Magazine article The New Yorker

An O.K. Day in Harlem

Magazine article The New Yorker

An O.K. Day in Harlem

Article excerpt


When Derek Trucks, the guitar wizard, was in the Allman Brothers Band, and they were playing one of their perennial stands at the Beacon Theatre, on the Upper West Side, he always walked to the gigs, sometimes with long cigar detours through Central Park.

"Gotta walk off the night before," Trucks said recently. He and his wife, the singer Susan Tedeschi, were walking east on 133rd Street, up from the Hudson into Harlem and a frosty headwind. There'd been no night-before this time, save for sushi and sake downtown, but they wanted to poke around the neighborhood, in anticipation of an engagement at the Apollo Theatre this week with their own group, the Tedeschi Trucks Band.

"I remember the first time I came up here, like twenty years ago," Trucks said. "Yonrico Scott, the drummer in my old band, he's from Detroit and is an awesome, crazy individual. He played football under Bear Bryant. His mom is a hairdresser and gospel singer in Detroit, used to do little Stevie Wonder's hair. Anyway, Rico was wearing dashikis and was super Afrocentric. He was, like, 'Young brother, you can't go up to Harlem by yourself. No, you're coming with me. We're gonna go get a bean pie.' I still have this book that I bought on the street that time. It was where I learned about the reptilian race, all the super-kooky alien-conspiracy stuff."

Trucks is thirty-six, with a ponytail, a bushy blond beard, and a beatific air. He had on maroon corduroys, an oilskin jacket, and an indigo wool cap. Tedeschi, forty-five, blond, with a mischievous grin, was in jeans, peacoat, and prescription Ray-Bans--looks like Boston, sings like Memphis. Their two kids, eleven and thirteen, were at home, in Jacksonville.

Tedeschi met Trucks in 1999, when her band was touring with the Allmans and Trucks was still too young to buy beer. She described acting cranky during a sound check, while Trucks, to her mortification, looked on. "Then I remember walking up the steps behind the stage, and I felt someone grab my leg. I look down, and it's Derek. I was, like, 'What are you doing?' " She glanced over at him. "You were frisky," she said. Her bandmates didn't love the idea of her seeing him. "They were, like, 'You can't hang out on that bus, with the Allman Brothers.' 'Why not?' 'Because they do drugs!'"

"I didn't have to win over her parents," Trucks said. "I had to win over her band. …

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