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Living the Blues: Canned Heat's Story of Music, Drugs, Death, Sex and Survival Paperback – February 8, 2000

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Paperback, February 8, 2000
$102.60 $18.62

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Editorial Reviews


...the group's drummer, Adolfo 'Fito" De La Parra, takes the reader through riches and poverty... -- Relix Magazine

The bio guides us through the band's meteoric success as well as their long, tortuous descent. --High Times Magazine

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Canned Heat Music; Third edition (February 8, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0967644909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0967644905
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #570,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Randy Arco on January 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a no-holes-barred account of the very wild lifestyle of our nation's premiere boogie band.

Notice I didn't say "lavish" lifestyle. The story of Canned Heat is anything but lavish!

This is a down and dirty story. For all their fame, Canned Heat never did have a whole lot of money- hence touring in busses rather than planes. And what money they did have was spent on drugs and women. They partied till they dropped, leaving two lead vocalist in their wake.

The sex with groupies is described in lurid detail, but nothing was written to titillate. It's right there, in your face, and it all rings true- but it sounds more empty than exciting. Maybe that's how Fito got by with writing a book describing every wretched excess in exacting detail with nary an apology in sight. He doesn't try to excuse his or his band members behavior. He doesn't have to. Seeing once vibrant men destroyed at the end of their careers, or dead, is warning enough.

Fito is a gifted writer. He paints such a vivid picture of what is like to be a member of the group in it's glory days that not only can you get a picture of what is going on, you can actually smell it.

One band member was sitting off stage when his teeth became to arbitrarily fall out of his mouth, one by one. I guess that's what years of hard drug use and neglect will get you. He goes on to play on stage in a chair- too stoned to stand. He dies shortly thereafter.

The lead singer, the voice you hear on "On The Road Again" and "Goin' Up The Country" was described as being such a stoner, and having such terrible hygiene, that he was the only person alive that could be the lead voice on a number one record and still not be able to get a woman!
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Ed Tracey on June 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
A comprehensive review of the life and times of Canned Heat. Adolfo de la Parra, its longterm drummer, notes that the band never broke-up - it just stopped to rest every now and then. Two core founding members died from substance abuse (Henry Vestine and Bob Hite) and one from, ultimately, a broken heart (Alan Wilson).
Fito recounts their bad business decisions, substance abuse and just bad luck. Still, with all of the personnel changes it survives. Fito is a Mexico City university graduate - and as such was an unusual choice for a bandmate. Ironic that he is the one constant link - the other founder, bassist Larry Taylor (who Fito says is the best blues bassist) has been in and out of the lineup numerous times.
If you have kept up with the band - if you want to remember their heyday in the late 60's to early 70's - or are just intrigued, pick up a copy. It'll be a good decision.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By blankpage on February 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
This privately published account of blues-boogie band Canned Heat is the best book in its genre. It's sure a lot better written than I thought it would be. Living the Blues really captures the essence of what it must have been like to be in a top-touring act back in that era. I caught the band back in its Woodstock heyday and, luckily, in some its more recent versions. All of the original front-men: singer Bob "The Bear" Hite, lead guitarist Henry "Sunflower" Vestine and slide guitarist Al "Blind Owl" Wilson have long ago gone for their dirt naps. So have Vestine's replacement Hollywood Fats and talented keyboardist Ronnie Barron. In the book, Canned Heat seems to kill `em as fast as they join up.

Living the Blues has lots of great stories and characters. Like the time the obese singer Hite let loose a fart so incredibly foul during a contract negotiation that the record execs dropped the band from its label on the spot. And how Vestine, who spent most his adult life dedicated to playing music originated and written by black people, evolved into a heroin addled white supremacist.

Somehow the book's author and the band's original bass player Larry Taylor manage to periodically put together functioning line-ups of itinerant bluesmen and take their show on the road. Sometimes these versions of Canned Heat are even better than the original. (Listen to the CD "Reheated", a really terrific blues album.) Living the Blues is a true story of musician survivorship....aside from all those dead guys.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Howard Bleach on November 13, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I know that Fito didn't join the band until they were already established, but that doesn't excuse the complete and total lack of biographical information on the band's founders, Hite and Wilson. Aside from an anecdote about Woodstock that begins the book, we don't actually meet the members of Canned Heat until page 65, when they are already well on their way to success. By page 90, they are already making "$20,000 a night" and headlining festivals. Not exactly a rags-to-riches story, then. The book goes into great detail about Fito's life in bands in Mexico (zzzz) and the shenanigans of latter day Canned Heat members (who cares about Jim Thornbury? How about Rick Kellogg? Anybody?), but lacks any insight into the formation of the world's greatest white boogie band. For instance, Bear had a legendary record collection - how did he come upon it? What were his favorite pieces? How did Al and Bear get along and what was their relationship like pre-success? What jazz and blues artists did they initially bond over? How did Blind Owl learn to play guitar? How did the band meet John Fahey and what inspired the legendary trip to go drag Skip James back from obscurity? These questions are not addressed. Instead, we get sordid tales of groupies and drugs, which won't shock anyone who's ever read a single rock biography ever. Fito will occasionally permit some background information on the crucial members of the band - for instance, we learn that Bob was from Boulder, which Fito offhandedly reveals during one of TWO anecdotes about breaking down a door - but not enough to sate the hardcore fan interested in hearing about the band's humble beginnings.

In addition to these problems, the book could have used a proof reader and an editor.
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