By Michael Buffalo Smith
The pride of Daytona Beach, Florida, Floyd Miles is a world class blues and r&b singer who grew up friends with Duane and Gregg Allman, recorded with everyone from Dickey Betts to Edgar Winter, and now divides his time between his masterful live solo shows and his work as a member of Gregg Allman and Friends. We caught up with Floyd by phone from his home in Florida, just before the onslaught of hurricanes. Special thanks to Floyd’s Manager, Tom Carrin, for setting us up.
Tell me a little about where you were born and raised? I believe I have read that you were the youngest of eleven children? Is that right?
Yeah, I am the youngest of 11, 9 boys and two girls. Born in Daytona Beach, Florida.
When did you develop a love for music?
I had a love for music since I can remember, listening to my mother’s music and a radio show that we used to listen to in Tennessee. My mother had a bunch of kids and no father at home so we had to do something. When I got old enough to get around I started trying to wrestle. I did that for a few years and then I boxed. I then got into professional music where I really wanted to be. I am 61, and I have been loving music since I was a kid.
What was your first band?
The first professional band I was in was when Bob Greenlee put a band together in the early 60’s, The Untils.
Bob played in that band with you?
Yeah, he put that band together and sang in it. He came home for college and put the four piece band The Untils together. Then there was the House Rockers, 4-5 piece band that he put together.
You guys played a lot of music at The Ocean Pier and I read in the biography that was where you met Gregg and Duane. Tell me a little bit about where you first met them and how you became friends?
In the band that we had there was a guitar player that we had named Jim Shepley. He knew Gregg and Duane real well. They came down to see Jim play with us at Ocean Pier and I met Gregg and Duane. After that we kind of like hung out and at that time segregation was entirely enforced and we were working on the beach side which was the white section. Most of the African Americans lived on the opposite side of the track. When they got off work they would come over and go out with me to these clubs that stayed open most of the night. That was when we really built our bonds. They were called hippies because they had long hair and were weird. The bond was built between us because we all experienced some kind of discrimination.
Yeah, I have spoken to Gregg about how having Jamioe in the group they ran into prejudice as late as 1969. They were one of the first integrated groups.
I would have been a Jamioe if things had gone as planned. Gregg had offered me a job with the band and I had finally accepted it and then Pete Carr, his mother broke up the band and said that he wasn’t old enough and that he couldn’t go. That night they broke up the band. I had a job already and I just went back to work at The Surf, playing drums and singing with The Universals which was lead by Lynn Maurice.
So in The Universals you were a singing drummer?
Yeah, he needed a singing drummer. He had a guy named Fred something who sang like Bobby Blue Bland who had left and went back down South. They taught me to play the drums, because I knew how to sing. I got paid to learn to play those drums.
Pete Carr had mentioned your name to me before. Were y'all just friends?
Yeah. Well, like I said, we had a band, Gregg, Duane, and I. I was going to be the drummer but after his mother intervened he couldn’t get out of college so we dispersed and went our separate ways. Then Pete came back years later and bought a house down here in Florida, and he started recording an album. I went down there a few times and recorded with them. He recorded with a keyboard player that has since died. I haven’t seen Pete since then but have checked out his website. I realized that he did that song “If Loving You Is Wrong, Then I Don’t Want To Be Right.” He played that guitar lick on that and I love that thing.
Tell us about Curtis Mayfield? Didn’t you work with him?
Yeah, I did work with him. I had a very good band. Gregg and Duane and those got a good record deal up in Macon, and I had an offer to play up there. Then Roger Redding, Otis’ brother would book me behind these acts- Aretha, Arthur Conley, and Curtis Mayfield were some of the acts he was booking and I had the opportunity to back them with my band. Then I worked with Clarence Carter and that was a pleasure. Curtis was a great musician.
What about James Brown?
He was the kind of guy that was very serious about his music. He was a nice guy but very serious about the music. It you missed a note there was no going back, no laughing or grinning.
I heard that he fired his musicians if they messed up...
