Paul Thorn – Son Of A Preacher Man

 “Paul Thorn may be the best kept secret in the music business. He and writing partner Billy Maddox turn out songs like a Mississippi Leiber & Stoller — absolutely Southern, absolutely original, full of heart and humor and surprises and streetwise details of trailer parks and turnip greens and love and lust that have the unmistakable ring of truth. And he sings them with the soul and pure joy of a true artist.” — Kris Kristofferson

The gifted Paul Thorn is a fascinating person with a somewhat remarkable background. I’m sure that there aren’t many people who have experienced what Paul Thorn has already chanced upon in his lifetime. A Tupelo Mississippi native, Thorn is the son of a Pentecostal preacher. A full participant from early childhood in both his father’s congregation as well as neighbouring Black places of worship has led to not only being ingrained with gospel music but, coupled with life involvements, has helped shape his view on life and family. Simply, Thorn has been quoted as believing that music has healing properties. And further, Thorn, a devoted family man, notes that his songs are a reminder to do the simple things like being kind because compassion stands as the most important quality that a human can possess.

Music in general has always been part of his DNA and derived not only from church but also from home where both parents would provide religious musical encouragement and accompaniment. (To present day, Thorn still treasures opportunities to “jam” with his mother and father). But before embarking on a career as a Rootsy singer songwriter, his resume lists professional boxer, seasoned skydiver, and accomplished painter. Of note in his past occupations was Thorn’s pugilistic career, from 1985-1988. During that time Thorn had 14 fights as a middleweight, (10-3-1), including a bout with four time world champion Roberto Duran. (Thorn lost by TKO when the referee stopped the fight between the sixth and seventh round). But all was not lost as, by Thorn’s own admission, he’s become a better songwriter, singer, and musician than talents shown as a boxer.

I discovered Paul Thorn indirectly through an interview with personal favourite, Texas Blues Queen, Angela Strehli in the Roots magazine No Depression. In the interview, promoting her 2005 release “Blue Highway”, Strehli noted her admiration for Thorn’s vocals, and mentioned that she sought Thorn out specifically to do a duet with her on the album. In turn, I not only bought the album – with that duet, a cover of Ernie K-Doe’s “Hello My Lover”, a highlight – but also researched Thorn as well. That led to my buying and being completely taken with Thorn’s highly regarded 2002 release “Mission Temple Fireworks Stand”.

In listening to “Mission Temple” my first impression of Thorn was that he was a southern version of Bruce Springsteen. Like Springsteen, Thorn writes about everyman looking for a connection amidst daily challenges that must be dealt with regardless of consequences. Also, like Springsteen, Thorn is a serious student of human nature, and values passion in what might sometimes be a mundane day to day existence. The extra dimension that Thorn brings to the table is quirky humour, a product of the absurdity he sees displayed in life’s everyday dramas.

Growing up and continuing to live in Tupelo adds an interesting element to Thorn’s fusing of Blues, Country, and Rock tinged material because it places him in close proximity of two of the American south’s musical Meccas: 130 miles south of Memphis and 90 miles south of Muscle Shoals Alabama. Add to the fact that manager and songwriting partner Billy Maddox has long held strong ties to Muscle Shoals, and there’s no doubt that it continues to have a profound effect on his songwriting.

Thorn himself has been writing songs since his teens, and although he wasn’t allowed to listen to secular music at home, he still found a way to hear it, and would go on to write alternately swampy Blues and Rock edged tunes and gentle ballads. But that was later, as it was at a family Christmas celebration when Paul was 17 that a cousin of Thorn’s heard some of his original material, (Thorn’s description: “corny love songs”), and introduced him to songwriter Billy Maddox. Maddox, a seasoned – primarily Country – writer would become Thorn’s songwriting mentor, manager, producer, and business partner. They have continued to work and write together for 35 years.

