Lowell George

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Lowell George
Lowell-george.jpg
Background information
Birth nameLowell Thomas George
Born(1945-04-13)April 13, 1945
Hollywood, California, US
DiedJune 29, 1979(1979-06-29) (aged 34)
Arlington, Virginia, US
Genres Blues rock, rock and roll, boogie rock, southern rock, country rock, R&B, blues, funk, blue-eyed soul, swamp rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, producer
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals, harmonica, flute, saxophone, sitar
Years active1965–1979
Labels Warner Bros.
Associated acts Little Feat, Frank Zappa, The Mothers of Invention, Grateful Dead, The Standells
Website littlefeat.net

Lowell Thomas George (April 13, 1945 – June 29, 1979) was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer, who was the primary guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter for the rock band Little Feat. [1]

Contents

Early life

Lowell George was born in Hollywood, California, the son of Willard H. George, a furrier who raised chinchillas and supplied furs to the movie studios.

George's first instrument was the harmonica. At the age of six he appeared on Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour performing a duet with his older brother, Hampton. As a student at Hollywood High School (where he befriended Paul Barrere and future wife Elizabeth), he took up the flute in the school marching band and orchestra. He had already started to play Hampton's acoustic guitar at age 11, progressed to the electric guitar by his high school years, and later learned to play the saxophone, shakuhachi and sitar. During this period, George viewed the teen idol-oriented rock and roll of the era with contempt, instead favoring West Coast jazz and the soul jazz of Les McCann and Mose Allison. Following graduation in 1963, he briefly worked at a gas station (an experience that inspired such later songs as "Willin'") to support himself while studying art and art history at Los Angeles Valley College for two years.

Musical career

Early bands

Initially funded by the sale of his grandfather's stock, George's first band The Factory formed in 1965 and released at least one single on the Uni Records label, "Smile, Let Your Life Begin" (co-written by George). Members included future Little Feat drummer Richie Hayward (who replaced Dallas Taylor in September 1966), Martin Kibbee (a.k.a. Fred Martin) who would later co-write several Little Feat songs with George (including "Dixie Chicken" and "Rock and Roll Doctor"), and Warren Klein on guitar. Frank Zappa produced two tracks for the band, but they were not released until 1993 on the album Lightning-Rod Man, credited to Lowell George and The Factory. [2] The band made an appearance on the 1960s sitcom F Troop as "The Bedbugs". They were also featured in an episode of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. , "Lost, the Colonel's Daughter" (season 3, episode 27). They appeared in the scene inside the A-Go-Go club, with their music heard playing loudly. They received credits at the end of the episode as "'The Factory' Lowell-Warren-Martin-Rich, Courtesy of Universal Records". Following the disbanding of The Factory, George briefly joined The Standells.

Zappa and The Mothers of Invention

In November 1968, George joined Zappa's Mothers of Invention as rhythm guitarist and nominal lead vocalist; he can be heard on Weasels Ripped My Flesh , Burnt Weeny Sandwich , You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 1 , You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 4 and the first disc of You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 5 . During this period, he absorbed Zappa's autocratic leadership style and avant garde-influenced conceptual/procedural-oriented compositional methods. He earned his first production credit (in conjunction with Zappa and Russ Titelman) on Permanent Damage, an album recorded by "groupie group" The GTOs. George later asserted that "he performed no real function in the band" and left the group in May 1969 under nebulous circumstances. GTOs member Pamela Des Barres has claimed that George was fired by Zappa for smoking marijuana, while George claimed at a 1975 Little Feat concert that he was fired because he "wrote a song ["Willin'"] about dope." [3] On the other hand, biographer Mark Brend asserts that Zappa liked the song but thought there was no place for it in the Mothers' set; George himself alternatively claimed that "it was decided that I should leave and form a band" by mutual agreement. George also claimed to have played uncredited guitar on Hot Rats . [4]

Little Feat

George performing in Buffalo, New York, May 1, 1977 Little Feat Lowell George.jpg
George performing in Buffalo, New York, May 1, 1977

After leaving the Mothers of Invention, George invited fellow musicians former Zappa bassist Roy Estrada, keyboardist Bill Payne, and drummer Richie Hayward to form a new band, which they named Little Feat. George usually (but not always) played lead guitar and focused on slide guitar, but Ry Cooder played the slide on "Willin'" on the debut Little Feat album after George badly injured his hand while working on a powered model airplane, although George rerecorded some of his material and he played the rest of the slide work on the album. Mark Brend wrote that George's "use of compression defined his sound and gave him the means to play his extended melodic lines." [5] George began his slide playing using the casing of a Sears, Roebuck and Co. 11/16ths {spark plugs came in two sizes: 13/16" and, later, 5/8". The former was universal during George's time.} spark plug socket wrench, that was given to him by a friend, Steve that he had met from New Hampshire, rather than the traditional glass or steel finger tube. [6] [7]

Little Feat signed to Warner Bros. Records through Zappa's efforts and their first album was Little Feat , produced by Russ Titelman, but it was not a commercial success and only sold 11,000 copies on initial release. [8]

The follow-up album Sailin' Shoes , produced by Ted Templeman, was the band's first record to feature cover artwork by Neon Park, but despite good reviews the album fared no better commercially.

