Warren Haynes on Turning 60, Playing the Last Pre-Shutdown Concert at MSG

Warren Haynes
Jacob Blickenstaff

Warren Haynes

Warren Haynes just turned 60 last Monday (April 6).

For a certified road warrior like Haynes, this significant milestone normally would have been celebrated on stage with any combination of famous friends the guitar great has jammed with over the last four decades. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, Haynes spent his birthday at home with his family.

"It was a relaxing birthday," he told Billboard. "We're out in the country and have a few acres of land. I spent part of the day tooling around in our Kawasaki MULE with my son who is eight years old. Walk a little, ride a little."

For as enriching it's been to have this mandated downtime to create these special moments with his young son, not being able to go on tour for the next several months is certainly an unexpected roadblock. And it couldn't have come at a more inopportune time, considering Haynes and a group of Allman Brothers Band alumni (including original surviving member Jaimoe) just played a stellar 50th anniversary tribute concert at a sold-out Madison Square Garden. It was the last public event held in the sports mecca before Governor Andrew Cuomo made the call for a shutdown of nonessential businesses.

"That was such a surreal moment," Haynes explains. "Because it was kind of the last hurrah, you know. We played that show and then the next day everything started getting canceled. It's amazing that we were even allowed to play that show. We were concerned but not to the extent that everyone would become concerned a few days later. And knock on wood, everybody in the band seems to be okay."

Even odder was the Love Rocks NYC on March 12, where an all-star lineup featuring Haynes, Cyndi Lauper, Dave Matthews, Chris & Rich Robinson, Jackson Browne, Marcus King, Leon Bridges, Joss Stone and more performed to an empty Beacon Theatre (the show was a benefit for the charity God's Love We Deliver).

"That turned out to be where Jackson Browne may have contracted the coronavirus," Haynes says. "We're not sure. It was odd doing that show. There was this fantastic lineup of people scheduled to play this show. But then we got the news a couple of days before that there wasn't going to be an audience. I was curious to see if people were going to pull out, but nobody seemed like they were going to be the first one to say, 'I'm out.' So everybody stayed on the bill and it was a beautiful night of music. But it also signified the beginning of this new normal as well."

We can only hope we get somewhere close to the other side of this pandemic by July 3, which marks the 30th anniversary of the Allman Brothers Band's comeback LP Seven Turns. The group's ninth studio album is also significant in its role as the first ABB record to feature Haynes as a full-time member.

"I had met both Dickey and Gregg in late 1980/early 1981," Haynes tells Billboard. "Then fast forward to the mid-to-late '80s, in that same time period I was writing some songs with Dickey for his Pattern Disruptive album and Gregg heard 'Just Before The Bullets Fly' and decided to record it and make it the title track for his new record. And so coincidentally all of a sudden I was writing for both camps and when they decided to reform the Allman Brothers they brought me in not just as a guitar player but a songwriter and singer. They let me sing from the very beginning, which was really nice. But to be included in the songwriting process was a very special thing."

On Seven Turns, Haynes contributed music and lyrics to four of the album's nine tracks, no doubt a daunting task for a musician raised on the Allmans who suddenly found himself in the unique position of creating content for nearly half of their first LP as a band in a decade.

"I know it was very important to those guys to make a record that harkened back to the original band," recalls Haynes. "And so that was a big part of the mission, although at that time the whole jam band thing had not really presented itself yet. But the Allman Brothers were watching on one side the Grateful Dead having continuing success and on the other side stuff like Robert Cray and Stevie Ray Vaughan doing very well. And I remember Dickey and I having a conversation where he said to me, 'Somewhere in between those two things is where we are.' That was some sort of starting point to take that information and combine it with the influence of those early records."

As Haynes remains at home woodshedding new material and enjoying time with his family, he looks forward to getting back on the road with Gov't Mule and remains grateful he was able to enjoy that MSG event with The Brothers, re-visiting an incredible journey that Haynes began 30 years ago.

"Both Dickey and Gregg had talked to me about the fact that when they bowed out of the music business as they put it," Haynes tells Billboard, "there was that nine-year period where they didn't exist. They felt like that classic Allman Brothers sound they had invented was not really welcome in the music business at the time. It was like the music business had reached a point where they simply didn't fit in, and that was a big reason why they backed out, so to speak. Then when they began to see what was happening in the late '80s, not only did they realize they were fitting in again, but they were forever proven timeless at that point. I think when the band reformed for Seven Turns, what they discovered was that their music was timeless and from that point forward would always be looked at that way."

UPDATE: After this story was published, Warren Haynes shared a special message for the Beacon Theatre, including a taste of Allman Brothers Band's "Soulshine." Watch below.