Posts Tagged ‘Little Feat’


The third album from Little Feat saw a subtle move towards a more groove-laden funk style. While Lowell George was still band leader, he was starting to share more in the way of songwriting duties, and the addition of new band members, Paul Barrere and Sam Clayton, saw Little Feat approach Dixie Chicken with a renewed sense of purpose, resulting in perhaps their definitive studio offering. For Little Feat, 1972 brought commercial defeat, then creative rebirth. Formed three years earlier by guitarist Lowell George and keyboard player Bill Payne, the Los Angeles quartet was a Mothers of Invention splinter group featuring alumni George and bassist Roy Estrada, sanctioned by Frank Zappa, who either invited George’s departure or demanded it, depending on conflicting reports. One version holds that the founding Mother objected to a new George song, “Willin’” celebrating “weed, whites and wine,” a sentiment that the famously anti-drug Zappa was anything but willing to have associated with the band.

In addition to new bassist Kenny Gradney, a Baton Rouge native, the band enlisted another Louisiana expat, percussionist Sam Clayton (brother to crack L.A. session vocalist Merry Clayton), along with second guitarist Paul Barrere, who Lowell George had known since both were students at Hollywood High. With that realignment, Little Feat established a more potent and flexible rhythm section that built upon an already powerful four-square foundation laid by Hayward: With Clayton adding conga, djembe and other percussion instruments, Gradney locking into Crescent City syncopations and Barrere answering George’s simmering slide leads with complementary riffs and spare rhythm guitar, Little Feat now cruised on a supple cushion of polyrhythms.

In the studio, Lowell George stepped up as producer, a leadership role strengthened by his emergence on Sailin’ Shoes as the band’s most prolific and distinctive writer. Drawing on his versatile command of blues, country, folk and now R&B, he refined the surrealistic imagery and eccentric (and often cheerfully shady) characters that were proving his stylistic hallmarks. For the third full-length, “Dixie Chicken”, released January 25th, 1973, he would dominate the set list even more than on the prior albums.

Boasting Little Feat classics like the title track, “Roll Um Easy” and “Fat Man in the Bathtub”, “Dixie Chicken” found the band’s reputation take a massive leap forward, while still keeping them on the very fringes of the mainstream. It also pointed to a future were George’s influence over the band would lessen, while Barrere and keyboard player Bill Payne would have a greater impact on the band’s creative direction. While so much Southern rock at the time focused on massed guitars and heavy jams, Little Feat are typically loose-limbed, but never so much that they lose focus, and while they do indulge their tendency to jam, but this never gets so out of hand that they travel so far down a certain groove that they lose sight of the song itself.

“Dixie Chicken” signaled the band’s polyrhythmic swagger with laid-back confidence, bass and conga bumping into a hip-swaying groove punctuated with Payne’s spare, jaunty piano filigree. Lowell George’s hearty drawl established its southern milieu as he set a romantic shaggy dog story against “the bright lights of Memphis and the Commodore Hotel.” The starry-eyed protagonist’s ill-fated courtship of a dubious “southern belle” cast its own spell over the song and the album, mapping a mythic Dixieland in a screwball narrative. On the chorus, Bonnie Bramlett added a lusty, soulful voice to George’s as he serenaded his “dixie chicken,” vowing to be her “Tennessee lamb,” only to find himself seduced and abandoned. The song’s closing verse offered the singer’s encounter with a knowing bartender back at the Commodore Hotel bar that transformed the final chorus into a killer punchline.

“Dixie Chicken” is an album which can prove to be an oddly relaxing experience, almost to the point where if you’re not careful, you can end up zoning out. It’s a comforting listen, one that encourages your thoughts away from whatever day to day rigours you may have in life. It also means that it’s an album that can prove a little elusive from time to time, as sometimes you get to the end of the album and realise that you’ve been so relaxed that you’ve paid precious little attention to anything that’s gone on for its duration, and it’s even weirder if you’re listening to the original vinyl, because at some point you must have turned it over. That said, it’s also an album which sounds much better on vinyl, as the majority of CD editions have sounded oddly thin and even flimsy over the years, which is something that can seriously hamper your enjoyment of Little Feat.

While some would encourage the newcomer to approach Little Feat in a purely chronological manner, however, if you’re not to fussed about hearing their musical evolution, then Dixie Chicken is for many their definitive studio statement. Live, they frequently took things to another level entirely, but if you want to hear them at their best in the studio, then this is probably the best place to start.

The title cut from Little Feat’s 1973 album heralds the sound fans can instantly recognise the cantilevered songs laced with sardonic surrealism; the slinky Nu’Awlins rhythms; the funk touches; the high sustained wail of George’s slide; the offbeat vocal blend and twin-guitar work; Payne’s unfailingly brilliant piano. Barrere went to Hollywood High with the furrier’s son who grew up rich among Tinseltown royalty, but he was also a guitar ace; his nuanced rhythms and fills and fiery solos added new dynamics and colours. Perfect, since onstage George played only slide.

His sonic setup was now fully in place. He explained, “I use an open A tuning, which is an open G moved up a whole step. Instead of moving the first, fifth, and sixth strings down, I leave them alone and move all the other strings up a whole step. There’s a lot more tension on the strings, and it gets a much cleaner and brighter sound.” Those strings were “fairly heavy-gauge” Fender F-50s, his action was set “very high,” and a Craftsman 11/16th-inch socket was his slide; he used both a pick and his fingers. From now on, those super-taut strings will slice and squall through Little Feat’s stuff, tracing George’s exceptional sonic signature “Roll Um Easy” .

“Roll Um Easy” A contemplative take lays bare the accents working in Little Feat’s regenerated sound. Tenderness often lurks in George’s lyrics, but here it’s unusually foregrounded. Even his slide doesn’t howl; it glides with muted celebration. Contrast the intimate, heartfelt feel here with the version Linda Ronstadt fronted for L.A. hitmaker Peter Asher.

“Fat Man In The Bathtub” One way George’s circle could tell how he was doing was his weight variations. So you can hear this catchy fun as a bit of self-mockery. This “mosaic” demonstrates how to take an essentially simple musical idea and deconstruct it using syncopations. It’s also one of those complex tunes that Payne helped him get his meters straight on; they worked more closely as a team than George often liked to admit. The double-tracked slide guitars are totally distinctive.

“Two Trains” followed, updating a familiar blues metaphor for sexual rivalry while showcasing bubbling cross-rhythms stitched by Barrere’s rhythm guitar, Payne’s electric piano and the triple-threat interplay of Hayward, Clayton and Gradney with Lowell George hovering above the mix with his signature slide. Where other blues and rock stylists would typically lay out melodic lines that slurred their blue notes upward, George’s slide work carved out angular leads that could dart downward, sustain shimmering single notes or sting with short, fat jabs that were uniquely his.

Sleek grooves and sly story lines weren’t George’s or the band’s only strengths. As they had on earlier ballads (notably the previous album’s definitive take on “Willin’” and the wry but tender “Trouble”), Feat knew when to pull back on firepower and dolly in for intimate close-ups. On “Roll Um Easy,” Lowell George’s voice and acoustic guitar are decorated sparingly with restrained slide accents and raw vocal harmonies by Three Dog Night’s Danny Hutton.

“On Your Way Down” was a seamless fit for Feat in terms of both sound and sinister theme—the Golden Rule translated into karmic paybacks, haunted by serpentine synthesizer lines and moody percussion going bump in the night. Beyond the album’s charms, the sextet’s ensemble chemistry and expanded tool kit would elevate them onstage. Another Dixie Chicken standout, “Fat Man in the Bathtub,” provided percolating Afro-Cuban rhythms as George recounted a sexual standoff for Spotcheck Billy, whose plea to “check your oil” is rebuffed by Juanita, the object of his obsessions and the subject of his refrain.

That track, like the album’s title song and “Two Trains,” would become a fixture in Little Feat’s live sets, frequently anchoring medleys linked to Sailin’ Shoes gems, and their fourth album, Feats Don’t Fail Me Now, doubled down on their L.A./NOLA axis to open up a lane at rock radio and in record stores. With 1975’s The Last Record Album, however, George’s role began to recede as Bill Payne and Paul Barrere added jazz fusion elements.

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The late Little Feat guitarist Lowell George would have celebrated his 75th birthday on April 13th. George was not only a founding member of the famous rock band, but also worked with an incredible array of musicians ranging from Frank Zappa, The Meters, Harry Nilsson, and more.

While George’s life was tragically cut short when he died from a heart attack at the age of 34 while on tour in support of “Thanks I’ll Eat it Here” in June 1979, his influence was far-reaching in his peak career years. His work with Little Feat was unparalleled, which featured his trademark electric slide abilities like no one else.

In celebration of the great Lowell George’s birthday, check out full show video of Little Feat at London’s Rainbow Theatre in August 1977.

Little Feat recorded a live album from gigs at the Rainbow Theatre in London and Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. The resulting release “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 Lowell George’s vocals and slide guitar work were over-dubbed later in the studio. “Waiting for Columbus” 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.

Lowell George’s Birthday With A Classic Little Feat Performance From 1977.

Following the premature death of Little Feat’s chief architect Lowell George from a cocaine-charged heart attack, Paul Barrere stepped into the role of the band’s primary guitar slinger.

Indeed, it was no small challenge considering that George’s formidable presence as singer, songwriter and lead guitarist had imbued such an indelible mark on the band’s overall identity. Yet even at the outset, Barrere managed to accomplish that ,feat which enabled the band to continue and not only survive, but actually thrive in the aftermath of George’s passing.

Not that Little Feat always got their due, while certain albums are rightfully now remembered as genuine American classics “Sailin’ Shoes, Dixie Chicken, Time Loves a Hero”, and “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” in particular — other efforts are inexplicably overlooked.

With Paul Barrere’s recent passing, it was an apt time to shine the light back on those Little Feat recordings that are well worthy of more recognition, All add emphasis to a powerful legacy, one that belongs to Barrere as much as it does to the other band members overall.

Little Feat(1971)

Offering the first hints of Little Feat’s trademark sound — a combination of greasy funk, sturdy R&B, primal rock, and a crisp country croon, Little Feat is often overlooked whenever pundits retrace the band’s trajectory. Yet it was a stirring first step, one that demonstrated all the verve and versatility that they would become known for a short time later. Several songs stand out — the spunky “Strawberry Flats,” the tender “Truck Stop Girl” and the gutbucket read of the blues standards “Forty-Four Blues” and “How Many More Years” in particular —  but no one track in the whole of their canon is as enduring Lowell George’s classic “Willin’,” a definitive road song that would become one of the most covered offerings of their classic catalog. With George’s shimmering bottleneck guitar at the fore, it’s a sparse read, but one that defines the group as much as any other.

