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Jaimoe – Founding Member of The Allman Brothers Band

Who Les Brers | When March 23 and 24 | Where Cox Capitol Theatre Les Brers Featuring Butch Trucks, Jaimoe, Oteil, Marc Quinones, Jack Pearson, Bruce Katz, Pat Bergeson

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Jai Johanny Johanson is better known as Jaimoe. He is best known as one of the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band, though he’s played with too many greats to try and name.  Johanson backed soul singers, including a membership in Otis Redding’s touring band in 1966, and afterward touring with the acclaimed soul duo, Sam & Dave. After joining up with Duane Allman in 1969, he quickly became the first recruit into Allman’s new group, soon joined by bassist Berry Oakley, fellow drummer Butch Trucks, guitarist Dickey Betts and lastly Allman’s younger brother, singer, organist and pianist Gregg Allman. Since then, well, you know the story.

You are the only ABB member that lived in Macon during the R&B days, before the town became known for Southern Rock.  Can you share a few memories from that time? I moved to Macon in ‘68 to play in the Capricorn band, which was an undercover thing.  A friend of mine called me and said “Hey man, Phil Walden is putting together a recording studio.”  I think originally it was in the Grand Opera House or over there somewhere. There used to be a recording studio over there somewhere. So I went down there to play in this studio band.  He wanted to get all these guys together who used to play in Clarence Carters band, Joe Tex’s band. All these guys he wanted to get together to form one great studio band. I think I’m the only one that went down there just for that and nothing else.

Was Phil trying to emulate what he’d seen down in Alabama? Phil had real good insight about a whole lot of shit man. He was looking for what we got into and eventually became at that point.  He wasn’t interested in doing the same type stuff that Hall was doing in Alabama. He wanted his own direction. And he built a hell of a studio, man.

What about those early days was different, businesswise, than when ABB came along? It was very similar.  It was business as usual.  Just different levels. Phil had already been used to dealing with single artists, and to him, the band was this artist.  So Phil took care of the business, so the band didn’t’ have to be distracted from the art.  In that respect, it was business as usual for Phil. He was use to dealing with the business side. We weren’t.

I’m a big fan of the Grateful Dead. And I’m reading Billy Kreutzmann’s memoir right now.  He talks about how he became a better drummer once Mickey joined the dead.  Did you have that experience, playing with a second drummer? I played in high school with another drummer. That’s something I don’t understand with a lot of drummers. Most would sit and look at the other drummer and do what he was doing.  You do that in marching bands. But it’s kind of backwards.  They are both percussion instruments.  But they are their own instruments.  My whole approach to that thing was “This is two percussions.”  Think about it.  If you had two guitarists how would you do it, two trumpet players how would you do it.  It’s the same with drums.  Some ask how can you do that, I ask how can you NOT do that.   Everybody plays a part. It’s about a union becoming one.  Regardless of how great everyone is, if you can’t think as one it’s not going to be as good.

Did you become “One” a lot? Everyone was killing it just about every night. When E.J. was down here working at The Big House museum, he sent me some tapes, one of the first things that we recorded. From there until, now check this out, from there until Chuck and Lamar came in the band. And when Chuck and Lamar came in the band, that whole period was over with. The energy was different. Not saying it wasn’t good, it was just different.  If I hadn’t had those tapes, it’s like every two weeks, what a step we made forward. In those tapes, you can hear that advancement. The amount we grew was monumental.  I thank EJ for sending me those tapes. It reminded me of listenting to Coltrane’s band.  A band like Coltrane’s, they must have advanced every two or three nights as much as they improvised.  And those early days remind me of that.

05 May 1969, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, USA --- L-R: Butch Trucks (standing), Dickey Betts, Jaimo, Gregg Allman, Duane Allman, Berry Oakley. --- Image by © Michael Ochs Archives/Corbis
05 May 1969, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, USA — L-R: Butch Trucks (standing), Dickey Betts, Jaimo, Gregg Allman, Duane Allman, Berry Oakley. — Image by © Michael Ochs Archives/Corbis

You were there when Eric and Duane met for the first time. Tom Dowd brought Eric by when we were at a gig in Miami. We took a break or something. Tom introduced Eric and Duane.  Invited him to the studio when we were done with the gig.  There are some tapes on that. We all went over to the studio.  Anyway, I went in there. It just wasn’t my groove. I wasn’t really impressed by it.  If something is not happening, what’s the point right.  I went out to the winnebego we had and put on some records.  We listened to Roland Kirk,  Miles Davis, Tony Wiggins, Taj Mahal, that kind of stuff, so I just stayed in the winnebego and listened to the things I was into.

In the 1980’s in Macon you were teaching drum lessons out of your home in Macon.  Did any student’s kind of stick out.  The lady that came from South Carolina. Shit man she was like a a brown belt or some shit.  She played drums.   She looked like she would knock a dude out. She was gorilla looking.  You didn’t’ want to mess with her.  I can’t remember he name but she would knock your ass out if you didn’t watch it.

How old are you Brian?
I’m 43. Born in 1973. I missed out on some good music didn’t I?
You know Dickey may have said to me one time. I would have loved to live in the 40’s I acted a lot like those guys, and played a lot like them in a way, and I would have been right at home.  And I said no, this is my period. My era. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. This is it.

You were probably a little too young to be involved in the beat generation? Shit naw. I Was a beatnik. When the hippie thing came along it was just the next thing. But yeah I was too young, but I still thought I was a beatnik because I saw them on TV in their glasses,  and beating on those Congos with their fingers. Some of my friends thought I was going to be the next Max Roach.  When they saw me up there with the Allman Brothers they were like “Man, what you doing with all those white boys?”

I said, “How does the band sound?”

“Good But”

“BUT WHAT?

How have things changed for you as you’ve gotten older as a musician and a band member? When I walk in a building, and snap my fingers, I know how loud to play.  If you playing to loud, then turn the fuck down right?  That’s why as you get older you get hard of hearing. Sitting in front of all those Marshall Amps all your life.  Butch Trucks, you can yell at him with a damn megaphone and he can’t hear you , but he can tell you when your guitar is out of tune like it ain’t nothing.

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3 Comments

  1. Jim Dorman
    March 21, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    Nice job – very interesting. Jaimoe sounded like he was very comfortable talking with you.

  2. April 2, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks Jim. It was an honor to talk to him!

  3. April 6, 2016 at 11:22 am

    Thanks Jim. It was a fun interview to be sure. Jaimoe talked for nearly 2 hours!