Even as a young child, Warren Haynes remembers being drawn to the records in his house, and there was one album in particular that Haynes couldn’t seem to put down.
“I had two older brothers and most of the records we listened to were mainly soul singers,” said Haynes, the legendary guitarist and founding member of the Southern rock jam band Gov’t Mule. “Singers like Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, the Four Tops, the Temptations and Otis Redding. But James Brown was my first hero.”
For years, there was one of the Godfather of Soul’s records under the King label that captured Haynes’ attention.
“Some of the James Brown singles had pictures of James on the label of the actual record. Not the sleeve, but on the actual label of the record,” Haynes said. “But there was one picture in particular on the King label, back when it was blue, that had a big K on it. And in the big bar of the K, there was a picture of James inside it singing into a microphone. I remember looking at that over and over and over again when I was a kid.”
Haynes said he couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old, but he remembers constantly listening to that record and singing along with Brown.
“I think it’s through James Brown that I, at a young age, discovered what groove meant,” Haynes said. “The kind of groove that James Brown did had never really existed prior to him.”
This spring, Haynes will take the stage with his band, Gov’t Mule, for The Major Rager on Thursday, April 9, in the Augusta Common to kick off the 2015 Masters Tournament. The stage will be located directly across the street from the James Brown statue on Broad Street.
Haynes said it will be an honor to play in the city in which James Brown called home.
“James Brown created a fresh sound that changed the world as much as The Beatles did,” Haynes said. “To this day, when I’m trying to define the epitome of what groove is, it’s James Brown. To me, there is no question about it. His music, when I listen to it today, it is even better than it was 50 years ago.”
Of course, Haynes is a music legend in his own right.
For almost 25 years, Haynes remained an active member with the Allman Brothers Band until just last year when he announced he was leaving the band to pursue other projects.
Along with the Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule (the band he started 20 years ago), Haynes has also performed with the Grateful Dead, Phil Lesh & Friends, Bob Dylan, John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Dave Matthews and the “King of Blues” himself, B.B. King.
Rolling Stone Senior Editor David Fricke named Haynes one of the top 100 greatest guitarists of all time.
“Haynes is possibly the hardest-working guitarist on the planet,” Fricke wrote. “Displaying controlled intensity, he’s a meaty and masterful slide player, as well as a soulful singer and songwriter. Steeped in the uncut blues of Muddy Waters and Elmore James, and especially bitten by the heavy rock-trio sound of Cream and Mountain, Haynes has kept the blues-rock burning brightly since falling in with the Allman Brothers’ camp in the 80s.”
But had it not been for the early influence of the Godfather of Soul on his understanding of music, Haynes joked that there’s no telling where he would be today.
“When I listen to ‘Love Power Peace,’ let’s face it, the band that James Brown had, there was no band around that was that type at that time,” Haynes said. “James Brown’s band was as orchestrated as any of the big bands. I mean, the amount of time and energy and rehearsal and concentration that must have gone into making that music the best it could be is unimaginable. But everyone revered that.
“Everybody that heard James Brown’s band said, ‘That is the best band on the planet.’”
As Haynes began to mature as a musician, he began studying the origins of different sounds.
“First, you find the people that you love and you want to discover who they listen to, and then find those people and you want to discover who they listen to, so it’s like a family tree,” Haynes said. “So you are studying backwards to see where it all comes from. But there was nothing predating James Brown that was quite that funky.”
Growing up, Haynes also found a similar depth and originality in the music of the Allman Brothers Band.
“I have always maintained that if I were going to join a band that I grew up listening to, the Allman Brothers would be at the top of that list. Without question,” Haynes said. “I was a huge fan. I learned so much from that music before I ever met any of the guys.”
Almost all of the musicians that he grew up playing with in his hometown of Asheville, N.C., were big Allman Brothers fans.
“We played a lot of that music in garages and eventually in clubs,” Haynes said. “No one could ever predict that there would be an opportunity for someone like myself to go in that band. God, when I finally did, playing those songs with that band, it was an unbelievable experience. There is no other band on the planet that plays that way.
I was extremely honored and proud to be a part of it.”
When Haynes joined the band, he said there was an uncanny chemistry between the original members and the new members.
“It is just a chemistry that the band has and an approach to the music that the band has, combined with the unique talents, that are the ingredients of the music,” Haynes said. “It makes for music that no one else is capable of performing.”
The original band of Gregg and Duane Allman, Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks and “Jaimoe” Johanson were true master musicians, Haynes said.
“They created a sound, very similar to how James Brown created his own sound,” Haynes said, adding that he first met Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts back in 1981. “No one ever sounded like the original band before that. That’s why people credit the Allman Brothers Band with creating Southern rock.”
However, Haynes said the Allman Brothers Band is extremely uncomfortable with the term Southern rock.
“They don’t want to be categorized or pigeonholed, but people didn’t know what else to call that music,” Haynes said. “It all came out of the South, and it was unique and it spawned a movement. With that movement came a lot of other great bands, but none that was quite as experimental and improvisational and psychedelic as the Allman Brothers.”
The Allman Brothers changed the music scene forever, Haynes said.
“Without question, a lot of what would eventually be the jam band scene came from the East Coast with the Allman Brothers and from the West Coast with the Grateful Dead,” Haynes said. “Just with two different approaches.”
The Grateful Dead has a much more subtle approach, believing that if the musicians take their time, “eventually the magic will come,” Haynes said.
“The Allman Brothers were a lot less patient,” he said. “Let’s force the magic to happen right now. And that was the intensity that brought about jams. It is based on something that you can’t rehearse.”
While some musicians might be a little intimidated by a more free-form method of making music, Haynes said it is also extremely liberating.
“If and when a musician gets bitten by that bug, there is no turning back,” Haynes said. “It is much more fulfilling. However, it is not something that everybody has an affinity for. But when you do, even if it takes a long time to discover that, there is a whole world out there that exists.”
“To me, it’s the lifeblood of what I do,” he said. “In a band like the Allman Brothers or Gov’t Mule or even the Grateful Dead, which is very experimental, there is a balance that you strive for between the songs and the exploration. One without the other, I don’t think is nearly as exciting and enriching.”
Being able to incorporate both of those aspects of the music together in a two-and-a-half hour show creates a “roller coaster ride” for audiences, he said.
“When I go to a show, if I feel like I am hearing something or I’m experiencing something that is never going to happen that way exactly ever again, then I feel like I was a part of a special thing,” Haynes said. “A true experience. That’s part of what we are trying to give people as well when we take the stage.”
The Major Rager featuring Gov’t Mule, Lettuce, The Revivalists and the Omega Moos
Augusta Common, downtown Augusta
Thursday, April 9
General Admission, $30; VIP tickets, $100 each and they are all-inclusive with food and beverage at tables and chairs located in a private section to the right side of stage. An after-party, featuring music by The Omega Moos, is at Sky City. Tickets are $20.