[Interview] Tedeschi Trucks Band

Wheels keep turnin’ for a family band

Susan Tedeschi

This is a multiple-choice question: Which event was most satisfying for Susan Tedeschi, the singer-guitarist who fronts her namesake band with husband Derek Trucks.

  1. Winning the Best Blues Album Grammy for “Revelator,” which was also No.1 in WNKU-FM’s Top 89 for 2011?
  2. Sharing the stage with Mick Jagger, B.B. King, Buddy Guy and guest vocalist Barack Obama at “In Performance at the White House: Red, White and Blues.”
  3. Attending the grade school presentation on American heroine Betsy Ross after staying up until 4:30 a.m. making daughter Sophia’s dress for her role.

Let’s call it all of the above, with an extra star for C.

“We have two kids, an 11-piece band and we’re trying to make records and tour,” says Tedeschi, who fronted her eponymous band for almost 20 years. “For me it does seem like I’m in (a whirlwind) every day, but I kind of enjoy the weird challenge. I’m one of those over-achievers that have a hundred projects and put myself in these crazy positions.

“I think I just like to be insanely busy.”

Tedeschi began her over-achieving ways early. She was an understudy in a Broadway musical at age 6, and after graduating from a Boston-area high school, she earned a degree in composition and performance from the Berklee College of Music at 20.

Growing up, my dream was to get to do the two things I loved the most … sing for a living and be a mom,” she says. “I used to love to babysit for free and I was always doing plays or in bands.

“I’ve had every job on earth from an electronics store to waitressing; I worked 9-to-5 doing computer stuff. So I really appreciate getting to do what I love … what a blessing it is. And to have a family that is supportive of it, that’s a whole other ball game.”

It seems like destiny that Tedeschi, who will cite chapter and verse about the old blues masters who influenced her music, would meet Trucks, who shared lead guitar duties with the Allman Brothers Band and is the nephew of the group’s drummer Butch Trucks. (Speaking of ball games, Derek is also related to former major league pitcher Virgil Trucks).

“Derek was born in ’79 and Duane (Allman) died in ’71, but Duane was an influence,” Tedeschi says. “His dad was a roofer, so it wasn’t like he went to shows or anything, but because his dad’s brother was an Allman Brother, he would listen to the records.

“For me, too, I loved the Allman Brothers growing up.”

Now Tedeschi and Trucks find themselves in the position, knowingly or not, of influencing a younger generation of musicians.

“Susan is a phenomenal singer with a huge voice,” says Natalie Wells, the Independence, Ky., native who fronts her own Greater Cincinnati trio. “And then there’s Derek. He’s one of my favorite slide guitar players and can make my hair stand on end with two notes.  Together, they’re quite the tour de force of soul and musicianship.”

Although each had a successful solo career, the idea of a family band was always in the air. And the couple had a blueprint.

“(This band) is like Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” Tedeschi says, referring to the 1970s troupe fronted by Joe Cocker with Leon Russell as the musical maestro. “It’s very much in that vein.

“It’s not just amazing being out with my husband, it’s being out with the band because we’re all family. My husband is married to these guys, I’m married to them to each other and each other’s families. It’s really the best of every world.”

That doesn’t sound like a crazy position at all, although it does appear to be an insanely busy life.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band headlines its “Wheels of Soul” tour at PNC Pavilion July 19, 2019 with Shovels & Rope and Blackberry Smoke

The Tedeschi Trucks band plays “Everybody’s Talkin'”


Originally published in 2012

Derek Trucks

Derek Trucks grew up at the crossroads of genetics and work ethic.

The guitar savant and his guitar-savant wife, Susan Tedschi, are on the road with the band’s annual “Wheels of Soul” tour.

Trucks has been in the rock ’n’ roll spotlight for most of his 37 years. The nephew of Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks, he joined the group when he was 20, shortly after starting the Derek Trucks Band. After meeting Tedeschi when her band opened for the Allmans, they married and eventually merged their groups into the Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2010.

As one might imagine, Trucks learned about how (and how not) to work collaboratively from his elders.

“Joining and playing alongside Dickey (Betts in the Allman Brothers) for the year or so that he was there was amazing,” Trucks says. “Then when they had their split, I mean I was 20 years old, in the band for a year and all of a sudden I was the only guitar player in the Allman Brothers. That was a strange time.”

That’s understated. The Allmans have a well-documented history of dysfunction, but when Gregg Allman kicked Betts out of the band for erratic behavior, the irony wasn’t lost on observers. Trucks persevered, however, and the group enjoyed a second coming of glory days with guitarist Warren Haynes until they shut it down in 2014.

“It took a while to find our places when it was Warren and me, but when we did I felt like we got into a great spot,” Trucks says. “But no one was really interested in making records. I’m still in my 30s and there’s a lot of meat on the bone and work to be done.”

With Trucks and Tedeschi focused on their band fulltime, it has grown to 12 members and found a groove that is a model for up-and-comers such as St. Paul & the Broken Bones and the Heavy. The irony of that isn’t lost on Trucks, either.

“I started playin’ and giggin’ when I was 9 years old and when I joined the Allmans, I was obviously the youngest guy in the room,” he says. “The band had been there for 30 years and I was 20, so it’s a strange moment when you go on stage and realize you’re not the youngest person there anymore.

“You start to see a handful of bands that kind of fit into the template pop up. I guess that’s a good sign, one that is resonating and shows that you’re on the right track.”

Younger bands could do worse than emulate Tedeschi Trucks. The founders had an idea what they wanted when they joined forces, but discovered their future while watching the past.

“We were home and put on the ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen’ documentary,” Trucks says of the rollicking road show orchestrated by Leon Russell with Joe Cocker in the early 1970s. “We were already thinking of making a little bigger band, then we saw that and said, ‘That looks like a helluva lot of fun.’

“That band and Delaney & Bonnie and Sly & the Family Stone, those were all things that we were thinking about when we were piecing this thing together.”

Trucks (and Tedeschi) learned from experience and then worked hard to put those lessons into play. This road could go on forever.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band headlines its “Wheels of Soul” tour at PNC Pavilion July 19, 2019 with Shovels & Rope and Blackberry Smoke.

The Tedeschi Trucks band plays “Everybody’s Talkin’”


Originally published in 2016


Each week, Bob Hust and Bill Thompson feature the best songs – old and new – from artists they have loved for many years and others they have just discovered. The best songs transport people to a time and place. That’s the foundation of BS&B.

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