Canned heat - A biography
1966, Los Angeles, California
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.
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.
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.
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.