The Last Record Album(1975)

Although given a somewhat curious title that the unsuspecting might have misinterpreted as a death knell, The Last Record Album showed the band was nevertheless in fine form. Here again, the band’s songwriting prowess was well represented by the supple and seductive “All That You Dream,” a co-composition from Barrere and keyboardist Bill Payne, George’s sobering and sensitive “Long Distance Love” and the various examples of Feat’s solid pacing and assertive rhythms — “Down Below the Borderline,” “One Love Stand” and “Day or Night.” Although  it’s only eight songs long, it’s as definitive an album as any in their classic catalog.

Hoy Hoy (1981)

An odds and sods collection released two years after the band’s initial break-up in 1979, “Hoy Hoy” isn’t so much an encapsulation as it is a reminder of the band’s extraordinary diversity. Although Little Feat has had ample live albums released throughout their lengthy tenure, Hoy Hoy is far more than a concert collection given the fact that it also includes outtakes, demos and various quirky covers. A handful of songs come from earlier albums, but this is hardly a true anthology given its array of otherwise obscure offerings. Nevertheless, it deserves inclusion in any true Feat fan’s collection, simply by virtue of the fact it boasts so many interesting and otherwise unavailable selections.

Let It Roll (1988)

The first studio album issued in the aftermath of Lowell George’s untimely passing, this was the first to feature Craig Fuller, George’s tentative replacement, and guitarist Fred Tackett, who would remain a mainstay in the years to come.  Fuller–a veteran of Pure Prairie League and a handful of ad hoc collaborations–wrote eight of the album’s ten tracks, not only a bold move by a new member attempting to fill such massive shoes, but also a clear sign of the confidence given him by his new compadres. They were all well rewarded; indeed, the music retains the upbeat, effusive sound that characterized the classic Feat albums early on. George Massenburg and Bill Payne’s co-production efforts substitute a bit of polish for the down home designs that marked their earlier efforts, but it’s never a deterrent. In fact, it serves to remind the fan faithful that even despite the loss of the seemingly irreplaceable Lowell George, Feats were still clearly capable of moving forward without fear of faltering .

Under the Radar (1998)

Marking the tenth anniversary of Little Feat’s reconvening in 1988, the then-current line up that included Barrere, Tackett, Payne, percussionist Sam Clayton, bassist Kenny Gradney, drummer Richie Hayward, and recent arrival and dominant force, vocalist Shaun Murphy, proved themselves to be as formidable as ever. Although their profile had diminished considerably in later years, it was clear that the band were as determined as ever to retain their potent presence. While several songs boasted Feat’s signature spunk and spirit, other offerings — “Eden’s Wall,” “Under the Radar,” “Vale of Tears,” and “A Distant Thunder” in particular — demonstrated a marked maturity in their delivery, one that promised, for better or worse, to bring them closer to the mainstream. Although it can’t exactly be called an extraordinary album, Under the Radar is a credible effort regardless and a sign that even in their new incarnation, Little Feat was worthy being called an American classic.


The classic “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” album that was released in August of 1974. It was highly praised..and rightly so!

Feats Don’t Fail Me Now was the fourth, and some say, the best album of Little Feat’s career. Although trying to pick the band’s finest LP would be akin to picking one’s favourite finger. Each Little Feat record from the Lowell George period could be deemed just as important as the one which preceded it or followed afterwards. 1973’s Dixie Chicken may be their most critically celebrated and best remembered (it was the band’s highest charting effort), although no self-respecting fan could do without owning at least the group’s first six studio albums, along with the superb double live LP Waiting For Columbus.

Whether Feats Don’t Fail Me Now is their finest effort or not, now more than forty years after the fact, is irrelevant. What it is however, is a damn fine collection of intelligent tunes, crafted to perfection by Paul Barrére (guitar), Sam Clayton (percussion), Kenny Gradney (bass), Richie Hayward (drums), Bill Payne (keyboards), and of course Lowell George himself on guitar and vocals. Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Raitt also lend a hand on backing vocals, along with Tower Of Power providing horns.

From the sultry, humorous opener of “Rock And Roll Doctor,” to the intricately sprawling “Medley: Cold Cold Cold/Tripe Face Boogie,” which brings the LP to a satisfying finish, practically everything on here is first rate.

The country-funk of “Oh Atlanta” rolls along just nicely, thanks to some stellar slide guitar reminiscent of Mick Taylor on “Silver Train,” while the funky “Skin It Back” is in a class all by itself. Somehow Little Feat managed to tap into the American music well far deeper than many of their contemporaries. The rhythm section stays on the offbeat throughout the bluesy slide-fest of “Down The Road” (not to be confused with the Stephen Stills song of the same name), before Lowell lends his smooth as silk vocals to “Spanish Moon,” the one song which, despite its sheer excellence, inexplicably failed to register on the public radar.

The title track is about as much fun as one can have without frolicking through the hay with the local farmer’s daughter, before the band unleash their considerable jazz-rock-fusion skills via the “The Fan,” where each member crams as much as they can within the space of four minutes. Complex off-beats: . Tricky slide guitar:  Keyboard solo: . Basically this track has it all when it comes to both arrangement and musical dexterity.

