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Richie Hayward – A Fan’s Perspective

The following is the third installment of a series of articles from SABIAN Community members who were asked to submit original reviews, road stories and drum/percussion articles.The first time I saw Richie Hayward was New Years Night 1973 at a club called Richard’s in Atlanta. Little Feat was backing the legendary Bonnie Bramlett. They also opened the show playing songs from their first three albums and the soon to be released "Feats Don’t Fail Me Now" LP. I was 18 and had been playing drums for almost 10 years. Whenever I saw a live band I naturally focused on the drummer but Richie captivated me in a whole new way. Nobody I had ever seen before (or since) played like him! If I anticipated a snare beat he wouldn’t play it but then lay one in where I least expected, yet it was perfectly placed and moved the groove right along. The same with his fills. How did he do that? Such command. That groove. This guy was a monster! For years I tried to figure out how to play like Richie but couldn’t come close. I could figure out other drummers but Richie remained an enigma. I finally gave up. Then, Lowell George died and the band split up and it looked as if Little Feat was a done deal. Fast forward to 1987 and I’m living in Los Angeles. I get invited to an album release party for an Irish band called Clannad. At the party I’m overwhelmed seeing people like Darryl Hannah and Jackson Browne among other celebs who are invited guests. What am I doing here? I see some more faces that look familiar but I can’t put names to them. I ask someone familiar to me if they know who those guys are? I’m told, "Oh, that’s Bill Payne from Little Feat. There’s Paul Barrere and that’s Richie Hayward standing over there. They’re recording a comeback album with George Massenburg in a studio down the hall". I’m thinking, "Yeah, right, a comeback without Lowell George"?The following year finds me in Florida and the comeback LP "Let It Roll" is released. It does well and I’m knocked off my… dare I say it? Feet! Little Feat is back and better than ever and without Lowell! How can that be? No matter. The Feats is back! In their absence recording techniques greatly improved. In fact, "Let It Roll" is billed as "A Digital Recording" right on the cover. Not only can I better hear what Richie is playing, he has refined his style. He’s also playing a bigger 7 piece kit endorsing Pearl Drums and SABIAN Cymbals adding splashes, more crashes and another Chinese cymbal. For the first time I’m somehow able to start learning things from the master.I didn’t see this new incarnation of Little Feat until 1991, which was nearing the end of the Craig Fuller era as it turned out. (Craig had previously been in Pure Prairie League and was best known for the song "Amie"). It wasn’t until a few years later that I finally got to meet Richie before a show in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was just standing among the crowd waiting for show time. I introduced myself and struck up a conversation until I realized maybe I was overwhelming him with questions. He told me it was okay and to ask all I wanted. We talked right up until it was time for him to play. I was going to leave him alone afterwards but he came up to me and asked how I enjoyed the show. I was like, "Are you kidding?" Little did I know this would be the first of about six meettings I would get to have with Richie before and after shows. For a few years it became an annual and sometimes semi-annual event. Road manager Denny Jones and Rocky the drum tech always made sure I had good vantage points for shooting pictures with my SLR. Stupid me, I never handed off my camera for someone to take a shot of me with Richie.To date the last time I saw Little Feat live was the day I moved to Chattanooga in August of 2005. We had just driven10 hours straight from Tampa Bay. After a take out dinner my wife said she was exhausted. I made sure she had everything she needed and I headed to a club downtown where Richie was playing a last minute gig Little Feat booked enroute to another show.Fast forward again to mid-2009. Word comes from the Feat camp Richie is having advanced testing done for an undisclosed liver ailment. The results come in and it is announced Richie is suffering from liver cancer and will ultimately need a transplant. The diagnosis forces Richie to take a hiatus from touring. How untimely for this founding member of Little Feat during their 40th Anniversary Tour. After a show in Montana on August 7th Richie takes a leave of absence. Drum tech Gabe Ford (Robben’s nephew) will sit in for Richie indefinitely. Can the situation be any worse? Yes! How? Richie is without health insurance so it’s pay as you go. A few weeks ago, he received his second dose of chemotherapy. The result of this latest procedure will determine the next step in his treatment. Richie is still in need of a liver transplant. There have already been some benefit shows to help with medical expenses and more are planned. The next one being in January 2010 in Rochester, NY where Little Feat will be performing with Donna the Buffalo and Tinted Image opening at the Water Street Music Hall.Everybody who follows Little Feat is confident Richie will get the treatment he needs so he can return the drum throne to kick Little Feat again. For more information on Richie

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