Drive-By Truckers co-founders Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley have kept their Southern rock wheels rolling for 30 years. The band’s upcoming three-CD set, “It’s Great To Be Alive!” documents their long partnership.
Drive-By Truckers, which plays Saturday at The Joy Theater, recorded “It’s Great To Be Alive!” last fall during three nights at The Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. The legendary music venue is the band’s favorite place to play.
“When we were an up-and-coming young band, touring the country in a van,” singer-guitarist Hood said recently from the road, “The Fillmore was one of the places we most wanted to play.”
“Its Great To Be Alive!” contains 35 songs, whittled down from 50 good takes recorded at The Fillmore.
“We’d been talking about doing a career-spanning project for years,” Hood said. “When we ended up with three nights of shows in San Francisco, it was like, ‘OK, now we see the path.’ I’m really proud of how it turned out.”
The Fillmore, a music hot spot in the psychedelic ’60s, figured into Drive-By Truckers’ choice for its first booking agent. “Southern Rock Opera,” the band’s 2001 breakthrough album, made that choice possible. “We played not quite a thousand shows before that happened, mostly booked by me,” Hood said.
In 2001, Drive-By Truckers’ most important question for a prospective booking agent was: When can we play The Fillmore?
“We’d narrowed it down to two agents,” Hood recalled. “One answered, ‘Well, you’re overly ambitious.’ The other one said, ‘You’ll open at The Fillmore in a year. You’ll headline The Fillmore in three years.’ We were like, ‘That’s our guy.’ And we did open there nine months later and headlined three years later.”
Patterson and Cooley began playing together in 1985 in Athens, Georgia. They formed Drive-By Truckers in 1996.
“It’s crazy, but we’re kind of an old band,” Hood said. “At the same time, we’re in one of the best times in our history right now.”
In the beginning, the likelihood of Hood and Cooley working together for 30 years wasn’t promising.
“We fought all the time when we were young, starting this thing,” Hood remembered. “But even when neither one of us were worth a damn at playing, there was a chemistry. People recognized that and pointed it out to us. At some point, we realized it ourselves.”
Hood and Cooley are great friends these days and they love each other’s contributions to Drive-By Truckers.
“When I write a song, I can’t wait to hear what Mike’s gonna do to it,” Hood said. “And I can’t wait to hear his new songs. I’m honored to play guitar on them.”
Hood does some solo work away from the Truckers, but the band remains his top priority.
“My truest love will always be getting up there with a big loud rock show,” he said. “It’s a cathartic experience for me every night. And I guess it is for the people who keep coming to see us.”