What Little Feat proved was that critical acclaim doesn’t necessarily translate into successful sales figures. And if they were frustrated then, imagine how they’d be feeling now, today, when sophisticated music is about as underground as it gets, usurped by the likes of Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and Ed Sheeran.

To say that Feats Don’t Fail Me Now is one of those albums which has improved with age would be an insult to anyone who bought it back in the day. As always the illustration art by Neon Park is delightfully absurd, depicting Marilyn Monroe and George Washington. Priceless, as is the music itself.

“The Fan’

This epitomizes the “cracked mosaic” song construction Payne and George excelled at; they co-wrote it. The music ignites its fractured beats; the lyrics are both mesmerizing and off-putting. What did George see when he looked out from the stage, went back to his hotel where the girls gathered? The ‘tude here recalls the Mothers’ sneering Suzy Creamcheese. But the band soars deep into a richly textured soundscape, with solos as startling as lightning bolts.

“Spanish Moon”

Produced by George’s old pal Van Dyke Parks, this marks an interesting sidepath the band never quite followed farther down a sort of Sly Stone-meets-the-Meters funk with swaggering horns and keyboard squiggles over a muscular bass line, virtually modal as it elides chords. It’s dark and catchy and textured. And it makes you wonder what Allen Toussaint’s horn charts for parts of this album—those were the tapes George left on a train—might’ve sounded like.

“Feats Don’t Fail Me Now”

Road tunes have been a rock staple ever since it melded blues and country, and this ranks high among them. Once more George lifts lyrics from old roots tunes and builds a sardonic apocalypse around them. The psychological feel of roadburn, reflected in how the hammer-down section pauses for breath at the glorious sunrise, is intense, almost ecstatic; the ensemble vocals evoke gospel quartets. Running on the road can be a voyage of discovery as well as escape, with moments of epiphany and even transcendence possible around each bend. Spurred by the limber rhythm section and the razor-sharp interplay between Payne’s piano and George’s slide, this cut reaches for emotional revelation.

“Medley: Cold Cold Cold/Tripe Face Boogie”

An artist’s obsessions can suck for those around him but yield great things. Determined to capture Little Feat’s high-energy stage show in the studio, George pulled together two tunes from ‘Dixie Chicken’, and the group tore into the challenge with a ferocious vengeance. The pacing is exquisite as they nimbly frame Payne’s gripping keyboard breakdown and transition to George’s frenetic but taut solo, building tension to its patented dog-whistle finale—an almost impossible feat without his rig.

‘Feats Don’t Fail Me Now’ remains this band’s outstanding studio achievement. A few of the songs, like this one, were remakes: the obsessive George famously kept redoing songs until they were perfect… but they never were. Which is why some appeared multiple times in Little Feat’s relatively short discography. This album was as close as he’d come to perfection for these tunes.

The band was at a musical peak, but George began undermining it—and himself. Like Zappa, he saw himself as an auteur; by this point, the others, writing as many of the tunes and wanting more input, started to see an out-of-control control freak. Payne, who was George’s songwriting and musical equal, retreated when he asked to co-produce and was snarled at. But the music they made was so extraordinary it still bonded them.

Bill Payne: keyboards and vocals
Richie Hayward: drums and background vocals
Lowell George: guitars, vocals and production
Ken Gradney: bass (do not be decieved or take lightly this bit of musicianship that one describes simply as bass)
Sam Clayton: percussion and vocals
Paul Barrere: guitars, vocals
Gordon Dewitty: clavinet on Spanish Moon
Background Vocals: Emmy Lou Harris, Fran Tate, Bonie Raitt

Feats Don’t Fail Me Now is the fourth studio album by the American rock band Little Feat, released in 1974.

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Lowell George and Little Feat never sold many records, but they wowed musicians and their unique sound fostered a hardcore, persistent cult. George’s tunes and guitar work popped up on tracks by Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, and Robert Palmer. Mick Jagger called Little Feat his favorite band.

Little Feat was a group out of LA that sort of formed after their singer Lowell George got fired from The Mothers Of Invention by Frank Zappa, or so the story goes. And this song today is one of the reasons, a 1972 ode about smuggling. By the mid-1970s, what People dubbed “America’s best unknown band” was locked in recurrent dogfights. But when George strapped on his Strat, the band’s exuberant magic rerouted the intramural snarling into tightly meshed musical interactions. Until 1978, when things finally fell apart.

In June 1979, George finished a D.C. concert promoting his first solo album, went back to his hotel room, O.D.’ed on heroin, and had a massive heart attack. The singer passed away in 1979 at the age of 34. George, a frazzling mix of outsized talents and avid self-destruction, embodied the rock credo “Live fast, die young.” Driven and obsessive, the guitar great rode a meteoric career arc—until his substance abuse finally crashed it.

In late 1969 George brought keyboard genius Bill Payne, ace drummer Richie Hayward, and ex-Mothers bassist Roy Estrada into Little Feat’s first line up. Spearheaded by his emotive tenor and unmistakable slide guitar, the foursome grew into a rollicking sextet that adroitly mixed blues raunch, country flourishes, and Crescent City syncopations in complex songs and jams.

