We’re still abuzz from Phish’s fantastic interpretation of Little Feat’s seminal 1978 live album Waiting For Columbus that we wanted to continue to pay tribute to the highly influential, yet somehow criminally underrated band.
This week we’re placing that act’s classic trucker anthem, Willin’, into the squared circle – a song that has been rumored as the reason that Lowell George was asked to leave Frank Zappa’s Mothers Of Invention, and thus the impetus for the formation of Little Feat. The track originally appeared on the band’s self-titled debut sung in a sparse, talking, country-blues style by George and featured Ry Cooder backing him on steel guitar. The definitive version of tune was reworked for Little Feat’s sophomore release Sailin Shoes, and given the full band treatment with country-rock harmonies and some great piano work courtesy of Billy Payne.
The Black Crowes have no problem wearing their influences right on their sleeve with the band owing a great debt to Little Feat’s potent mix of rock, soul, gospel, jazz, country and funk. The Robinson Brothers & Co. have been covering Willin’ consistently since all the way back in 1992, with Chris channeling the ghost of Lowell George. Source: 2009-11-07
As an added bonus, here’s The Crowes with John Popper and the members of Wilco from a HORDE tour stop on August 27, 1995…
READ ON for more covers of Willin’ from the likes of moe., Uncle Tupelo, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Dylan, The Byrds and others…
The Byrds take was laid down during their sessions for the 1970 double album Untitled, which actually pre-dates Little Feat’s studio version. The Byrds’ version of the tune wasn’t officially released until 1990, when a live version from from a concert at the Colden Center Auditorium at Queens College on February 28, 1970 (the same show the live portion of the album was taken from), was included in the band’s box set, while the studio version was included as a bonus track on the reissue of Untitled.
Uncle Tupelo delivers a fantastic alt.country version of Willin’ with Jay Farrar handling the vocals. According to Factory Belt, the short-lived and much beloved band – that birthed both Wilco and Son Volt – covered the song sporadically up until the Anodyne tour, when it became a standard encore.
Steve Earle included a bluegrass-infused take on the Lowell George-penned song for 2002′s Sidetracks. The album was a collection of “stray tracks, recorded at different times for different reasons that I am very proud of and are either unreleased or underexposed,” according to Earle in the liner notes.
There’s no denying Little Feat’s profound impact on the jam scene, and indie-jammers moe. are no exception to the rule. The former upstate New York-based band has been covering Willin’ since 1997, with it making its way in and out of rotation over the last 13 years.
Linda Ronstadt came out of the same Los Angeles music scene that birthed the country-rock movement of the early 1970s with her early albums featuring a backing band that went on to form The Eagles. Ronstadt, who befriended Lowell George, included the track on her 1974 album Heart Like A Wheel.
Added Bonus: Lowell George with Linda Ronstadt performing the song live on a 1975 radio broadcast for WHFS in Washington, DC…
For an artist whose songs have probably been covered by more people than any other, it’s only on the rare occasion that Bob Dylan himself dips into someone else’s songbook. So it was to my surprise to find out that a pre-garbled voiced Dylan played Willin’ a handful of times in the early ’90s. This version comes from a 1995 gig at The Edge in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
San Francisco jam-act Tea Leaf Green, gives us our final version of Willin’. TLG have played the tune 26 times, with most of the versions coming in 2005, though it was recently revived after a four-year layoff. Source: 2005-01-20
Our last, new Cover Wars focused on Warren Zevon’s classic Lawyers, Guns and Money. Not much of a shock that Widespread Panic destroyed the competition.
Place your vote for your favorite cover of Willin’…