Gov’t Mule concluded this year’s Island Exodus event in Runaway Bay, Jamaica with two sets and two encores on Wednesday. The whole show was filled with rarities and the second stanza contained a bevy of guest appearances.
The quartet went at it alone for a version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Effigy” that segued into jams on “Folsom Prison Blues” and “St. Stephen.” Holloway then returned along with Devon Allman for Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” The final set of the destination event ended with a cover of the Allman Brothers Band’s “Jessica” featuring Duane Betts and R. Scott Bryan. For the first encore, Mule served up “32/20 Blues” featuring Holloway, Bryan and guitarist Johnny Stachela and a bevy of teases. The four-piece came back for a second encore of Pearl Jam’s “Come Back” and Grand Funk Railroad’s “Sin’s A Good Man’s Brother.”
The Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts ended a roller coaster 2018 on a high note. Betts who suffered a mild stroke and months later underwent successful brain surgery after an accidental fall returned to the stage on New Year’s Eve at the Grand Opera House in Macon, Georgia.
Dickey’s surprise appearance came as part of The Devon Allman Project’s New Year’s Eve concert featuring special guest Duane Betts. The 75-year-old guitarist, who ended a lengthy retirement in the same city earlier this year, emerged for the countdown into 2019 as well as the “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed” that followed as per Jambands.com. The Devon Allman Project featuring Duane Betts are finishing a run of shows before the launch of The Allman Betts Band.
The Allman Betts Band will kick off 2019 with their debut album, along with a worldwide tour that will feature “new music, songs from their solo projects and classic Allman Brothers and Gregg Allman tunes in honor of the 50th anniversary of The Allman Brothers Band”. According to the press release, the new album is due out in Spring of 2019, and will be produced by Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price, John Prine and Elvis Presley).
The Allman Betts Band, which the press release refers to as “the new ABB”, will include Devon Allman and Duane Betts, along with Berry Oakley Jr. (son of original Allman Brothers Band bassist Berry Oakley), slide guitarist Johnny Stachela, and DAP percussionists R. Scott Bryan (Sheryl Crow) and John Lum.
The forthcoming record will feature Chuck Leavell (former ABB keyboardist and current musical director of the Rolling Stones) and Peter Levin (Gregg Allman Band Hammond B3 player).
Handle It – EP
by Johnny Stachela Band
Digital Album Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high quality download in MP3, FLAC, & more. Buy Now $5 USD
1. Handle It
3. Weight Of Your World
4. Automatic Pistol
released June 17, 2016
Sebastian Ciceri – Bass, Vocals
Vincent Fossett. Jr. – Drums
Produced and Mixed by Jorgen Carlsson
Engineered and Mastered by Steve Holroyd
Recorded at Rogers Boat Studio
All songs written by Johnny Stachela
“Handle It” and “Weight Of Your World” co-written by Stoll Vaughan
Johnny Stachela and perseverance know each other very well. They would have to for the Panorama City, Calif., native to grow up in the San Fernando Valley and emerge a success. In the shadow of the Sunset Strip, mere miles from the heartbeat of the music industry, Stachela was surrounded; circled by the aspirations of every new guitar player fresh off the bus from Anywhere, USA, and the cynicism of the defeated, languishing in day jobs after the stage lights went dark on their dreams. Love it or leave it, Stachela was bounded by dreams and defeats.
Music began as a curiosity, then became everything. As a toddler, he delighted in spreading out his father’s AC/DC vinyl on the floor, wielding an air guitar, imagining Angus Young. At 12, he was gifted his first electric- a Kramer Striker- and learned the licks of the late-‘80s echelon of rock like Van Halen and Guns N’ Roses. This was the zenith of hair metal and these were the local-boys-made-good.
But, Stachela felt drawn to an older muse, one originating decades before and thousands of miles away. He prized heavy metal progenitors Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and AC/DC, but he dug into the core of those bands and found something deeper, more affecting. He watched a middling, ‘80s movie, Crossroads- the tale of a young guitarist in search of a lost song.
“That flipped a switch for me,” says Stachela. “And I went looking.”
Inspired by the Ry Cooder soundtrack, and a storyline echoing Robert Johnson’s mythological deal with the devil, Stachela found the blues.
“The blues to me has always been about the feeling. And that’s what I loved about it. The blues is honest. It’s life. It’s so real. When it hits, all the other bullshit just fades away.”
Stachela devoured it all; turned on to the three Kings- B.B., Albert, and Freddie- and their post-war electric blues brethren, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Elmore James. He played blues gigs around the city- a somewhat antiquated notion in ‘90s L.A.- and found a wellspring of inspiration in the descendant shapers of the genre from the American South like The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd. He had the energy, the desire, and the determination, but the results were more a trickle than a torrent.
There were some “moments,” some firsts, no doubt, as he consistently gained respect as a guitarist, like recording and touring with Leroy Powell (Shooter Jennings, Sturgill Simpson). Still, the Cal State Northridge grad felt a little lost, at his own crossroads. 9-to-5 and “After Midnight” couldn’t co-exist much longer. In the early 2010s, Stachela cut ties with the shirt-and-tie world.
He added his singing voice to his arsenal, and by mid-decade, he’d cultivated a working relationship with Gov’t Mule bassist Jorgen Carlsson- recording at Carlsson’s studio a 2015 solo EP debut, Walk Through Fire, then enlisting him as a producer on the next year’s follow-up, Handle It, from his Johnny Stachela Band. The group held a year-long residency at the venerable Santa Monica blues club, Harvelles, sharing sets with longtime friend, guitarist and singer Duane Betts. By 2017, Duane Betts and the Pistoleers materialized out of an oft-discussed desire to form a band.
Stachela’s career to that point held its share of heady experiences. He’d recorded with Grammy Award-winning producer Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin), and warmed up stages for guitar legends like Duane’s father, Dickey Betts, as well as Robbie Krieger, and Mike Campbell, among others. This was different. This was the music he wanted to play, with a friend and talent he respected, and a history he revered. This was the dream.
With Carlsson and Gov’t Mule’s drummer Matt Abts, Stachela and Betts performed a one-off, July 4th weekend show on the Santa Monica Pier as Bando. They played sold-out shows with North Mississippi Allstars at the Roxy in Hollywood and an opening set for Devon Allman Project at the Fillmore in San Francisco.
In 2018, Stachela and Betts partnered with the Devon Allman Project as guests, supporting and sitting-in on a nine-month Allman/Betts World Tour, with stops at such iconic venues as the Beacon Theatre in New York City, Tipitina’s in New Orleans, and Colorado’s Red Rocks amphitheater. The European leg saw Stachela in Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, UK and Germany. Additionally, he performed on the second single, “Downtown Runaround,” and subsequent video from Bett’s debut EP, Sketches of American Music.
Stachela recorded a session at the famed Muscle Shoals studio in late 2018 for what would become the debut album of the newly formed Allman Betts Band, with a world tour and record’s release set for spring of 2019.
Brandishing his Gibson SG- a trademark of the late Allman Brothers Band guitarist Duane Allman- and a Fender amp tracing its lineage back to Bonnie Raitt, Stachela has found that magical tonal connection between the celebrated legacy of the past and his pursuit of modern blues. His bottleneck slide work has evoked favorable comparisons to his heroes, influenced and inspired, never imitating. And as 2019 promises to be even more eventful, the well-earned pay-off for Johnny Stachela and his 20 years of perseverance is just beginning.