Interview: Fito de la Parra (Canned Heat)

Fito de la Parra talks to Hit Channel about the new Canned Heat album, "Finyl Vinyl", his memories from Woodstock Festival, his collaboration with John Lee Hooker, the future of the blues and shares stories with Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix.

- Advertisement -

HIT CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: April 2024: We had the great honour to talk with a legendary musician: Fito de la Parra. He is best known as the drummer of Canned Heat since 1967. He recorded with them monumental songs such as “On the Road Again”, “Going Up the Country” and “Let’s Work Together” and performed at Woodstock Festival in 1969. He has also played with John Lee Hooker, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Memphis Slim, Etta James, The Platters, The Shirelles, Mary Wells, T-Bone Walker and others. On 5th April Canned Heat released their latest studio album “Finyl Vinyl” featuring Joe Bonamassa on the re-recording of “So Sad -The World’s in a Tangle”. Read below the very interesting things he told us:


Dave Alvin wrote “Blind Owl” on your “Finyl Vinyl” album as a tribute to Alan Wilson (vocals, harmonica, guitar) and sang and played guitar on it. How did it happen?

- Advertisement -

Dave Alvin is friends with Dale Spalding, our harmonica player and singer. We know Dave for many years back. Him and his brother (ed: Phil) are well-known musicians here in Los Angeles area. We invited Dave to play guitar for us but when the time came for him to come to the studio, he not only wanted to play the guitar, he said: “I have a new song that I wrote as a tribute to Alan Wilson, the Blind Owl (ed: his nickname) and I wanna show it to you”. So, we started playing it and on the first take when we rehearsed it, we knew we just thrived and then we recorded it right up that, on the second take. It was a magical moment and it came out very good.


I love “East/West Boogie” instrumental (theme from “Tehran” Apple TV series written by Mark Eliyahu) from “Finyl Vinyl”. How did you come up with idea to cover it?

Yeah, that exactly. It was inspired by the “Tehran” TV series on Apple TV. Originally we ‘ve heard the theme and Dale, my harmonica player, he liked it very much and he said: “I ‘m gonna learn it on the harmonica”. Now, we all thought that was impossible because it is really a difficult song to learn, on the harmonica especially, but he did it: He learned it and then we started working on it, as we were learning and playing the song, making it the way we play, I decided to add a little bit boogie to it, to make it more Canned Heat, so we decided to call it “East/West Boogie”. We took the theme from the series and then we added this boogie style including some Middle Eastern licks on the guitar. It’s been very well accepted and it’s a very nice thing for us to do. It is really not our bag but we made it sound like a Canned Heat song. So, that’s the way it is.


- Advertisement -

How did you get Joe Bonamassa to play on the re-recording of “So Sad -The World’s in a Tangle” (from “Future Blues” -1970) on “Finyl Vinyl”?

Joe Bonamassa is very good friends with Jimmy Vivino, our singer. Jimmy and Joe played together in cruises and in some shows, sometimes. Originally we were going to use Harvey Mandel, who is the original guitar player on the version we did of that song in 1970, but Harvey was too sick to be able to play; he’s been going through operations and all that. So, then we came with the idea: “Jimmy, why don’t you ask Joe Bonamassa to come and sit it and play some guitar on this song?  It’s a perfect song for his style” because it’s like a ripping guitar style and Joe Bonamassa said “yes”. He came by the studio, he listened to the song and he put his guitar playing there. He did a great job and the song sounds great. As I said, this is a song that we ‘ve done already before, in 1970 and we decided to do it once more because we still believe that the world is in a tangle and that’s what the song is all about; is the same message. We thought things were going bad over there in 1970 with “Future Blues”, that’s where the song came from, but now things are even worse. So, we decided to record the song and to remind the people about the message of that song.


It seems you are very satisfied with the new line-up, aren’t you?

- Advertisement -

Yes, I am. I ‘m very happy with the new line-up and the new record that we did. We haven’t recorded in the studio in more than 15 years, so, this is something very special for us, to come out with a record already, after 55 years of existence. Yeah, we feel very good and this line up now is already five years old and we are working hard. We are ready to come to Europe again, we are going to do two European tours this year and we have also a lot of gigs in America, too. So, yes, the whole situation is very positive and very good.


In your opinion what makes the music of Canned Heat still relevant 55+ years later?

Because it’s blues-oriented music and that kind of style may not be very popular but it will never go away. It is a true reflection of American culture: Blues music and jazz music are here to be forever. So, that’s why our music is still relevant in these years. Blues sometimes is not as popular and people don’t care for too much, but there is always somebody that cares for this kind of music, which is very primitive and very primal and that’s why it will always be there and that’s the same with Canned Heat music. By now, after 55 years of making records and playing live shows, we are considered a legend and our music is legendary and that’s the way it’s going to be.


Did you expect the commercial success of “On the Road Again” single in 1968?

No, absolutely not. We never thought and we never expected to have a hit record. That was something that just happened because of the time; it was a perfect time, as you know. What happened to the music situation in the late ‘60s and the early ’70 it was like a renaissance in music. The blues-oriented music came in very-very strong with people like Jimi Hendrix, Cream, us, Jeff Beck etc, all this blues and blues-rock oriented music that started in the ‘60s. We never expected to have hit records, but the hit records that we got, helped us to educate people all over the world about blues music and that really what our mission was from the beginning: We wanted to make blues music popular worldwide and make it palatable especially for wide audiences and I think we did a very good job about that. If you can see what blues is at nowadays, you can see that there are blues societies all over the place, there are blues festivals all over the world and there are blues fans all over the place, too. When we started none of that was happening, there were maybe four of us that were playing blues music: It was John Mayall and Alexis Korner in England, Paul Butterfield in Chicago and Canned Heat in Los Angeles. So, we were the pioneers that tried to promote blues music in the world and I think Canned Heat especially did a good job on that, because we managed to have three worldwide Top-10 records that were blues-oriented music. So, that helped us introduce ourselves with some popular songs and then at the same time we get to educate the people about the blues.


You hijacked a helicopter from the press to get into the Woodstock Festival. Would you like to share with us this great story?

(Laughs) Yeah, you know that story. I ‘ve told that story a few times. We were on our way to Woodstock, we were in an airport in White Hills in New York, a little town very close to Woodstock and we were just sitting there waiting to see if there was a way to get into the festival, because it was impossible to get there driving, because there were so many people and cars on the road. So, we saw these two kids from the press rolling toward the helicopter that said “Press” on it, they were journalists and we went after them. There were two kids with cameras and their sound equipment and we were five. We were more and we very more dangerous (laughs). So, we were these five dangerous hippies coming after the press and Bob Hite, “The Bear” said: “Where do you think you are going?” The kids were already in the helicopter and one of the guys said: “We are going to report the news”. So, Bob Hite grabbed the guy and pushed him out of the helicopter and he said: “We are going to make the news”. We just jumped on the helicopter and let the two kids from the press out there. So, we took the helicopter, we hijacked the helicopter and made it to the show on time to play that show on Saturday.


When you booked your performance at Woodstock had you realized that it would be the greatest festival of all time?

No, absolutely not. Not only that, but we had just played at the Fillmore East and the Fillmore West and Henry Vestine (guitar) got into a fight with Larry Taylor (bass) and Henry quit the band. So, the situation right before Woodstock was very difficult because we had just hired Harvey Mandel and he was a great guitar player. He hadn’t rehearsed with us, we were just like a new band to him, but we hired him. So, I didn’t really want to go to Woodstock. I was going to stay sleeping on my hotel room and my manager broke into the door, I mean, he had copies for the keys to the doors and opened the door and actually physically dragged me out of it. It was very interesting because I told him: “I don’t know what Woodstock is. I don’t care” and he said: “Hey, listen to the radio! Turn the TV on! This is going to be the biggest gig you will ever play. There are half a million people there! You better get dressed and get ready to play this gig” and I got dressed, I was tired, angry and all that. I didn’t know what Woodstock was and I didn’t know this was gonna be the biggest gig ever, but eventually we made it and we did great.


Are you satisfied with your performance at Woodstock because many bands weren’t?