Estrada left the band in 1972 to join Captain Beefheart's Magic Band as well as to get away from the pollution in Los Angeles and he was replaced on bass by Kenny Gradney. In addition, Little Feat expanded to a sextet by adding a second guitarist Paul Barrere and percussionist Sam Clayton, thus cementing the classic line-up, and they took on a New Orleans funk direction with their next album Dixie Chicken , the first to be produced by George. [9]

By the spring of 1976, Little Feat were touring North America opening for The Who. [10]

Little Feat released several other studio albums in the 1970s, including: Feats Don't Fail Me Now , The Last Record Album and Time Loves a Hero . The group's 1978 live album Waiting for Columbus became their best-selling album.

Tensions within the group, especially between George, Payne, and, to a lesser extent, Barrere regarding musical direction and leadership, led to Payne and Barrere's departure from the group in 1979 and the group's subsequent disbandment. In an interview with Bill Flanagan conducted 11 days before his death, George stated that he was keen to re-form Little Feat without Payne and Barrere in order to reassert his full control over the group. [11]

Record production

George was also a producer, and produced the Grateful Dead's 1978 album Shakedown Street , as well as Little Feat's records and his own 1979 solo album Thanks, I'll Eat It Here ; he also co-produced a couple of tracks on Valerie Carter's 1977 release Just A Stone's Throw Away. In 1977 he co-produced John Starling's debut solo album Long Time Gone.

Session work

When not playing with Little Feat, George lent his talents as a session player to various artists, most frequently as a slide guitarist. He contributed to Barbara Keith's 1972 self-titled debut, [12] John Cale's Paris 1919 (1973), Happy End's Happy End (1973), Bonnie Raitt's Takin' My Time (1973; "I Feel the Same" and "Guilty"), Harry Nilsson's Son of Schmilsson (1973; "Take 54"), James Taylor's Gorilla (1975; "Angry Blues"), The Meters' Rejuvenation (1974; "Just Kissed My Baby"), [13] John Sebastian's Tarzana Kid (1974) and Jackson Browne's The Pretender (1976).

Along with The Meters, George's slide work features prominently on Robert Palmer's first solo studio album, Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley , recorded in New Orleans in 1974. A year later, Palmer's second album ( Pressure Drop ) was effectively produced by George, and Little Feat served as the core band on the sessions. However, Palmer kept the producer's credit because of a dispute between Island Records and Warners. Later CDs list Steve Smith as producer.

Health problems

George led an overindulgent lifestyle of binge eating, alcoholism and speedballs (heroin and cocaine mixed together) and he became morbidly obese in the last years of his life, weighing 308 pounds (140 kg). [14]

Death

On June 15, 1979, George began a tour in support of his solo album, Thanks I'll Eat it Here. On June 29, the morning after an appearance at Washington, D.C.'s Lisner Auditorium where the bulk of Waiting for Columbus had been recorded in 1977, George collapsed and died of a heart attack in his Arlington, Virginia, hotel room at the Twin Bridges Marriott. His heart attack was caused by an accidental cocaine overdose. [15] [16] George's body was cremated in Washington, D.C., on August 2. His ashes were flown back to Los Angeles, where they were scattered from his fishing boat into the Pacific Ocean. [17] [18] [19]

According to Fred Tackett, "We were driving down the New Jersey Turnpike in this bus and we stopped at this pizza joint off the highway. Everybody in the band shared a cheese pizza but Lowell bought a large pizza with everything on it, carried it to the back of the bus, and he ate the entire pizza by himself. He died two or three days later. So, when people ask me, 'What really killed Lowell?' I say, 'It was a pizza on the New Jersey Turnpike.'" [20]

Posthumous tributes and cover songs

Personal life

Lowell met Susan Taylor (nickname Jonna) during his days with The Factory. Together they had Lowell's first child, Forrest George, in March 1969. George and his first wife Pattie Price had a son, Luke, in April 1970. They later divorced, and he became involved with Elizabeth Levy.[ citation needed ] Together he and Levy had a daughter, Inara George, in July 1974; the couple married in 1976. [24] Inara is half of the musical duo The Bird and the Bee.

George was step-father to Levy's son Jed Levy from her previous marriage to Tom Levy. [25]

George died June 29, 1979 just days before Inara's fifth birthday.

