Canned Heat, the group that refused to be a jukebox and got fired.
Originally Published 9-14-1968 in Melody Maker, all content © Melody Maker, NME.
After the tensions and hatred of America, Canned Heat, who claim that they are the only white country blues group in the world, have found London much to their liking.
Over a Typically English meal of sausages and chips at the Top Of The Pops canteen last week, guitarist Larry Taylor even went as far as saying “London is so groovy, we are even thinking of moving here.”
“Why not? We like your scene here and we could easily operate from here to the continent or even back in America.”
The group’s dislike of their native country stems from the intolerance they encounter everywhere.
“It’s unbelievable in some places. They are anti-long-hair to the extreme; they are hung up about our appearance. In the South, they won’t even serve us in restaurants.
“In the Deep South, they consider a group like us as lower even than the Negroes – and that’s saying something.
The group, led by Bob “The Bear” Hite, are outwardly fearsome, but in fact are five nice guys dedicated to the propagation of the blues as an art-form and happy for that reason that “On The Road Again” is in the top 10 in Britain.
“The public here and in the States haven’t bought ‘On The Road Again’ because it’s a blues record – but because its a different sound. But it is a blues and it’s good that they will accept a number that’s blues-based” said Bob Hite. “Look At The Beatles’ ‘Revolution’ – that’s a blues.”
“We are not knocked out because it’s a commercial success, because commercial acceptance isn’t what we are aiming for. But thank the Lord, they are buying it and listening to it and it may bring a few of the kids, who are nurtured on rock and pop, into the blues camp.”
But they aren’t hung up on making the pop charts. “It’s nice, but if the next single doesn’t happen, it’s nothing to worry about. Our concern is the music, not the money.”
“One hit is more than we expected, anyway,” chimed in Al Wilson, the man who sings and plays harmonica on “Road” and who also handles the vocal on their follow-up, stated by Bob Hite to be a group original called “Goin’ Up The Country.”
Al continued philosophically: “The first year we were together, we worked for three weeks. We’d get a gig, play three days and get fired…”
“… because we refused to be a jukebox,” said Bob.
The group are insistent that they are a country blues group – “the only white country blues group in the world,” said Bob. “Not because we think it’s better, it’s just where our faces are. Our main purpose is to generate excitement on stage and for this we play LOUD, man.”
“Not loud, full,” chipped in Larry Taylor.
“The sound may be full, but it’s still loud,” retorted Bob.
Their sound comes from a huge battery of speakers specially built for the group, and shipped over to Britain for their month-long European trip.
“But though, we are loud,” said Al Wilson, “it’s not uncomfortable for the audience because the speakers are specially built to eliminate high frequency whistling which is the thing that causes the discomfort.”
The group’s manager Skip Taylor commented that on this trip, the group had one intention: work. “And with 30 days working out of 31, that’s just they’ll be doing,” he said.
“But we still want to hear some music if we can,” said Bob, “There are a few people we’d like to see – Eric Clapton, for one and we’ve heard a lot about the Fleetwood Mac. We’d like to catch them.”
“And Arthur Brown, we’ve got to see him,” said Larry Taylor.