Susan Tedeschi's "Wheels of Soul" Speed On to Houston

During the summer months, audiences in recent years are used to seeing multi-act package tours, especially of the classic-rock and ‘80s vintage. The format allows the concertgoers to hear more hits of their youth (and a better ticket price), while allowing the acts the chance to play larger venues than they would on their own — and sell more Greatest Hits records afterwards.

Similar tours featuring contemporary acts are rarer, but the best kind will group several like-minded bands on the same stage, so that the fan bleedover isn’t too segmented. Such is the case with this summer’s “Wheels of Soul” tour, with the 10-member Tedeschi Trucks Band, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings (nine members), and Doyle Bramhall II. That’s hours and hours of current-yet-classic sounding rock, blues, jazz, soul and funk for your buck! For TTB singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi, it was also a return to something the group has done before.

“We did a tour a few years ago with the Black Crowes, and it was a blast!” she says from a stop on the first leg; the second begins Friday night at the Woodlands Pavilion. “We wanted to do something like that again. And these are two bands that we like and are good people and would be good for our fans. It’s a great combination.”

Indeed, it’s likely that audience members will already have records from two or all of these acts in their collection. And, as Tedeschi points out, she thinks she met Bramhall even before her husband, TTB guitarist Derek Trucks. Both men also served a stint together in Eric Clapton’s live band.

“Doyle’s an honorary member of our group," she says. "He’s been writing with us since Day 1. "I see [Doyle and Derek] as both carrying the torch for [classic] blues and soul music, but making it fresh. I’m having a great time on this tour!”

Also along on the family-affair journey this time are the couple’s children, Charlie (age 13) and Sophia (age 10), as well as Trucks’ father, himself the brother longtime Allman Brothers Band member Butch Trucks. When asked how they deal with both mom and dad being “rock stars,” Tedeschi laughs and says it varies.

“Sometimes they are both [she takes on the vocal tone of a sullen pre-teen] ‘oh, yeah, whatever.’ But sometimes they get into it. And they love selling merch at the tables with Derek’s dad!”

As for Derek Trucks, while he’s still a “workaholic,” according to Tedeschi (the pair expect to wrap up recording and mixing the next TTB record after this tour), he is around more. That’s because, along with guitarist Warren Haynes, he ended his career with the Allmans last year.

“It is great on one level, at least he can focus his attention more,” says Tedeschi. “But then he goes non stop in the studio, and he loves to tour.”

Before they joined forces, both Susan and Derek also had thriving solo careers with their own bands. And she notes that there are plans to incorporate more of that material into the TTB's sets. She also says she hopes to make a gospel album (possibly with Trucks) in the next couple of years, and has artists like Mavis Staples, Sam Moore, and Aretha Franklin on her guest-star wish list. She admits that time is a factor hanging over any plans, as all three of those artists are in their mid-to-late seventies.

That’s something that was also brought home to Tedeschi with the recent death of B.B. King, an early and current champion of her music. One memorable 1998 show in Houston at the Arena Theatre featuring Tedeschi opening for a show that also included King, Buddy Guy, and Dr. John. 

“I remember that show in Houston. I thought ‘oh wow, they have other rotating stages’ because it was the first time I had seen one outside of New England where I grew up,” she recalls. “But B.B. was just so down to earth, such a sweetheart, a good person. They don't make people like that anymore. He loved what he did and was always there for his fans. And he was generous with me, inviting me up to play with him. He left such a legacy.”

The “Wheels of Soul” tour, featuring the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, and Doyle Bramhall II, pulls into the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., Friday evening. Gates open at 6:30 p.m.
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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero