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Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule at MerleFest

By Derek Halsey (

Article Published: Apr. 18, 2013 | Modified: Apr. 27, 2013
Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule at MerleFest

Warren Hayes and Gov’t Mule will perform April 26 at MerleFest.

Photo by Anna Webber

Support your Gov’t.

On Friday night, April 26, Gov’t Mule will perform a headlining show at MerleFest.

When the Mule takes the stage, the hard-rockin’ quartet will be led by Asheville native Warren Haynes.

Haynes, who is also the longtime guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, as well as his own Warren Haynes Band, grew up in a Western North Carolina household that listened to bluegrass and old-time music, including the sounds of Doc Watson. Because of his love of Watson, Haynes said, playing at MerleFest will be a dream come true.

“I was a big Doc and Merle Watson fan while growing up, and I was fortunate enough to see both Doc and Merle play together a few times,” Haynes said. “Being from that part of North Carolina, there was always this kind of unique bond that we all shared with that music. He was a big inspiration. I have been hearing about MerleFest since it started, but I have never been able to attend, and I’ve never been able to play. So, when they invited us with Gov’t Mule, I thought it was an odd choice. But I said, ‘Yeah, we’d be honored to be a part of it.’”

Gov’t Mule is known for its diversity, being able to play many different kinds of music at any given time. The members of the band include Haynes, Matt Abts, Danny Louis and Jorgen Carlsson. With Haynes’ creative juices flowing, he is already thinking about bringing a slightly different groove to the band’s MerleFest concert, and the anticipation is building.

“I think we’re going to take the opportunity to perform a special and unique sort of set that will be designed for the MerleFest audience,” Haynes said. “It will still be heavy in its own right, and it will still be Gov’t Mule, but it will also be about taking that other side of what we do and highlighting it a little bit more.

“Over the course of a multi-hour show, you get a lot of different music from Gov’t Mule. It’s like a roller coaster ride; we go up, we go down, we go up, we go down, we go around. So, a lot of the departure stuff, as far as dynamically and melodically … will be the heartbeat of this show. We’ll be showcasing a different side of our influences. It won’t be your normal ‘to the wall’ Gov’t Mule show, although some of that will definitely appear. I think we’ll be celebrating the environment and playing to the crowd.”

For Haynes, those musical influences include a large dose of the music by Watson, going back to when he was just a Western North Carolina kid.

“When I was 13 or 14 years old, I started sneaking into this folk club to hear these folk singers and songwriters,” he said. “Depending on what night you were there, it might be a little bit more bluegrass-influenced or more folk singer-influenced. And, when I started befriending all of these people, they were all into Doc and Merle. And that is when I started having the opportunity to go and see Doc and Merle live. It opened my eyes in a way, because I had not explored that music as much as I had some other things at that time.”

Haynes grew up to be one of the best rock and blues guitarists in the world, yet those mountain music influences are still in the mix.

“I was able to see Norman Blake and Doc and Merle, and a lot of music that made me look at the guitar in a different way,” Haynes said. “Of course, at 14, that’s a very impressionable age, and everything you’re soaking in kind of stays with you. I was able to see Doc from 10 feet away, and I saw Merle play, too. And, I remember this odd connection with Merle being an Allman Brothers fan. When he first started playing slide guitar, Merle credited Duane Allman with being a big influence. That is indicative of what music is all about; Merle likes the Allman Brothers, the Allman Bothers like Doc and Merle, and maybe people wouldn’t expect it. But good music attracts good musicians.”

MerleFest takes place April 25 to 28 on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro. For tickets and more information, visit

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