COUNTRY: United States
GROUP: LITTLE FEAT
(1946 – 2010)
Richie Hayward was a drummers’ drummer. Right from the start, as a member of Little Feat, the Los Angeles-based band founded by ex-Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention guitarist/vocalist Lowell George, Richie’s playing suggested something new. As the albums rolled out — Little Feat, Dixie Chicken, Feats Don’t Fail Me Now, Time Loves a Hero… so Richie evolved into a player whose slinky, syncopated grooves percolated with a power that might be easily be described as funky rock ‘n’ roll… a potent mix of Earl Palmer meets Joseph ‘Zigaboo’ Modeliste meets Ringo Starr meets Bernard Purdie meets Elvin Jones… but sounded exactly like Richie Hayward and unlike anybody else.
Those subtleties certainly didn’t go amiss with the many major names who enlisted Richie over the years. Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Buddy Guy, Johnny Lang, Joan Armatrading, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant… For rock drumming with a difference, listen to Plant’s Shaken ‘n’ Stirred album from the mid 80’s. Richie rocks without cliches on this oft-overlooked drumming classic by the Led Zeppelin frontman.
On a more mainstream level, Buddy Guy’s Mustang Sally saw Richie pump out a radio-friendly groove that helped put the legendary bluesman on to MTV and back into the charts. Yes, Richie certainly has his fans. For drummers Steve Gadd, Tony Braunagel, Rod Morgenstein, Chester Thompson, Geoff Dugmore, David Garibaldi and a lengthy list of others, many groundbreaking pioneers themselves, Richie was a uniquely funky player with an inimitable sense of style. John Bonham — indeed all of Led Zeppelin — was another big fan. After all, what musician — or even closer to the heart of the matter — what drummer could resist that feel?
Watching him behind his kit, playing with such rock intensity, one couldn’t help wonder how he could be so damned funky. Or subtle. While most players groove on the kick, hats and snare, Richie’s concept encompassed the complete kit, with seemingly random linear patterns and fills flowing together like some seamless rhythmic line boosted with enthusiasm and his commitment to a combination of roots and creativity.
With his new wife, Shauna, their home on Vancouver Island, just off the coast of western Canada, plus friends who loved him as he loved them, Richie had finally found true happiness… at last. And though he will be revered as a great drummer, let us also remember Richie Hayward as a wonderful person. Indeed, he was both. And much more.