Canned Heat - On The Great Sixties Band

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The band formed in 1965 in Northbridge, California by Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson (bottleneck guitar) and Bob “The Bear” Hite (vocals). The boys were blues fanatics and started a jug band with drummer Frank Cook and they would appear at the odd gig around LA. The boys were dedicated to reviving the Blues and to that extent would compare favourably to John Mayell in the UK. With the addition of Henry Vestine (lead guitar and formerly of the Mothers of Invention) and Brotman Canned Heat were finally formed. Their name came from a Tommy Johnson song entitled "Canned Heat Blues" recorded in 1928.

The group honed their craft playing in clubs around LA and perfected a mixture of country blues, modern electrification and driving boogie woogie. The band recorded their first album in 1966 which included two versions of Rollin’ and Tumblin (with and without harmonica), Willie Dixon’s Spoonful, and John Lee Hooker’s Louise. The album was produced by Johnny Otis but did not get released until 1970 under the title Vintage Heat. The credited line up was Hite, Wilson, Cook, Vestine, and Stuart Brotman.

Brotman left the band in 1966 and was replaced by Mark Andes (Spirit). Larry Taylor (Moondogs) eventually took over as bass player in 1967 when the band went under the management of Skip Taylor and John Hartmann. The group signed for Liberty Records in the same year and released the single “Rollin’ and Tumblin’" with "Bullfrog Blues" on the B side. Later their label released their first album called Canned Heat, which was made up of re workings of old blues songs. It sold reasonably well. Canned Heat continued to gig and appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and wowed the audience by all accounts. They gained a bit of a “bad boy“ reputation with drug taking allegations and this endeared them more to their fans but did have ramifications behind the scene.

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Band manager Skip Taylor was forced to obtain the $10,000 bail by selling off Canned Heat's publishing rights to Liberty Records President Al Bennett when they were busted. Adolfo "Fito" de la Parra replaced Frank Cook as they were recording their second album, Boogie with Canned Heat. The album had a more R&B feel and included "On The Road Again" and "Amphetamine Annie" which was rather tongue in cheek but arguably the first “anti-drug” song of the decade. 'On the Road Again' featured Wilson’s clear vocals and exemplary harmonica and became the band's break-out song enjoying worldwide success.

Skip Taylor and John Hartmann in keeping with the old blues tradition cristened the band members with nicknames: Bob "The Bear" Hite, Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson, Henry "Sunflower" Vestine (and later Harvey "The Snake" Mandel), Larry "The Mole" Taylor and Fito de la Parra. On stage ‘Heat’ were electrifying and performed blues standards as well as their own material. The popularity of the band ensured rock fans were given the full blues treatment. In 1968 they became residents at the Kaleidoscope on Sunset Boulevard east of Vine and played the first annual Newport Pop Festival. The group also toured Europe and the UK in 1968 to promoted their new album "Living the Blues" (1968) which featured "Going Up The Country." The single was another enormous hit worldwide and went to #1 in 25 countries. The next album Hallelujah (1969) was blues-based but within days of its release, Henry Vestine left the group. Harvey Mandel joined the band and they played two dates at the Fillmore before appearing at Woodstock.

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"Going Up the Country" became the title track in the documentary movie directed by Michael Wadleigh (1970) and the unofficial theme song of the Festival. In 1970 the group released Future Blues with Wilbert Harrison song "Let’s Work Together" the single. Larry Taylor and Harvey Mandel left the band soon after to join John Mayall and Henry Vestine returned to the Heat on guitar, accompanied by bassist Antonio de la Barreda recorded Hooker”N Heat with John Lee Hooker. Before the album was released Alan Wilson died from a drug overdose. Hooker’N Heat became the first album in Hooker's career to make the charts, topping out at #73 in February 1971. John Lee Hooker was a fan of Alan’s harmonica work. Joel Scott Hill, (Moby Grape) was drafted in as replacement and the group continued to tour the world. On the next album, Historical Figures and Ancient Heads was "Rockin’ with the King" which featured Bob Hite and Little Richard. Disagreements among the band members led to unrest and eventually line up changes just as the public’s musical tastes were changing.

Canned Heat fortunes started to dwindle and by the time they signed for Atlantic most of the group were battling alcoholism and or drug dependency. Under new management attempts were made to rekindle past glories and in 1981 the album Kings of the Boogie was recorded. During a live performance in April of that year Bob Hite collapsed and was later found dead . The group continued and had a hugely successful tour of Australia in 1982. However discord continued among band members and eventually this led to yet more line up changes. The group has reformed over the decades and toured particularly in Europe but the only two original members are Fito de la Parra and Larry "the Mole" Taylor.

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Article Kippen C. 2009 Cameron K's blog Retrieved from

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