Canned Heat Bob Bear Hite

Canned Heat Bob Bear Hite

February 26, 1945 — April 5, 1981

A common love

With a common love of blues and 78 rpm records, Bob “The Bear” Hite and Alan Blind Owl Wilson founded Canned Heat in 1966 .

Hite described his love of music as emanating from his parents. His father had played trumpet with Sammy Kaye’s band, but had to quit. His mother had sung with Mal Hallett and his Orchestra.

Canned Heat Bob Bear Hite

Pre-Heat

Hite loved records and collected them from an early age. When his church’s old folks home bought a new hi-fi player, it gave him all the old 78s.

Around 1964, Hite had met fellow record and music enthusiast, John Fahey, who loaned a tape to Hite then disappeared for a year.

Around 1965, Hite got a job, no surprise, in a record shop and Fahey showed up looking for his tape. Hite invited a Fahey to his parents’ apartment to listen to music. By the end of the night Hite, Fahey, Alan Wilson, and Mike Purlaman had formed Canned Heat. The name came from, again no surprise, the name of  a 1928 Tommy Johnson song by that name.

Canned Heat Bob Bear Hite

Electric heat

When Fahey found out that the band would be electric he left. An acoustic enthusiast, he’d go on to forge new sounds almost always on his own.

The band went through the common growing pains of personnel leaving, personnel replaced,  playing where no one cared for what they played, playing what they didn’t care to play, getting a contract, going on the road but broke.

A Fort Worth, TX radio station found and loved their ‘Boogie Music’ and ‘On the Road Again’ songs. Slowly their reputation grew, and an invitation to the Monterrey Pop Festival followed.

Canned Heat Bob Bear Hite

Wood heat

Their Woodstock story is an interesting one. After landing in New York City, tired, and hearing reports of mayhem at the festival they almost decided to stay in New York and skip the Fair. Luckily, they made it.

Even sitting 100+  yards away, I could see Bob Bear Hite in that Saturday evening’s dusk just fine.  They followed the serene Incredible String Band and preceded the momentous Mountain. And for those of us there, we still don’t understand why their Woodstock bump wasn’t even bigger, despite their music being part of the soundtrack.

According to Hite, We played the gig and had a real good time and then couldn’t get out. We ended up ripping off one of the trucks they used for equipment and somebody left their limo there with the keys in it, so we took that. That was Woodstock. We didn’t get to see much of it. (see Traveling Boy link below)

Canned Heat Bob Bear Hite

Bob Bear Hite

On September 3, 1970 Alan Wilson died. Canned Heat continued. The band lived the life of rock, particularly Hite. In 1981, according to the Team Rock site: At the centre of it is their vocalist and harmonica player, Bob ‘The Bear’ Hite. With his scraped-back black ponytail and gut-length beard, the 38-year-old is 300lbs of Californian gregariousness and pharmaceutical fearlessness. The Bear is already sky-high.

According to Wikipedia, On April 5, 1981, during a break between sets at The Palomino Club in North Hollywood, Hite was handed a drug vial by a fan. Thinking it contained cocaine, Hite stuck a straw into the vial and snorted it. The drug turned out to be heroin and Hite turned blue and collapsed. Some roadies put Hite in the band’s van and drove him to a nearby home where he died.

Canned Heat Bob Bear Hite

Los Angeles Acid Test

Los Angeles Acid Test

February 25, 1966

Los Angeles Acid Test
newspaper advertisement for the LA Acid Test

Today marks the anniversary of the Los Angeles Acid Test held at the Cinema Theatre. This event was not the first one.  That had happened on November 27, 1965 at Merry Prankster Ken Babb’s place. There had been others between and  several more would follow until the “acid test graduation” in October.

Of course, the Prankster’s 1964 cross-country bus trip could be described as an acid test on wheels and some evidence exists that the graduation in October was not actually the last.

