Canned heat - A biography


Formed 1966, Los Angeles, California


Blues-rockers Canned Heat were rare among the American white blues-loving bands of the late Sixties and early Seventies in that they had a couple of hit records. As one critic noted, they were more popularizers than purists, and one might argue that the 1981 death of co-founder Bob Hite essentially ended the band. In fact, since Al Wilsonís death in 1970 dozens of personnel shifts have occurred , but the band has continued under the leadership of Fito de la Parra, and as of 1994 also includes Henry Vestine.

The original Canned Heat evolved out of a jug band that was formed in 1965. Blues fanatics Alan Wilson and Bob Hite (nicknamed the "Bear" because of his 300-pound frame) changed the groupís focus to electric hoagie. Though their debut, Canned Heat, sold respectably, their appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival that year attracted more attention. Their second album spawned a #16 hit, Wilsonís "On the Road Again," and they toured Europe. "Going Up the Country" gave them a #11 hit in 1969, and they played the Woodstock Festival in August.

The following year was a watershed, with a worldwide hit cover of Wilbert Harrisonís "Letís Work Together" and an appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival in England. But the drug overdose death of Wilson (who was partly blind and subject to severe depression) in late 1970 proved to be a setback from which the band never fully recovered. Taylor and guitarist Harvey Mandel joined John Mayallís band. (Later Mandel would be considered to replace Mick Taylor in the Rolling Stones and record a number of albums, as both an artist and a session musician.) The remaining members, with replacements, soldiered on. They backed bluesman John Lee Hooker on Hooker Ďní Heat that year; in 1989 a latter-day version of the band backed him again on The Healer In 1973 the band backed Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and Memphis Slim on French albums released on the Barclay label.

Canned Heatís electric blues fell out of fashion, and by the early Eighties it was playing the California bar circuit. Sometime after Hiteís death (he suffered a fatal heart attack) the group drifted, and while 1990ís Reheated revived interest, Canned Heat has not made a commercial comeback, though it remains a steadily working band. In the early Nineties guitarist Mandel rejoined the group for some live dates, and original members Larry Taylor, Mandel, and Vestine appear on 1994ís Internal Combustion.