Yeah, why not? You know, we were a very good band for festivals. Canned Heat was always known to be a great band to play outdoor festivals and this time in Woodstock we were playing at the right time, the sun was just setting down and I remember our manager said: “This is the best time to play in an outdoor festival, when the sun is just setting down”. I believe we did a good performance considering that we had a new guitar player and we hadn’t rehearse with him yet, so, we were improvising a lot, but improvisation has always been part of Canned Heat music, so, we had no problem. I do like our performance there, no problem.


Every time you talk about Woodstock you are giving credit to your roadies. What’s so special about them?

Well, I always give credit to the roadies, not only at Woodstock, but especially at Woodstock. I claim the roadies are like the infantry of rock ‘n’ roll. They are like the famous book of “Gunga Din”, the Rudyard Kipling work. The roadies are the people that always we depend on and many musicians, managers and all that, never talk about them, never mention them and I believe they deserve credits. The story about our roadies in Woodstock was amazing: We finished playing the gig the night before the gig in Woodstock. So, they took off at 2 o’clock in the morning in the truck and they had to drive from 2 o’clock in the morning to about 4:00 pm. They drove 14 hours to get to the site of Woodstock. Normally, that drive would take you maybe a couple of hours from New York to Woodstock. These guys took 14 hours to get there and they got on there. They had to move cars out of the highway with help from the fans and the people that were there. They had to move the cars out of the highway and continue with the truck, slowly, slowly, until they got to the stage. At the same time as we were flying on the helicopter and landing across to the stage, we saw our truck with our roadies coming in. Many bands didn’t have their equipment, we did. We had good roadies that they didn’t sleep and tried really hard and as I said earlier, they drove 14 hours to get our equipment into Woodstock and that’s why we were able to play and play good with our own equipment. I always say the roadies deserve mention about that; they are the infantry of rock ‘n’ roll.


Was it an interesting experience to record “Hooker ‘n Heat” (1971) with John Lee Hooker?

Yes, that was a wonderful experience. We were always fans of John Lee Hooker’s music. We always loved his music since we were kids, even before Canned Heat existed, we always liked John Lee Hooker’s music and studied his music because it was so special and so abstract. We met John Lee Hooker at the airport once, we saw him picking up his guitar, you know, when you pick up your luggage, in the carousel and we ran towards him! We were the groupies this time. We ran towards John Lee Hooker and we said: “John, we are the Canned Heat band! We all love your music!” and he turns and looks at us and says: “Canned Heat? Oh yeah! I like the way, you boys boogie”, that’s what he said. Then, of course, we shook hands and we started talking about making a record together and after about a year of negotiations with the record companies etc., we managed to go into the studio and we did that record which was very natural and free.

Most takes are first or second takes, because that’s how John Lee Hooker wanted it. He never wanted to record more than two takes and he was right. He preferred to record like that and be fresh with the music; no reason to play take after take. John Lee used to call that “stupid shit” because if you know what are you doing and if you know your music, you don’t need to be repeating the same stuff over and over to try to find some kind of perfection that does not exist. It’s better to be fresh and pay attention on the first or second takes. That’s the way we approach our music and it is not perfect but it has the feeling, the freshness and the blues. So, it was a great experience to work with John Lee Hooker and then later I played with his band, besides playing with Canned Heat, I played with John Lee Hooker’s band the last two years of his life. I was with him on his last gig in Santa Rosa, California one week before he died. It was a very emotional thing and very important for me and my life to be playing behind the man that I admire so much.


Do you think you get the job in Canned Heat because you went to the audition with Junior Wells’ “It’s My Life, Baby!” (1966) album with Buddy Guy, recorded at Pepper’s Lounge, under you arm?

Well, you know a lot about me! I don’t know how did you find that out, that’s a good tale. That’s one of the reasons why I was hired for Canned Heat. On my way to the audition, I stopped by a record store and bought that record, live at Pepper’s Lounge on the South Side, Chicago, by Junior Wells and Buddy Guy. I didn’t know that Bob Hite, Alan Wilson and Henry Vestine were avid record collectors and musicologists. I didn’t know how important the blues records were to them. They originally were having some problems with their older drummer, Frank Cook, because Frank was more into jazz music and he was not into the blues. So, when I showed up in the audition, Bob Hite opened the door and he saw me with that record under my arm. Later on, he confessed to me: “I knew how you played already” because he saw me playing before, “but the thing that really got you into the band is when I saw that you had that record under you arm and I thought: ‘This is the drummer for Canned Heat’” That’s what Bob Hite thought when he saw me with that record. Of course, I always love that record and that music and I’m very happy that I bought that record, but I think I would join the band anyway, because the audition came out really good. We played like we had been playing together for years.


