Little Feat

Let me paint you a picture. It's a little hazy, but that's just pot smoke (in the story, I swear). The year is 1969 in L.A., and Frank Zappa has just handed vocalist-guitarist Lowell George his walking papers from the Mothers of Invention. Some legends contend Zappa thought he showed too much talent and should venture out on his own. Others maintain it came after George performed a 15-minute guitar solo... without turning on his amp. A third, more accepted, theory states that Zappa didn't approve of the drug and alcohol references in George's "Willin'."

In any event, the parting was amicable and fortuitous. George met keyboardist Bill Payne at a Mothers audition, and the stars aligned for the formation of their own jam band, Little Feat. Thus was born a phenomenon in American music, one that's been cultivated over the past 40 years and shows no signs of slowing down.

Though George died of a massive coronary in 1979, Payne, frontman Paul Barrere, and additional bandmates Fred Tackett, Richie Hayward, Kenny Gradney, and Sam Clayton have kept the tradition alive. They impart upon music lovers what they refer to as "a freewheeling fusion of California rock and Dixie-inflected funk-boogie." That, of course, incorporates everything from jazz to folk to rockabilly to country and blues.

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Christopher Lopez