May 2, 2014, 8:00pm
Emerging in 1966, Canned Heat was founded by blues historians and record collectors Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson and Bob “The Bear” Hite. They gained international attention and secured their niche in the pages of rock ‘n roll history with their performances at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival (along with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Who) and the headlining slot at the original Woodstock Festival.Read More
Wilson was already renowned for his distinctive harmonica work when he accompanied veteran bluesman, Son House, on his rediscovery album, “Father of the Blues.” Hite took the name Canned Heat from a 1928 recording by Tommy Johnson. They were joined by Henry “The Sunflower” Vestine, another ardent record collector capable of fretboard fireworks at a moment’s notice who was a former member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. Rounding out the band in 1967 were Larry “The Mole” Taylor on bass, an experienced session musician who had played with Jerry Lee Lewis and The Monkees and Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra on drums who had played in two of the biggest Latin American bands, Los Sinners and Los Hooligans and then with The Platters, The Shirelles, T-Bone Walker and Etta James.
Canned Heat’s unique blend of modern electric blues, rock and boogie has earned them a loyal following and influenced many aspiring guitarists and bands during the past 40 years. Their Top-40 country-blues-rock songs, “On The Road Again,” “Let’s Work Together,” and “Going Up The Country,” became rock anthems throughout the world with the later being adopted as the unofficial theme song for the film Woodstock and the “Woodstock Generation.”
Right from the start, Canned Heat has been at the forefront of popularizing blues music. Their second album, “Boogie With Canned Heat,” included the worldwide hit “On The Road Again” and a twelve minute version of “Fried Hockey Boogie” that established them with hippie ballroom audiences as the “kings of the boogie!” Their third album, “Living The Blues,” included a 19-minute tour de force, “Parthenogenesis” which displayed the quintet at their most experimental along with their incarnation of Henry Thomas’ “Bulldozer Blues” where singer, Wilson, retained the tune of the original song, rewrote the lyric and came up with “Goin’ Up The Country,” whose simple message caught the “backto- nature” attitude of the late ‘60s and went to #1 in 25 countries around the world. The band can boast of collaborations with John Mayall and Little Richard and later with blues icon, John Lee Hooker, the musician that they initially got much of their musical inspiration from in the first place. This union first produced the spirited and revered album, “Hooker ‘n Heat” and then Hooker’s 1990 Grammy Award-winning classic, “The Healer.” The band is also credited with bringing a number of other forgotten bluesmen to the forefront of modern blues including Sunnyland Slim, who they found driving a taxi in Chicago, Skip James, who they found in a hospital in Tunica, Mississippi and took to the Newport Festival, Memphis Slim and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown with whom they recorded in France and Albert Collins. They brought Collins to California where they had their manager negotiate a recording agreement for Albert that started him on his way to becoming a well known musician throughout the world.
On September 3rd, 1970, the band was shattered by the suicide of Alan Wilson. His death sparked reconstruction within the group and member changes continued throughout the next three decades. On April 5th, 1981, at the Palamino in Los Angeles, gargantuan vocalist, Bob Hite, collapsed and died of a heart attack and on October 20th, 1997, Henry Vestine died in Paris, France following the final gig of a European tour. In 2008, Robert Lucas passed away from a drug overdose.
Despite these untimely deaths and assorted musical trends, Canned Heat has survived under the leadership of Fito de la Parra since the late 70’s. Since 1967, the band has toured extensively all over the world, performing at numerous festivals including Monterey Pop, Newport Pop, the Sturgis Motorcycle Run U.S.A., and the original Woodstock. They have performed at world-renowned venues such as Paris’ Olympia, both Fillmore Auditoriums, The Kaleidoscope, Carnegie Hall (with John Lee Hooker), Madison Square Garden and even Royal Albert Hall and have played more biker festivals than any other band in the world including their recent headline stint at Europe’s Love Ride.
They and/or their music have been featured on television (In Concert, David Frost, Merv Griffin, Midnight Special, Playboy After Dark, etc.), and in films (“Woodstock,” “Flashback,” and “Forrest Gump” etc.). Their legend has recently been heard and felt in various television commercials (“On The Road Again” for Miller Beer, “Goin’ Up The Country” for Pepsi, Chevrolet and McDonalds, “Let’s Work Together” for Lloyd’s Bank, England’s Electric Company and for Target Stores along with other songs for 7-Up, Levi’s and Heineken Beer).
Now, more than forty years later and with thirty-six albums to their credit, Canned Heat is still going strong. Anchored throughout by the steady hand of drummer/band leader Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra (a member since 1967) and with one of their strongest lineups ever, Canned Heat is well on track to carry the boogie-blues it made famous, well into the 21st century. Starting out 2009, the lineup has Fito on drums, Greg Kage on bass and vocals, Barry Levenson on lead guitar, and Dale Spalding on guitar, harmonica and lead vocals.
Their most recent CD is entitled “Friends In The Can.” This record brings together a number of Canned Heat’s musical friends from the past and present to join them in this musical collaboration and celebration of 40 years of Canned Heat blues and boogie. Fito’s book, “LIVING THE BLUES” is available through the band’s website at www.cannedheatmusic.com and at most popular book outlets. It is the complete and outrageous Canned Heat story of “Music, Drugs, Death, Sex and Survival” along with over 100 captivating pictures from their past.