The pudgy charismatic guy in the white overalls was on top of the world. Except when he wasn’t. His obsessiveness fueled headlong dives into booze and drugs that buttressed his fragile personality but amped up his irresponsible jags: like leaving master tapes for their finest studio disc “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” on a train,

The artist Linda Ronstadt does this one beautifully in her voice in 1974 on her Heart Like a Wheel release, but it’s hard to imagine her smuggling anything in any kind of rig. play it as designed on the album, with “When Will I be Loved” first, rolling right into “Willin'”. The 2 should never, ever be separated.

Ronstadt was one of George’s many paramours; she tells the story of how she woke up one day to find the wife she didn’t know he had at her door. She says incisively, “He was an enigma. He was convoluted in his speaking, his thinking. I think he was burdened by his intelligence.”

His self-destructive bent surfaced during these sessions: he cut his hand on a model airplane, so his pal Ry Cooder dropped in the tasty slide guitar. Naturally, George the perfectionist would re-record it for a later album.

“20 Million Things” The track from George’s solo effort, is such a piercing glimpse into his ever-more-fractured personality it feels eerily like he was writing his own epitaph. Quieter, minus his trademark slide, it hearkens back to earlier tunes like “Willin’.”

And so the vicious circles engulfing Lowell George finally closed. A hundred pounds overweight, besieged in body and soul, he was found dead in an Arlington, VA hotel after performing with a backup band while the D.C. crowd chanted “FEAT! FEAT! FEAT!”.

Thanks, I’ll Eat it Here. A pictorial tribute to the Rock and Roll Doctor.( Archive images by unknown photographers, used without explicit permission )..

Sailin' Shoes

By 1972, Lowell George and his Little Feat cohorts had an acclaimed debut album under their belts but with their second album “Salin’ Shoes” the band reached another level entirely – something obvious from the opening notes of “Easy To Slip,” which stands among the great lost singles of the decade. Produced by Ted Templeman, the Warner Bros. collection features some of George’s best-loved songs, including “Cold, Cold, Cold,” “Tripe Faced Boogie,” “Teenage Nervous Breakdown”

Highlighted by a reworked group version of “Willin'”, the track that had led to Frank Zappa sacking the guitarist and vocalist Lowell George from The Mothers of Invention, it also featured such enduring tracks as “A Apolitical Blues,” Little Feat’s second quartet album, didn’t sell any better than their eponymous debut. But it offered gems a-plenty. This one showcases how George’s deep blues roots are morphing into his fluidly idiomatic slide guitar; his vocals have absorbed influences like Wolf but are becoming his own. The lyrics brandish classic Little Feat attitude: a flip-the-bird blues. It was suited to this moment, when the country was nearly exhausted by the strife between Nixon’s “silent majority” and the ongoing civil rights and antiwar movements. And the music rocks: Bill Payne, George’s primary creative alter-ego and jousting partner, unleashes his always adroit piano.

“Easy to Slip” and the title track, all by guitarist and lead vocalist Lowell George, the second co-written with Martin Kibbee, credited as “Fred Martin”, a former bandmate from The Factory, and the first appearance of the “George/Martin” credit on a Little Feat record.

Lowell George and Bill Payne don’t stop at being the writers of virile, touching songs–they’re also masterful musicians. Payne plays a cool, elegant piano and a hot, whirring organ. George makes his slide guitar howl and roar like a tractor trailer in the midst of a steep, mountainous descent. George illustrates the muscular mating of men and their machines, while Payne celebrates it. Together with former Mother Roy Estrada on bass and Richard Hayward on drums, they compose one super rock ‘n’ roll band. Little Feat can play steaming hot, iron-ore heavy, over-easy light, or non-stop speedy, as the occasion demands. They never sound pretty, but there’s an unmissable beauty about their rough-around-the-edges designs.

As seasoned L.A. music veterans, the foursome deliver performances that are pretty near immaculate and, more importantly, soulful; the roots-informed rock of these 11 tracks goes down mighty easy. If Neon Park’s cover art isn’t sufficient inspiration to kick up your heels, just give a listen to SAILIN’ SHOES It’s a true classic album. Little Feat is involved with–and living folklore. Sailin’ Shoes, interweaving its big trucks, seedy hotels, and greasy spoons with songs about rock & roll, seeks to incorporate this special music into the raw, vibrant, and vast setting of mythic America.

It was the last full Little Feat record to be produced by an outsider until 1977’s Time Loves a Hero, with each of the three interim albums being produced almost entirely by Lowell George.


  • Lowell George – guitar, lead (all but 10) and backing vocals, harmonica, baritone saxophone, drum machine
  • Bill Payne – Hammond organ, backing and lead vocals (10), Wurlitzer electric piano, piano, accordion
  • Roy Estrada – bass, backing vocals
  • Richie Hayward – drums, backing vocals, percussion

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Today we are remembering the late Lowell George. The Little Feat guitarist would have turned 73 years old this year. Lowell initially funded his first band by the sale of his grandfather’s stock in 1965 and released at least one single on the Uni label, “Smile, Let Your Life Begin” (co-written by George). Members included future Little Feat drummer Richie Hayward (who replaced Dallas Taylor in September 1966), Martin Kibbee (a.k.a. Fred Martin) who would later co-write several Little Feat songs with George (including “Dixie Chicken” and “Rock & Roll Doctor”), and Warren Klein on guitar. Frank Zappa produced two tracks for the band, but they weren’t released until 1993 on the album Lightning-Rod Man, billed as Lowell George and The Factory.