And it was later still when the door opened for Thorn with his first record, (on A&M), “Hammer & Nail” in 1997. In the years leading up to this time, among his other ventures as previously noted, Thorn and Maddox had a writing contract with Rick Hall and his FAME Studios where Thorn cut demos of their songs. In addition, Thorn would play solo gigs including a semi regular spot, Vanelli’s Pizza, in Tupelo. It was at a songwriter’s showcase at Vanelli’s that Miles Copeland, (manager of The Police), first caught wind of Thorn and got him signed to A&M Records.

Unfortunately, despite some top shelf songs like straight ahead rockers “A Heart With Four Wheel Drive” and “A Heart Like Mine”, and heart tugging ballads “I Bet He Knows” and “Temporarily Forever Mine”, the album failed to chart. And, as a result, reacting as most major labels do, A&M dropped Paul Thorn from their roster.

It was at this point that Thorn and Maddox came to the realization that there was no security in being signed to a major label. Their response was to start their own self-contained company including recording, production, and media: Perpetual Obscurity. As part of that decision a 50/50 partnership, (consummated by a handshake), was struck by Maddox and Thorn on all P.O. ventures.

The next step was to put together a band with the objective of that same band serving both as a touring and recording collective. After auditions in Nashville the line-up for the following 8 releases and subsequent tours, (with various guests as required), was set:

Bill Hinds – guitars

Michael Graham – keys

Ralph Frederickson – bass

Jeffrey Perkins – drums

The band was rounded out by Thorn on guitar while Maddox assumed the lead on producing their recordings. It should be noted that, aside from the 2 of the releases of selected covers, for all intents and purposes, the Thorn / Maddox duo have written all the material to date.

All of Thorn’s recorded work falls into a stirring Roots Rock bag with some gutbucket Blues, and old-time Rock & Roll complete with a sharp pop sense, added to a penchant for storytelling throughout. Notable albums include:

  • “Mission Temple Fireworks Stand”: Thorn’s most critically acclaimed effort where all of Thorn’s influences come into play
  • “Are You With Me?”: as close to out and out Blue-Eyed Soul as Thorn gets
  • “Pimps & Preachers”: Thorn’s bestselling album to date, and whose title track reflects on the sacred and profane in heeding advice from his uncle – a former pimp who taught a young Thorn to box – and his preacher father
  • “What The Hell’s Going On Here?”: a well-chosen set of covers that could pass as Thorn / Maddox originals and finished in the top 15 most played on the Americana Music Associations 2012 year end chart

Recounting Thorn’s recorded work would not be complete without the mention of his last release to date: “Don’t Let The Devil Ride”. As Thorn says, the album serves “as the culmination of my whole life in music; coming back to my roots”. Wanting to call on all of his Gospel experiences Thorn worked with Maddox to find songs that displayed both the Black and white take on the music. (The backdrop is Thorn’s view on Gospel styles; namely that “white people sang gospel like it was country music, and the black people sang it like it was rhythm & blues,”). On a set of diverse covers ranging from O.V. Wright’s title song to The O’Jays’ “Love Train”, and including titles such as “Soon I Will Be Gone”, “One More River” and “Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dyin’ Bed”, the album serves as the fulfillment of a lifelong ambition to do a Gospel album.

To cover all the bases Thorn enlisted a “wish list” of guests. That stellar list of guests includes The Blind Boys Of Alabama, The McCrary Sisters, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the wonderful singer songwriter Bonnie Bishop, and Toronto / Nashville’s Colin Linden who also produced the date. And to complete the experience of an authentic “old time” feeling, Linden, Thorn, and Maddox chose to record at Sam Phillips Recording Studio (Memphis), FAME Studios (Muscle Shoals), and Preservation Hall (New Orleans).

