Little Feat



Little Feat

Postby N2yes » Sat Apr 12, 2008 2:59 am

Little Feat is an American band formed by songwriter, singer and guitarist Lowell George and keyboard player Bill Payne in 1969 in Los Angeles. The band broke up shortly after George's death in 1979, and reformed nine years later. A change of vocalist in 1993, ushered in the third incarnation of Little Feat. The band plays a mixture of blues, R&B, country, New Orleans funk, and rock and roll.

Lowell George Era (1969-1979)

George had met Payne when George was a member of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. Payne had auditioned for the Mothers, but had not joined. They were backed by former Mothers' bassist Roy Estrada and drummer Richie Hayward from George's previous band, The Factory. The name of the band came from a comment made by Mothers' drummer Jimmy Carl Black about Lowell's literally "little feet." The spelling of "feat" was a nod to The Beatles.

There are three legends about the genesis of Little Feat. One has it that George showed Frank Zappa his song "Willin'", and that Zappa fired him from The Mothers, because he felt that George was too talented to merely be a member of his band, and told him he ought to go away and form his own band. The second version has Zappa firing him for playing a 15 minute guitar solo - with his amplifier off. The third version says that Zappa fired him because "Willin'" contains drug references ("weed, whites and wine"). Ironically, when "Willin'" was recorded for the first, eponymous Little Feat album, George had hurt his hand and could not play the song's slide part, so Ry Cooder sat in and played the part. This was one reason why "Willin'" was re-recorded and included on their second album Sailin' Shoes. Sailin' Shoes was also the first Little Feat album to include cover art by Neon Park, who had painted the cover for Zappa's Weasels Ripped My Flesh.

The first two albums, Little Feat and Sailin' Shoes, received nearly unanimous critical acclaim. George's song "Willin'" became a standard, subsequently popularized by its inclusion on Linda Ronstadt's album Heart Like A Wheel.

Lack of commercial success led, however, to the band splitting up, with Estrada leaving to join Captain Beefheart's Magic Band. In 1972 Little Feat reformed, with bassist Kenny Gradney replacing Estrada. The band also added a second guitarist/vocalist, Paul Barrere, and percussionist Sam Clayton. This new lineup radically altered the band's sound, leaning toward New Orleans funk. The group went on to record Dixie Chicken (1973)—one of the band's most popular albums, which incorporated New Orleans musical influences and styles—as well as Feats Don't Fail Me Now (1974), which was a studio-recorded attempt to capture some of the energy of their live shows. (The name of the latter album is a kick-back to early American jazz musician Fats Waller.)

That members of The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin were among Feat's loyal fans gave proof of their musical influence. Mick Taylor, for example, can be heard guesting on Waiting For Columbus. Lowell George was respected for his idiosyncratic genius, for crafting sophisticated melodies and lyrics, and for his high production standards. But he's probably best remembered for his exuberant, unique slide style, which featured sustained, ringing legato lines. His soulful, expressive voice has influenced many performers[citation needed].

The release of The Last Record Album in 1975 signaled another change in the Little Feat sound, with Barrere and Payne developing an interest in jazz-rock. But their jazz feel was further extended in 1977's Time Loves A Hero. Prior to the recording of The Last Record Album, drummer Ritchie Hayward had a motorcycle accident and the liner to the LP release of The Last Record Album was decorated with copies of his many hospital bills. Also present was evidence of a late change to the running order of tracks. The lyrics for Paul Barrere's song "Hi Roller" were printed on the sleeve, but scored out, and the words "maybe next time" scrawled over them. Sure enough, "Hi Roller" was the first track on the subsequent album Time Loves A Hero.