The band made an appearance on the 1960s sitcom F Troop as “The Bed Bugs”. They were also featured in an episode of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., “Lost, the Colonel’s Daughter” (season 3 episode 27). Although not visible in the scene inside the A Go-Go club, their music can be heard playing loudly. They received credits at the end of the episode as “‘The Factory’ Lowell-Warren-Martin-Rich, Courtesy of Universal Records”.

Following the disbanding of The Factory, George briefly joined The Standells. In November 1968, George joined Zappa’s Mothers of Invention as rhythm guitarist and nominal lead vocalist; he can be heard on both Weasels Ripped My Flesh and the first disc of You Can’t Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 5. During this period, he would absorb Zappa’s autocratic leadership style and avant garde-influenced conceptual/procedural-oriented compositional methods. He earned his first production credit, in conjunction with Zappa and Russ Titelman, on Permanent Damage, an album recorded by “groupie group” The GTOs. George later asserted that “he performed no real function in the band” and left the group in May 1969 under nebulous circumstances. GTOs member Pamela Des Barres has claimed that George was fired by the abstemious Zappa for smoking marijuana, while he claimed at a 1975 Little Feat concert that he was fired because he “wrote a song [“Willin'”] about dope.” On the contrary, biographer Mark Brend asserts that Zappa “liked the song” but “thought there was no place for it in the Mothers’ set”; George himself alternatively claimed that “it was decided that I should leave and form a band” by mutual agreement.

On June 15, 1979, George began a tour in support of his solo album. On June 29th, 1979, the morning after an appearance at Washington, DC’s Lisner Auditorium where the bulk of Little Feat’s seminal live album Waiting for Columbus had been recorded, George collapsed and died in his Arlington, Virginia hotel room.

Lowell George

Lowell George from Little Feat’s 1970’s Fender Stratocaster. This is one his last ones, apparently he got so many guitars stolen during his career that he only played on modern Strats that was easy and cheap to replace. Most of them did look the same since he favoured light wood coloured big headed Strats with maple necks. He always installed a Telecaster bridge pickup and volume knob and used an 11/16 socket wrench as a slide. Don’t ask me what’s going on with the input jack but he changed that on all his guitars too. Notice his dungarees behind the guitar.George struggled quite a lot in life and was addicted to cocaine and hamburgers but he was a helluva slide player. Little Feat, the best kept secret of the Seventies.

Image result for LITTLE FEAT - " Live At Winterland " San Francisco 14th February 1976

Few bands that formed in the early 1970s have managed to survive and continue touring to the present day, albeit with a fair few line-up changes. Little Feat is one of the few that have, in no small part due to their outstanding musicianship and the idiosyncratic songwriting of founding member, Lowell George, which has stood the test of time.

Thier 1976 Winterland performance is one of the finest examples of  the band Little Feat during the prime years of Lowell George, when the group had established a reputation as one of the most exciting and original live bands on the planet. Lowell George’s innate ability to craft songs with sophisticated melodies and intriguing lyrics, as well as the high production standards on the groups studio recordings, were key to the group’s popularity and longevity. it was concert performances, such as this one, that truly established such a dedicated fan base.

Little Feat were opening for Electric Light Orchestra, this remains one of their most legendary performances. Broadcast live on KSAN radio, parts of this performance were immediately bootlegged to vinyl and rapidly began circulating under various titles, the most common being “Rampant Syncopatio” and “Chinese Bejeezus,” titles rumored to have been supplied by Lowell George himself.

It’s no wonder that this performance became so popular, as it captures the band at the peak of the “Lowell George era,” promoting the release of The Last Record Album. This album signaled the emergence of jazzier elements being incorporated into the bands sound, as well as stronger contributions from guitarist Paul Barrere and keyboardist Bill Payne, which added greater diversity to the group’s material.

The recording kicks off with a smokin’ version of “Apolitical Blues,” followed by a double dose of funky New Orleans flavored rock, with sizzling takes of “Skin It Back” transitioning into “Fat Man In The Bathtub.” This establishes a deep groove that continues to intensify as the set progresses.

The middle of the set features several outstanding new songs by Barrere and Payne, “One Love Stand” and “All That You Dream,” proving them a songwriting force to be reckoned with. Sandwiched between is an outstanding performance of Allen Toussaint’s classic “On Your Way Down.”

The set rises to another level entirely, when the band launches into “Cold, Cold, Cold.” This is Lowell George at his most astounding; not only singing like his life depended on it, but playing devastatingly great slide guitar. His slide guitar technique, which utilized a Sears & Roebuck 11/16ths spark-plug socket wrench rather than the traditional glass or steel finger tube, is absolutely incredible here and utterly unique.

“Cold, Cold Cold” gives way to the ever popular “Dixie Chicken,” one of the bands most popular songs, here featuring an extended jam that lets the band stretch out a bit. This eventually builds in intensity and transforms into a searing version of “Tripe Face Boogie.” A solo section, first showcasing the percussion stylings of Sam Clayton and Richie Hayward, followed by an impressive keyboard improvisation by Bill Payne, is featured before they finish pummeling the audience into submission with the conclusion of “Tripe Face Boogie.”

