Little Feat

Little Feat is an American rock band formed by singer-songwriter, lead vocalist and guitarist Lowell George and keyboardist Bill Payne in 1969 in Los Angeles.


Although the band has undergone several changes in its lineup, the music remains an eclectic blend of rock and roll, blues, folk, R&B, funk and jazz fusion influences, with the vast majority of the songs they perform being written by the band members???past and present.


History


Lowell George Era (1969-1979)

Lowell George met Bill Payne when George was a member of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. Payne had auditioned for the Mothers, but had not joined. They formed Little Feat along with 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 "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 of Invention, 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") - George often introduced the song as the reason he was asked to leave the Mothers.


In any version, Zappa was instrumental in getting George and his new band a record contract. Ironically, when "Willin' " was recorded for the first, eponymous Little Feat album, George hurt his hand in an accident with a model airplane, so Ry Cooder sat in and played the song's slide part. Lowell's accident is referenced on the cover art of the band's 1998 album Under the Radar. "Willin' " was re-recorded (this time with Lowell playing) on Little Feat's second album Sailin' Shoes, which 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 universal critical acclaim, and 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, Paul Barrere, who had known George since they attended Hollywood High School in California, and percussionist Sam Clayton. Both Barrere and Clayton added vocals on many songs, although all the band members provided backing vocals in various tunes.


L to R: Paul Barrere and Lowell George, original frontmen for Little Feat; 1972-1977

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 pays homage to the Fats Waller song.)


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. Prior to the recording of The Last Record Album, drummer Richie 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, a style in which he had little interest. 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 significant portions of George's vocals and slide work were in fact over-dubbed later in the studio. 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.


After Time Loves A Hero and before the Down on the Farm sessions, Little Feat were used as the backing band for Robert Palmer album Pressure Drop, which featured his cover version of Lowell's song "Trouble".


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 1979, at the age of 34, George was found dead in his hotel room in Arlington, Virginia. An autopsy determined the cause of death was a heart attack, although it is considered likely that George's excess weight, (formerly chronic) drug usage, and the strain of touring contributed to his condition.


Lowell George was respected for his idiosyncratic genius, for crafting sophisticated melodies and lyrics; writing memorable songs, and for his high production standards. He is also remembered for his exuberant, unique slide style, which featured sustained, ringing legato lines.


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 and is an excellent example of the Little Feat sound and feel. The Hank Williams song "Lonesome Whistle" is covered here and may be the gem of the album.


Paul Barrere, Sam Clayton, Kenny Gradney and Richie Hayward performed several shows as Feats in 1981 and 1982.


The Craig Fuller years (1987-1993)

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 in 1987 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 didn't need an audition, having played with him on tour, and thus, the new Little Feat lineup was formed. 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. 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 (1993-2009)

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, prior to joining Little Feat as a full time member of the band.


After recording five studio albums and performing over 1,400 concerts with the band, Murphy left Little Feat in February 2009 and will not be replaced.


Richie Hayward Health Concerns

In August 2009, Richie Hayward announced that he had recently been diagnosed with a severe liver disease and would not be at work indefinitely . A benefit concert was organised and a website created where fans unable to attend could donate towards his treatment costs. As Hayward lives in Canada, outside of his native USA, he cannot have health insurance, hence the fundraising. Little Feat have announced that until Richie is able to rejoin them, their drum technician Gabe Ford will take his place.


Little Feat recently confirmed on their website that Richie is suffering from liver cancer.


Legacy - Today and Tomorrow

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


In 2008, Little Feat reached their 20th anniversary as a once-again active band, and with just one line up change since 1988. Jimmy Buffett has been an enthusiastic booster of the band for many years and his private record label was partnered with Feat's Hot Tomato Records to produce the CD Join The Band. Released in mid-August 2008, the album features collaborations with Buffett, Dave Matthews, Emmylou Harris, Bob Seger, B?Šla Fleck, Brooks and Dunn, Chris Robinson (Black Crowes), Vince Gill, Mike Gordon (Phish), and Inara George.


Personnel


Little Feat Personnel
Little Feat (1969-72)
Lowell George - vocals, guitar, harmonica
Bill Payne - vocals, keyboards
Roy Estrada - bass, backing vocals
Richie Hayward - drums, backing vocals
Little Feat (1972-79)
Lowell George - vocals, guitar, harmonica
Bill Payne - vocals, keyboards
Paul Barrere - vocals, guitar
Kenny Gradney - bass
Richie Hayward - drums, backing vocals
Sam Clayton - congas, vocals, percussion
Little Feat (1987-93)
Bill Payne - vocals, keyboards
Paul Barrere - vocals, guitar, slide guitar
Craig Fuller - vocals, additional guitar
Fred Tackett - guitar, mandolin, trumpet
Kenny Gradney - bass
Richie Hayward - drums, backing vocals
Sam Clayton - congas, vocals, percussion
Little Feat (1993-Jan. 2009)
Bill Payne - vocals, keyboards
Paul Barrere - vocals, guitar, slide guitar
Shaun Murphy - vocals, tambourine
Fred Tackett - guitar, mandolin, trumpet, vocals
Kenny Gradney - bass
Richie Hayward - drums, vocals
Sam Clayton - congas, vocals, percussion
Little Feat (Jan. 2009-Aug. 2009)
Bill Payne - vocals, keyboards
Paul Barrere - vocals, guitar, slide guitar
Fred Tackett - guitar, mandolin, trumpet, vocals
Kenny Gradney - bass
Richie Hayward - drums, backing vocals
Sam Clayton - congas, vocals, percussion
Little Feat (Aug. 2009-present)
Bill Payne - vocals, keyboards
Paul Barrere - vocals, guitar, slide guitar
Fred Tackett - guitar, mandolin, trumpet, vocals
Kenny Gradney - bass
Gabe Ford - drums
Sam Clayton - congas, vocals, percussion

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