Lowell George continued to produce the albums, but his songwriting contribution diminished as the group moved into jazz fusion. In August 1977, Little Feat recorded a live album from gigs at The Rainbow Theatre in London and Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. Waiting For Columbus is considered by many rock music critics to be one of the best live albums of all time, despite the fact that nearly all of George's vocals and slide work were in fact over-dubbed later in the studio[citation needed]. It was released in 1978, by which time it had become apparent that Lowell George's interest in the band was waning, as was his health. George did some work on what would eventually become Down On The Farm but then recorded a solo album Thanks, I'll Eat it Here and declared that Little Feat had disbanded. While touring for Thanks, I'll Eat it Here in June of 1979, at the age of 34, George was found dead in his hotel room in Arlington, Virginia. An autopsy found the death to be caused by a heart attack, although it is considered likely that George's weight, (formerly chronic) drug usage, and the strain of touring contributed to his condition.

The surviving members finished and released Down On The Farm before disbanding in 1979. A subsequent retrospective double album compilation of rare outtakes and live tracks, Hoy-Hoy!, was released in 1981.

While Lowell George was the founder of the band, with his great talent as a musician, he learned early on that directing and finding great talent was a niche, possibly from his work with Frank Zappa. The longevity of the band is a great tribute to George, and because of his legacy and inspiration, Little Feat remains, at least, in part, unchanged to this day.

The Craig Fuller years (1988-1993)

In 1986 Richie Hayward, Paul Barrere and Bill Payne were invited to play on Blue Slipper, the 1987 debut album by Helen Watson. They subsequently appeared on her second album The Weather Inside. The surviving former members of Little Feat then reformed when Barrere, Clayton, Gradney, Hayward and Payne added songwriter/vocalist Craig Fuller, formerly from the band Pure Prairie League (who also provided some rhythm guitar), and Fred Tackett on guitar, mandolin and trumpet. The band admired Fuller's previous work and were impressed when he toured with them in 1978 as part of the Fuller/Kaz band. They did not even request an audition, simply advising him they wanted him; and the reformation of a new Little Feat was complete. The initial release by the new lineup, Let It Roll, was a tremendous success, garnering Feat its first gold record LP since Waiting For Columbus which now had gone platinum. The band received more exposure than ever, including an appearance on Saturday Night Live. Concerts were booked nationally and Little Feat played enthusiastic, sold out shows. Fuller's vocals and high energy were a primary reason for the success[citation needed]. Barrere, Payne and company were pleased by the audience reaction: not only were they able to put over the Feat classics, but the new music was solid. While some Little Feat diehards could not accept the band without Lowell George, the new Little Feat with Fuller made a comeback that introduced a whole new generation to Little Feat.

Little Feat released two more recordings with Fuller, and the band continued to tour on a large scale. Fuller departed in 1993, stating that touring required too much time away from his family. Fuller joined a reformed Pure Prairie League, has commenced a long-overdue solo career and still guests with Little Feat on occasion.

The Shaun Murphy years (1993-present)

Craig Fuller was replaced by Shaun Murphy in September 1993. Shaun had sung on all of the recent Little Feat albums and throughout 1993 she had toured as part of Bob Seger's band with Fred Tackett and Bill Payne.

Murphy began her career working in Detroit, Michigan, most notably in theatre, and received a record contract with Rare Earth Records, a division of Motown Records, as a member of a duo with Meat Loaf. The duo later disbanded, and Murphy went on to sing and record with renowned artists such as Eric Clapton and Bob Seger.

With Murphy, the tone of Little Feat's live shows is more relaxed, and lends itself to more free-flowing jams. Shaun sings lead on perhaps one third of the songs during each live show, including those previously sung by Lowell George ("Rock And Roll Doctor", "Long Distance Love") and Craig Fuller ("One Clear Moment", "Shake Me Up"), as well as her own compositions.

The studio albums with Murphy failed to attract many of the original and second generation Feat fans. Nevertheless, this incarnation of Little Feat is still supported by an enthusiastic core audience and tours regularly each year in the US and, on occasion, elsewhere. In addition, guitarists Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett tour regularly as an acoustic duo, performing stripped down arrangement of Feat songs from all corners of the catalogue.

