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Canned Heat

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Canned Heat, a legendary blues-rock group, formed in L.A. in 1965. MEMBERSHIP: Bob “The Bear” Hite, voc, har., gtr. (b. Torrance, Calif., Feb. 26, 1945; d. North Hollywood, Calif., April 5, 1981); Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, gtr., har., voc. (b. Boston, Mass., July 4, 1943; d. Topanga, Calif., Sept. 3, 1970); Henry Vestine, gtr. (b. Washington D.C., Dec. 25, 1944; d. Paris, Oct. 20, 1997); Larry Taylor, bs. (b. Brooklyn, June 26, 1942); Frank Cook, drm. Cook was replaced by Adolpho “Fito” de la Parra (b. Mexico City, Feb. 8, 1946) in 1968 and Vestine was replaced by Harvey Mandel (b. Detroit, March 11, 1945) in 1969. In 1970, Mandel departed and Vestine returned.

Originally formed as a jug band, Canned Heat became a popular white blues- and-boogie band as they played local L.A. clubs. Members Bob “The Bear” Hite and Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson were blues scholars and record collectors, and the group’s recordings reflected their enthusiasm for the music. Debuting at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967, Canned Heat signed with Liberty Records. Their debut album featured “Rollin’ and Tumblin,” while their second and most successful disc, with new drummer Fito de la Parra, included “Amphetamine Annie” and yielded a major hit with “On the Road Again.” The album remained on the album charts for an entire year. Touring Europe in the fall of 1968, the band scored a near-smash hit with “Going up the Country.” However, Henry Vestine departed in July 1969, to be replaced by Harvey Mandel.

Canned Heat appeared at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in August 1969, and the following spring Taylor left and Vestine returned. The group appeared at the Isle of Wight Festival in August 1970, but, on Sept. 3, founding member Alan Wilson was found dead of a drug overdose in the garden of Hire’s Topanga Canyon home. Their version of Wilbert Harrrison’s “Let’s Work Together” soon became a major hit, but the group was subsequently plagued by personnel changes. In 1971, they backed blues great John Lee Hooker for Hooker ‘N’ Heat . Nonetheless, the band’s popularity faded and they were without a major record label following 1974’s One More River to Cross for Atlantic. Since Hite’s death of a drug-related heart attack on April 5, 1981, Canned Heat has been led by Fito de la Parra for engagements on the Calif, bar circuit. The group released several albums on small labels in the 1990s. While touring with the group, Vestine died of apparent respiratory failure in a hotel near Paris, France, on Oct. 20, 1997, at the age of 52.

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