energy that was rushing through me was more than chords and notes — it was a rhythmic confirmation. It was religious.
As I reflect on this memoir, I find that I am, in fact, a believer in God.
Warren Haynes’ 30th Christmas Jam was special. There is no doubt that the spirit of Christmas ran through me that night. Many of the artists have been with me in my car for many years downloaded into my MP3 system. They are with me on this journey I call life, reminding me to have faith, love others and be graceful. I still have the car. I still have the pick. I still have the soul.
— Eric Ivers
P.S. I love you, Dad.