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June 09, 2017

From Grape Street to Broad Street, Tedeschi Trucks Band has come a long way

The monster blues guitarist plans to make more memories during a three-night, nearly sold-out run at the Merriam Theater

Derek Trucks morphed from boy to man while playing a show at the Grape Street Pub 20 years ago. The guitar hero was just 17 when he performed at the club, which is now known as the Grape Room. The Northern Florida native was ticked off after a lackluster set.

“During the first half of that lightly attended show, we didn’t play well,” Trucks said while calling from his Jacksonville home. 

“There was a bad attitude. I had an impromptu band meeting. I was a kid, but I was also the band leader. I told my bandmates, who were older than me, that if you want to quit, I’ll call you a cab. But the reality was that I couldn’t afford cab fare.”

Trucks has come a long way since he was performing before 28 music fans at the Grape Street. The nephew of the late Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks is headlining theaters and collecting Grammy Awards as the bandleader of The Tedeschi Trucks Band. Rolling Stone magazine’s latest “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time List” has Trucks at number 16.

“All of that stuff is nice, but the most fun is just making music and being in this band,” Trucks said. 

“I’ve played with a lot of musicians over the years, but I love being with this group of people the most.”

Trucks’ wife, vocalist-guitarist Susan Tedeschi, fronts the band. 

“Even before we met, I was a big fan of hers,” Trucks said. “She’s a great singer and is tremendous with the crowd.”

Almost a year and a half has nearly passed since the band’s third album, “Let Me Get By,” dropped, which is filled with celebratory blues-rock.

“We’re due to release another one, but we’re not there yet,” Trucks said. “We did put out an album but people want new material, which is cool. You’ll get it.”

Trucks, who played guitar with the Allman Brothers Band for 15 years, is referring to “Live from the Fox Oakland,” a fine concert document that was captured in 2016 and released two months ago. After a spin of that album, it’s obvious why TTB must be experienced live. There is more bite when the dynamic band hits the stage and Trucks is even more muscular under the lights.

“I love playing live more than anything,” Trucks said. 

“But with the Oakland shows, the band was really in a good place. We played some of our best shows ever. The energy is always good in Oakland. I know the energy will be great in Philadelphia too. I love playing there. I’m not just saying it.”

That’s a good thing, since Trucks turned 38 on Thursday, when the Tedeschi Trucks Band kicked off a near sold-out three-night run at the Merriam Theater. 

“I’ll be happy to just know that I have to go up there and play,” Trucks said. “It won’t be like that night playing the Grape Street when, after the show, I had to get in the van and back up about two blocks on those tiny streets in that neighborhood (Manayunk). I don’t need to deal with that stuff anymore. I’m almost 40.”

The Tedeschi Trucks Band appears this weekend at the Merriam Theater. Tickets are $49 and $75. Show time is 8 p.m. For more information, call 215-893-1999 or click here