HTN Flashback:

Issue #15 was our first to feature a color cover, and it included an interview with Joseph "Red Dog" Campbell and Joe Dan Petty, legendary roadies for the Allman Brothers Band. During the ABB's 1996 summer tour, Sara Thrift and Meg Andrietsch, who were riding the "specially-chartered Peaches and Dreams" tour bus, sat down with red Dog and Joe Dan for an informative and fun conversation. Please enjoy "On the Road with Red Dog Campbell and Joe Dan Petty."

On the Road with Red Dog Campbell and Joe Dan Petty

by Sara Thrift and Meg Andrietsch
Prior to the show in Greenville, SC, Sara Thrift and Meg Andrietsch from the "Peaches and Dreams" tour bus, met with Joseph "Red Dog" Campbell and Joe Dan Petty, legendary roadies for the Brothers. Red Dog, Kim Payne, and Mike Callahan were the original roadies for the Allman Brothers Band, and Joe Dan joined them shortly thereafter. They joined us on our tour bus, we started the tape recorder and settled in, completely blown away by our chance to interview these guys.

When asked if they were familiar with Hittin‘ the Note, Red Dog replied, "I've got a copy on my coffee table at home right now, the one with Dickey on the cover." Joe Dan proudly noted, "It's published in my hometown." We explained to Joe Dan and Red Dog that there are over 2,200 subscribers to HTN, and many of the copies are shared, so several thousand people would read their story. Additionally, Hittin' the Note is now sold at the T-shirt booth at concerts, and there are a few other sites that sell copies, specifically Tower Records in Atlanta. Red Dog had a suggestion for a possible sales site at a head shop in Tampa!

Just as the interview started, they requested an ashtray, and we explained that we did not have any tobacco smokers on the bus, but we were glad to accommodate the guys. They said that they were nervous roadies, due to all the stress of the job, and nervous roadies smoke. When we were unsure about what they were going to smoke, Joe Dan was quick to point out that he does not do any drugs, but Red Dog is "liable to do anything." Red Dog says he starts smoking just before having his coffee in the morning. Joe Dan stated that he has led a sheltered life, while Red Dog is very worldly. Red Dog enthusiastically agrees, boasting that "I lead him astray."

We explained that the purpose of the article was to profile the roadies, and Joe Dan and Red Dog asked that we mention all the roadies in the article, and they emphasized the importance of each person's contribution to the band. Although our main intent was to highlight the original roadies, they were very emphatic about making sure that we conveyed the importance of all the crew "brothers," especially stressing that Eric Hanson is an instrumental part of their back line crew. The crew is as important as the band, and the band agrees with this philosophy. Red Dog explained that back in the old days, the road crew got paid before the band. That was Duane's philosophy. He felt that the crew did the work and the band had the fun. After the crew got their money, the band would split the rest. Sometimes it was $15.00, sometimes $85.00. In fact, Joe Dan scrimped and saved (by eating lots of Krystals) to get a pair of Frye boots before they went to New York for the Fillmore show. He needed $45.00, and it took him two weeks of hard work to achieve the goal. Eventually, he gave the boots to Red Dog, and they both laughed over that.

We really wanted to hear about their history with the band, and they were quite willing to take us back to "where it all began" for them. When the band was rehearsing at Butch's house off of Atlantic Boulevard in Jacksonville, before Gregg appeared on the scene, Joe Dan was asked to join. Another guy, Michael (Butch's former brother in law), was the other roadie then. Joe Dan said that he had obligations at the time and was unable to take the job, and he was playing in his own band as well. It was about a year later that he was finally able to hook up with the ABB. At the same time, Red Dog had been hanging out with Duane and the band a lot. In the beginning there wasn't even a band, it was just a bunch of guys (Dickey, Butch, Berry, Duane, and Jaimoe), jamming around and going out to nightclubs - that is how it all started. Then Gregg showed up in Jacksonville, and things began to happen. They did some gigs at the Armory, played with the Load and with Second Coming, and rehearsed at the Apollo South, which was owned by the Comic Book Club, an all black club. This all was within about a two-month period. Next, the band moved to Macon, where Phil Walden and Associates was located. This was after Detective Phieffer came on the scene in Jacksonville. One night, the band was visited by the local police, looking for drug use. They had some paraphernalia sitting on the table which Dickey threw out the window, so no harm resulted. But the group realized that the police would be back, and it was time to get out of town. So the next day, they were in the van, moving to Macon.

By the summer of 1970, Joe Dan had joined the team. The ABB had recorded its first album and came through Jacksonville to play at the Beach Auditorium. The club where Joe Dan's band was playing had been closed for two weeks for renovation, so Dickey asked him to go with them down to Miami, where they were cutting their second album, Idlewild South. Joe Dan went and never came back.

Originally, Joe Dan was a drum roadie. He set up Butch, and Red Dog took care of Jaimoe. Before that, Red Dog handled both. Joe Dan does play a mean bass guitar himself (most notably for the band Grinderswitch), while Red Dog doesn't play an instrument. These guys are really good friends and clearly enjoyed bantering back and forth as they reminisced about the old days. Red Dog pointed out that Duane was the pied piper of the group. Red Dog himself had been a merchant marine sailor and college student studying to be an attorney. As for Joe Dan, he was stumbling down the path of least resistance, but his commitments kept him from joining the band right away. He had a wife and two kids, and laughingly said that they really only liked each other twice, hence the two kids. His friendship and relationship with the band tightened, while his commitments dissolved. Red Dog feels that the two of them have survived and weathered the storm. Many things certainly have gone down with the Allman Brothers Band over the past two and a half decades.

Certainly the most famous - or infamous - roadie picture of all time is the back cover photo of At Fillmore East. Looking extremely disreputable and road-hardened are Red Dog, Kim Payne, Joe Dan, Mike Callahan and Willie Perkins - with Twiggs Lyndon on the wall. When asked their thoughts about being a part of this classic photo, Joe Dan and Red Dog had very different answers. Joe Dan stated that today, he just doesn't give much thought at all to being in that picture, and at the time that it was taken, it was just another photo shoot that they had to do. "I don't remember much about that day, because I had been up all night, and then during the shoot, we were drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon. It was just a picture - no one knew at the time how big At Fillmore East was going to be."

For Red Dog, however, the photo has a very special meaning, because it was his idea to put Twiggs' picture up on the wall. He recalled how after the session he said to Duane, "You know, we can put a picture of Twiggs up on that brick wall. Just because he's in jail, it doesn't mean that he's still not here with us. Duane told me, ‘That's a real good idea,' but he never mentioned it to me again. All of a sudden, At Fillmore East comes out, and there is Twiggs up on the wall. That meant a lot to me, and it still does."

HTN then asked about the off years. Joe Dan played with Grinderswitch for 10 years, from 1974 to 1984. [Red Dog noted that Grinderswitch was a really hot Southern band, and not too many good bands came out of the South. Some of their work has been re-issued on CD, and is available via One Way Records in Albany, NY. There's a live radio show (WLIR), out on CD, and Honest to Goodness, their first record, now includes an added live cut, "You're So Fine." Joe Dan actually found their second album, Macon Tracks, while in Japan.] In 1989, Joe Dan and Red Dog accepted an offer to return to work with the ABB.

Joe Dan and Red Dog are roommates on the road and have a deep, abiding friendship. They have stayed at each other's homes, and have lived together on occasion. When they first started working for the Allmans, there would be an amazing 300 days a year on the road; they never spent more than two days in a row in Macon. Joe Dan said it was four years before he knew his way around town. He could get downtown, to the Big House, and to the Sunshine Club. They often ate at Le Carousel , where they made Bar-B-Que chicken that was so good it was addicting. The proprietor was a man named Hodges who started cooking out in the street at 1:00 A.M. The sauce was excellent, and when Hodges was asked, "What's in it?" he responded, "A little dis, a little dat, and a secret that came to me in a dream." Joe Dan said it was so tasty he would lie in bed thinking about it. He figured the secret ingredient was probably either kerosene or lighter fluid. Red Dog, reflecting back to those cherished times, related how "We ran wild, and we owned Macon. We played a game with the cops. They would chase us all over town. If we got caught, we'd spend the night in jail. If we got away, they'd let us go, and say hello when they saw us the next day."

When asked if they still enjoy their jobs, Joe Dan replied, "Absolutely! I love it. I've seen a lot of ABB shows. I don't think there's ever been one I didn't enjoy. I love to watch this band play. It's different every night, and you get caught up in it. To do my job, I must hear everything that goes wrong." Red Dog adds, "A lot of people think that being a roadie means being just a technician, an electronic genius, or a great sound man. But the roadie's main thing is being observant, having intuition, and a sense of anticipation for all seven musicians. The certain way they hold their head, the way their jaw is set while they're playing, or when they won't look in a certain direction means that something is wrong. All of these are signals that something needs to be fixed. You ignore your specialty and help someone else with their work. Whatever needs to be done. Back in the old days you did everything, plus driving. We still look at the job the same way." Joe Dan notes, "If someone needs something, I jump up there and say, ‘Yes sir, what do you want?'" Red Dog floats all over the stage, getting caught up in the music having a good time. According to Joe Dan, he is being taken advantage of by Red Dog, because Red Dog knows he will always be watching, and will take care of things!