Canned Heat opened two shows for The Doors at the California State College on December 1st 1967. Do you remember these shows?

Yes, of course because that was my first official gig with Canned Heat. I joined the band, I guess, a couple of weeks before and I didn’t know who The Doors were because I was playing in a night club called the Tom Cat Club before, with a rhythm and blues band and it was basically black music that we were playing. So, I didn’t know who The Doors were, but I did know who Canned Heat was because they were a blues band. It was very important to me that I played my first gig for Canned Heat. We were opening of The Doors or they were opening for us, I don’t recall exactly, but we were playing together. Later on, we did a tour to Europe together also The Doors and Canned Heat and we played a few gigs in California, too. So, that was my first gig with the band and I remember it well.


Do you feel lucky that you also got to know and record with Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown (“Gate’s on the Heat” -1973) and Memphis Slim (“Memphis Heat” -1974)?

Yes, I recall those sessions very well. That was done in Paris with Philippe Rault, he was the producer. We were playing at the Olympia in Paris and he came to see us and asked us if we wanted to come to this studio that was in a nice French castle and he said: “Memphis Slim and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown will be there and we wanna try to make a record”. So, we did that session and I talk a lot about that session in detail in my book “Living the Blues” (ed: order it from here). It was a lot of fun to play with those people I admired them very much.


How much has your approach to drums changed over the years?

I think I play better than ever. I’m 78 years old right now. You see, the thing about musicians is that some people think the musicians are like athletes and by the time we are 35 years old, we are finished. We are not athletes, we are artists. We are more like doctors or lawyers. The older we get, if we continue playing and dedicating ourselves to our craft, the better our approach is because it has to do with experience and with love of music. Of course, I may not be as fast as I was when I was 20 years old, but my understanding on how to back a song and a beat and how to take care of the rest of the band -because bass and drums are the nucleus of the band- is better now. That has become more interesting to me in my later years. So, I as said, we are not athletes and as we grew older our craft gets better.


Could you describe to us the amazing chemistry you had as a rhythm section with Larry Taylor (bass)?

The rhythm section with Larry Taylor was a wonderful experience. I like Larry’s playing a lot, he was one of the greatest bass players ever, in history, especially for blues music. He understood how to approach blues music with a straight, primitive and basic way of playing. Fundamental! That’s what it is. You have to be fundamental when you are playing blues music. It was a lot of fun to play with Larry. I mean, Larry, was a great guy, the whole band, you know, but I am still having fun with the new bass player that we have now, Rick Reed. So, everything is ok.


Could we say that Jimmy Reed turn you on to the blues?

Yes, that’s true and it was an American lady, a girlfriend that I had, when I was very young, about 16-17 years old and I met her in Mexico. I was playing in Mexico City already, with my band there, but we were not playing blues music, we were playing basically rock ‘n’ rock and copies from the Top-10 in America. So, I met this American lady and she tells me: “You have to listen to this” and she sent me some records, she sent me a James Brown record and a Jimmy Reed record and that’s when I was exposed to the blues for the first time. Then, I always believe that if you want to turn somebody on to the blues, you want to teach them the blues, Jimmy Reed would be one of the main and first people that should listen to, because Jimmy Reed is so easy to digest, so easy to hear, so happy and acceptable. So, yeah, I got turned on to the blues by Jimmy Reed and whenever I want to turn people on the blues, I also play them Jimmy Reed.


I’ve seen a photo of Jimi Hendrix jamming with Canned Head during your set. When and how did it happen?