Suffice to say that “Don’t Let The Devil Ride” met everyone’s expectations, is a welcome addition to Paul Thorn’s catalogue, and brings into question what Paul Thorn will do next. To be sure, whatever he chooses to do will be heartfelt, inspirational, and true to Paul Thorn’s recurring self-described theme: “My music is kind of going to church with a 6 pack”


  1. A Heart With Four Wheel Drive
  2. I Bet He Knows
  3. Heart Like Mine
  4. Ain’t Love Strange
  5. If I Can Get Over Her
  6. High
  7. I Don’t Wanna Know
  8. Everybody Looks Good At The Starting Line
  9. Rise Up
  10.  Downtown Babylon
  11.  Mission Temple Fireworks Stand
  12.  You’re Not The Only One
  13.  Pimps & Preachers
  14.  I Don’t Like Half The Folks I Love
  15.  What The Hell Is Goin’ On?
  16.  Wrong Number
  17.  Everything’s Gonna Be Alright
  18.  This Is A Real Goodbye
  19.  Don’t Let The Devil Ride
  20.  Love Train
  • RICO FERRARA, April 2021

LITTLE FEAT – The Lowell George Years

While acknowledging the obvious talents of Paul Barrere, Billy Payne, Kenny Gradney, Sam Clayton, Richie Hayward, et al; the Little Feat that I know and love ceased to exist for me on June 29, 1979. That was the day that leader and visionary Lowell George was found dead in his hotel room in Arlington VA due to heart failure.

I couldn’t rekindle my love affair with the band even with the late 1979 release of the neutralized “Down On The Farm” – a patchwork affair that included some of Lowell George’s last studio recordings with the band – or the fine 1988 record “Let It Roll” by the re-formed Little Feat with Craig Fuller and Fred Tackett teaming up to fill the LG void.

I did give the “new” Little Feat a chance in that I caught them a number of times. Although their performances were always first-rate, they were missing something. Specifically, they were missing the humour, vocals, guitar expertise, inspired songwriting, and the very presence itself of Lowell George. He was that large and that dominating a personality. Billy Payne and Paul Barrere admittedly wrote some great songs and the band rocked, but it just wasn’t the same.

Looking back, it was fall of 1974 when I walked into Sam The Record Man on Yonge Street, and an album on the sale rack – $3.99; man, those were the days – caught my eye. The cover was a clever depiction of Marilyn Monroe and George Washington sitting “lovers style close” in a 1940’s era roadster, riding through the mountains, chased by lightning. It was “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” by Little Feat. I’d heard of the band but didn’t know them from Albert Lee’s Heads Hands & Feet. Intrigued by the cover and the great price; and looking for something new to listen to, I took a chance. After a couple of perfunctory passes, “Feats” was soon to be in constant rotation. (And the subsequent purchase of the previous years’ “Dixie Chicken” led to continual back to back listenings of over an hour of blissfully funky Rock & Roll). “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” served as a personal introduction to one of the most influential bands certainly of the 70’s, if not all time.

But, let’s re-wind. It’s next to impossible to recount the story of Little Feat without making it somewhat Lowell George centric. The reasoning is simple: George was the driving force in the creation, formation, evolution, (and the rumoured dissolution of the initial collective had he not passed away). Basically, the fact is that LG commandeered the band through their heyday, and their star dimmed considerably with his passing.

Accordingly, it’s informative to have a look at George’s musical background up until the founding of Little Feat, (with Bill Payne), to properly gauge the trajectory of the band.

Lowell grew up in the Hollywood Hills area of L.A. He fit in with the crowd at a distance, and frequently asserted an offbeat sense of humour that was not always understood but generally accepted by those in his social circle. (This humour would find its way into his songwriting). Musically inclined at an early age, instruments that young Lowell learned to play convincingly were: harmonica at the age of 5, guitar at 11, and flute and sax in high school. (Later on he also became proficient on sitar benefitting from lessons with master Ravi Shankar who lived in L.A. at the time). Displaying an early preference for Jazz, Lowell’s musical tastes stretched far and wide encompassing Rock & Roll, Blues, Folk, Country, Classical, and all stops in between. He was so inquisitive about music in general, that George was known to buy records, with no prior information on the artist or songs themselves, just to hear the variety, and learn how the various songs were constructed.

