Lowell George (April 13, 1945 – June 29, 1979)
Little Feat's founding guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Lowell George joined Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention in November 1968 (he can be heard on "Weasels Ripped My Flesh"). Pamela Des Barres (I'm With the Band) wrote that George was fired by Zappa the following year for smoking marijuana, while George claimed at a 1975 Little Feat concert that he was fired because he "wrote a song ["Willin'"] about dope." The song seems to be about a marijuana smuggler:
Smuggled some smokes and folks from Mexico
Baked by the sun
Everytime I go to Mexico...
And if you give me
weed, whites and wine
And you show me a sign
I'll be willin'
To be movin'...
Through the Mothers, Lowell met the other two founding members of Little Feat: bassist Roy Estrada and Bill Payne. A few stories have been promulgated about how Little Feat got their name. One, told by George's first wife Patte Price Stahlbaum, is that their friend and pot dealer Leslie Krasnow remarked one day of the band, "Wow, you guys all have such little feet." (I'm guessing she was stoned that day.) Lowell liked the name with his altered spelling. (Source: Ben Fong Torres, Willin: The Story of Little Feat )
Little Feat's first, self-titled album was a critical success for its complexities and originality. The band’s next album, "Sailin’ Shoes," also was well received. After Linda Ronstadt recorded "Willin'" the band really took off. Lowell was known for his distinctive, synchopated slide guitar work and the storytelling quality of his songs like Fatman in the Bathtub, Spanish Moon, Rocket in my Pocket and Dixie Chicken. The double album "Waiting for Columbus," released in 1978, was the product of seven concerts in Washington, D.C. and London and remains one of the best live rock recordings ever. Read more.
George was also a producer, and produced the Grateful Dead's 1978 album "Shakedown Street," as well as Little Feat's records and his solo album "Thanks, I'll Eat It Here."
Also (sadly) a fan of cocaine, alcohol and too much food, George collapsed and died while on tour at the age of 34 of heart failure. Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Randy Newman, the Bottle Rockets & David Lindley, Allen Toussaint, Taj Mahal, J.D. Souther and others contributed to 1998's Rock N Roll Doctor, A Tribute to Lowell George. American jam band Phish played all the songs from "Waiting for Columbus" during their annual and traditional Halloween "Musical Costume" on 10/31/2010 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. See a tribute page to George and watch him play "Willin" below: