Remembering Little Feat’s Lowell George

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Lowell George (in front) with his Little Feat bandmates

Out on a solo tour following the break-up of his band Little Feat and the release of his debut solo album, Thanks, I’ll Eat It Here, Lowell George succumbed to heart failure – thought to be caused in part by his obesity and heavy drug use – in his hotel room in Arlington, VA, on June 29, 1979, following a show in Washington, DC.

To those who enjoyed Little Feat’s superb albums and stunning live performances in the 1970s it was a loss of immense proportions. George was just 34.

The guitarist, songwriter and singer, born April 13, 1945, started Little Feat in Los Angeles in 1969 after leaving Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. The band’s seven studio albums and one two-disc live set during George’s lifetime earned critical praise and a small but avid cadre of devoted followers – in 1975, Jimmy Page named Little Feat as his favorite American band.

They never managed to break through on pop radio and into the mainstream. Their sound was the band’s own distinctive Southern-inflected gumbo of rootsy rock ‘n’ roll, R&B and country with hints of jazz, boogie-woogie and more often set within a deeply funky groove, highlighted by George’s searing and original slide guitar work and masterful musicianship throughout the group. They are widely recognized as one of the finest rock musical units of the 1970s.

Watch George sing in a Little Feat rehearsal clip

Four consecutive studio albums in the mid- to-late ’70s peaked between #29 and #36 on the U.S. sales chart. Their sole Platinum release was their acclaimed live double-LP, Waiting For Columbus, in 1978. It reached #18. They never charted a single on the Hot 100.

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George was the group’s leader and primary singer. His songs ranged from wittily potent to heartrending to artily bohemian: “Willin'” from the group’s first album (and redone on its second) has become all but a roots music standard.

Keyboard player Bill Payne and second guitarist Paul Barrere were also strong writers and singers who vied for the spotlight. Internal pressures within the group led them to break up in 1979.

After George’s death the remaining band members reunited as Little Feat in 1987 with, initially, former Pure Prairie League frontman Craig Fuller as lead singer. But neither they nor any other band has ever managed to replicate the glories of the George-led Little Feat at their finest.

Related: Our Album Rewind of Little Feat’s Dixie Chicken

The band’s recordings—including many expanded editions—are available here.

Best Classic Bands Staff

9 Comments so far

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  1. crowesnest
    #1 crowesnest 3 July, 2018, 16:13


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  2. charles
    #2 charles 2 July, 2019, 17:56

    just a simple error on lowell george article he died in arlington virginia not alexandria virginia it was at twin bridges marriott which is now torn down

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  3. Doug
    #3 Doug 14 April, 2020, 03:09

    When I was a kid, in bands, we referred to Little Feat as the thinking man’s Rolling Stones. Saw them live, on the waiting for Columbus tour. Phenomenal!

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  4. J.T.
    #4 J.T. 30 June, 2020, 11:34

    Man that Brother sounded like a reunion of Van Morrison , the Band & a few other favorites
    I fail to pin point @ the moment., but WHAT A BEAUTIFUL SOUL & TALENT Prolific & for Everyman with ears to hear

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  5. Da Mick
    #5 Da Mick 30 June, 2021, 18:47

    While all the things said about George in this article are true, the article itself reads like a fact sheet. As acclaimed as Little Feat, and Lowell George were by many, he was still underrated for his unique vocal style, and the unconventional musical stylings that comprised so many of his songs — so much so that it would be difficult for others to cover anything more than his “straightest” tunes. There’s an article that’s often reprinted here on BCB about the best blue-eyed soul singers. Everyone has their favorites, and I’m not here to pick some of those apart or make comparisons. But Lowell George was, hands down one The most, if not THE most soulful cat to ever walk this planet. And I’m not even getting into the insane planes that he took his slide parts to.

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  6. David Harvey
    #6 David Harvey 29 June, 2022, 03:27

    Lowell George was a very multitalented and remarkable musician – he could play guitar, he could sing, he could write songs, he could produce records and he could play other instruments.

    It’s very sad that his fatal heart attack in 1979 shortened his life and it was also sad that his life had to end this way.

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  7. Byrd
    #7 Byrd 14 April, 2023, 08:47

    It’s a travesty that Little Feat isn’t in the Rock HOF. They were, and still are, a great band. Waiting for Columbus is an all time great album

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    • Marsh
      Marsh 30 June, 2023, 04:17

      That was such a sad morning. The phone rang between 5:30 and 6 AM, and it was Lowell’s Wife letting my roommate, John Yates R.I.P., know of Lowell’s passing. John worked with “Celler Door Productions” and would do the booking for local venues around the Washington, D.C. area and was probably the #1 person responsible for Little Feat’s popularity in the D.C. area. Bringing them to D.C. over and over again. He had an insane Rolodex, filled with artists and managers, and by then was definitely a good friend of Lowell’s and the band. Personally, I like to think that John is still getting Lowell, Paul Barrere, and Richie Hayward together, maybe with Malcolm John Rebennack Jr. (Dr. John) filling in on the keyboard, doing gigs, and gaining more fans in heaven. R.I.P. Lowell… We Love and Miss You… Peace and Love

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