After playing, (mostly guitar), in various garage bands, George formed The Factory with long-time friend and sometime collaborator Martin Kibbee. (Future Little Feat drummer Richie Hayward would join sometime later). It was a short run and there isn’t a lot of information on The Factory other than they recorded some obscure singles on Frank Zappa’s Bizzare label. But it’s notable that band members recognized George’s developing leadership skills and musical ideas.

George followed a short 6 month stint with the post “Dirty Water” Standells, with another short stay of 9 months with Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention. It would be a move that would have a lasting effect on Lowell George and would go a long way in shaping him not only as a musician, producer, and songwriter, but also as a band leader.

While not quite as dictatorial as Zappa, George took note of Zappa’s expertise in forming and leading a band. Namely, as a starting point, the cerebral Zappa would choose those he thought to be outstanding musicians, versatile enough to play his experimental style of music. He then would provide very clear guidance as to his expectations, and allow individual creativity within the boundaries that he set.

In addition, a like-minded George would also adopt Zappa’s work habits – the “all in” Zappa was famous for regular 12 hour work days – and copy his penchant for use of the studio as part of the creative process. That is to say, using the studio to formulate ideas prior to recording with the band and post recording to further mold selections as required. George would later follow suit with Little Feat. Even when George was not the official producer of any said recording, he would mirror either or both of these studio inclinations on virtually all Little Feat recordings (other than the posthumous “Down On The Farm”).

George’s reason for leaving The Mothers is left to speculation. Whatever the case, it was not long after George’s departure in 1969 that he and Bill Payne started to put the first incarnation of Little Feat together. Payne entered the picture when he heard that George, (whom he met when Payne was hoping for an audition with The Mothers), was forming a band. The band didn’t actually come together until 1970 as George and Payne were waiting for the two remaining future members to be free of existing commitments: Richie Hayward (with local L.A. band The Fraternity Of Man) and Roy Estrada (with Mothers Of Invention). They used the time wisely to write songs for prospective bookings and recordings.

After initially approaching Frank Zappa and his Bizarre label, an “unplugged” set of songs performed by George and Payne earned them a record deal with Warner Brothers. Little Feat entered the studio as a quartet with a line-up consisting of George, (vocals, guitar, harp, flute, and sax), Payne (vocals and all things keyboard), Roy Estrada, (bass and backing vocals), and Richie Hayward (drums, percussion and backing vocals). In addition to contributions from guest musicians on selected tracks, (e.g. Ry Cooder on slide guitar), this would be the band that played on the first two releases – “Little Feat” and “Sailin’ Shoes” in 1971 and 1972 respectively.

Thus would begin the storied career of Little Feat over the course of 8 noteworthy, (if not all commercially successful), albums. In the sequence of the releases, amid some personnel changes, the band would evolve from a fairly straight ahead Rock & Roll band, (displaying influences of The Byrds, The Band, and The Rolling Stones), to one of a more New Orleans R&B / Memphis Funk oriented approach. With a presentation of their collectively superb musicianship, imaginative songwriting, and vibrant vocals, (primarily by Lowell George), they proved to be a force to be reckoned with at every turn of their ever developing sound. (Given all of the above, it must be must truthfully said that during the entire time of its existence the band was either constantly on the brink of stardom or at the point of break-up).

George and Payne’s somewhat purist approach on the first two albums was to produce Rock & Roll oriented, experimental music drawing on all of their influences, irrespective of any commercial considerations. And if one was to look at what was being played and purchased in 1971 and 1972, the band achieved its objective as you would find little in common with the Little Feat releases. (The Billboard Hot 100 featured artists like The Osmonds, 3 Dog Night, Tony Orlando & Dawn, and Gilbert O’Sullivan).

It’s unfortunate that no one heard either of the releases – neither charted – because there were some really fine songs including “Hamburger Midnight” that would have given The Rolling Stones a run for their money, and Lowell George’s Howlin’ Wolf medley “Forty-Four Blues / How Many More Years” that would have made Blues pretenders slink away in embarrassment. Both of these selections can be found on the initial release. And if “Little Feat” didn’t cause a ripple you would think that the more accessible Lowell George dominated “Sailin’ Shoes,” containing the radio friendly “Easy To Slip” and truck driver’s anthem “Willin’,” would have stirred listeners’ collective imagination. (“Willin’” had the potential of a Roots / Americana standard had it not been for the mention of the “three W’s” – “weeds, whites, and wine” – which undoubtedly scared off mainstream program directors everywhere).