I don’t know if I was in the band then, but I do recall playing gigs with Jimi Hendrix and not only that, he actually opened for us, we played a gig in Pasadena, I remember. I don’t recall the jamming with Jimi Hendrix. That maybe just happened a little later or something. I don’t know, I cannot authenticate that photo. I don’t know about that. I don’t know about Jimi Hendrix playing with us, but I know that I met him and I talked to him. We went to a place called Thee Image in Los Angeles and we were watching Earl Hooker there. I went there and I was sitting with Jimi on the same table. We were together to watch Earl Hooker play. That was my main experience with him. It was a club that didn’t last too long. It was the same owner that had a club called Thee Image in Miami, Marshall Brevetz was his name. You see, I have a good memory, I remember everything. So, Marshall Brevetz had a place called Thee Image in Miami and then he went and opened another Image in Los Angeles, but that one didn’t last. Thee Image in Miami, yeah, it lasted a long time and it was very famous, but Thee Image in Los Angeles I don’t think it lasted very long, it lasted maybe a few months and then it was closed. But that is the place where I saw Earl Hooker with Jimi Hendrix.


Was it a life-changing moment for you as a boy to watch Bill Haley and the Comets in Mexico City?

Well, that was my father. My father took me to see Bill Haley and the Comets when they came to Mexico City for the first time. My father always liked music; he used to take me to watch movies, old movies about swing music, you know, “The Benny Goodman Story” (1956), “The Glenn Miller Story” (1954). My father liked American culture a lot and he liked jazz music and swing. So, he took me to see all these movies and put all this music into my head. He never wanted me to become a professional musician, he always thought music is ok as a hobby, because he used to say that the music business was very cruel and he was right: The music business is very cruel. But the music was more important and as I said, he turned me on to all this music and took me to see Bill Haley and the Comets. Then, on my 13th birthday he gave me a record of Little Richard called “Here’s Little Richard” (1957), one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll records ever made. So, he put all this music into my mind and maybe expected me not to become a musician, I don’t know. But anyway, that the way it was, my father wanted me to be a dentist or a doctor, you know, what our fathers always want. They always want us to be professional and straight and all that, but I just went with the music.


How important is improvisation to you?

Very-very important. It is one of the basics for blues music. Blues and jazz are so much connected because they are the only two forms of music where you can actually improvise continuously. We never play a song the same way. We always put something that is different in every song every time we play it. That’s the essence of improvisation and that’s one thing that a lot of contemporary bands and contemporary music do not have. I think it’s a loss because improvisation, in a way, is what brings this humanity into music. Improvisation is something that no AI will be able to do ever, no computer will be able to improvise a blues or jazz song. So, as I said, improvisation will be probably one of the most human things to do in music.


You ‘ve said that you were the only Mexican drummer who played 5/4 and played a solo in 5/4.

The responsible for this was Dave Brubeck and one of his records, the “Time Out” (1959) record with the famous song “Take Five”. When I was in Mexico playing with my bands down there we all knew about “Take Five” and Joe Morello (drums) who I admire, so I started playing in 5/4 and we used to play the song every night maybe once or twice in the night clubs and coffee houses where I used to work at. We were very young and very innocent and we used to love this music and we played jazz, blues and rock ‘n’ roll, so I started playing in 5/4 drum solos and I became pretty much the only drummer in Mexico that was playing that kind of time signature. Of course, after playing it very much, you know, playing it almost every night, it became something very natural to me and I used to do it well. I even recorded it. I recorded a version of “Take Five” with my band Los Sinners.


You toured with John Lee Hooker in his final years. What was he like on stage and off stage?

He was a wonderful person. He always liked to be one of the boys, he loved women, “the young womens”, he used to call it. He loved women, he loved to party even at his 80 years old, he still liked to party after the show and hanging out and kidding around and trying to pick up girls, the “young womens”. The man was very intelligent, he had such a genius. He could not read or write because he was an uneducated black man from Clarksdale, Mississippi but that it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that he could not write or read, he had this genius and all the music he made was very abstract; he only changed whenever he felt like changing. He pretty much broke the rules of the blues and established another kind of rules. So, as a person he was very nice and as I said before, he could not read or write but he always knew what was going on about the money, the situation with the band, about who did what. He always had this awareness about him. It gave him a special intelligence and genius. I will always say that if John Lee Hooker had been a painter, he would have been a Picasso, because his music was so abstract, just like a Picasso painting is.


Before joining Canned Heat you played with Etta James, The Platters and The Shirelles at the Tom Cat Club in Torrance, California. How helpful was that period to your later career?

