An eclectic Los Angeles rock band of the 1970s that deserved a much larger following isn’t likely to reach one through this serviceable biography.
The first book ever about Little Feat leaves little doubt that this was a singular band—hailed by the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Bonnie Raitt and even the Rolling Stones as arguably the best ever. Yet the biographical minutiae and recording details gathered here fail to capture the magic that would elevate a band whose members didn’t get along into a unit that was so much more than the sum of the parts. To be fair to veteran rock journalist Fong-Torres (Eagles: Taking It to the Limit, 2011, etc.), there are a number of challenges facing anyone trying to tell this story: memories blurred by drugs and time, differing perspectives, the creative relationship of the rest of the band to its talented, tormented frontman, Lowell George. “The story of Little Feat is the story of Lowell George—that’s not in debate,” writes the author. “But it is also the story of the other guys who made up the original quartet and who, from the beginning, helped create the music and set the tone of Little Feat.” It’s actually as much the story of those who joined the band after that original quartet (only one of whom is still making music), pushing the band’s music away from its native LA and more toward the great American South (particularly New Orleans). But the book is mainly about George, who could be both charming and duplicitous, genius and difficult, and who had either quit the band or was fired when he died (under somewhat mysterious circumstances) in 1979 at age 34. The band eventually soldiered on for longer without George than the tumultuous decade with him, but his death let the air out of the tires—in both the band’s career and this book.
Those who are already fans will appreciate the few revelations here.