Neither of the two albums were produced by the band which didn’t sit well with George and Payne, because neither liked the final product(s). At the same time, the powers that be at Warner Brothers weren’t pleased that they had nothing to show for their investment in the band and were seriously questioning whether to let them record another album. The band itself, without a hit and sufficient work to sustain them, wasn’t making any money either; thus resulting in Roy Estrada leaving, and the remaining members picking up side projects. George, for his part, started doing session work while he contemplated the next – if any – steps for Little Feat. As a direct result of these sessions, George was becoming more and more confident in his abilities. He pushed himself forward as the de facto leader of the band and found little resistance – as Bill Payne said “Someone had to be the leader”. He then persuaded the label to not only let them record another album but also let him assume responsibilities as producer as well.

George now turned his attention to re-forming Little Feat. After briefly considering the addition of John Sebastian and Phil Everly, George hired Paul Barrere as a second guitar player – thus providing George with a perfect foil while allowing him opportunity to play more slide guitar – before making a move that would dramatically change the overall sound and musical direction of Little Feat. That move was to bring in two New Orleans natives and former Delaney & Bonnie band members Kenny Gradney (bass) and Sam Clayton (conga and assorted percussion). Gradney and Clayton combined well with Richie Hayward’s propulsive drumming to form a solid inventive bottom thus freeing George, Barrere, and Payne to stretch out and test the limits. Interestingly, the three soloists collectively adopted a style of playing less, not more, adding both creativity and a sense of drama and excitement to what would soon become a distinctive and recognizable Little Feat sound.

Accordingly, George had effectively re-invented Little Feat. In doing so, the band moved from a free form Rock & Roll ensemble to a more syncopated, tight, Funk based unit. Coinciding with this change of course was George’s growing interest in New Orleans based R&B. This particular brand of R&B can be described as an infectious, behind the beat synthesis of a lazy Funk strut combined with rolling island rhythms. That sounds like an apt description of a lot of what can be heard on the next release, the George produced and directed “Dixie Chicken”.

There’s a lot to like on the Lowell George controlled, more reachable “Dixie Chicken”. George had a hand in writing eight of the ten selections and handled the vocals on eight. Highlights included the playful singalong title cut, (“If you’ll be my Dixie Chicken; I’ll be your Tennessee Lamb…And we can walk together down in Dixieland”), a stirring version of Allen Toussaint’s cautionary account about mistreating people “On Your Way Down”, and the portly George’s humorous “Fat Man In The Bathtub”, (“There’s a fat man in the bathtub with the blues”).

With everything to recommend it – deft ensemble playing, skilled soloing, George’s alternately playful and convincing Blues drenched vocals – once again a fine piece of artistry unbelievably failed to chart. The band’s material still didn’t coincide with the preferences of the general record buying public leaving the band totally frustrated with the music business and with each other. George’s summation, “It was a great hobby, but we weren’t making any money,” sent a definitive signal that the band was finished. George suggested that members of the band go their separate ways as there seemed to be no future, no hope on the horizon for Little Feat. 

But the record company still wanted return on their investment and suggested that if cost effective means could be found, they would entertain the thought of another album. The driven George once again picked up the mantle, and after almost a full year after the band had broken up, reconvened band members into an L.A. studio to record a single produced by his long-time friend Van Dyke Parks. The song “Spanish Moon”, (written by George and augmented by The Tower Of Power horns), a spiritual partner to “Dixie Chicken,” proved to be one the band’s most endearing songs. The band was pleased with the final product and appeared happy to be working together again.

