Little Feat was formed in Los Angeles in 1969 by guitarist and lead vocalist Lowell George and keyboardist Bill Payne. In addition to George and Payne, the classic line-up featured drummer Richie Hayward, guitarist Paul Barrere, bassist Kenny Gradney (who replaced original bassist Roy Estrada) and percussionist Sam Clayton. The band's music crosses numerous genres: rock, blues, jazz fusion, southern rock, gospel, R&B, funk, jam-band, country, soul, folk, boogie-woogie and Americana with a spicy dash of Cajun and zydeco thrown in. In 1979, shortly before George's death, the original group disbanded due to creative differences.
During this first portion of the group's career, it released the classic Warner Brothers albums Little Feat (1971), Sailin' Shoes (1972), Dixie Chicken (1973), Feats Don't Fail Me Now (1974), The Last Record Album (1975), Time Loves A Hero (1977) and Down On the Farm (1979). During this time, it also released the live Waiting For Columbus (Warner Brothers, 1978) collection.
In 1987, the band's surviving members reformed along with Craig Fuller on vocals and guitar and Fred Tackett on guitar, mandolin and trumpet. During the ensuing years, Little Feat has occasionally recorded and intermittently toured. In its current configuration, Little Feat is comprised of: Payne, Barrere, Clayton, Gradney, Tackett and drummer Gabe Ford (who stepped in when Hayward fell ill and became a full-fledged member of the band after Hayward's death).
The second incarnation of the band has been highlighted by the Warner Brothers releases Let it Roll (1988) and Representing The Mambo (1990), the CMC International releases Under The Radar (1998) and Chinese Work Songs (2000) as well as numerous live albums. The band, with and without George, is known for songs such as "Willin'" (which George originally composed as a member of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention), "Hi Roller," "Skin It Back," "Dixie Chicken," "Fat Man In The Bathtub," "Oh Atlanta," "Let It Roll," "Hate to Lose Your Lovin,'" "Texas Twister," "Tripe Face Boogie," "Rocket in My Pocket," "Honest Man," "Rad Gumbo" and "Spanish Moon."
On a pleasant Saturday evening in late May, Little Feat touched down in Huntington, NY at the Paramount. Prior to the band taking the stage, the multi-generational crowd (some groups featured parents, children and, yes, grandparents) was milling about inside the mid-sized venue. Fans were seen wearing vintage t-shirts from as far back as the late-'70s. Many were overheard speculating about what would be the band's opening number. Others commented on the configuration of the venue and its seating. On this night there were temporary orchestra seats set close to the stage and a dance floor area toward the rear of the main section as well as the standard mezzanine and balcony seating in the rear.
At a few minutes after 8pm, Little Feat hit the stage. The band treated the crowd to exactly what they came for- -an evening of fun '70s-drenched boogie rock that has been Little Feat's calling card for over forty years. The performance opened with the legendary "Fat Man Is The Bathtub" at the end of which Barrere innocently inquired, "Everybody feeling alright?" The guitarist was greeted with a barrage of "Feeeeaaaattt" shouts, hoots and hollers that allowed the audience to clearly confirm that they indeed were. The band's set also featured spot-on versions of "Juanita," "Honest Man," "Skin It Back," "Church Fallin' Down," "Spanish Moon" and "Rooster Rag." Additionally, they delivered wonderful covers of Little Walter ("Mellow Down Easy ") and the Band ("Rag Mama Rag" and "The Weight"), never losing sight of the original versions but managing to adding unique flourishes to each of these songs. Mid-way through the performance, the band stopped to introduce "Willin.'" Barrere said, "We would like to dedicate this one to Mr. Gregg Allman." What followed was a plaintive and sweet version of the song with a simple segue into "Don't Bogart That Joint" and back into "Willin.'" Allman, who had passed away earlier that day, would have been proud. The main set ended with a high-energy powerful one-two-three combination of "Old Folks Boogie" (from Time Loves A Hero), "Oh Atlanta" with its: "Ohhhhhh Atlanta, Ohhhhhhh Atlanta; I said YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! Atlanta; I've got to get back to you" lyric and "Dixie Chicken," the sly, swampy tribute to living below the Mason-Dixon Line.
The encore was a great version of the off-kilter, surreal and colorful "Tripe Face Boogie."
Even now, 46 years after its debut with the self-titled debut album, Little Feat hasn't slowed down a bit. The band continues to be a force. Every performance is a gem featuring classic songs, spontaneous interludes and cool funky jams. The musicianship is top-notch and tight. Despite the loss of George and the changing line-up, the band continues to deliver the unusual time signatures and syncopated rhythms that made it famous and caused Jimmy Page, in a March 13, 1975 Rolling Stone interview with Cameron Crowe, to declare, "Band-wise, Little Feat is my favorite American group."
Photo Credit: Christine Connallon