Related Research Articles

Little Feat American rock band

Little Feat is an American rock band formed by singer-songwriter, lead vocalist and guitarist Lowell George and keyboardist Bill Payne in 1969 in Los Angeles. George disbanded the group due to creative differences shortly before his death in 1979. Surviving members re-formed Little Feat in 1987 and the band has remained active to the present.

<i>Little Feat</i> (album) 1971 studio album by Little Feat

Little Feat is the first studio album by the rock band Little Feat. It was released in 1971 on Warner Bros. Records.

<i>Sailin Shoes</i> 1972 studio album by Little Feat

Sailin' Shoes is the second studio album by the American rock band Little Feat, released in 1972. Produced by Ted Templeman, it marked a shift away from the sound of the band's eponymous debut, to that of their subsequent album, Dixie Chicken. It also introduced the cover artwork of Neon Park to the group, and was the last album appearance of original bassist Roy Estrada.

<i>Feats Dont Fail Me Now</i> 1974 studio album by Little Feat

Feats Don't Fail Me Now is the fourth studio album by the American rock band Little Feat, released in 1974, on the Warner Bros. label. The cover was designed by Neon Park.

<i>The Last Record Album</i> 1975 studio album by Little Feat

The Last Record Album is the fifth studio album by the American rock band Little Feat, released in 1975.

<i>Waiting for Columbus</i> 1978 live album by Little Feat

Waiting for Columbus is the first live album by the band Little Feat, recorded during seven performances in 1977. The first four shows were held at the Rainbow Theatre in London on August 1–4, 1977. The final three shows were recorded the following week at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C. on August 8–10. Local Washington radio personality Don "Cerphe" Colwell can be heard leading the audience in a "F-E-A-T" spellout in between the first and second tracks.

<i>Down on the Farm</i> (album) 1979 studio album by Little Feat

Down on the Farm is the seventh studio album by the American rock band Little Feat. The album was completed and released shortly after the death of the band's founder and frontman, Lowell George, in 1979. It was their last original work for nine years. The band had announced their break-up in June 1979 during the making of the album. Little Feat would reform in 1987.

<i>Let It Roll</i> (Little Feat album) 1988 studio album by Little Feat

Let It Roll is the eighth studio album by the American rock band Little Feat, released in 1988. Eight of the ten songs on the album were co-written by new band member Craig Fuller, the founding member of Pure Prairie League. Fuller also takes most lead vocals. The album attained RIAA certified gold status on February 14, 1989. It is the first Little Feat studio album without Lowell George, after his death in 1979 and is one of their most successful albums, sparking a comeback by the band. The first single, "Hate to Lose Your Lovin'", earned the band their first #1 hit on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

<i>Live from Neon Park</i> 1996 live album by Little Feat

Live from Neon Park is the second live album by the American rock band Little Feat, released in 1996. The name of the album was a suggestion of a Little Feat fan in commemoration of the then-recent passing of long-time Little Feat album cover artist and friend of the band, Neon Park.

<i>Down upon the Suwannee River</i> 2003 live album by Little Feat

Down Upon the Suwannee River is the fourth live album by the American rock band Little Feat, released in 2003.

<i>Highwire Act Live in St. Louis 2003</i> 2004 live album by Little Feat

Highwire Act: Live in St. Louis 2003 is the fifth live album by the American rock band Little Feat, released in 2004. There was also a video of the same performance released on DVD.

<i>Dixie Chicken</i> (album) 1973 studio album by Little Feat

Dixie Chicken is the third studio album by the American rock band Little Feat, released in 1973. The artwork for the front cover was by illustrator Neon Park and is a reference to a line from the album's third track, the song "Roll Um Easy".

Paul Barrere American musician

Paul Barrere was an American musician most prominent as a member of the band Little Feat, which he joined in 1972 some three years after the band was created by Lowell George.

Fred Tackett

Fred Tackett is an American songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Originally a session player on guitar, mandolin, and trumpet, he is best known as a member of the band Little Feat.

Sam Clayton

Sam Clayton is an American singer and percussionist, primarily focusing on drums, conga and djembe, throughout his musical career. He is best known as a supporting vocalist and percussionist with the American rock band Little Feat since 1972.