At the same time the band’s manager, Bob Cavallo, approached them with an idea for the next album. He had found Blue Seas, a small studio in Baltimore owned by former Lovin’ Spoonful alumnus Steve Boone, and suggested a change in scenery from L.A. might be conducive to a fruitful recording session. In addition, the resident engineer, George Massenburg, was someone that Lowell George knew and trusted, was accepting of his idiosyncrasies, and was more than willing to work with the band.

With the label’s blessing, and with the tape of “Spanish Moon” under their arm, the entire band packed up their families and significant others and moved to Baltimore, (looking for adventure). After playing local gigs and doing some initial recording, the band quickly got their bearings and fell into a funky groove. They were now ready to record their breakout album, the classic “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now.”

Lowell George was once again in the producer’s chair and a total of 9 songs, (including “Spanish Moon”), made it to the album with George contributing 6 of them. The highlights include a semi-autobiographical Lowell George offering – written with Martin Kibbee – the enduring “Rock And Roll Doctor”. The lyrics are whimsical, witty, and can’t help but make you smile:

“If you like country with a boogie beat he’s the man to meet
If you like the sound of shufflin’ feet he can’t be beat
If you wanna feel real nice, just ask the Rock and Roll doctor’s advice”

“Two degrees in be-bop, a PHD in swing
He’s the master of rhythm, he’s a rock and roll king”

Also notable are one of Bill Payne’s best known songs, (and one of his best vocals), the memorable “Oh, Atlanta”, and two songs taken from “Sailin’ Shoes”: “Cold, Cold, Cold” and “Tripe Face Boogie”, re-cut as a medley to close the album. And what a closer it was featuring Payne stretching out and at his most abstract best on keys and synth, and George’s searing slide guitar hitting a climax!

Those three songs went a long way in establishing the album’s success. It was the band’s first album to make the charts – hitting #36, and eventually going Gold. In addition to sales, among the accolades, The Times Of London named it “one of the best albums of all-time”. It was cited by Elvis Costello as one of his “500 albums that you need”. And both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards sung its praises.

Finally the band found some success and could now relax and plan their next move. But, as was often the case with Little Feat, things weren’t meant to last. In the year that followed between “Feats” and the release of the next album “The Last Record Album”, it appeared to band members, and those close to the band, that Lowell George was losing interest. He was taking on a number of outside sessions both playing and producing. Add to that, his need for the behaviour altering stimulus of cocaine in order to keep grinding, coupled with the fact that George refused to practice, and it’s no surprise that ensuing frustration and resentment would raise its head. Sensing that two camps were emerging – the George camp and the Payne / Barrere camp – as a means of appeasing Payne and Barrere, George would urge them to write and record more of their own material. (The only problem was that George still wanted to remain in control when they actually got into the studio).

“The Last Record Album” didn’t live up to its name but was a foreshadowing that things would never be the same for the band. The idyllic days of Baltimore and Blues Seas long gone, the band returned to L.A. to record the album. The band put forth 8 songs with George contributing 3 and singing on 4 in total. Production is attributed to George but it has little semblance of an LG manned effort. For the first time a George vocal wouldn’t be opening the record, with Barrere having that honour on the pedestrian, (by Little Feat standards), “Romance Dance”. (Barrere did contribute probably his finest song as a member of Little Feat – “All That You Dream” sung by LG). For his part, even in a reduced role, the 3 George offerings – “Long Distance Love”, “One Love Stand”, and “Mercenary Territory” – are undisputed highlights. Like its predecessor, TLRA would chart at # 36 and be termed a success.

But the battle lines had been drawn, and Warner Brothers sensing the volatility of the state of affairs, hoping to salvage something of the situation, chose to sign George as a solo artist. No doubt, this just added to the resentment the band held for LG. Compounding the problem was that George continued on with his now predictable behaviour, spending more time on outside projects. In addition to his drug habit, George was drinking to excess, and becoming more and more unreliable. He was missing in action the majority of the time, and appeared to be in ill health, ballooning to close to 300 pounds. When he was available, he brought little to the table, and the anger exhibited by the rest of the band was palpable.

