Let’s talk about Lowell. For those of you who don’t know, it’s thirty years since Lowell George (singer,songwriter and exceptional guitarist of Little Feat) died. He had just released his, much anticipated and ultimately slightly disappointing, solo album. Don’t get me wrong here – that solo album was disappointing only because of the mountain of expectations we had assembled – for any one else it would have been a triumph.
The thirty years thing has been a bit of a sore point with me. I have felt that no one on this side of the Atlantic has quite understood how hugely influential he was and up until now there has been no real tribute to mark the anniversary. Let me take you back. …..I’m in Bruce’s record shop in Reform St. in Dundee and I get chatting about Little Feat. They’ve been playing concerts to do with The Last Record Album in London. One of the staff knew a bloke who’d met a guy who had been there – that was enough back then – it had been brilliant. 4 hours. That’s what the bloke behind the counter told me – 4 hours. I pondered these things in my heart. There was no internet, no fanzines and the only printed blurb I had on Little Feat was a handout Warners had put in one of the sleeves. I kept in that sleeve and it’s probably still there.
In 1976 Little Feat were added to the bill of The Who concert at Celtic Park in Glasgow. This meant that my mum’s mini would be borrowed and four of us would chip in petrol money and do the 80 miles to be at the event. From memory there had been Chapman-Whitney street walkers, The Outaws, Little Feat and The Sensational Alex Harvey band all on before the The Who. Little Feat were everything I’d hoped. Odd, charming and completely cooler than anything else on the bill……and nicely bemusing to the drunken rock audience who slept their way through the Feat’s set. To me however it was really all about Lowell. He was chubby, beardy but magnetically charismatic and his voice soared plaintively around the old football ground. This, even I understood, was a significant moment; it was to be the only time I’d see him. Three years later he was gone.
Cut to 1988 and we’re at The Town and Country Club in London. Deacon Blue are in the studio cutting our 2nd album and we take a night off to go see the reformed Little Feat with the new singer Freddy Tacket – an old friend and co writer for the band. The show is good but there is a huge hole at the front of the stage and I realise as the new Little Feat establishes itself this will be the first and last time I go to see them too.
It’s 1995 and we’re in a studio in Los Angeles. Across the road is a little A&R hang out called Gengis Cohen’s attached to the Chinese/Jewish restaurant of the same name. On the bill, Load featuring Inara George, Lowell’s only child. We had to see it. The band is odd, slightly off centre with a guitarist who should really be sacked before the set is completed if there is any justice in rock. Inara was brilliant. With the dark good looks of her father and the beautiful rounded voice I feel sure her next project will be better. I am happy just to be there to see her play and think about the joy her father has brought me.
So that is what we are doing on Tuesday. Celebrating Lowell. 30 years on from his death the AMA awards (about which we spoke last week) ended up with an all-star jam around Lowell’s great southern anthem – Dixie Chicken. We too will pay our respects.
I’ve put up a couple of great Lowell links.
This is a song we won’t get time to play on Tuesday from the same summer as the gig I mentioned.
Also Richmond Fontaine in session. Richmond Fontaine are the band of Willie Vlautin – guitarist,song writer novelist and lead singer to RF. This is a great session and wonderful interview with a band who (on their 9th album) are right on top of their game. Don’t miss it.
Thanks, I’ll Eat It Here was once described as having “charming inconsistency” which is probably a good description!
I think I mentioned this last year but Jackson Browne has a magnificent song which he wrote in trinute to Lowell George called “Of Missing Persons”, rarely performed by Jackson but he did perform it solo on the piano at GRCH on the I’m Alive tour. Your Bright Baby Blues by Jackson has Lowells signature slide playing and wonderful harmony vocals.
I have to confess to being somewhat ignorant of much of Little Feat’s catalogue, so tonight will be (another, and probably expensive!) great education for me. Looking forward to it.
I’ve been a singer/songwriter/guitarist for over 40 years now, and I can say without reservation that Lowell George is well within my top 5 influences over the years. From the first time I heard him sing on Sailin’ Shoes, his melodic, expressive vocals have given me goose bumps many times. I believe him to be the one of the most under-rated, under-recognized blues singers of the 2nd half of the 20th century. He should have his own room in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Just look at the list of well-known musicians who helped him record Little Feat albums, and you’ll realize how much respect he had within the business. Even now as I listen to him sing “Roll Um Easy”, the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, it is so perfect, yet so easily, even lazily sung. Lowell George will have a legacy for those of us who have been moved by his music.