When Phish delivered the Little Feat live album, “Waiting for Columbus” in its entirety at its Halloween show in Atlantic City a dozen years ago, it gave the veteran rock band a palpable boost.
“We started seeing more younger people at our shows,” Little Feat guitarist Fred Tackett said. “Kids would come up to me and say they got into Little Feat because of the Phish show and they checked out “Waiting for Columbus” and that was so cool.”
“Waiting for Columbus” is one of the most lionized live rock recordings. The album, which was recorded in 1977, featured the band after its initial peak but Little Feat was still one of the better live bands.
The same can be said for the group nearly a half century after the release of “Waiting for Columbus” – Little Feat still possesses an enviable power and precision live.
“I know we still have it,” Tackett said while calling from Dallas.”We can still do it.”
Every now and again someone writes about how Little Feat shouldn’t exist without the late visionary Lowell George. Whenever Tackett reads such a post he rolls his eyes. “We own the name and so we can call ourselves Little Feat,” Tackett said. “We are Little Feat.”
George was the band’s singer-songwriter and guitarist from 1969 to 1979, when the band splintered due to their leader’s disinterest and destructive behavior.
Little Feat, which will perform Tuesday at the Bing Crosby Theater, reformed in 1987 with George’s close friend Tackett and has been delivering its amalgam of blues, R&B and rock and roll ever since. “It’s hard to believe we’ve been at this for 35 years,” Tackett said. “Who would have ever guessed?”
The odds are that George would have given the gifted Tackett, who was his right hand man while recording his lone solo album, “Thanks, I’ll Eat Here,” his blessing.
Tackett wasn’t a member of Little Feat during its initial run but he contributed songs and hung out often with George, the late jazz guitarist Larry Coryell and acclaimed songwriter Jimmy Webb, who penned such hits as “Wichita Lineman” and “Up, Up and Away.”
“Lowell was one of my best friends,” Tackett said. “Larry Coryell and Jimmy Webb and I were all very close. Lowell lived in my house and we wrote songs together. He was the best cat. He was the best at everything but it all caught up with him. We had a lot of plans. He was going to produce a number of recording artists and I was going to be the arranger.”
George, like many rockers from the ‘70s, had drug problems.
“Society from 1975-1978 was very different than it is today,” Tackett said. “People in 2022 wouldn’t recognize what it was like back in those days. You would walk into a studio and there was a mirror built into the console for cocaine, which was ubiquitous. Today you can’t drink a beer in the studio. The mid-70s were the craziest time I can remember and it had a huge impact on Lowell.”
Tackett never planned to resurrect Little Feat eight years after George suffered a fatal heart attack, and he never anticipated such a long run with Little Feat.
“It’s been such a wonderful experience,” Tackett said. “The great thing is that we’re all on top of our game.”
Tackett is flanked by vocalist-keyboardist Bill Payne, who is an original member and vocalist-percussionist Sam Clayton and bassist Kenny Gradney, who joined Little Feat in 1972. “It’s so cool playing with those three guys, who are just amazing”
Guitarist Scott Sharrard and drummer Tony Leone are also part of the band. “We’re a well-oiled machine,” Tackett said. “The cool thing is that we’re still writing. This isn’t a band that just wants to play the old songs.”
But those familiar favorites, such as “Dixie Chicken,” “Willin’” and “Fat Man in the Bathtub” are always part of their sets, which typically span more than two hours. “We try to give the fans their money’s worth,” Tackett said.
Tackett is approaching octogenarian status but that’s commonplace among contemporary rockers “(Legendary sessions drummer) Jim Keltner, who is 80, was surprised that I’m 77,” Tackett said. “I”m not a kid anymore. Keith Richards once said that rock and roll is a young man’s game but nobody back in the day ever imagined we’d all still be playing at this point in our lives.”
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