<i>Pressure Drop</i> (album) 1975 studio album by Robert Palmer

Pressure Drop is the second solo album by Robert Palmer, released in 1975. Palmer is backed by Little Feat and other musicians. The title track is a cover version of the reggae hit by Toots & the Maytals. However, many other songs on the album use "New Orleans funk ... along with smooth, dated disco ballads smothered in strings". Continuing his association with Little Feat started by his cover of "Sailing Shoes" on his 1974 debut album Sneaking Sally Through the Alley, Feat was used as backing band on several cuts, most notably Lowell George's slide guitar on "Here With You Tonight". George also contributed the tune "Trouble" on which Feat pianist Bill Payne plays the intro. David Jeffries' review says that the album is considered "too blue-eyed and polished for fans of Palmer's more gutsy moments" but concludes that "Pressure Drop has grown into the great overlooked album in Palmer's discography". In June of 2009, the album was ranked as No. 20 on Mojo's list of the 50 best records released by Island. The album peaked at No. 136 in the US.

Inara George

Inara Maryland George is an American singer-songwriter and musician, one half of The Bird and the Bee, a member of the band Merrick, with Bryony Atkinson, and a member of the trio The Living Sisters, with Eleni Mandell and Becky Stark.

Join the Band is a 2008 album recorded by Little Feat. Their first studio album in five years, it features no new original songs but is a set of collaborations with other artists such as Bob Seger, Emmylou Harris, Dave Matthews and Inara George. It was released on July 1, 2008.

Rooster Rag is the fifteenth album of original material by American rock band Little Feat released in June 2012. It was their only studio album to feature drummer Gabe Ford and the last to feature guitarist Paul Barrere who died in 2019.

"Willin'" is a song written by Lowell George while a member of The Mothers of Invention and subsequently recorded by his band Little Feat. They first released it on their 1971 self-titled album. The band then re-recorded the song at a slower tempo to much greater success on their 1972 Sailin' Shoes album. A live version recorded in 1977 appears on their 1978 album Waiting for Columbus.

References

  1. Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books. p. 283. CN 5585.
  2. "Lowell George & The Factory – Lightning-Rod Man". Globalia.net. Retrieved August 23, 2014.
  3. "Willin'". Little Feat Live at Auditorium Theatre. The Internet Archive. October 18, 1975. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
  4. Neil Slaven (March 1, 2003). Electric Don Quixote. pp. 141–144. ISBN   978-0-7119-9436-2.
  5. Rock and Roll Doctor—Lowell George: Guitarist, Songwriter and Founder of Little Feat, by Mark Brend, Backbeat Books, Oct. 2002, p.75,
  6. Clayson, Alan (February 2, 2004). Brian Jones. Bobcat Books. ISBN   9780857124500 . Retrieved May 4, 2018 via Google Books.
  7. "Teenage Nervous Breakdown - Little Feat - Feb 14, 1976" . Retrieved May 4, 2018.
  8. "Little Feat - Little Feat - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  9. "Dixie Chicken - Little Feat - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  10. Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. ISBN   1-84195-017-3.
  11. 'Written in My Soul' by Bill Flanagan ISBN   0-7119-2224-1 pp. 353-63.
  12. Marios (October 5, 2013). "Rockasteria: Barbara Keith - Barbara Keith (1973 us, marvelous folk country rock, japan remaster)" . Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  13. Efram Turchick (January 22, 2002). "Interview with Leo Nocentelli". Sundazed.com. Archived from the original on July 25, 2008. Retrieved December 25, 2017. That's Lowell George playing slide on a song called 'Just Kissed My Baby' on Rejuvenation.
  14. "The late, great Lowell George". The Guardian . Retrieved January 20, 2020.
  15. Kurt Loder (September 14, 1979). "Lowe-Carter rock wedding". Anchorage Daily News .
  16. Forkes, Tim (November 22, 2015). "Lowell George and other thoughts". Los Angeles Post Examier. Archived from the original on March 10, 2017. Retrieved March 10, 2017.
  17. "Remembering Lowell George". Amoeba.com. June 29, 2009. Archived from the original on January 19, 2011. Retrieved August 6, 2014.
  18. "Little Feat: Waiting for Columbus". Allaboutjazz.com. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
  19. Harrington, Richard (August 7, 1988). "ONE GIANT STEP FOR LITTLE FEAT" . Retrieved July 19, 2017 via washingtonpost.com.
  20. "Perfect Sound Forever: Lowell George- an appreciation". Furious.com. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  21. Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 329. CN 5585.
  22. "Deleted/Forwarding Page". Jrp-graphics.com. Archived from the original on March 3, 2014. Retrieved August 23, 2014.
  23. Adam Sweeting (August 30, 2000). "The late, great Lowell George". The Guardian. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  24. Fong-Torres, Ben (November 12, 2013). Willin': The Story of Little Feat. Da Capo Press. ISBN   9780306821325 . Retrieved December 6, 2017 via Google Books.
  25. "Lowell George's Little Feat Have Always Done Their Stuff, but Only Now Are They a Shoo-In – Vol. 9 No. 14". April 10, 1978. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
Awards
Preceded by
Jerry Garcia
AMA presidents Award
2009
Succeeded by
Not Yet Awarded