13 August 2010

Tribute (In Memoriam) - Richie Hayward

Richie Hayward, best known as the drummer in the California band Little Feat for almost 40 years, died of liver cancer due to complications from pneumonia in British Columbia on 12 August. He is survived by his wife Shauna and a son, Severin.

Born in Cedar Lake, Iowa, Hayward began his love with rhythm at an early age, banging on an orange crate, an eponymous object in most Midwestern US towns. Saying "there's no where to play drums in Iowa except at the local Ramada Inn," Hayward left for California. Upon arrival in 1966, he saw an ad in the LA Free Press which read "Drummer Wanted, Must Be Freaky." Thus began a relationship with Frank Zappa and one of the fringe bands of the Mothers of Invention called The Factory. It was with that group that he met Lowell George, the ace songwriter and slide guitarist who would be the cornerstone of Little Feat, along with keyboardist Bill Payne and bassist Ray Estrada.

Little Feat landed a deal with the exclusive Reprise record label (home to Neil Young, Randy Newman, Ry Cooder and Frank Sinatra). The band's first three albums were critically lauded but went nowhere on the charts. After some internal strife, Little Feat convened at a run-down studio in Maryland and came up with its masterpiece: the funky Feats Don't Fail Me Now (1974). Somehow, someway the public discovered the group: it sold 150,000 copies and staved off financial ruin. The Last Record Album (1975), Time Loves A Hero (1977) and one of the greatest live recordings in rock history, Waiting For Columbus (1978), followed, but by then George's substance abuse problems had reached critical stage. The original lineup of Little Feat split for the final time.

While working on a solo album in 1979, Lowell George suffered a fatal heart attack. Hayward, recuperating from another motorcycle crash, had spoken to George the day before. "He called me at the hospital and said that when he came back from that tour we'd start a band up again," he recalled. "Next day he was gone."

The following years would find Hayward's piledriving beat in demand in the studio. He worked on albums for, among others, Ry Cooder, The Doobie Brothers, John Cale and Carly Simon. And he went out on the road with Joan Armatrading, Robert Plant and one of his heroes, Bob Dylan.

Little Feat reformed in 1988, and the band soldiered on solidly for the next 20 years, touring regularly and producing some well-received albums. But the sense of what could have been always seemed to haunt Hayward. "Some of us were fighting big demons at the time," Hayward once recalled. "That was the reason for all the dissension in the band, and if we'd lasted just long enough for us to all discover abstinence, I wonder what it would have become?"

1 comment:

  1. Very cool tribute for a really cool drummer!
    RIP Richie. You will be missed!