With his constant disappearances for days on end becoming more and more commonplace, George was losing control of the band. In his absence Payne and Barrere steered Little Feat towards more of a Jazz / Rock direction focusing on virtuosic displays on the part of the various members, (primarily Payne and Barrere), on long jams. Payne, without actually saying the words, made it plain that Little Feat was no longer Lowell George’s band.

Such was the environment for the following album, “Time Loves A Hero.” With George’s unavailability, Ted Templeman, the producer on “Sailin’ Shoes”, was brought in to oversee the project. George opened the album on Barrere’s “Hi Roller” but the release would have little else in common with previous Little Feat albums. George contributed one song “Rocket In My Pocket” and sang on the one cover – Texas Outlaw Country singer songwriter Terry Allen’s “New Delhi Fright Train”, that once again stood out. The album is best remembered for Barrere’s title track, Payne’s overtly commercial, (but pleasing), entry “Red Streamliner” and the collective band’s, (less LG), instrumental workout “Day At The Dog Races”. George didn’t play on the cut that he dismissed as “a misguided attempt at Weather Report-style-Jazz Rock” and “a complete antithesis of everything else Little Feat played”. (To bludgeon home his point George would deliberately leave the stage when the band played the song live). “Time Loves A Hero” charted at # 34. So, despite the internal conflicts and “Time Loves A Hero” being an uneven release, the band still had a significant audience.

It was common practice in the 70’s for artists / bands to put new product on the market without having to write new material by releasing a live album – kind of a thinly veiled “greatest hits”. With his songwriting ability seemingly flagging, and no desire to enter the studio to make another album, George suggested that the band record a live album. All were in agreement including the label. And the band decided to let George assume the producer’s role once again. Backed by the Tower Of Power horns, Little Feat layed down supercharged renditions of selections from their now considerable songbook on “Waiting For Columbus”. George, with the best vocals he ever committed to tape, is an obvious star of the album making his presence felt on every cut. Of note, Paul Barrere stated that George’s take on his “Mercenary Territory” was “one of the most classic live moments captured ever”.

Little Feat would be rewarded with the bestselling album of their career as “Columbus” slotted at # 18. And the success seemed to serve as a much needed salve for the band that appeared to be getting along better on following well received tours with George once again assuming control. But, again any good vibes soon dissipated, and old wounds re-opened when George didn’t appear to be giving his undivided attention to the following album, “Down On The Farm”. Instead, he diverted his energies to the making of his solo effort “Thanks I’ll Eat It Here”, and the subsequent supporting tour. Given the circumstances, Payne took over resulting in George abandoning the project all together; and without his input, leaving the recording suspended in limbo.

There were a lot of unpleasant comments tossed back and forth: George saying that he hoped to re-form the band without Payne and Barrere; and Payne and Barrere for their part, saying that George had been sacked. Like a lot of relationships, this one had run its course and appeared to be beyond repair. “Down On The Farm” would be assembled and released after LG’s passing, and for all the animosity, it featured George – his vocals mostly – prominently, and listed him as producer. At the very least, this was a demonstration of the love and admiration that Payne, Barrere and the rest of the band held for a musician that Bonnie Raitt would say was: “the best singer, songwriter, and guitar player I have ever heard in my life, hands down.” And it could rightfully be said that Lowell George used those considerable talents to guide one of the most creative and best loved bands in the history of Rock & Roll.


  1. Hamburger Midnight
  2. Forty-Four Blues / How Many More Years
  3. Easy To Slip
  4. Sailin’ Shoes
  5. Willin’
  6. Dixie Chicken
  7. On Your Way Down
  8. Fat Man In The Bathtub
  9. Rock And Roll Doctor
  10.  Oh Atlanta
  11.  Spanish Moon
  12.  Medley: Cold, Cold, Cold / Tripe Face Boogie
  13.  All That You Dream
  14.  One Love Stand
  15.  Down Below The Borderline
  16.  Hi Roller
  17.  Rocket In My Pocket
  18.  Red Streamliner
  19.  Mercenary Territory (Live)
  20.  Straight From The Heart
  • Rico Ferrara April 2021