Little Feat: Ram’s Head Revisited and Richie Hayward’s Road to Recovery
Any band that survives over 40 years in the music business is bound to deal with its share of adversity. Little Feat is no exception. The sudden death of founding member Lowell George in 1979 was devastating, shelving the band for nearly a decade. Subsequent departures of lead vocalists Craig Fuller and Shaun Murphy, and most recently, drummer and co-founder Richie Hayward, on leave from the group after being diagnosed with liver cancer, would be very difficult to overcome. Yet, here’s Little Feat, readying a new live collection, Ram’s Head Revisited, releasing Silver Strings – a solo album by guitarist Fred Tackett, and prepping for a 5-week tour including stops at the Gathering of the Vibes and a return to Europe. Not to be forgotten is the Paul and Fred tour sandwiched between Feat outings. We spoke with Tackett and guitarist/singer Paul Barrere moments before the duo took the stage at a Richie Hayward Benefit concert in Los Angeles- to help Richie Hayward, visit this site.
So how’s Richie feeling?
Paul- We saw him just recently. We played up in his hometown of Comox, British Columbia. He looked surprisingly well. Thinner, but he didn’t look emaciated in any way. He gets fatigued fairly easily. He had a recent CAT scan of his liver, and they are waiting on the results of that to see if they will put him on the transplant list. His residency has been established, so I believe he is eligible for the NHS [National Health Service], which is wonderful. When he saw us, he was in great spirits. I talked to him a couple of days ago and he said he misses us already. He’s such a fighter. Richie’s amazing. If a cat has nine lives, Richie’s got 18.
Fred- He’s had a couple a major motorcycle episodes, with his medical bills on the back of the Last Record Album (1975) album cover.
Paul- Oops. (Laughs) It wasn’t so much the medical bills, but having his address and phone number.
Fred- That didn’t go over too well.
And fans can follow his progress online at www.carepages.com?
Fred- Yes. I read the care pages today and it said he was feeling some pain, feeling a little ill. He’s holding on, hoping for a transplant.
Paul, it was during the Dixie Chicken record when you officially joined up with Richie, Lowell, and Billy Payne (keyboards). It was also when Little Feat added Sam Clayton (percussion) and Kenny Gradney (bass). This marked a noticeable shift in the band’s sound. Was that a calculated change in style or did it emerge organically?
Paul- I think it was very organic. You have to remember that Lowell had been in New Orleans working with the Meters doing Robert Palmer’s record ( Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley ), and meeting Allen Toussaint. He came back with that semi, quasi second-line aspect that Dixie Chicken has to it. It got greasier. You know, Sam and Kenny are funky boys.
Fred, Dixie Chicken also marked your first ‘appearance.’ While you weren’t a band member at the time, one of your songs, “Fool Yourself” is on the album. How did that come about?
Fred- Lowell and Jimmy Webb, a songwriter I used to work for, and I used to hang out a lot at Jimmy’s house. It was at this same time that Lowell was writing for the Dixie Chicken record. He’d be singing just the chorus, “If you’ll be my Dixie chicken, I’ll be your Tennessee lamb.” So we’re trading tunes, and I played that song for Lowell. He said, “Oh man, I have to get the cats to record that.” It was at that recording session that I met Paul.
Another song you wrote that Little Feat recorded was “Be One Now.” You have a new version of that as one of eight songs on Silver Strings. Tell me about the new album.
Fred- I used to play in a band with a really good friend of mine, and wonderful upright bass player, Domenic Genova. Then I got busy with Little Feat, and 12 years went by. Billy and Paul did a long tour with Phil Lesh, and I had all this time available. So, I called Domenic and said, “Hey, man, why don’t you come over and let’s play some stuff.” He gets out of the car and says, “It’s been 12 years.” I didn’t even think about it, I’d been so busy. Time flies when you are having a good time. We started playing together again, and did that as a project with my son Miles, who produced it. We had a lot of fun. That was three or four years ago. We continued to get together and play, and I’ve since written some new songs. Then, I got together with Roger Cole, a friend that Paul has also worked with a lot, and he’s putting it out as a digital release on August 3rd. I will have copies that I will sell at our shows.