Southern rockers Little Feat are still boogying after all these years

Guitarist and vocalist Fred Tackett dropped in to discuss what keeps the band motivated and the 45th anniversary of their landmark live album.
KHOL DJ Kevin P salutes Fred Tackett of the legendary rock group Little Feat. (KHOL/Jack Catlin)

by | Dec 20, 2022 | Music Interviews

 

For over 50 years, Little Feat has remained one of the most successful and adored Southern rock bands in the world. 

Since its founding in 1969, an event spurred by original frontman Lowell George getting fired from Frank Zappa’s band The Mothers of Invention, Los Angeles based Little Feat has broadcast their signature danceable grooves with a sound that combines rock, jazz, country and swamp boogie. They’ve garnered legions of dedicated fans known fondly as The Featsters.

“Waiting for Columbus” was the first live album by the band, recorded during seven performances in 1977 and featuring the Tower of Power horn section. To this day it’s one of their top-selling albums and is revered by many as one of the best live albums of all time.

In advance of their sold-out show at the Center for the Arts on Friday, Dec. 16th, Little Feat guitarist and vocalist Fred Tackett joined KHOL DJ Kevin P in the KHOL studios.

The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. This conversation was recorded on Friday, Dec. 16.

KHOL/KEVIN P: So your bandmate, Billy Payne. Billy recently said “I told the band in the late eighties, ‘I think we’re in competition with ourselves.'” … And I think that’s a healthy approach. What’s your thought on that?

FRED TACKETT: When Billy and I were playing with Bob Seger’s “American Storm” album and tour, we were doing that. And Billy was talking to me about, “Let’s put Little Feat back together again” and all that. And we were talking, saying that we can’t do it unless we can put in the same energy and make it as good as we think we were when the last time we played together. I wasn’t even in the band then, I was like a songwriter for the band. I was real close friends with Lowell. So every time I’d write songs he’d listen to them first and he got first pick if he wanted to do it before somebody else. So he did several of them. And Billy was hounding me about joining the band at that time. So yeah, there was always a feeling like we had to make it as good as it could be, or otherwise not waste our time doing it.

And it’s always like that every night and with every different iteration of the band, like with our new fellows, Scott Sharrard, who’s just an amazing guitar player, amazing singer, and Tony Leone, who’s an equally amazing drummer and a great singer who we didn’t even know sang. Everybody else did. Everybody else knew about, Ollabelle and these bands he’s been in where he sang. But we had no idea, Billy and I. And he called me up one day and said, “You know, Tony wants to sing ‘Skin It Back.'” And I was like, “Okay.” He said, “Well, let’s see what he does in rehearsal.” And it turns out this guy is this amazing singer. So yeah, we’re always kind of in competition with ourselves trying to make it better every day than it was the day before. You know, get out and do it. I mean, even if it’s not better, at least do it with the most energy and be present right in the moment and rock out as hard as we can every day.

KHOL: So the barn. Tell me about the barn. It’s a studio?

TACKETT: Loosely, I can’t really call it a studio. It’s a big barn. We got to a point where we didn’t have any budget to record, to make a record whatever year that was. And I owned this property that basically was a woodworking shop. It was half exposed to the elements. And so Paul and I literally went out there and with some other hired help, built this enclosed work area and put in drywall and a lot of insulation. And I was literally pulling the wires, I mean, literally hanging from the ceiling, pulling on the wires. So we literally built it for the studio and then we brought in equipment. just rolled in the digital equipment and recorded there because we could.

And it was so funny because a lady next door, we had a song on that album called “Stomp” and it was one of Billy’s songs, you know, it’s just a rager, man. It was just loud and raunchy. And it was really hard. And we must have played it day after day after day. And finally we look out one day, we’re outside and we’re taking a break and, you know, Kenny’s swinging a golf club and we’re standing around and this is like this funky barn. It’s got toilets thrown out the back, you know, with pots and pans and just all kinds of junk lying around, fallen down trees and stuff. And we’re standing out there and this cop car comes pulling down this back driveway and he’s looking out. He sees all these 70-year-old guys standing around and he’s going, “What’s going on here?!” And we go “Well, this is Little Feat world headquarters.” And he says “Really?! I mean, I know that band.” And we start saying, “Yeah, ‘Dixie Chicken'” and he’s going “This is where you operate out of?” We go “Yeah, man, this is the place, man.” And he says, “Well, one of your neighbors is complaining and you need to take care of it.” We sent her a box of chocolates and gave her credit on the album and said, “We’re only going to be here two more weeks and then we’ll be gone forever, more than likely. So just please bear with us.” And she was very accommodating. It was like there was nothing ever happening there for years. And all of a sudden there was this insane music every day, all day.

Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with Fred Tackett of Little Feat.

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