Little Feat approach their 40th anniversary as a once-again active band, and with just one line up change since 1988.

Some of the prominent musicians and bands to play and record the music of Little Feat include The Black Crowes, The Byrds, Garth Brooks, Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, Nicolette Larson, Randy Newman, Robert Palmer, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, John Sebastian, Carly Simon, Van Halen, Joe Walsh, Phish, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Sam Bush, Coco Montoya, Vince Herman, Inara George, Stephen Bruton and Jimmy Buffett .

Little Feat was definitely a ground-breaking band, especially so while under the leadership of Lowell George. I had the pleasure of seeing them many times on tour and they played marvelously every time. I think it fair to say that further outstanding work would have been achieved at George survived. Robert Plant is alleged to have stated that Little Feat was his favorite band of all time, this being back in the late 70's. Page also, was a HUGE fan. "[At] the Plaza...the attorney general, staying one floor above us, complained about me playing Little Feat records too loud last night...Band-wise, Little Feat is my favorite American group." -- Jimmy Page, interviewed by Cameron Crowe (1975). I hear no influence on Zep's music, but that was still quite a statement which I believe to be true. Consider this then, a tribute to a band deserving of legendary status.
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Re: Little Feat

Postby N2yes » Sat Apr 12, 2008 3:12 am

Not feelin' so well? Just go and ask the "Rock 'n' Roll Doctor's" advice.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEOlTZGuLKM&feature=related
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Re: Little Feat

Postby N2yes » Thu Jun 26, 2008 5:05 am

I put these guys back on the front page because I'm pretty sure bunches of you haven't heard diddley from them. Go ahead, give 'em a listen!
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Re: Little Feat

Postby sound_chaser » Thu Jun 26, 2008 8:56 am

I have to confess, that although I was always aware of them, Little Feat are a band I know next to nothing about: which is weird, considering my ongoing quest to discover the defining bands? A while ago, a friend gave me a copy of Feats Don’t fail Me Now, but until this thread, I forgot I had it. So, I’m giving it a spin now: I’ll get back to you. Thanks for reminding me though and your interesting bio.
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Re: Little Feat

Postby sound_chaser » Thu Jun 26, 2008 9:52 am

I really like the rootsy feel of Feats Don’t Fail Me Now and it has some interesting and surprising musical departures. I’ve played it a couple of times now and watched the Youtube links as well. I can hear Steve Miller in this music, as well as Boz Scaggs: the final song sounds like something off of Silk Degrees…and that’s not a bad thing. Stephen Stills Manassas also comes to mind and Ry Cooder isn’t that far away either, as is the country-rock ghost of Gram Parsons. But the by far the biggest reference points for me are the first two stellar albums by The Band (Music From Big Pink and The Band.) I can imagine this would be a great summer evening album to play when you’re sat out in the garden, just chilling out. To be honest, I’m not blown away in the same way I am by The Band (I just think they have the better songs.), but even so, it’s very enjoyable stuff. I think I like The Fan the best, with its extended psyche-out solos. And do I hear the influence of one Richard Wakeman in the keyboard parts of this song? I think I do…Nice!
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Re: Little Feat

Postby happytheman » Thu Jun 26, 2008 12:49 pm

Interesting, the story I heard was that Lowell played the song to Frank and Frank didn't fire him but told him he had better go forward with his career, that he would be better off without Frank.
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Re: Little Feat

Postby N2yes » Thu Jun 26, 2008 1:19 pm

Just a side note. Robert Plant did say that Little Feat was his all-time favorite band a while back. Interesting, eh?
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Re: Little Feat

Postby sound_chaser » Thu Jun 26, 2008 1:42 pm

N2yes wrote:Just a side note. Robert Plant did say that Little Feat was his all-time favorite band a while back. Interesting, eh?


Yeah, you can see why he'd say that, they are right up his street. I've listened to the album again and really like it a lot, so cheers for the heads up: it's made me want to check out the earlier albums especially.
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