The Hippo


Apr 25, 2019








Gov’t Mule. Courtesy photo.

Gov’t Mule

When: Saturday, Sept. 10, 8 p.m.
Where: Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord
Tickets: $37.50 & $55 at

Gov’t Mule celebrates release of first-ever session

By Michael Witthaus

 In 1994, two members of the Allman Brothers Band — guitarist Warren Haynes and bass player Allen Woody — recruited drummer Matt Abts for some casual jamming. With an initial set at The Palomino in Los Angeles, the seeds for Gov’t Mule were planted. A few weeks later, the three went into Tel-Star Studios in Florida. The sessions sparked record label interest; soon, the band recorded a debut album, but the demo tapes would sit on the shelf for over two decades. 

Warren Haynes recently talked by phone about the band’s beginnings, and the finally released Tel-Star Sessions. An edited version of the interview follows.
What made you decide to put out Tel-Star Sessions now?
I guess it was mostly the anniversary, because we never thought we’d make it two years, much less five, 10 or 20. When the 20th began approaching, we were talking about the possibilities for celebratory releases [and] during that same process, I went back and listened to the Tel-Star Sessions, always having fond memories of those sessions but not having heard them in a long time. Really found myself smiling throughout the entire listening session and in turn wanting to put this stuff out.
Talk about the vibe in the studio.
We’d been talking to Tom Dowd about the way they made the Cream records and he said part of that sound was the entire band set up in the same room with all of the mikes picking up all of the instruments. That’s the way we set up, and it’s a very old-school approach, but a lot of our favorite records were made that way. It has a unique sound. 
Matt and Allen were so locked in even though they hadn’t played together. Did that surprise you?
Yeah, the first time they got together at the Palomino they had this instant chemistry that was so obvious. When we started the concept of Gov’t Mule being a side project we went into what’s now the Big House, which is the Allman Brothers Museum in Macon, Georgia. It was a bed and breakfast run by our friends Kirk and Kristin West. We holed up there for a week or so and worked on material and rehearsed it and just kind of creating a vibe and hanging together [and] just kind of becoming a band, which is what it felt like was happening ... it happened so quickly. When I go back and listen to it now, I’m reminded very vividly of how it was – it was a short snapshot in time.
Were you thinking in terms of getting bigger?
Yeah, we were starting to think that, I had a manager [and] he sort of inherited Gov’t Mule and started saying, “I think you guys should think about a tour, making a little more out of this.” We’re starting to get some demand for this band that thought it wasn’t a band. It was the same thing with record companies – we went in thinking we’ll just pay for everything ourselves and do a very inexpensive independent record but then when it seemed like some labels were interested in taking it further than that we thought, maybe we should be planning all options. 
How many of the songs were first takes?
I would say most of them ... to catch the kind of improvisation and excitement that we’re looking for – if you play it two or three times you’ve kind of exhausted that part of it. It’s really important for me to capture those early takes. 
What did stepping outside of the Allman Brothers Band mean?
Well, at that time the band only worked about half the year or less so there was plenty of time for us to do whatever else we wanted to do [and] the Allman Brothers Band was starting to unravel at that point. The camaraderie was fading and individual band members were not getting along and it was starting to be questionable about whether or not the band was even going to continue, you know? The morale between Allen Woody and myself was very high and when we got Matt on board it just seemed like the opposite of what was going on in the Allman Brothers. We were hanging out together, writing music and it was a breath of fresh air. So it instantly started building its own momentum.
What are your thoughts on the Allman Brothers’ legacy?
I think we all miss playing together, miss playing that music, but I think we all agree it was the right decision to stop touring when we did. Being part of the Allman Brothers was 25 years for me of being in one of my favorite bands. Even after 25 years, I still separate what I think of the Allman Brothers with the band that I was in for 25 years. Because the original band with Duane and Dickie and Berry Oakley was a big inspiration and influence for me and when I think of the Allman Brothers that’s what I think about. 

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