Little Feat is a curious note in popular music history in that, despite its initial run in the 1970s, it’s been the Southern California-based band’s second incarnation that’s made it just as popular today, if not more so, than in its heyday.
With an eclectic mix of southern rock, blues, folk, R&B, soul and more, Little Feat, led by guitar virtuoso Lowell George, didn’t quite get its due respect or commercial success on its first round despite being a “musician’s band.”
Due to some intense creative and personal differences among members of the core lineup, Little Feat disbanded in 1979. Shortly thereafter, the troubled George passed away at the age of 34. The band’s other members went their separate ways, but almost all became sought-after touring and studio musicians, backing up literally a who’s who of artists until 1987, when a new lineup of the band reformed.
But a funny thing happened during the band’s missing years. Little Feat’s reputation and popularity grew, in particular with the jam-band community that appreciated its high level of musicianship and mix of genres. Signature songs like “Dixie Chicken,” “All That You Dream” and “Willin’ ” became popular covers for a new generation of artists, and the records started to be revered by music critics who routinely list 1978’s Waiting For Columbus as one of the best live albums of all time.
From the obvious jam-centric bands like Phish and the Dave Matthews Band, to more surprising acts like Jimmy Buffett and Van Halen, several major artists became vocal and passionate supporters of the band, recording collaborations and bringing the 2.0 version of the band out on tour.
And tour, do they ever. Despite members all approaching or being over 70 years old, and several having had serious health issues, Little Feat seems to be always on the road, whether that’s headlining its own tours, opening for bigger acts, making festival appearances or even breaking it down acoustically for small-scale venues. That’ll be the case this Friday in Ojai when guitarist Paul Barrere, who’s been a key member of the band nearly since its inception in the early 1970s, and multi-instrumentalist Fred Tackett, who joined in 1987, will perform as the acoustic duo Paul and Fred at a benefit concert for the Safety Harbor Kids Organization.
It’s a rare and happy ending not often seen in music, but it’s well-deserved, as Little Feat was and still is an important American rock band.
Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett of Little Feat perform at the Safety Harbor Kid’s 10th Anniversary Benefit Concert on Friday, May 19, at Topa Mountain Winery, 821 W. Ojai Ave., Ojai. For more information, call 800-277-0497 or visit www.safetyharborkids.org.