Tag Archives: Canned Heat

Canned Heat

Canned Heat

Album released July 1967

Canned Heat

Canned Heat

          I have done other blogs on the members of Canned Heat who were at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair on their birthdates. If you'd like to read about  Alan WilsonBob Bear HiteHarvey MandelLarry Mole Taylor, or Adolfo de la Parra, please click on their name/link.

The album Canned Heat

         The band released Canned Heat the album in July 1967, shortly after their appearance at the Monterey International Pop Festival. The personnel on the album differs slightly from the band that appeared at Woodstock. In 1966, the band had recorded another album, but their label did not release it. In 1970, Janus Records released that album as Vintage Heat.

         On the 1969 album, Henry Vestine is the lead guitarist. He will be that until August 1969 when Mandel replaced him. The band's drummer at the time was Frank Cook and his time with the band was even shorter than Vestine's. de la Parra replace Cook shortly after the album's release.


         The members of the band loved the blues as their name, a nickname for the poisonous but alcohol-based Sterno, implies.  Old bluesman Tommy Johnson had a song in 1928 called "Canned Heat Blues." It told he sad story of an alcoholic desperately drinking Sterno, nicknamed "canned heat." 

Side one

  1. “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” (Muddy Waters, Hambone Willie Newbern) 
  2. “Bullfrog Blues” (Canned Heat) 
  3. “Evil Is Going On” (Willie Dixon)
  4. “Goin’ Down Slow” (James Oden) 
  5. “Catfish Blues” (Robert Petway) 

Side two

  1. “Dust My Broom” (Robert Johnson, Elmore James)
  2. “Help Me” (Sonny Boy Williamson II) 
  3. “Big Road Blues” (Tommy Johnson) 
  4. “The Story of My Life” (Guitar Slim)
  5. “The Road Song” (Floyd Jones)
  6. “Rich Woman” (Dorothy LaBostrie, McKinley Millet) 
         As you can see, all but one of the tracks was a cover and from a variety of writers.

The Blues

       For the typical suburban white teenage baby boomer, of whom there were thousands, discovering Canned Heat might have been cause for an epiphany. Such music was not heard on AM Top Ten formats. This music luckily found a place on the playlists of the emerging so-called "underground" FM rock stations that allowed their DJs the freedom to play more styles than typically heard.

Future Heat…

       Where the band went following this first worthwhile effort is a story that sounds like many other band stories. Personnel changes. Substance abuse. Premature deaths. Reunions with surviving members.

Alan Wilson

Alan Wilson

Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson

July 4...Happy birthday
       On my Museum tours at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, when people find out I was at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair they often ask, "Who was your favorite group?" 

Canned Heat

             My answer is that "It depends." At the time of the concert, the Who had just released Tommy  and their performance at Woodstock included nearly the entire rock opera. I loved it.

           Since I regularly listen to music from the festival, I can hear and appreciate groups that at the time I didn't notice as much. Nowadays, my answer is Canned Heat. Bob Bear Hite rambling around the stage, Larry Mole Taylor on bass, Harvey Mandel just joining band on guitar,  Adolfo de la Parra on drums, and Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson on guitar. A great line-up banging away with a great groove.

Alan Wilson

             Alan Wilson was born on July 4, 1943 in Arlington, Massachusetts. Early on he developed a love not just of music and jazz in particular, but how music worked. 

          Like other white kids of the 50s and 60s, Wilson also discovered the blues. Long relegated to the Jim Crow back roads of American society and considered too rude and crude by arbitrary cultural standards, the civil rights movement and Rhythm & Blues evolution into rock and roll exposed youth to new views, to the blues.

          Interesting is that some British youth, like Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Eric Burden, had done the same thing and formed groups to play their discovery.


             Not only did Alan Wilson develop a love of the blues, he began to develop relationships with blues legends as they came to Cambridge, Massachusetts where Wilson was living. Skip James (whose vocal style Wilson imitated) and Son House in particular.

John Fahey

          Wilson also met John Fahey, a young white kid with an equal love of acoustic blues. Fahey convinced Wilson to  move to Los Angeles where Fahey was working on his master's thesis. It was Fahey who lovingly gave Wilson the nickname "Blind Owl" because of Wilson's extremely poor eyesight.

           While in Los Angeles, Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson met Bob Hite whose love of blues recordings immediately bonded them. They would found Canned Heat, the name  from Tommy Johnson's 1928 "Canned Heat Blues." Where else?!


           Canned Heat played two of the most iconic festivals in American rock history: the Monterey International Pop Festival and the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Their recording of "Goin' to the Country" became part of the event's soundtrack.

Love of Nature

            Alan Wilson loved Nature, but Alan Wilson suffered from one of Nature's worst illnesses: depression. Canned Heat was readying for a European tour in 1970 when he did not show up for the flight. 

          Wilson was found dead the following day in Bob Hite's backyard. From the Wilson site: We will never know what Alan Wilson was thinking that night, as he unrolled his sleeping bag and looked up at the stars one last time. What we do know is that he was a talented musician and musicologist who promoted the revival of early Delta blues and left his own permanent mark on the blues and the music of the late 1960s. ,,, We hope that this web site is a fitting tribute to his life. [Wilson site]

         Wilson was 27 and sadly became part of what now we refer to as the 27 Club.


Larry Mole Taylor

Larry Mole Taylor

Jerry Lee Lewis, The Monkees, Canned Heat, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and many others
Monterey Pop Festival
Born June 26, 1942
Happy birthday

Larry Mole Taylor

Canned Heat @ Monterey Pop Festival, “Rollin’ and Tumblin'”
              Larry Taylor was born in New York City and seems to have played music his whole life. It was his brother, Mel, drummer for the Ventures, who led Larry into music. Larry played on a few of the Ventures' albums.

              Larry Taylor toured with Jerry Lee Lewis and was the session bassist for The Monkees.

Larry Mole Taylor

              His career went into high gear when he joined Canned Heat in 1966 at the request of Henry Vestine, its original guitarist (Harvey Mandel later replace Vestine). Taylor received his nickname from Skip Taylor, Canned Heat's manager. Each of the band's members had one. "The Mole" came from Skip Taylor thinking that a split in Larry's front tooth made him look like a mole. 

              I suppose it could have been worse. 

              He described his Woodstock Music and Art Fair experience: It’s still the biggest crowd that I’ve ever played.  It’s hard to explain and to put into words.  You’d kind of have to have been there to really understand it.  I don’t really remember much.  It went by real fast.  In a way, it was like a shock. [Pop Addict interview]
              He left Canned Heat in 1970. He and Mandel joined John Mayall's Bluesbreakers for a stretch.
              He later played with the Sugarcane Harris Band and The Hollywood Fats Band. 

              He has also played with Leo Kottke, Tom Waits, John Lee Hooker, Ry Cooder, Charlie Musselwhite, John Hammond, JJ Cale, Tracy Chapman, Al Blake, and many others [All Music credits]

              Nowadays, Taylor continues to play and occasionally with a re-formed Canned Heat.