STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
Heralded as one of the originators of the 1970’s jam band music scene, Little Feat has been dazzling audiences for generations with their hybrid of rock, blues, R&B, country, folk and honky tonk.
While massive commercial success has eluded the band throughout their career, they managed to chart with the singles “Rock & Roll Doctor,” “Hate to Lose Your Lovin’,” “Texas Twister,” “Let It Roll,” “One Clear Moment,” “Shake Me Up,” “Long Time Till I Get Over You,” “Woman In Love” and “Rad Gumb.”
Despite the untimely and tragic death of founding member Lowell George in 1979, Little Feat has continued to record and perform around the globe. On a quest to keep the musical legacy of Little Feat alive, long time band members Paul Barrere (guitar and vocals) and Fred Tackett (guitar, mandolin, trumpet and vocals) continue to perform duet acoustic shows of many of the Little Feat classics.
“We’ve entered the golden years (laughs), which has been nice,” says Barrere, from his home in Los Angeles, California. “Fred and I have been doing what we’ve been doing since 1999, which is the occasional gig. It has been really good. We can go out for a weekend a month, make some pretty good dough and have a lot of fun with the old Little Feat material, stuff he and I have done together and cover songs by other people.”
“It’s usually more of an intimate setting and not the full band coming at you like a freight train. It’s more about the songs,” adds Barrere. “We just have a lot of fun with it. It’s an opportunity to play different things and with different folks. We keep talking about making a record. We still haven’t done one.”
Releasing their self-titled debut album in 1971, it was their classic “Dixie Chicken” (1972) album that put Little Feat on the map and laid the foundation for decades of success amid a growing fan base.
“Little Feat had that quality of being different,” says Barrere. “It was hard for people to pigeon hole us in any one category. We were a very eclectic band. When I joined the band in ’72, Lowell said to me, ‘Rule number one is that there aren’t any rules. We’ll play any kind of music as long as we play it genuine.’ It really made me step up to the plate and know the different genres and play them well. Between that and the story telling of the lyrics, it’s a lot like “The Band” was. We just kind of kept growing and, although we weren’t a gigantic commercial success, we got a following. People just loved the stuff.”
“Personally, I love the music of the 70’s. It was amazing to me the different kinds of bands,” adds Barrere. “The biggest part of it was that record companies back then actually developed artists. When I joined Little Feat and used to go to the Warner Brothers Records office you’d see Ry Cooder, Randy Newman, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris and The Doobie Brothers. You got to work with the president and the vice presidents, the people in charge of A&R and different producers. It wasn’t just a business. People liked music! I think it came through in spades. People were more interested in musicality.”
Diagnosed with cancer in 2015, Barrere’s passion for life and playing music remain his mantra and fuel his relentless drive to never give up.
“When I got diagnosed with cance,r I told my wife we we’re going to take care of it and everything is cool,” recalls Barrere. “I know cancer at any point can rear its ugly head and go to all kinds of places in your body. I’m not dwelling on any of it. I’m all about positivity and being in the now and just loving life moment to moment. I’ve led a long, fruitful, fulfilling life. I have no regrets.
I just keep a positive attitude and keep walking.”
“It’s nice to leave a legacy of songs that you write and people enjoy. That is always gratifying,” adds Barrere. “Just the mere fact that I’m still able to go out and do it on my own terms – that’s golden. I always feel like when we start playing it’s all about having fun. There’s something about good time music that you can just kind of leave your worries behind for a while and I think that’s really the attraction of it all. I get to play guitar for a livelihood. How cool is that!”