Canned Heat

by Brett Lemke
August 2003

Canned Heat circa 2003

Canned Heat circa 2003

They were the Scotch-and-Marlboro Blues voice of the Summer Of Love. Canned Heat’s story endures with their cross-generational appeal as the dynamic blues band that played the theme song to Woodstock and backed up John Lee Hooker. From Woodstock and the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival to Hell’s Angels club tours to festivals and bike rallies, drummer and founding member Adolfo “Fito” De La Parra has re-formed Canned Heat a dozen times with reoccurring members, blues legends, and new faces. He has been touring constantly and releasing new records for 37 years, and is currently promoting the new album Friends In The Can. Fito spoke with Maximum Ink about the new line up, his autobiography Living The Blues, and pushing forward in the mission of delivering boogie music to people who will listen.

In 1969, Canned Heat manager Skip Taylor was booking the band nightly on opposite coasts. “We were [sleeping] in the cargo area of the planes between gigs,” said Fito, “I was sleeping on the floor of the airplane hangar while the helicopters were taking off.” They had to commandeer a helicopter from a news crew to get to the festival. “Fuck you, we’re going to MAKE the news!!” Bear was quoted in Living The Blues. He then hurled the reporter through the door, “We are The Canned Heat. It is more important that we get there than you, so we’re taking this helicopter!” When finally in the air, Taylor shot off a random photo of the crowd as they flew onto the grounds. Later, it became the cover of Ravi Shankar’s Woodstock album. The roadies made it through the sea of people and met the band with their gear as they landed. Later while on LSD, Taylor negotiated an on-site contract for royalties and film rights, and stole a limo for their gig in Atlantic City the next night. Going Up The Country was forever after the theme song for Woodstock. “We’re more infamous than famous,” said Fito, “But we really don’t care.”

Canned Heat circa 1970The band has not seen a dime of royalty money for their biggest hits since their original bonus of less than $2000 apiece for playing Woodstock in 1969. Their 50% record rights were traded to Liberty Records in exchange for $10,000 in 1969 before Woodstock to spring the band from Denver, CO jail on marijuana charges. In 1973, shortly after Alan Wilson’s death, Canned Heat was $30,000 in the hole. Taylor negotiated them out of debt with a fresh start with Atlantic Records, unknowing that future reissued CD royalties would’ve yielded over $1 million to date. Canned Heat currently receives royalties on 9 of their 37+ records. Fito recalled a conversation he had with original bassist Larry Taylor (No relation to Skip) before recording Reheated in 1994. “Nobody cares what we do now. It’s not going to change what we are and what we [stand for], Lets just go for it and follow our own gut instincts, and not try to sell it.”

Canned Heat’s new lineup features John Paulus on guitar, Dallas Hodge on vocals, Stanley Behrens on flute, harmonica, saxophone & vocals, and Greg Kage on Bass. Guest appearances include Roy Rodgers, Taj Mahal, John Lee Hooker, Corey Sterling, Walter Trout, and Larry Taylor . Fito’s intention was to imitate the original lineup as closely as possible, with room to bring in guest artists to jam. “It helps keep the Canned Heat illusion.” Says Fito, That’s one thing I’ve always taken that into consideration before hiring someone.”

“We get a lot of young people at our shows. I really like it.” Fito said, as he fondly spoke of the multi-generational fanbase, “I always think that for a young person, I consider going to a Canned Heat show [as] a personal act of rebellion.” Canned will be bringing the boogie to the Madison Blues Festival at Olin Park August 24, and Oktoberfest in La Crosse, WI October 4th.

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Canned Heat
CD: Friends In The Can Record Label: Varese Sarabande
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