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Published: 2010/08/12

Little Feat’s Richie Hayward: 1946-2010

Little Feat co-founder Richie Hayward has died after a long battle with liver disease. He was 64.

Hayward played drums in the seminal band throughout its entire career. In the late 1960s he played with original Little Feat frontman Lowell George in the band’s precursor The Factory. George and Hayward co-founded Little Feat in 1969 along with Bill Payne and Roy Estrada. They established a distinctive style of improvisational southern rock that mixed elements of blues, rock boogie and funk. Little Feat went on hiatus in 1978 and officially parted ways a year later after George died of an accidental overdose. Hayward helped reform the band in 1987 and continued to play with the group until last year when health concerns prevented him touring. Hayward lived in British Columbia at the time of his death.

“We saw him just recently,” longtime Little Feat member Paul Barrere said in a recent interview. “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.”

Hayward was also an accomplished sideman and played on recordings by such diverse artists as Eric Clapton, Warren Zevon, Travis Tritt, Robert Palmer, Tom Waits, Taj Mahal, Barbra Streisand, John Cale, Buddy Guy, Arlo Guthrie, Carly Simon, Bob Seger and many others. Hayward and Little Feat also collaborated with a new generation of jammers in the ’90s and ’00s, including Jimmy Herring, Bela Fleck, String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon and Warren Haynes. The band’s association with Phil Lesh & Friends and cover of Phish’s “Sample in a Jar” also brought an element of improvisation back into the group’s live sound. In addition, he played in the jamband all-star band Justice League with Herring, T. Lavitz and and Adam Nitty.

Many musicians, ranging from the members of Leftover Salmon to Little Feat, played benefit shows for Hayward in the past year. He had no insurance at the time his condition was diagnosed. Fab Faux guitarist Jimmy Vivino also saluted the musician from the stage with Gov’t Mule at New York’s Central Park SummerStage last night.

His last public performance was a sit in with Little Feat at the Vancouver Island MusicFest on July 11, 2010.

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