Warren Haynes is pleased to report that in 20 years of annual Christmas Jams in his hometown of Asheville, N.C., he’s never once had to don a Santa cap. “I did that when I was a teenager once, and it was humiliating,” Haynes tells Billboard.com. “Never again.”
He will, however, make sure there’s a jolly spirit when the charity show celebrates its 20th anniversary with its first-ever two-night stand on Dec. 12-13 at the Asheville Civic Center. Performers for this year’s blowout include Haynes’ bands Gov’t Mule and the Allman Brothers Band, along with the Del McCoury Band, the Derek Trucks Band, Steve Earle, Joan Osborne, Marty Stuart, Johnny Winter, an acoustic set by Michael Franti and more.
“I would’ve never guessed in a million years that this was even possible,” Haynes says of the benefit’s longevity. “Musically it’s a one-of-a-kind event because it’s maintained the openness and the improvisational spirit that’s always been a part of it, even when it was in a small club.
“Now that it’s become a national event, people come and wind up on stage with someone they’ve never met or maybe they met that day. In some cases they meet on stage that night. A lot of wonderful collaborations take place between people that are paired up that make it extremely interesting.”
This year’s Christmas Jam will be the eighth to earmark proceeds to Habitat For Humanity. The shows have raised $750,000 for the charity so far, including $125,000 from the 2007 show, and Haynes is hoping to hit the $1 million mark with this year’s receipts.
“In the beginning we raised money for a lot of worthy causes — homeless people, Vietnam vets, AIDS victims,” Haynes explains. “We eventually stumbled onto Habitat For Humanity and just stayed with it ’cause it was nice to see where the money was going. These days when we raise X amount of dollars you turn around and see that become X amount of houses, and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Christmas Jam pre-sale tickets go on sale through Christmas Jam Ticketing at noon tomorrow (Nov. 5) and through Ticketmaster on Nov. 15. More performers and each day’s schedules — as well as details about a second Christmas Jam by Day daytime series and the first Christmas Jam Comedy Show with Lewis Black — will be announced soon.