There are only a handful of bands/artists that performed at both the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Ravi Shankar, David Crosby and Stephen Stills (but as CSN only at Woodstock), and Canned Heat.
We’ll have a chance to see one of these bands — Canned Heat, with Monterey and Woodstock-era bassist Larry “The Mole” Taylor and drummer “Fito” de la Parra — at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club on Friday night, playing hits like “Going Up the Country,” “On the Road Again” and much more. Tickets are available by clicking here.
Larry Taylor talked to Noozhawk about the aforementioned legendary festivals and the upcoming show. The full interview, in which he also discusses his early surf rock recordings, playing bass on recordings by The Monkees and playing with Tom Waits, is available by clicking here.
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Jeff Moehlis: Shortly after you joined Canned Heat the band played at the Monterey Pop Festival, before your first album was even out. What are your memories of that gig?
Larry Taylor: The memories of that gig was just the get-together of what it was at the time, which was something new for everybody. And just seeing all those artists, like Hendrix, The Who, Janis and all those people all together at one place at one time, which never really gathered that way ever again. It was a great thing that I was able to experience all that. Not everybody’s done that [laughs].
JM: Of course I have to ask you about Woodstock. What was that experience like for you?
LT: Woodstock kind of went by really fast. We were on the road — I think we’d been on an eight-week tour or something like that. It was the last gig of the tour. I was raring to get home, so my mind wasn’t there. I don’t remember much about it, except the audience hearing the song at sunset, which was the boogie we played, and the whole place went nuts. I mean, totally nuts. It was almost like a tidal wave of energy from the people. It’s kind of hard to explain. If you’d have been there you’d know what I mean. That’s what I remember now, of that.
And, you know, going in on the helicopter. We actually had to take a Cessna plane from New Jersey up to the airport in Bethel — I think it was Bethel — and then we got out and they took us in the helicopter over to the site. That’s kind of a memory.
I actually had a camera with me and took a bunch of pictures of all that. And it turns out that I gave it to somebody to hold for our set, and I actually told them, “When you’re taking these pictures, here’s another roll of film. This is gonna run out.” The film ran out, and he put the other roll in. I got some pictures, but I lost that roll. I never got it back. The roll that I had was all the stuff from the helicopter.
JM: What can people look forward to at the upcoming concert?
LT: I think the thing to look forward to is the more refined musical things that we do now, because we’re a little bit older and we’ve all kind of grown in music. It’s not as garage-y as it was. Now we do a variety, we do some sort of semi-jazz songs, we have a Latin thing that we do. It’s incorporated in with the style originally from the ’60s, but we’ve stretched it a little.
I’m doing a lot of guitar work. I’m doing a lot of [Canned Heat co-founder] Alan [Wilson]’s songs, a lot of the slide that he did.
It’s just a little different from what Canned Heat’s been in the last 40 years since the original band broke up, that wasn’t representing the music in such a way that we’re trying doing now. It kind of went off in other directions. But now we have a nice mixture of different styles, but we still try to keep the ’60s thing that we did, too. So we’ve got a little of everything.
We switch off. We have two different bands. Basically, we have a band where I play bass, and I’m playing a certain style and stuff.
Then the other guy [John Paulus] plays bass and I play guitar. He’s kind of covering that and he’s a really good musician. He’s singing the songs, because he sounds the best of any of us singing. JP’s been around for years and years, playing with different people with different styles of music. I met him years ago, and I always thought he’d be a good asset to have as a musician in this band. It’s so hard to find people that are diverse and have a lot of styles. This guy has more of a rock style guitar, like Eric Clapton, B.B. King, blues …
But not really. I can’t say Clapton because he’s got it all. To me he’s one of the greatest that ever was and probably ever will be. But this guy’s really, really good — he’s like a jazzer, too. I do jazz, too, so we incorporate a little of everything. He’ll play a balance of all those jazzy things and the rock thing, and then I do more of the country blues stuff. I think you’ll like it.
There’s always going to be that certain kind of grooving thing that we did that people don’t do today.
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.