April 27, 2012

L.A. Music: Little Feat, and Juanita, What are You Up?

This is another installment of my Friday series on L.A. Music, featuring artists and bands that originated in Southern California or are closely linked to Los Angeles. 

Yesterday at Starbucks, I made an impulse buy and bought one of their featured CDs in front of the register: Back in New Orleans.  As you might remember, I'm a big fan of the South, and I love me some NOLA music.  A long time ago, I had a really cool compilation cassette of New Orleans music, put out by Rhino Records.  But that's long-gone.  Anyway, I tore open the package, and drove around while the music started.  The first song is by The Meters, and their song "Hey, Pocky A-Way" immediately reminded me Little Feat.
Oh buddy.  I do love me some Little Feat.

Like Creedence Clearwater Revival, Little Feat is a band from California that confuses people into thinking they're from the Deep South, because of their sound and subject (see CCR's "Born on the Bayou," Little Feat's "Dixie Chicken.")

But front man and founder Lowell George was from Southern California, and that's where the band was formed, after George had a brief stint in Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. (If there's one musician/band that I've never understood the appeal of, it would be Zappa.  It's like highbrow Dr. Demento stuff to me.) 

Lowell George was just packed full of talent, as a musician but especially as a songwriter.  Out of the literally hundreds of songs that I love to death, "Dixie Chicken" is right up there in my top 10: it puts a smile on my face, makes me want to dance, and tells a helluva good story.  (And it takes place in the South.)
Photo from here.
Tragically, George died of a heart attack at the impossibly young age of 34.  The band was disbanding into more of funk/jam outfit, and George's weight and drug issues escalated at the same time. The members of Little Feat got back together in the early 90s with a new lead singer, and had a couple of hits with "Let it Roll Tonight" and "Hate to Lose Your Lovin'." I liked both of those songs, and even got to see them in concert, as an opening act for...?  But that re-vamped version was not at all the same, without the creative spark of Lowell George. 

With all the other artists that I've profiled in my L.A. Music series, I've had a clear idea of what song I wanted to feature here. I had a heck of a time picking this week.  There's just so many Little Feat songs that I love: "Willin'," "Feats Don't Fail Me Now," "Tripe Face Boogie," "Oh, Atlanta," etc. etc.
Album image from here.
In the end, I chose "Fat Man in the Bathtub," in a live performance from 1976. Watching this, I think Jack Black could grow a beard and someday play Lowell George in a bio-pic.  (But Jack Black isn't nearly as sexy as I find George in his cowboy hat, rockin' that cowbell.)  The opening percussion beats reminds me of "Iko Iko," another New Orleans classic song.  This is good stuff, people.

"Put my money in your meter, babe
So it won't run down,
Cause you caught me in a squeeze play
On the cheesy side of town
Throw me a dime, throw me a line,
Cause there's a fat man in the bathtub
With the blues."

Well, like the song says: All I want in this life of mine is some good clean fun. But now I also want a muffaletta. And a beer.  And to be right there down in the French Quarter, on a hot spring day. Ah, well.  At least it's Friday.

Enjoy! And have yourself a funky-good weekend.

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