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Two of the original Derek and the Dominos members -- Allman and Carl Radle -- are dead. A third, Jim

Eric Clapton gets a new Derek in slide guitarist By Randall Mikkelsen

In 1970, Eric Clapton joined Duane Allman and three other musicians as Derek and the Dominos to record one of rock-and-roll's masterwork albums, "Layla and other Assorted Love Songs."

Now, Clapton has a new Derek.
Derek Trucks, a 26-year-old slide guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band and leader of his own critically praised group, is to join Clapton's band on a European tour starting on May 5 that many fans hope will rekindle some of the Derek and the Dominos magic.

The tour also marks another step in Trucks' evolution from an upstart blues player who shared stages with the Allman Brothers and Bob Dylan at age 11, to a musician critics including Rolling Stone magazine call one of the best guitarists of his generation, with influences ranging from Indian classical music to jazz visionary Sun Ra.

Clapton, who reunited with his blues-rock band Cream last year, is giving few clues about this tour, and Trucks says he doesn't expect a Derek and the Dominos revival.

But Trucks, who was named after the group and whose slide style has been likened to Allman's, has dusted off tunes from "Layla," for his own band just in case.

"In a way it was kind of a warm-up, or at least to get those tunes back in my head," Trucks said of the "Layla" songs.

"I think maybe we'll do a few tunes from that period and that record, but it's an Eric Clapton tour," he said in an interview before a recent concert.

Two of the original Derek and the Dominos members -- Allman and Carl Radle -- are dead. A third, Jim Gordon, developed schizophrenia and was imprisoned after killing his mother in 1983.

Trucks began playing a yard-sale guitar at age 9. His father, Chris, a brother of Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, chaperoned him through the rock-music world and taught him to avoid its excesses. Still youthful looking, Trucks is cherub-faced with long blond hair usually worn in a ponytail.

Intent on developing his own style, he said he stopped listening to blues guitarists for long periods and instead paid attention to singers, horn players and Indian classical music.

Trucks is a meticulous player. He does not use a pick, and his slide notes slice and shimmer through vintage amplifiers, unmodified by the effects pedals favored by many electric guitarists.


On Songlines, the new CD by his group, The Derek Trucks Band, original tracks include the rocking "Revolution," and there are reggae, soul and blues standards, as well as a song based on Islamic "qawwali" devotional tunes.

"I felt in some ways that this record "Songlines" was going to be a breaking out of the band. It's going to turn a lot of people onto the group that were completely unfamiliar with it, and I think having the qawwali tune is a big part of what the band does and we wanted to showcase it that way," Trucks said.

Trucks says a key mentor was the experimental jazz-rock performer Col. Bruce Hampton.

"He turned me onto (John Coltrane's) "A Love Supreme," and Sun Ra and just all these great records -- right when I needed it," Trucks said. "He takes musicians that have natural ability and just kind of shatters everything they thought about music, and then you pick up the pieces and then you figure out that there's a whole new world out there."

Music is a family business for Trucks, who is based in Jacksonville, Florida. Besides playing in the Allmans with his uncle, he is married to blues singer Susan Tedeschi. The keyboard player in his band, Kofi Burbridge, is brother to Allmans bassist Oteil Burbridge. "It's important to have people around that you actually give a damn about," he said.

The Derek Trucks Band's roots go back to 1994. Its first CD was in 1997.

The New York Times, which gave a generally favorable review to "Songlines," suggested Trucks' talents were outpacing his bandmates'. "If I felt that way personally, I probably would have moved on , but I feel like there's a lot of music to be made with this group," Trucks said.


Last winter the band played posh concert halls. In April, it played a Harley Davidson dealership. "When you play in a Harley dealership you don't play the Indian classical tunes or the straight-ahead jazz tunes," he joked.

Trucks doesn't sing: He leaves that to bandmate Mike Mattison. In performance he is a figure of concentration, revealing only an occasional grin.

"When you're on stage and focusing ... You're hypercritical. You want to be able to listen back to a tape and not just be horrified by what I hear," he said.

"There are actually times where you can actually watch yourself and the band play, like you're almost stepping away from it," he said. "And then you suddenly come back and there's a few wrong notes on the way back. On a great night, you're a spectator too."

Rolling Stone in 2003 named Trucks to its top-100 list of guitar greats. He was the youngest to join legends including Clapton and Allman. But Trucks acknowledges the era of iconic guitar heroes has passed. "I think probably for the better. Not many that were held up in that status survived it," he said.
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