Seemingly in no hurry to hear the headliners, Electric Light Orchestra, the Winterland audience clamors for more. The band returns to the stage and Lowell leads them through the composition that helped facilitate him leaving The Mothers of Invention and forming Little Feat in the first place, “Willin’.” (He elaborates on this prior to beginning the song.) They close this incredible set with a ferocious take of “Teenage Nervous Breakdown.” The bootleg was known as “Rampant Syncopatio” is from this show

Paul Barrere – guitar, vocals; Sam Clayton – percussion, vocals; Lowell George – guitar, vocals; Kenny Gradney – bass; Ritchie Hayward – drums, vocals; Bill Payne – keyboards, vocals

“Waiting for Columbus” was recorded during seven performances in early August 1977. The first four shows were held at the Rainbow Theatre in London, UK on August 1st–4th, 1977. The final three shows were recorded in George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium on August 8th–10th in Washington, D.C. Little Feat was backed at some of these shows by the Tower of Power horn section.
August, 1st back in 1977 (Monday) Little Feat played the first show in London with the Tower Of Power horns, but none of the songs from that evening were chosen for the official release.
Is this the greatest live album, Ever!!! I’ll never forget the first time I heard the version of Spanish Moon. Everytime I hear those horns . Outstanding.

How the group pulled off one of the best live albums of all time, the double-LP “Waiting for Columbus”, is both a heartening story of persistence and a sad, cautionary tale about how band politics can become toxic, and destroy a beautiful thing in the process.

When Lowell George proposed doing a live album in early 1977, the group approved the idea at least partly, because they considered it a good sign that George was involving himself in any decision-making.

They were also anxious to capture their onstage power in the way the Allman Brothers Band, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young and the Band had before them. Little Feat made plans to include the five-piece Tower of Power horn section (Mic Gillette and Greg Adams on trumpets, with Lenny Pickett, Emilio Castillo and Stephen “Doc” Kupka playing saxophones), incorporating new super-funky arrangements inspired by Allen Toussaint’s work with the Band on Rock of Ages.

Every once in a while an album comes along that completely changes the way you think about a band. For me that band is Little Feat and the album is their timeless live offering, “Waiting For Columbus”. Spanning the course of seven shows in 1977, the band makes their way through a set of swampy blues-rock in a uniquely 70’s paradigm that reaches other-worldly altitudes. Little Feat was a band that makes you think many contemporary bands aren’t as revolutionary as you thought.

Little Feat members had always enjoyed recreational drugs and heavy partying, but George was now fully in the grip of a destructive cocaine habit. He often refused to rehearse or jam, disappeared for days at a time and virtually stopped writing songs, leaving production decisions and music construction to keyboardist Bill Payne and guitarist Paul Barrere. In an interview with journalist Bud Scoppa, Barrere described ’77 Little Feat as “without focus or direction, no real managerial control over the business aspect, and because our personal habits were so askew,

It’s one thing to hear the album, but it takes on awe-inspiring qualities when you sit back and listen to it.

First off, lead vocalist and slide-guitarist, Lowell George was an immense talent and should be heralded as a national treasure. His vocal work and lyrical contributions are timeless in-and-of-themselves. Not to mention, as a session guitarist he played on Robert Palmer’s cover of Allen Toussaint’s Sneaking Sally Through The Alley and as a producer, he produced The Grateful Dead’s 1978 album Shakedown Street. Combined with keys player Bill Payne, rhythm/lead guitarist Paul Barrere, Richard Hayward on drums, and bassist Kenny Gradney, Little Feat came together and made something special with “Waiting For Columbus” (especially considering the ensuing disbandment of Little Feat and George’s untimely passing).

On the original two-LP set the concerts’ song order was reconfigured for more dramatic effect, with nine performances from D.C. and eight from London. The Rolling Stones’ Mick Taylor guests on “A Apolitical Blues” from the August 3rd gig, which was otherwise excluded from consideration; it was subsequently known as the “Black Wednesday” show by the band. Barrere and George were seriously hungover after staying up all night with some of the Tower of Power members after the second show. Castillo told writer Ben Fong-Torres for his Willin’ band biography that Hayward and George got into a screaming match just before going on stage, with punches thrown. Road manager Doug Zahn prevented Hayward from physically attacking George, who started the fisticuffs. Other band members reportedly fought in the dressing room after the show as well.

Waiting for Columbus is an impressively thorough expression of the times in which it was created. They’re playing all the sounds available to them and pulling it off in a unique way that celebrates the cultural heritage of the American South, and more-than-adequately covers the eclectic influences of the day. There’s jazz, blues, rock n’ roll, boogie, folk, gospel, soul and the many expressions of these styles within the Americana framework.

The party gets started with a klanky cowbell run that leads into a pot-stirring vibe as “Fat Man in a Bathtub” gets revved up. This tune exemplifies the attitude of Little Feat that never takes itself too seriously; allowing the music to breathe without the air of seriousness that constricts many acts. The improvisational aptitude of the band more than compensates for any nonsensical attitudes displayed in their lyrics. Which are satisfying and flush with wit and humor.

“All That You Dream” opens up as an up-tempo rock city number before breaking into the glorious chorus of “I’ve been down, but not like this before”. Seemingly, to celebrate the perspective of the downtrodden as they harmonize beautifully through this gripping serenade.

