A FEW MINUTES WITH… Jaimoe
By Don Wilcock
At 74, how long is Jaimoe going to keep playing drums? “Oh, shit, until you can’t go anymore, man. Until you can’t play anymore, because when you can’t go anymore, you might as well be dead.”
Jaimoe is the last man standing from the original Allman Brothers Band. The late Duane Allman actually brought him on board the group that would define southern rock before brother Gregg joined in 1967. He shared drumming chores with Butch Trucks. The Allman Brothers Band split up in 2014. Both Gregg and Butch died last year, one more chapter in the career of a band that was defined as much by its tragedies as it was the hard driving music it created.
Tonight (Friday, February 23) Jaimoe brings what was once his side band, the Jasssz Band, to The Egg’s Swyer Theatre for their Greater Nippertown debut. More eclectic than the Allman Brothers, the group includes two horns, bass, keyboardist and guitarist/vocalist Junior Mack, who worked or shared the stage with the Allman Brothers Band, Derek Trucks, Robert Randolph, Dickey Betts, the late David Honeyboy Edwards and the Harlem Blues Project.
“I used to be so goddamn aggressive,” says Jaimoe. “Now, they gonna shoot me full of Valium, and put me in an cage somewhere. This is the stuff I wanna do, and I just wanna do it. The thing is, it always came so easy to me. And I say that, easy to me. Not real easy. It’s like it’s not a lot of work as long as you enjoy and love what you’re doing.”
After the Allman Brothers split up, Jaimoe played in Les Brers with Butch Trucks until Butch shot himself to death last year. To say that Jaimoe was shocked would be a gross understatement. “That’s like, goddamn! That don’t make no sense. Don’t make no goddamn sense, you know? It’s like, what’s going on? Because Butch loved living. He loved watching them goddamn Gators, that football team, and he loved his wife. He loved his family, and then his new junior, his new grandson from his youngest daughter, you know, man. It’s like something’s fucked up here. I always say that’s just another warning about things we take for granted – maybe not take for granted, but at least need to pay more attention to.”
Jaimoe was the first drummer to play in a rock band that featured two drummers. I asked him if it was James Brown that inspired him to do double drumming.
“No,” he said with self-assurance, “It inspired Duane to do the double drumming. We started the conversation. I said, ‘Why is it you want two drummers?’ And he said with a grin on his face, ‘Because James Brown has two drummers, and Otis Redding has two drummers.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s cool. I was one of ’em.’ Not with James Brown but with Otis Redding, and as a matter of fact, Duane saw one of the shows I did. There was a show at Vanderbilt in ’67 or ’68. It was ’67 til late ’67. So, that’s what he saw.”
As iconic as the Allman Brothers were, Jaimoe is enjoying the freedom of playing with his own band that’s more expansive in its interpretations. “If you’re not careful, all your influences overshadow you,” he says. As far as the Allman Brothers were concerned, he loved the experience and he may just be little surprised that he’s the last (original) man left standing. “We were fucked up on wine, pot and what the fuck else. If we were that good after what we had been putting in our bodies, I say, what would it have sounded like if we hadn’t been in that situation? I finally came to the conclusion (whether or not we were on drugs) it’s just about even because we damn sure didn’t not try to do our best. It would have just gone in another direction. Not direction maybe, but it would have done something that it didn’t do.” Jaimoe compares the difference between the Allman Brothers’ drugs vs. no drugs existence to Republicans vs. Democrats, chuckling at a potential third choice, Independent.
As for now, Jaimoe’s enjoying life with his Jasssz Band. “I play blues. I play jazz. It’s the Goddamn same thing. Everybody that wants to play with ya, it’s the same thing. The only thing that happens there is era. The era of this, the era of that.”