Gary James' Interview With
Fito de la Parra and Larry Taylor Of
Who would've thought that one song, would lead to a musical career that would take you all over the world? Caned Heat probably wouldn't have believed it, but it's what happened to them. Canned Heat formed in 1965, but it's their appearance at Woodstock in 1969 and the song "Goin' Up The Country" (included in the Woodstock film) which cemented the group's claim to fame. The group has worked the world and continued to record these last 25 years, despite the loss of two key members - Al Wilson and Bob (The Bear) Hite. We talked with original Canned Heat members, drummer Fito de la Parra and bassist Larry Taylor, shortly after the band released their 1988 album, "Reheated".
Q - Did you ever think that twenty plus years later, there would still be a Canned Heat?
Larry - Yeah, I thought it probably would be a long lasting thing 'cause of the kind of music I like and what Canned Heat is. Of course, I've been in and out many times in the band, but I'm here now and that's proof of it.
Fito - I also had that feeling. Unfortunately, some of our management didn't feel that way. They looked upon us like we were just a Pop making group. That was just something that comes and goes. We really refused to accept that. I always put a lot of value on the music the band came up with, even before I joined the band. I was a fan of Canned Heat since Larry's first gig. I saw Larry's first gig.
Q - How did you hook up with The Chameleon Music Croup?
Fito - Chameleon was really meant to be our label for our comeback effort, especially because of the popularity of a John Lee Hooker record, which we are part of. So that made Chameleon aware that Canned Heat was around and that it was a good band for them to have. He's the one who talked it over with them. Of course, it came out very good. It's a happy relationship.
Q - How many months out of the year do you tour and what kind of venues are you playing ?
Larry - We go to Europe quite a bit. We go to Australia quite a bit. We play large clubs, pubs in Australia, some small concert halls in Europe, and festivals sometimes, Blues festivals.
Fito - We've been doing that for at least seven years now.
Q - Fito, you moved from Mexico to LA. in the mid 60's. What was the music scene in LA. like back then, with groups like The Doors exploding on the scene?
Fito - My first gig with Canned Heat was with The Doors. We did many gigs together. It was great because there were a lot of places to work at. The explosion of Rock in Mexico was good and I did very good over there. I was in many popular groups, but there was a constant government trip of oppression, continually closing the night clubs and messing with musicians and the people that like Rock ‘n’ Roll. So I came to the US looking for a better way and also to develop and play more Black music, which I was interested in. I saw Los Angeles as a great place. There were all kinds of joints. Everywhere there was "live" music,
and people went there and danced.
Larry - I lived here all through the 50's and the early 60s and the mid 60s. So, I was in L.A. playing all through those years too. There was a lot always going on in L.A. A lot more going on I think then, than now, all the way back to 1957 when I was first starting to play. There was never a problem getting a gig.
Fito - And now there are bands that have to pay to play; (Laughs.)
Q - Who thought up the name "Canned Heat?"
Fito - Well, it comes from an old record by Tommy Johnson. He did a song called "Canned Heat Mama." And the idea I believe came one time at Bob Hite's house. They were listening to the record "Canned Heat Mama" and were already talking about forming a jug band at the time. That's how the name came out. I think it's a great name.
Q - Canned Heat had a song in the Woodstock movie, but your performance was not included. How come?
Fito - We were not a Warner Brothers act. It was a political decision because they knew how much of a classic it was going to be and they decided to give preference to acts that were affiliated with their corporation. Actually we got one of the best receptions. We gave a great performance and I believe it should've been part of the film. Of course, they had to use the song. It's practically the theme.
Q - What was the atmosphere like at Woodstock?
Fito - Hey, man, it was just like a big party.
Larry - It's hard to remember. It's a feeling. You can't put it in words. It's one of those things, that's a special thing, that you just can't talk about. At least that's how I feel about it. I think other people I've talked to have the same feeling. It's a one-time shot. If you experienced it, you're lucky.
Fito - By the way, since you mentioned Woodstock, I wanted to let you know that Harvey Mandel has rejoined Canned Heat. And, he was at Woodstock too. He was the guitar player in Canned Heat.
Q - Your encore every night must be "Goin' Up The Country", right?
Fito - Not really. We put it right in the middle of the set. Just to get rid of it. (Laughs.) It makes a party after that song really happening. It creates a party atmosphere. It goes up from there. We actually have more intense musical stuff to play than "Goin' Up The Country".