Clarksburg – The spotlights of the Robinson Grand were aglow across the night sky of Harrison County, as the theater welcomed their part in the world record books by hosting Devon Allman and Donovan Frankenreiter on their 50 states in less than 50 days tour. The crowd on hand, that consisted of local people as well as travelers from Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, got a tour of Americana rock that captivated everyone in the room. Opening acts from Jackson Stokes and JD Simo were incredible as well.
Born & Bred stopped by to speak with Devon and Donovan shortly before they took the stage. The following conversation is edited for brevity and clarity.
BB: So how did you guys get connected?
DF: We met about seven years ago at an Americana fest. We did a little jammin’ and then Devon called me up about a year later and invited to be a part of the Allman Family Revival and I had the time of my life. I did it two years in a row, it’s so fun to be a part of that show. And that’s how we met and on that tour is when this whole thing kind of came to be. He told me this idea he had and I said “F—-, I’m in. Let’s go for it” While we were out on that tour we wrote that album “Rollers” and ended up writing those songs ‘cause I thought hey if it comes together and it’s easy it would be really great to do this tour and have new music. That to me has been the highlight of this tour. The show has been really fun. Instead of “yeah, let’s go do the tour and we’ll pull from our old catalogs and go through the motions” it’s been really great learning and playing new songs every night. I’m playing with three people that I don’t ever really play with. This is two bands coming together and trying something new and its been a breath of fresh air for both of us.
BB: Tell us a little about the Rollers EP. There are two stand out tracks on the EP, Electric Lady and a musical track Acapulco Gold that is beautiful.
DF: It was really neat, Devon wrote two or three of the songs himself. And they just came spur of the moment. We went and visited Electric Lady Studios and were going to do the record there. He picked up a guitar and wrote Electric Lady within three seconds. He was like “I got one.” I was showing him stuff backstage after we would sound check at the Allman Family Revival. Luther Dickinson, the producer was on that tour as well. So he would sit back there with us and we would just throw ideas around and we ended up with six tunes and we went to St. Louis and cut the ep.
BB: For either of you is this your first time in West Virginia?
DA: I played here with my dad (Gregg Allman) but I believe that was in Charleston a couple of times. I’ve probably played West Virginia a half dozen times in my career.
BB: So your first time in the Clarksburg area?
DF: It is for me.
DA: I believe this is the first for me too. I’ve played all over the world so it’s kind of wild when you get to play a city in America that you’ve never played before. It’s kind of like woah. We’ve been doing this a long time.
BB: You guys took a trip to Pickers Paradise in Fairmont on this stop.
DF: That guys a sweetheart.
DA: Yeah, man, I borrowed a guitar to play tonight. A really nice Gibson Les Paul Murphy Lab. Great place. Great guy.
BB: This is stop number…
DF: But who’s counting? We are. We wake up every day… Day Twelve!
BB: So you’ve got a bit to go. Logistically, what was the hardest part of this?
DF: So for us it was the idea. Our agents got together and they kind of pulled off a world record of their own. Because to logistically plan this, it’s kind of insane. You know, to make sure we can get from one spot to another and there weren’t ten hour drives in between. I feel really comfortable all through the mainland of America, but the two instances that might get a little, and I think they’ll be fine, out of our control is when we fly to Alaska and they go hey, there’s no flights leaving here for two days. We’d be devastated. If the bus broke down, I’d say grab the acoustics and we are getting a ride to the next stop. And the same for Hawaii. We are flying to Oahu. But we have multiple backup flights scheduled for these instances. It would have to be a massive tragedy to not make it.
BB: You feel good about it? You’re going to pull it off?
DA: Yeah, I think the hardest part is near the end. I think that’s true. Sometimes it’s outside of your hands when it’s something exotic like Hawaii or Alaska. As long as those two go smooth we are in the position to do it. It’s gone really quick the first 12 shows.
BB: Why? Why do this?
DA: So, I had the idea about ten years ago. I thought wouldn’t it be cool to play a show in each of the 50 states with no days off. I think the most I had ever done was maybe twenty-five to thirty days straight with no breaks. Donovan’s an animal. He’s done thirty-five shows straight. But then I just kind of shelved it. As I was turning fifty last year, I thought that would be meaningful. And there’s no fun in doing it alone, you want to have a co-conspirator. I immediately thought of Donovan and he’s turning fifty. I called him and he agreed to it before I even finished telling him the concept. “Sounds great. Let’s do it!” (Impersonates Donovan) But why to do it? I think something Donovan and I share where we are very simpatico is that we have a wanderlust about us, we love seeing the world and we love experiencing different places and cultures. But I think the ultimate reason is two fold. One, we want the bragging rights. We want to own this world record. Two, we want to inspire our audiences to get off your duff and go experience this country. If you have bucket list things that you haven’t done go do them. You haven’t seen the Grand Canyon? Get your ass out there and see it. Time is not slowing down for anyone. We have such a diverse and beautiful country. When you tour and see the whole world you realize how special America really is. From the southeast, the gulf coast, Hawaii to Alaska, the mountains… it’s such a beautiful place. So if we can inspire anybody to go see it all that’s the whole call to arms.
BB: What are you guys going to after this whirlwind is over?
DF: I gotta gig the following weekend. And then I’m going home to Hawaii and then I go to Brazil in November and a bunch of dates in December.
DA: I will have seventy-five straight days off. And then I start another tour of the Allman Family Revival Tour. Part of getting through this fifty days and knowing I have seventy-five off is a real luxury that I don’t take for granted.
DF: It was kind of neat to wonder if we could do this. As we got closer, the reason I was just excited for the adventure.
DA: The cool thing is, it’s gone so well musically that we’ve decided to capture it live and do a live recording “Rollers Live.”
DF: And we’re filming this whole thing. So the entire escapades of us getting from the start to the finish will be recorded. We will film the whole live show in St. Louis. So all of that will be combined into a concert with the footages of us getting through the tour. And our last show is in L.A. at Beach Life Ranch at a big festival which will be a huge celebration if we pull this off.