Living the Blues: Canned Heat’s Story of Music, Drugs, Death, Sex and Survival





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Published by

Claude Corry

Being a musician from a young age I began singing at the age of five. I have been a live performer for about thirty years and have played in many bands from covers bands to original ensembles. At twenty I began to write a lot of my own songs and still do today and have written about two hundred works.

3 thoughts on “Living the Blues: Canned Heat’s Story of Music, Drugs, Death, Sex and Survival”

  1. 31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Deliciously Sleazy, January 15, 2003
    By 
    Randy Arco (Atlanta, GA) –

    This review is from: Living the Blues: Canned Heat’s Story of Music, Drugs, Death, Sex and Survival (Paperback)

    This is a no-holes-barred account of the very wild lifestyle of our nation’s premiere boogie band.

    Notice I didn’t say “lavish” lifestyle. The story of Canned Heat is anything but lavish!

    This is a down and dirty story. For all their fame, Canned Heat never did have a whole lot of money- hence touring in busses rather than planes. And what money they did have was spent on drugs and women. They partied till they dropped, leaving two lead vocalist in their wake.

    The sex with groupies is described in lurid detail, but nothing was written to titillate. It’s right there, in your face, and it all rings true- but it sounds more empty than exciting. Maybe that’s how Fito got by with writing a book describing every wretched excess in exacting detail with nary an apology in sight. He doesn’t try to excuse his or his band members behavior. He doesn’t have to. Seeing once vibrant men destroyed at the end of their careers, or dead, is warning enough.

    Fito is a gifted writer. He paints such a vivid picture of what is like to be a member of the group in it’s glory days that not only can you get a picture of what is going on, you can actually smell it.

    One band member was sitting off stage when his teeth became to arbitrarily fall out of his mouth, one by one. I guess that’s what years of hard drug use and neglect will get you. He goes on to play on stage in a chair- too stoned to stand. He dies shortly thereafter.

    The lead singer, the voice you hear on “On The Road Again” and “Goin’ Up The Country” was described as being such a stoner, and having such terrible hygiene, that he was the only person alive that could be the lead voice on a number one record and still not be able to get a woman! This same singer opted to sleep outside in the grass by himself rather than join the rest of the band in their Hotel accomadations.

    What a great book. The band soldiered on with no original members left except for Fito, the author, who came aboard with their second album. Not an original member, but he did play on the hits. His story is the bands story. One of lost potential. and of wasted talent.

    They burned themselves out way too fast, barely existing today. But it sounds like they had a ball doing it. This book has such a “60’s” feel to it. But Fito made the wise choice of not looking back on the bands heyday with rose colored glasses. This is a “warts and all” story with the emphasis on the warts.

    Also interesting is that the story doesn’t end. Fito is still touring and recording with the what seems to be the 750th version of Canned Heat. He laments that the band isn’t considered to be vital anymore. (He quotes some magazines, including “Rolling Stone” as saying the band disbanded in the 70’s.) Most would agree that the Fito-led Canned Heat hasn’t mattered for years. My own feeling is that the band died with Bob Hite, but Fito has conviction in his arguments that the band is still viable.

    Even though I recommend this book, I must warn you that you will feel like taking a shower after reading it. It’s a raw, dirty and sweaty account of Canned Heat’s history- and Fito isn’t shy about showing himself or the band in a less than flattering light- but’s is also entertaining as hell- and very informative.

    It answers some questions, such as how does the ownership of a band name fall into it’s drummers possession. How ethical is it to tour under that name with two sound-alike lead vocalists because the original two lead vocalists are dead?

    What a great book. Fantastic job, Fito. You sure know how to tell a story!

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  2. 14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Genuinely Fascinating Account of the Band with Blues `n Rock’s Highest Mortality Rate, February 7, 2006
    By 
    blankpage (Los Angeles, CA USA) –

    This review is from: Living the Blues: Canned Heat’s Story of Music, Drugs, Death, Sex and Survival (Paperback)

    This privately published account of blues-boogie band Canned Heat is the best book in its genre. It’s sure a lot better written than I thought it would be. Living the Blues really captures the essence of what it must have been like to be in a top-touring act back in that era. I caught the band back in its Woodstock heyday and, luckily, in some its more recent versions. All of the original front-men: singer Bob “The Bear” Hite, lead guitarist Henry “Sunflower” Vestine and slide guitarist Al “Blind Owl” Wilson have long ago gone for their dirt naps. So have Vestine’s replacement Hollywood Fats and talented keyboardist Ronnie Barron. In the book, Canned Heat seems to kill `em as fast as they join up.

    Living the Blues has lots of great stories and characters. Like the time the obese singer Hite let loose a fart so incredibly foul during a contract negotiation that the record execs dropped the band from its label on the spot. And how Vestine, who spent most his adult life dedicated to playing music originated and written by black people, evolved into a heroin addled white supremacist.

    Somehow the book’s author and the band’s original bass player Larry Taylor manage to periodically put together functioning line-ups of itinerant bluesmen and take their show on the road. Sometimes these versions of Canned Heat are even better than the original. (Listen to the CD “Reheated”, a really terrific blues album.) Living the Blues is a true story of musician survivorship….aside from all those dead guys.

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  3. 13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Putting the pieces together, June 19, 2001
    By 
    Ed Tracey (Lebanon, New Hampshire) –

    This review is from: Living the Blues: Canned Heat’s Story of Music, Drugs, Death, Sex and Survival (Paperback)

    A comprehensive review of the life and times of Canned Heat. Adolfo de la Parra, its longterm drummer, notes that the band never broke-up – it just stopped to rest every now and then. Two core founding members died from substance abuse (Henry Vestine and Bob Hite) and one from, ultimately, a broken heart (Alan Wilson).

    Fito recounts their bad business decisions, substance abuse and just bad luck. Still, with all of the personnel changes it survives. Fito is a Mexico City university graduate – and as such was an unusual choice for a bandmate. Ironic that he is the one constant link – the other founder, bassist Larry Taylor (who Fito says is the best blues bassist) has been in and out of the lineup numerous times.

    If you have kept up with the band – if you want to remember their heyday in the late 60’s to early 70’s – or are just intrigued, pick up a copy. It’ll be a good decision.

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