By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
Over its multi-decade history, Little Feat has undergone a tangled trajectory. Founded by guitarist Lowell George, a former member of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, Little Feat evolved from two earlier outfits, the Fraternity of Man and the Factory. Fusing rock, blues, country, boogie and R&B, songs like "Willin'," "Dixie Chicken," and "Oh Atlanta" reflected a rarefied yet rootsy approach.
Feat's first phase ended when George left the band in 1979 and was felled by a drug overdose not long after. His departure and subsequent demise splintered the band, but they reconvened a decade later with new vocalist Shaun Murphy and guitarists Craig Fuller and Fred Tackett. As one of the earliest champions of the jam band genre even before that style was tagged as such, Little Feat's second lease on life is even more prolific than its first.
This past August, tragedy claimed another original member, drummer Richie Hayward, who succumbed to liver cancer exactly a year after he was diagnosed. Still, Little Feat soldiers on, defying those who say the band's best days have passed.
"Obviously we're in competition with ourselves," founding member and keyboard player Bill Payne says. "I think one way to view it is in the form of chapters. For those that really want to keep the divide going in their own minds, it's completely understandable...[but] we've never ever conformed to any one thing."