He never fired me but I just sang with him. I definitely didn’t want to play drums with him because I did not feel that I qualified. Even when he asked me to do some in rehearsal one time I was actually afraid to try to match the drummers, because one of them had gotten ill. He found out that I was a drummer. So he asked me to come to rehearsal and drum but I told him that I didn’t want to come and try that because I wanted to just sing and open for him. He didn’t push that issue. He is a good guy and would do anything for you, but was very serious about the music. He had to be serious if you see what kind of show he puts on. If you have been with him for years you had to be on your p’s and q’s. He did not do what he rehearsed, but did what he did rehearse differently.
Duane Allman, how about a little insight into him?
I wouldn’t know where to start with a little insight into Duane. (Laughs) I knew him very well, what do you really want to know?
Oh, how about him as a guy to be friends with and hang out with?
I didn’t really realize how talented he was until later on. He created his own style and stuff that was not happening. He was one of those people that would motivate you and get the best out of you. It was always “you can do it, let’s work on it and we can do it.” I never heard him say anything negative about anyone. He was a great guy. So was Gregg. If I had to rate them I would have to say they were both 100 Percent.
How about Gregg?
I can’t say enough about him. He is a great musician and great human being. Most people miss out on having him as a friend. He is a loyal friend and dedicated to those he cares about. He has a mom that is 87 and he visits her frequently and takes good care of her. She did a great job with both of those boys and if I could pattern myself I would definitely pattern them after one of them.
How about Warren Haynes?
He is a fun guy and nice to meet backstage. He is always the same, no toothache, backache, always the same. “What song do you want to do and what key?” He does all the music. He plays all kinds of music.
Oh, I have ridden on the bus with him and he has a CD collection and he played Beatles, Coltrane and Miles Davis... he plays all of it. That is the same way Duane and Gregg were - playing all the music. When you didn’t have any records out, you had to duplicate those cover tunes and that is what made you good or bad, because you didn’t have anything to identify you. You had to make it on those cover tunes.
So many people have compared Derek to Duane Allman especially when he joined the Allman Brothers, do you think that is a natural comparison?
The difference between Duane and Derek is that Duane was a creator and motivator. He went to Muscle Shoals and played with Aretha and those and he was big time and famous. He came home and said that he wanted to do his own thing besides doing other people’s music. He could have had his own career behind others but he was a good leader and projected a positive attitude and that is why the Brothers are the way they are today. Derek is a great player and learns and knows a lot of stuff. Duane was always trying to find and create something new. That is my opinion, nothing against Derek because he is talented and a great player, but Duane stands alone for the fact that he was not only good but always trying to make it grow and innovate.
How did you come to work with the London Symphony Orchestra?
They came to Daytona and I think the city had something to do with partially sponsoring them. They came about once a year and I was chosen one year to be local talent to perform with them. It was a different experience and I think it was hard for me to appreciate it. I was nervous because singing the blues and R&B is one thing, but getting onstage with a bunch of guys that can read and write and concerned with perfect pitch is intimidating. I was used to hearing 3-4 horns, but to hear all those instruments behind you - I was listening to them and not really enjoying it. I was a lot more concerned about hearing them. I think if I had gotten a chance to do it more than one time, it would have been
I guess by the time you got used to it it was over....
What are some of your career highlights?
I just opened up for B.B. King in January of last year. He had helped Daytona Beach open a new Arts Center here.That was one of the things that I felt really honored to have done, played here with “the King.” I had met him back in 1971 with the Allman Brothers in Gainesville, Florida and I haven’t really been around him to talk with him since then. But I was able to open for him and talk to him and take some pictures. Gregg came down and the three of us sat and talked to him and the King really finally got his due. I was proud for him to know me and me to know him, and be a little part of his success.
My second highlight was hearing my first record on the radio. I had been messing around for 20 years and trying to get a record deal. I had one with Phil Walden and that fell through and didn’t happen and then a couple of other things that I didn’t want to sign my life away on. Then when I heard my first record on the radio it was a big deal.
The last thing I wanted to ask you this time is what your future plans are with your music?
I am working on a new album and want to stay in the business as much as I can.