Songs in my head, songs in my head. Always a song in my head. Sometimes it’s an evil infestation – take the song “Cheerleader” for example – where I’m just screwed, especially if it’s the middle of the night and I’m lying in bed. But other times, and most often in my case, it’s a quality tune that I’ve had in regular rotation.
Latest case in point: Little Feat’s “Willin’,” which I just can’t get out of my head lately. Such a great singalong chorus:
I’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn’t get weighed
And if you give me, weed, whites, and wine
And you show me a sign
I’ll be willin’, to be movin’
The simplicity of “Alice….Dallas Alice…”; The imagery it conjures up with its tale of driving the open roads, being “kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet,” and smuggling “smokes and folks from Mexico.”
“Willin'” was written by Lowell George while he was a member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention in the late 60’s. When Lowell went off with Bill Payne and Richie Hayward to form Little Feat, Zappa was instrumental in matching the new band up with Warner Brothers.
“Willin'” has the distinction of showing up not only on Little’s Feat’s 1971 debut album, but also their second one, 1972’s Sailin’ Shoes. They’re vastly different versions. The Sailin’ Shoes version is the one most people are familiar with, and has Lowell’s spoken word verses:
The debut version has Lowell singing the verses (vs. the spoken style), and features Ry Cooder on slide guitar:
Any way you cut it, “Willin'” is one of Lowell George’s masterpieces, and ushered in a flood of funky, soulful, and quintessentially American rock n’ roll music with Little Feat’s 70’s output. The Lowell George Little Feat era sadly ended with Lowell’s untimely death in 1979 at the age of only 34 (a heart attack likely brought on by obesity, drugs and the wear of an unhealthy touring lifestyle).
The music, however, lives on. Treat yourself why don’t you and jump into a Little Feat rabbit hole? Immerse yourself for a while in the LF groove. Start with this great live version from 1977’s Rockpalast..