Happy Birthday Bill Payne: Watch Little Feat Kick Off 20th Anniversary Tour In 2019

Happy Birthday Bill Payne: Watch Little Feat Kick Off 20th Anniversary Tour In 2019

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Bill Payne celebrates his birthday today. The renowned Little Feat founding keyboardist was born on March 12, 1949 in Waco, Texas. Payne is known for his signature barrelhouse piano and stellar organ stylings, which caught the attention of Lowell George as he was forming a new group after playing with Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. Payne actually met George while auditioning for the Mothers of Invention and along with former Mothers bassist Roy Estrada and Fraternity of Man drummer Richie Hayward, Payne and George formed Little Feat in 1969 with guitarist Paul Barerre joining in 1972 along with other lineup changes.

Little Feat would go on to become one of the most innovative and influential bands in rock history. Little Feat had a knack for seamlessly combining elements of rock, jazz, blues, R&B, funk and more for a signature sound. Their combination of genres made them especially influential on the jam scene, with jam music borrowing heavily from Little Feat’s formula. The band was also highly respected by their contemporaries. Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page called Little Feat his favorite American band in a 1975 interview with Rolling Stone and Elton John is also an admirer, especially of Payne, who Elton described as one of the greatest keyboard players he has ever heard.

Sadly, Lowell George died in 1979 from a heart attack and the rest of the group finished an album they had begun work on, Down On The Farm, before disbanding. But Little Feat saw a renaissance in the late 1980s when Payne, Barerre, Hayward and others reformed the group and their 1988 album Let It Roll became a success, which revived interest in the band’s earlier work. While the group would see a number of lineup changes, the core three of Payne, Barerre and Hayward remained at the helm and the band would continue to tour and record throughout the ‘90s — the latter part of which saw Payne and Barrerre joining a memorable Phil Lesh & Friends lineup — and into the 2000s.

However, Hayward would pass away in 2010 and Paul Barerre was battling health issues of his own. In 2014 Payne served as Leftover Salmon’s keyboardist until 2015 when he then joined The Dobbie Brothers on tour. But 2019 saw Little Feat celebrating its 50th anniversary. Payne and Barerre led the band on a 50th anniversary tour, the first leg of which got underway at Washington D.C.’s Warner Theater on March 7, 2019. Sadly, Barerre would not be able to finish out the fall leg of the tour and died on October 26, 2019 just before it concluded.

The 16-song set at the D.C. 50th anniversary opener kicked off with the classics “Spanish Moon” into “Skin In Back” before Barerre led the way on his “Time Loves A Hero.” Payne then showed off why he is considered one of the finest rock pianists in the business with a boogie-woogie-tinged piano intro to his song “Oh, Atlanta!” The concert also included favorites like the Barerre-penned “Old Folks Boogie,” “Willin’” and a cover of The Band’s “The Weight.” For the penultimate song of the set, “Dixie Chicken,” the horn section took center stage for a jazzy intro before getting into the song proper which also featured Payne utilizing a choral effect on his keyboard. The set would come to a close with “Let It Roll” ahead of the encore “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now.”

To celebrate Bill Payne’s birthday, watch Little Feat kick off their 50th anniversary tour in Washington D.C. below via the JamBase Live Video Archive:


Little Feat at Warner Theatre

  • Spanish Moon  
  • Skin It Back
  • Time Loves a Hero
  • Oh Atlanta
  • Old Folks Boogie
  • Honest Man  
  • Blue Jean Blues
  • Rooster Rag
  • Willin’
  • Don’t Bogart Me  
  • Long Black Veil  
  • The Weight  
  • Church Falling Down
  • Dixie Chicken
  • Let It Roll
  • Feats Don’t Fail Me Now

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