Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi aren’t the type of rock stars being hounded by paparazzi at the grocery store, or that you’ll find on TMZ. But, they are the type who have won Grammy Awards, performed alongside the biggest names in music, and recently played at the White House for President Barack Obama. To say that each of them has had a hugely successful career would be quite the understatement. Their soul-stirring, eclectic blend of blues, Southern rock, R&B and jazz fusion is in a class of its own. Oh, and by the way – they call Jacksonville home.
Trucks embarked on his prodigious career in music at a very young age. After purchasing his first guitar at a garage sale at age 9, it was only a matter of a few years before he formed a band and hit the road. Still in his early teens, Trucks was performing alongside legendary acts like The Allman Brothers and Buddy Guy, rapidly solidifying his mind-blowing slide-guitar style that would eventually land him at No. 16 on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All-Time” list (ahead of legends like Carlos Santana and Neil Young). By the age of 20, Trucks was an official member of The Allman Brothers, and at 27 was making an album with Eric Clapton.
Along with his Allman exploits and Clapton cameos, Trucks has graced stages across the world in a number of acts. In 1996 he formed The Derek Trucks Band. The amalgamation of virtuosos relentlessly toured the world for the next 15 years, while managing to produce seven studio albums and nab a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album. He’s also joined forces with Tedeschi and members of each of their own bands to perform as The Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Soul Stew Revival. It was during this period that Trucks also found himself on the cover of Rolling Stone’s 2007 “New Guitar Gods” issue, and the Wall Street Journal declared him “the most awe-inspiring electric slide guitar player performing today.” The term “complete badass” comes to mind.
Tedeschi has also been immersed in music since her early childhood. Born in Boston to a Catholic family, she was active in choir and theater while still in grade school. She eventually began finding musical inspiration in African-American Baptist churches, where the music was “less repressed and more like a celebration of God.” By the age of 13 she was singing with local bands, and went on to study at Berklee College of Music, the largest and most prestigious independent college of contemporary music in the world. She received her Bachelor of Music degree in musical composition and performance at age 20.
Tedeschi formed the Susan Tedeschi Band in 1994, which went on to produce some very successful albums. In 2000, her album Just Won’t Burn reached Gold record sales of 500,000 in the United States, a feat rarely achieved in the blues music realm. While on this road to success (literally and figuratively), she found herself opening for legendary acts like the Rolling Stones, B.B. King and Bob Dylan.
Tedeschi lists Etta James, Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin among her biggest influences. This comes as no surprise, as her voice is as potent, soulful and captivating as any woman’s to grace the microphone before her. She’s also an incredible guitar player, an attribute that sometimes gets overshadowed by the fact that her husband is one of history’s best.
Considering the impact that music has had on each of their lives, it only seems fitting that music is exactly what brought Trucks and Tedeschi together. The two met in New Orleans in 1999, when the Susan Tedeschi Band was opening for The Allman Brothers on their Summer Tour. By 2001 they were married, and as the saying goes – the rest is history. They now have two children and reside on a gorgeous slice-of-heaven here on the First Coast.
In 2010, the couple formed their current music production clique, the Tedeschi Trucks Band. The group consists of members of their previous endeavors, which only enhances the family vibe and cohesion that runs thick through their catalog. Their home boasts an immaculate, two-story rockers playhouse, known as Swamp Raga Studio. The studio rests along a muddy creek-side bank, and the music that emanates from it seems to share the creek’s intimate, soulful ambiance. It was here that the TTB recorded their Grammy-winning album Revelator, and their second studio offering, Made Up Mind, released earlier this summer. Having their recording studio at home allows for much more family time, something many in the industry struggle to get enough of.
“The upside for me is, it’s awesome I still get to be mom. I like to cook and clean and do laundry and kind of be a girl control freak,” said Tedeschi.
“There’s something nice about having a studio where it doesn’t feel like work,” added Trucks. “Everyone just shows up and it’s a hang. You’re rehearsing in a place where you just turn the knob and now you’re recording.”
When you take into account their downright staggering list of accolades and accomplishments, it’s hard to imagine what the limit is for Tedeschi and Trucks. They’ve achieved more in their careers before reaching middle age than many ever dream of in a lifetime. That said, they are two of the most humble, down to Earth folks you could ever hope to cross paths with. When it comes to the Best of Jax, they’re in a league of their own.