Biography by Michael B. Smith
You wouldn't know it from listening to Warren Haynes' work with Gov't Mule or the Allman Brothers Band, but there was a time when he didn't play guitar. He says, "I didn't get my first guitar until I was 12. My oldest brother had an acoustic guitar and I would bang around on it and try to play." But guitar wasn't even his first love -- it was singing. Around the time he was eight or nine, Haynes' two older brothers began turning him on to soul music. He would sit in his room, singing Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. He became fascinated with sounds of Motown and Memphis. "All I cared about was the singer. The really strong singers really knocked me out. Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops still is one of my favorite voices of all time. And I always liked B.B. King even before I liked the blues. His voice was the main thing."
Guitar didn't escape Haynes' attention for long, however: he would soon turn on to rock and roll. "I really liked Eric Clapton. He was the first guitar hero I had. I liked really heavy Cream stuff. I liked all the Derek And The Dominoes stuff." Haynes' brothers used his admiration of Clapton to expand his musical horizons to take in the blues masters. They would tell him to check out Howlin' Wolf because Clapton played on it. Interviews with Haynes' favorite guitarists led him to other blues players, and the scope of his guitar playing grew accordingly.
Soon Haynes found himself performing at private gigs and pool parties. When he was about 14, he started hanging around a local pizza parlor that had been converted into a nightclub. About six months later, word got out that Haynes played guitar. The regulars wondered what this kid could do, so they offered to let him on stage.
It wasn't long before Haynes was playing in a band called Ricochet that developed a good regional following. One day, Haynes got a call from David Allan Coe, and it was a major break for the 20-year-old Haynes. He played with Coe from 1980 to 1984 (traveling all over the States and Europe) and played on nine of Coe's albums. Haynes also met Dickey Betts and Gregg Allman through Coe, and when Coe's band opened for The Allman Brothers at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Betts sat in. Four years later, Haynes moved to Nashville to do session work, but the Allman connection was still there. Betts was doing some demos in Nashville and called someone to put together a group of background singers. As fate would have it, Haynes was one of them. Later, he called Haynes and invited him down to work on some songs. Those songs turned into Betts' solo album, Pattern Disruptive.
At the same time, Allman decided to record "Just Before the Bullets Fly," which Haynes co-wrote, as the title track to his 1988 album. It's no wonder that when The Allman Brothers reformed for their Reunion Tour in 1989, Haynes got a call to join. That tour turned into two studio albums and two Grammy nominations for Best Instrumental Rock Performance (in 1990 for "True Gravity" and 1991 for "Kind of Bird," both of which were co-written by Haynes and Betts) and then a live album in 1992 An Evening with the Allman Brothers Band. Haynes' songwriting, singing and playing helped make Seven Turns, Shades of Two Worlds and An Evening with the Allman Brothers Band, the Brothers' most critically acclaimed albums in years. Many critics give Haynes credit for putting the fire back in The Allman Brothers Band.
Haynes also took time out to release his first solo album, Tales of Ordinary Madness. The album featured the piano work of Chuck Leavell. Leavell also played on the album, joining another former Allman Brother, Johnny Neel, and Funkadelic's Bernie Worrell on keyboards. Marc Quinones, percussionist in the current Brothers lineup, also helped out.
After dropping out of The Allman Brothers Band in 1997 to pursue his side project (Gov't Mule) on a full-time basis, Haynes, along with bassist Allen Woody and drummer Matt Abts, released their third album in 1998, Dose, as a follow-up to their highly successful 1996 debut album and the 1996 recording Live at Roseland Ballroom.
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