The pandemic crashed in on me probably the day—we played kind of a reunion jam of the remaining people of the Allman Brother’s Band at Madison Square Garden the actual day that they declared New Rochelle the epicenter of the pandemic. I was eating breakfast, watching CNN at the hotel, you know, down at the restaurant; and my wife, I think, was still in bed sleeping late, which she can never do when the kids are around, of course. And I see the report come on CNN as I’m eating my eggs. I pick up my phone and I get Google Maps and New Rochelle I’m thinking it’s Upstate somewhere, but it’s fourteen miles away, twenty miles away. I said to my wife, we are so out of here after this show, and it was sold out. So we played the show. 

We were already headed out like pretty much first thing in the morning. Then a few days later, I don’t know how many days later, my wife gets sick. She gets sick for about two days. Then I get sick. I get sick for about two days. Then Nigel gets sick for about two days and Kavi gets sick. Her cough—I think her cough and my cough lasted the longest, but you couldn’t get a test then. So we didn’t know for sure—are we just sick or is this Covid. I mean it’s killing people. This was a breeze, way easier than any time I’ve had the flu. Much later on we were able to get antibody tests. Turns out we had it and we think the kids had it. So I knew it was shutting down, but I didn’t know it was going to be for like two years. You know? 

Photograph © Bob Minkin

At first I was super psyched because I don’t like the road. And I love being at home. I didn’t have my first kids until I was 50. And I haven’t missed any firsts. I adore it. I just love silting here and pod casting from right here. Cutting my record right here. You know doing videos right here. You know, I hate to say it but it was easier in Florida because we could go outside and do stuff, so we got to be outside. We have a pool—my kids loved it. When I went back on the road for five weeks that was traumatic for all of us. I mean I was glad to be playing again, but the isolation the way we were touring was very nerve wracking and hard. And being away from my family—you know, I was never away from them for longer than two weeks. And then I was with them constantly for a year and a half and then I left for the longest time I’d ever left for. And so that was hard, but I didn’t know just how bad it was going to be, especially since we caught it right up front. And it was a breeze. I was like okay this is all gravy now if we don’t go broke and become homeless. 

At first I definitely did not play, and that’s pretty typical. Like when I come home, if I play at all, I tend to play drums or piano or banjo and not the bass. Unless I’m writing something, and now I’m writing a lot more on piano and banjo. So I wasn’t playing much. I was hanging with the kids. I was like a kid in the candy store. I mean, we were trying to adjust to the mask thing and the whole, you know, fear of getting it, which was obviously a lot less for us—we really like got super tight as a family, which was just great. Kavi—we adopted Kavi from India and I think she hadn’t been home that long so it’s a really good time for us to get bonded together. 

Photograph © Bob Minkin

But then a guitar player who is a friend of mine, and also one of my teachers, who also will be at Skull & Roses, Tom Guarna, I ended up asking him—there is this whole long thing about the number six which Colonel Bruce was obsessed with. It’s also an interval of the sixth major and minor that I constantly favor, so we were talking about sixes and he was like, yeah, man, I got to hip you to this six thing that this jazz pianist, Barry Harris, did. So he showed me this thing which he called the be bop scale. So without getting into it, a long technical thing, there is the extra note in this scale. 

And I was like, so there is a secret that I haven’t known. So when you go up the scale in chords, every like Doremifasolatido, and you play a chord on each one every other chord you can play the five, so it’s like going one, five, one, five, like Beethoven (descriptive noise). So going through the scale, it has this very jazzy sound. It was like finding, you know, the lost key to some temple. So then I went down the rabbit hole. We were up every night, twothirty in the morning, three in the morning. I go to the piano the next day, figure out the piano. And that opened up all these other avenues that I started finding for other harmonies like harmonic minor and altered dominant and all the stuff that these jazz players use stuff that I hear Chimenti doing all the time and I’m like, now I know! 

Photograph © Bob Minkin

So it became really cool because I hadn’t been down the rabbit hole like that on my bass since I bought my first six string, which was in ‘91 and then before that, probably since I was like 17 years old. It took me all the way back to the music room with (his late brother) Kofi in our house growing up which is what this is called. I just call this the music room in honor of that. And so that was really cool. And I found that all this stuff that you will be hearing soon in this album of Garcia Hunter in that I’m cutting because I’m changing—like it’s the Garcia Hunter song up until the last vamp of the tune and then it goes Oteil. 

So I’ve been doing that album, and also two others, one with Paul Riddle, who is the original drummer for the Marshall Tucker Band and so we’re doing some stuff with him and Marcus King and Charlie Starr from Blackberry Smoke. Eventually a couple of other big names that I don’t want to say until we actually get it. I’m really excited about that, because I’ve known Paul since I joined the Allman Brothers band—he would come sit in and we love each other to pieces. So, finally, we’re getting to play together for 21 years or however long you know or 22 years. And then yeah the podcast is kicking pretty hard and that’s really fun. I’m super busy. Kids keep you busy, you know, and like cutting music and podcasting and all that, I felt pretty busy the whole time I wasn’t touring. And now we’ve got some gigs, including Skull and Roses. 

The band there will be me, Pete Lavezzoli on drums. Jason Crosby on keyboards. Tom Guarna on guitar. Eric Krasno on guitar and I think Melvin Seals is going to sit in with us too. So I’m super, super excited for it. We had a really good time last time. It’s different when you play certain places, like when you play Warfield with Melvin it’s different. And I had the joy of doing it with Jackie and Gloria, too, when Gloria was still alive. So certain places that you play it just feels —you feel it. It’s hard to put it into words, because it’s just a different vibe. Lycée (LaChance), the lady that makes my handmade shirts, told me about the Warfield, and Jenny Shuman (whose work will be at “Dusty Strings,” the guitar museum at S & R) the lady that makes my straps. They never miss it if we’re playing the Warfield or anywhere with Melvin. You know? 

And they said you’re going to notice I it’s a different vibe. It’s even a different crowd, and I was like okay. So I’m just like soaking in the vibe but I did notice it. I was like oh this does feel different. And Ventura had that feel for me. I kind of felt—I kind of felt it coming. I was like I think it’s going to be different just for the way I heard people talk about it. Every festival is different, but Ventura is unique and I I’m hoping to play a number of times so I can put my finger on exactly what it is. But I like it. 

We played Eugene and it was my favorite show and I said it feels like old growth forest Deadheads. And that’s how Skull & Roses feels, it’s the home of the hard cores. Like it feels more hippy, like real people that have opted out. You know. 

The Garcia-Hunter album is just getting started, we’re only working on the third song. I set a deadline of September—if you give yourself a deadline then you tend to like chop more wood. Right now I’m working on “To Lay Me Down,” and it makes me—all I’ve done is sit here and cry about Kofi. I feel like all the Kofi stuff is coming out now. When I first started really playing this song is when he went down, and so it’s bringing all that back up. But it’s helping the song you know. 

So today was the first time I thought that I might call the record To Lay Me Down. But we’re so far away from that, so who knows? And the other thing is a shout out and invitation for everybody to come check out the podcast, “Comes a Time.” We’ve had wonderful guests…you’ll love it.

Photograph © Bob Minkin