Little Feat (from the album Sailin’ Shoes)

It was three little words that Lowell George claimed was the reason for Frank Zappa asking Lowell to leave The Mothers of Invention. While the lyrical hook, ‘weed, whites, and wine’ has become part of history as expressed in the truck driver anthem “Willin’”, it has also been floated that Frank believed Lowell George was too talented to be a backing guitarist. The reasons are in the past, and what is left is a song forever attached to Little Feat, the group that Lowell George formed with Bill Payne in 1969 Los Angeles, California. Like peers The Band and the Grateful Dead, Little Feat were a melting pot of American musical sounds as evidenced on their second album release, Sailin’ Shoes (1972). The group’s self-titled debut hinted at what Sailin’ Shoes, and subsequent Little Feat releases, embraced. In the days of pre-Americana, hybrids were encouraged as was experimentation. Born in Hollywood, California, Lowell George played Blues, Soul, Folk, and Rock’n’Roll like a son of the south.

Keyboardist Bill Payne returned boogie to rock’n’roll in Little Feat, trading riffs with Lowell George’s slide guitar on the Sailin’ Shoes track “Tripe Face Boogie” while his accordion pumps up “Trouble” and his electric piano puts a funk into “Got No Shadow”. Bill Payne leads the charge into the Blues of “Cat Fever”, which features Bill on vocals. Sailin’ Shoes kicks off with slashed chords and advice as Lowell George warns that it is “Easy to Slip”. “Willin” enters quietly on acoustic chords as Richie Hayward’s bass drum hits a heartbeat, the track building with Bill Payne’s piano sparkling and Flying Burrito Brother, Sneaky Pete Kleinow’s pedal steel giving the song wings. Sailin’ Shoes introduces a ‘lady in a turban and a cocaine tree’ in its title track, finger pointing at love leaving when the TV breaks down in “Cold Cold Cold”, and chops up a groove with drum and guitar to profess “A Apolitical Blues”. Little Feat give big love for rock’n’roll by laundry listing the reasons that the music that took over the world is nothing by bad for ya’ as they barrel roll through “Teenage Nervous Breakdown”.

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