“Oh! Atlanta” is the kinda tune that makes you look at ATL from a different angle. One that says “there must be something to this city”. A good ole’ country get-down that moves through luscious musical changes and makes you think, “there’s definitely some tonk in that honky”. Upon taking a closer look at this song, I realized that I didn’t fully appreciate the creativity and musical awareness of Little Feat. Notably, Lowell’s vocals throughout the verse are syncopated and stylized in truly original form.

“Old Folks Boogie” creeps up with a jazzy blues feel and lyrical content that shows how these guys can have fun with their music.

“And you know that you’re over the hill – When your mind makes a promise that your body can’t fill – Doin’ the old folks boogie – And boogie we will – ‘Cause to us the thought’s as good as the thrill” is a hilariously accurate insight to the aging process.

“Spanish Moon” is a song that plays like a soundtrack to wherever you end up at the end of “On Your Way Down” (included on the extended 2002 release). A low-down sinister groove, rife with visceral storytelling and a prominent feeling that it’s goodto be bad, “Spanish Moon” has one of the baddest bass lines on the album. The low-end here is heavier than lead and trudges through the filth of the visceral storyline.

At the moment, I can hardly think of a band that weaves as rich a narrative and moves through it with such compelling musical dexterity. As if to place exclamatory punctuations, the “Tower of Power” horn section lies in wait to unleash their brass-blasting fury.

Moving on to one of Little Feat’s most famous songs, a little left-hand piano boogie quickly opens up to some right-hand woogie as the extended/re-worked version of “Dixie Chicken” takes flight. Complete with an extended piano solo that traverses through a syncopated Fats Waller/Jelly-Roll Morton style and leads into a delightful, Dixieland breakdown with the Tower of Power horns. Cascading piano, sultry clarinet, trumpet and trombone lead the jam before it explodes into “Tripe Face Boogie” which features a tantalizing mix of synthesized sounds and Rhodes piano through the instrumental section.

“Willin’ > Don’t Bogart That Joint” is a slowed-down country crooner section with a beautiful, lonesome feel to it. Riding the edge between all-out-sorrow and a feeling of redemption that says “I’ve been through some shit, but I’m gonna be alright.. And damnit, if I’m not gonna be better off for it.” Speaks to a man at the end of his rope, but ready to heed the omen of progress:

“A Apolitical Blues > Sailin’ Shoes” marks the downright bluesiest section of the album. It starts off chuggin’ down the tracks and settles into a juke-joint vibe that carries through until the last track on the album; Bill Payne’s “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now”. A song that features a frothy bass line that keeps comin’ back for more. Drummer, Richard Hayward drops it into gear while Lowell’s vocals rev up the engine on this beast, for an expansive journey fitting to close out the album.

Little Feat represents a brand of Southern culture that belongs to everyone. Much in the same way that the 1776 ethos isn’t only identifiable to Boston, or Philly. They connect with something in all of us and deal with the full experience; the celebration of life, the evil urges, and a humorous outlook on the hard times that keeps the soul light.

Lowell George became a producer-for-hire, and began work on a solo album that was eventually issued as Thanks, I’ll Eat it Here. He died at the age of 34 while on tour promoting it, ironically playing the Lisner Auditorium a final time on June 28th, 1979, succumbing after a heart attack the next day, most likely brought about by a cocaine overdose. Little Feat eventually regrouped, and with many different line-ups they made fantastic music for decades. Hayward was killed by cancer in August 2010, as was Barrere in October 2019. Of the survivors, Payne has been the most active, working most recently with Leftover Salmon and the Doobie Brothers.

Waiting For Columbus’ cover art by Neon Park (Martin Muller) still confounds easy interpretation, and forms part of the mystique of the album. Is the anthropomorphic tomato-woman a symbol of idyllic America, before Columbus “discovered” her? Three additional outtakes were included on the 1981 Little Feat compilation Hoy-Hoy! and seven more emerged on the Rhino reissue in 2002. Maybe someday the powers-that-be at Warner Bros. Records will release everything recorded and finally satisfy the still-thriving Little Feat cult?

Waiting for Columbus continues to exert a big influence, especially on country, bluegrass, blues and jam bands. On October 31st, 2010, Phish performed the whole album in Atlantic City as part of their annual “Halloween disguise” shows, and on July 21st, 2018, the Peach Festival in Scranton, Pa., saw the remaining members of Little Feat join with moe., Turkuaz and the Midnight Ramble Horns to recreate Waiting For Columbus one more time.

Simply stated, Waiting For Columbus is a timeless classic, worthy of any record collection.

<b>Lowell</b> <b>George</b> – Thanks I’ll Eat It Here (LP)

The best Live two song set by LITTLE FEAT on Youtube – “Fat Man In The Bathtub” plus “Rock and Roll Doctor”, recorded on the Old Grey Whistle Test January 17th, 1975 .
See Lowell George and his band at their peak, Lowell would die of heart failure approx. four and a half years after this very performance on June 29th, 1979.
Drummer Richie Hayward (Feb.6, 1946-Aug.12, 2010) passed away from complications of lung cancer and chronic liver disease in Canada, penniless from his time with the band, fans gathered together to help Richie financially until his passing. All the other members of the Band are still alive and some even tour.
The songs come from the LP’s “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” 1974 and “Dixie Chicken” 1973
Did you know that in a 1975 Rolling Stone article, Jimmy Page claimed Little Feat was his favourite American Band!