The next question dealt with a typical day in the life of the road crew. The roadies put in long, long hours. The equipment can sit up in a truck for two months, and it may take up to a week to get back in the swing of things. In the old days, they were touring constantly and never lost the groove. The average work day is from noon to midnight. Sometimes these become 14 15 hour days, but seldom is it less than 12 :00 to 12:00. If everything is already set up, they may work about six hours. There are a lot of small things that need to be looked after. This gets even more complicated when there is an opening act. The details may lag, but the closer it gets to show time, the faster things start happening. For example, at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, they started at 8 A.M. for the Friday night show, and the day ended at 4 A.M. with take down. Then they started again at 8:00 in the morning for the Saturday show. That's only four hours in between, and that's not four hours of sleep. There's travel to and from the venue, showering, etc. They may get two hours of sleep out of that four hours if they're lucky. Joe Dan actually stayed in his bunk on the bus that night, which helped him to get more sleep.

On the topic of which band members require the most time and attention, Red Dog suggested Dickey, but Joe Dan said, "I beg to differ." He said that there is a balance between Eric with both Warren and Woody, and he devotes a great deal of time to them, while Joe Dan works directly with Dickey and Gregg. Of course, Joe Dan laughed and said, "It depends on what's going right and what's going wrong!" Red Dog works with Butch, Jaimoe and Marc. Some nights it's tough, and they'll be going crazy. Red Dog said one night he had about ten different things go wrong, everything that possibly could come loose or slip did, and when Butch called "Augie" again as Red Dog was coming around the corner, Red Dog's shoulders just slumped. Butch started cracking up.

Joe Dan told us, "I don't know how much the audience thinks about how all of this is presented. Setting up the equipment is initial - it has to be done. Then after that, there's probably a couple of hundred details that have to be attended to - at least for an ABB concert." These details include getting the towels, remembering the pick clips, cutting lemon slices for Gregg (Joe Dan says, "Hell, I forget that all the time"), and taping the set lists down. Most of the time if they forget something, they can regroup during the show. Occasionally, they will get "one of those looks" from the band. There are so many variables to deal with, such as when they have an opening act as opposed to an evening with the Allman Brothers Band. Joe Dan told us he spends the day thinking, "What can I do to make this happen so that my band doesn't have a bad gig? The roadie's job is such that you cannot ensure that they'll have a good gig by your work, but you can make them have a bad one. Our purpose every day we get up is to set those conditions for them to have a good concert - if it is within them to have it - and to make the job easier for the band."

When asked if the band is their "customer," Red Dog quickly rejoined, "Oh no, the band is my brothers. In the old days, when Duane was alive, if Phil Walden called a band meeting, he wouldn't just get Duane and five musicians, he would also get the roadies - Twiggs, Kim Payne, Mike Callahan, Joe Dan and me. Phil would ask, ‘Do I have to meet with roadies?'" Duane would answer, "You called for a band meeting, and this is the band." Everyone knew everything that was happening. Red Dog admits that now "We have had to adjust to the new road crews and their philosophy - it's more business. The old philosophy was that the guys were always a family."

For Red Dog and Joe Dan, there is no question - the ABB will always be family. Red Dog said that "They understand me and the loyalty Joe Dan and I have for the band. There is nothing else but my job. The band shouldn't worry about anything but playing. The most important thing for a roadie is loyalty. Everybody's objective every day is to have the band do the best they can. You can make it bad." Red Dog continued, "When I'm not working with the Brothers, I have a union job. It's the reverse of what I do here. Someone points at me and I'm a common laborer. I'm not in charge then. But if the Brothers need me, I can leave and be with the Brothers, and then go back to being a laborer anytime."

Sensing some devilishness about Red Dog, we inquired about his antics, to which he replied, "My pranks involve my temper. I don't take too much shit. Joe Dan is mellow and rational. I get into trouble because you can't go around knocking out the roadies, too. I've been known to do that. Of course, I had a bad marriage as well, and that caused a lot of problems with the band. I think the day that I divorced her everybody in the band was happy."