According to (the now defunct) lysergic.com At least one final act of Pranksterism remained however, as material recently come to light details the proceedings of an Acid Test at Rice University in Houston, Texas as late as March 1967. This event took place during a hiatus in Kesey’s legal affairs, and allowed him and the full band of Pranksters to load up their “Further” bus for a journey along the same route as the one famously undertaken in 1964. The Rice University Acid Test may well have been the last one ever staged, and it has to my knowledge never been described before. To understand the significance of this final Prank, a bit of background may be necessary”

Los Angeles Acid Test

Back to LA

While the idea of recording events part of the Pranksters’ style (filming for example), the notion of an historically accurate portrait was not. The music, the sounds, the lighting, the people were all part of whatever happened. The present counted.

It is understandable, then, that little is known about this particular acid test.

We do know that the Grateful Dead played. These tests were where the Dead learned to spread their wings both as performers and musicians. You can click on the link below to hear this one, but as thorough as the Dead and Deadheads are about the particulars of each show, such information about this one is lacking. In fact, the Internet Archive site has the qualifying notation: reportedly this date, plus other ’66. 

The recording is magnificent and one wonders whether the atmosphere at an acid test would be conducive to such quality.

Los Angeles Acid Test

Ubiquitous Nicky Hopkins

Ubiquitous Nicky Hopkins

February 24, 1944 — September 6, 1994

Ubiquitous Nicky Hopkins

Ubiquitous Nicky Hopkins

Back of the album cover

I regularly mention in these blog entries that sitting and listening to my vinyl albums “back in the day” was different mainly because my constant companion were records’ album covers and inner sleeves. Perhaps following the lyrics. Perhaps looking at a personnel list. Song timings. Writers. Producers. There was a lot to look at and if the cover were a gatefold, well my goodness gracious! Twice as much for the money. Of course there was always the possibility of even more with a special insert–thank you Sgt Pepper for starting that trend!

One of the names that popped up in seemingly the most widely varied places was this pianist Nicky Hopkins.

Ubiquitous Nicky Hopkins

Misty Woodstock sunrise

When I stared at the Woodstock sunrise that long-ago August 17, 1969 and heard Grace Slick announce “The regular guys…and Nicky Hopkins”  I thought to myself, “There’s that guy again!”

Keyboardist Ubiquitous Nicky Hopkins
1969-08-17 Sunday sunrise at Woodstock (photo by J Shelley)

Nicky Hopkins

Nicky Hopkins had Crohn’s disease from childhood which plagued him in school and during his career, but his talent on the keyboard won him a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London.

He had early success playing with bands such as Screaming Lord Sutchand theSavages which became part of Cyril Davies‘s All Stars. The nascent Rolling Stones occasionally opened for the All Stars.

In May 1963, Crohn’s disease put him in hospital for 19 months during which Cyril Davies died.

Too weak to tour with a band, Nicky Hopkins became a piano sessions player. He would become the piano sessions player.

Rolling Stones keyboardist

He is perhaps best known for his work with the Rolling Stones–that’s him in the intro sound above with the vocals removed. He worked with Led Zeppelin. The Kinks. The Who. He was in the Jeff Beck Group. The New Riders of the Purple Sage. Steve Miller Band. Quicksilver Messenger Service. Jerry Garcia Band. His credit list at AllMusic feels endless.

He played electric piano on  the Beatles “Revolution.” He worked with Harry Nilsson

Jamming with Edward

In 1972, Nicky Hopkins, Ry Cooder, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts, Hopkins released the album Jamming with Edward! [Edward was Hopkins’s nickname]

Keyboardist Ubiquitous Nicky Hopkins

Hopkins died on 6 September 1994, at the age of 50, in Nashville from complications resulting from intestinal surgery.

In 2010, Random House published a biography, “And On Piano…Nicky Hopkins“, written by Julian Dawson.

Nicky Hopkins – Piano Blues Jam
Ubiquitous Nicky Hopkins