You come from a trumpet playing family. You play multiple instruments including the trumpet; guitar and mandolin. You have stated that early on you discovered Benny Goodman and were greatly influenced by Mile Davis. Listening to your work with Little Feat one can hear your jazz background/influences. Could you elaborate?
Fred: I started out with the trumpet at 5. Very soon after I started building drum kits out of pots and pans and playing along with dixieland records. My folks got me a basic kit when I was around 10.
When Elvis came along I had to get a guitar. I had a schizoid musical life. I played the trumpet in the school concert band. I played jazz drums in several jazz trios and quartets around Little Rock, Ar.
I played guitar in rock and roll bands. The Jazz guys didn’t know the rock guys. It wasn’t until I was playing in a show band in Oklahoma City that the leader of that band made me get up from the drums and play some bossa novas on the guitar and “The Shadow of Your Smile” on the trumpet. It was a show band, you know?
My father was a big jazz fan and always talked about Freddie Green the guitarist in The Count Basie Band. Freddie Green was wild because he played an acoustic guitar with a big loud band. He sat by the drummer and totally controlled the groove and no one heard anything he played. When they recorded you could hear him because the engineers miked his guitar but live you couldn’t hear a note. It totally influence my rhythm playing, finding out you could change the groove without anyone actually hearing what you were playing, Magic.
I grew up on Miles Davis and love everything he recorded. I’m one of those guys. I met Miles once with my friend Jimmy Webb. We went to NYC to see miles open for Laura Nyro. It was when I met Jackson Browne for the first time. We got to meet miles backstage. It was truly awesome.
What prompted the birth of Paul and Fred Duo and how did you and Paul decide to officially take your acoustic duo on the road?
Fred: Paul and I started out going to radio stations to promote Little Feat shows. We were asked to open for John Lee Hooker at a big NAMM show and then a Japanese promoter brought us to Japan for some shows. We have been going to Great Britian for several years but this year we get to play here in the USA.
With advent of the New Grass generation, and the fact that the Jam band scene has whole heartedly embraced Little Feat, your influence to both is monumental. Your thoughts?
Fred: I have just released a solo project, Silver Strings. It is the second project with my good friend Domenic Genova, a great Los Angeles bassist. It is available as a download from i tunes and all of your favorite online music sources. In the not too distant past I would not be able to do this project.
There is a new attitude that says anyone can make a recording and it will be heard through the internet.
I have a lot of really cool young musician friends around the country. There is a similar free attitude about music that was prevelant in the 60s when we started in Los Angeles. By the middle of the 70′s into the 80′s it was really hard to get your music out unless it toed the pop music line.
I made a record called Swing Grass” a bunch of years ago with Buell Neidlinger, Richard Greene and Andy Statman, Peter Ivers and and Peter Erskine. It was a blue grass instrumentation playing Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington songs
Way ahead of the jamgrass explosion. Bad timing actually but that was some of the beginings of the cross genre stuff .
Recently you lost Richie Hayward, founding drummer of Little Feat. Could you comment on what is was like to work with Richie and where you feel Little Feat and your work with Paul is headed in the future?
Fred: Losing Richie this year was terrible. We got to play a few songs with him in Canada a week before he died. That was nice. He was the Elvin Jones of the rock world. His cymbal work sounded like a chinese orchestra. When he would get so out that he got lost, which happens to all of us, he would get those cymbals going as a musical smoke screen and figure out where he was at and when the smoke cleared, he was right back on it.
Richie’s drum tech, Gabe Ford, is a really great drummer. When he was the drum tech he never showed off his chops as a drummer. our front of house engineer, Howard Burke hear Gabe playing and told us how cool he was. When Richie got ill, we were fortunate enough to have Gabe substituting for Richie and now that he is gone, we have Gabe for our drummer permanently. We are going to record soon in the studio but we are releasing a live album with Gabe on the drums shortly.
If you could change one thing in the music industry and it would become a reality, what would that be?
Fred: I wouldn’t change a ting
It changes all by itself all the time. I wouldn’t know where to begin
Thanks to Bridget Nolan for arranging the interview and Fred Tackett for his participation.