Red Dog then was asked if he had been the one to suggest that Gregg sing the acoustic version of "Whipping Post." He replied, "Yes," and then pointed out that when Gregg first played it, he dedicated it to Red Dog, who was in Tampa at the time. Red Dog says, "He's good. Nobody sings the blues like Gregory. Maximus Coyote." Then he suddenly said to Joe Dan, "Should we tell them about your tattoo, Little Brother?" It turns out that Joe Dan has a tattoo of Mighty Mouse on his butt. Red Dog told us that he'd be mad at us if we didn't put a reference to it in the article. Red Dog, by this time a bit fired up, kept goading Joe Dan to "Show them Mighty Mouse," to which Joe Dan replied, "Red Dog, just because you always walk around showing your ass, doesn't mean I'm going to." Red Dog was rolling on the floor laughing saying, "See that, he's always got to burn me. Oh honey, he nailed me." Joe Dan says we should do some research into the tattoo, as it has been documented. We did, and found out that the tattoo has Mighty Mouse exclaiming, "Here I come to save the day!"

As for a favorite song that they enjoy listening to night in and night out, Joe Dan simply said, "I love them all. Whatever song they are playing at that particular moment is my favorite." Red Dog elaborated a bit, stating that "Instrumentally, my favorite song is ‘Jessica,' while vocally, it is ‘Dreams.' I also still love ‘Whipping Post' after all these years, and ‘Stand Back,' too, even though I wish it was a little raunchier. You know, like ‘Stand Back, Motherfucker!!' " Joe Dan and Red Dog both agree that "True Gravity" is becoming a real defining tune for the band.

Red Dog believes that in a way, it has become to this line-up what "Mountain Jam" was to the ABB of Duane and Berry. "True Gravity' has always been good and always been cool, but lately it's working its way very high up on the scale. It's powerful." Joe Dan concurs, saying, "True Gravity' catches these guys at their best - and that is real good!"

When given the very difficult task of comparing the original Allman Brothers Band to the current line-up, Red Dog and Joe Dan both came up with insightful responses. Joe Dan points out that the original line-up was one of the unique bands in the history of rock music. "They were experimental, always improvising, and learning new ways to play all the time. Their music was progressive and innovative - that band was extremely special."

Red Dog feels that the original band was a bit more freestyle, and heavily into improvisation. "With those guys, it was just hit it and go. They would set the rhythm, get in a groove, and then really hit it. They truly played as a unit, as one. There was no telling where they were going to go. God, I loved that. I still really miss it, too." Red Dog became very, very intense at this point. "You got to remember, man, just how talented those guys were. Berry Oakley was just a motherfucker on bass. He was incredible. He was playing lead guitar on bass. Berry would reach out there, while Duane and Dickey were jamming together, jump right in the friggin' middle, get down low on the neck, and solo right along with them. He could do everything. That was B. O. And Duane - Duane was Duane. I don't have to say anymore."

As strong as they both feel about the original line-up, both men heaped considerable praise on the current ABB. On the topic of improvisational playing, Joe Dan remarked that "The current line-up may not be quite as freelance as the Duane and Berry group, but they are the best there is in live music today. The original band was always experimenting, while the improvising today is what I call ‘refined improvisation.' After so many years, they have it down to an art form, and they are great at it. They know more about how to really play music. You know, they had an extreme amount of magic right from the very beginning, in 1989. Warren and Allen fit right in, and really lit a fire under the other guys. I love what they are doing today."

Red Dog agreed, saying that "The original band defined improvisational playing, while this line-up has really refined it. This band was hot to start with, and has really developed over the last few years. If you think about it, you were matching four guys around 50 with three guys around 30, and somehow it jelled right away, because Warren, Allen and Marc were good enough to play right with the other guys. Warren is so great. I mean, I never thought we'd play ‘Dreams' again, but Warren is talented enough to do it. When you listen to him, you can hear Duane's licks, but at the same time, Warren is still Warren. He knows who he is - he has his own identity. Just like this line-up has its own identity, separate from the original band."

As our time was running out, we asked if there was anything else they wanted the readers to know. Red Dog said, "I work for the best band, so I try to be the best roadie. When I met Duane, I didn't know what a guitar pick looked like. I didn't know anything, especially how to listen to music. Duane was always saying that he wanted to leave a mark while he was here. I just want to leave a scratch."

Before the interview ended and we let them slip away, we asked for autographs and pictures. Both roadies said they don't mind signing and posing for pictures. As they left, Joe Dan said, "Y'all be careless" - we were - and "I'll see y'all later on" - we did. Joe Dan and Red Dog, you guys are the best. It was great!!
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