Oh, that was some of the best times in my life. I mean, it was before the big experience of joining a band like Canned Heat. I had just arrived to the US, I was an immigrant from Mexico and I was having a great time playing in this night club, the Tom Cat Club. I will never forget it, it was right there in Hawthorne Blvd & 190th in the town of Torrance. It’s a pretty much ugly town with a lot of oil refineries and stinks. It’s a stinking town in the south of Los Angeles, very smoggy and funky and Etta James used to live close by the Tom Cat Club. So, she would come and sing a couple of songs occasionally and watch us play, have a drink etc. She was a wonderful person and I was in the house band there before joining Canned Heat. Every weekend we had what we called “Celebrity Night”, so, every weekend they would invite different stars of rhythm & blues. That’s how I got to play with The Platters, The Shirelles, Mary Wells, T-Bone Walker, Etta James and some others that I may not remember now. But it was a wonderful experience to play with all those people that I knew their records and music, because I was already totally into blues and rhythm & blues, since I got turned on to the blues by Jimmy Reed, years before. I turned my back on pop music and I didn’t know to know about pop rock ‘n’ roll or pop music and I was totally into playing black music, especially. So, I felt very-very privileged to be able to play behind all those people and it was wonderful.


Are you optimistic about the future of the blues?

Yes, I am. As I said, we cannot expect the blues to become too popular, it will never be. The blues is in a good situation right now. Look at all the blues festivals, look at all the young blues artists around, there are garage bands just about everywhere. That gives me great hope because there is a big section of the population that just don’t know about the music and they are getting all this horrible pop music that is basically selling image and youth; it’s not really selling music. The music business has changed a lot, the people that used to run the record companies were all music lovers in the past. Now, the people that run record companies are basically attorneys and accountants. They don’t really even care about music and all they want to do is make money and make their artists famous while they last, basically because when you are a pop artist, you last only as long as you are good-looking and you can dance around and things like that. So, I ‘m very optimistic about the blues, but don’t expect the blues to be a trend. It is not a trend, it is a true cultural form and that’s why it will last forever, but it won’t be very popular.


Do you think popular music which was written in the ‘60s and ‘70s was better than today’s music?

You know, pop music has always been what it is. To me, it’s music more for the people… I don’t know how to explain it. I have never been really too excited or crazy about it. Of course, pop music made some musicians and performers very famous and rich, but it is what it is: It’s popular music. It is ok, but it is not by bag and it is not anything that I am interested in.


Did you get to know other people from your era like Jerry Garcia?

I ‘ve met some of them. Yes, I met Jerry Garcia once. I mean, I know Carlos Santana well, I know many people, people from the Big Brother and the Holding Company, friends and colleagues, musicians from the San Francisco scene or the Los Angeles scene. I met some of them, you know, I met Jim Morrison, too. I met most of them, but I wasn’t very close to any of them. Besides playing with Canned Heat, I play with local blue musicians here in Ventura County, where I live, north of Los Angeles and there are some wonderful musicians here like Fred Kaplan and R.J Mischo, you probably have heard of them. I play here too, occasionally in night clubs and with friends. Yes, as I said, I knew some of my colleagues from the ‘60s who unfortunately many of them have died and there are fewer of us every day.


What memories do you have from Jim Morrison?

You know, Jim Morrison came and sat in with us in Miami. We were playing at a place called the Marco Polo Hotel, it was a famous hotel in Miami, I don’t know if it’s still around (ed: yes, it is) and Jim Morrison was coming to be in court, because he had a problem with the law, because he exposed himself in a show (laughs), a few weeks before. He had to come up and show up for the court and to fight the charges that were against him, so, he showed up in our gig and he was friendly, we talked and we said: “Hello” and we said: “Jimmy, do you to sing a little bit with us?” and he came up and sang a couple of songs with us. Then, after that, he sat down with Alan Wilson on the table. I now remember me watching both of them talking and seeing these two geniuses, they were both introverted, they didn’t seem to be happy and unfortunately in just a few months they were both going to be dead. It was a strange feeling to have Jim Morrison play with us and then have him sitting down with Alan Wilson, both talking quietly and it was not a very cheerful thing. It had a strange vibe. As I said, they died shortly after.


Why are you so against the airlines?

Because the airlines have abused us and have treated us unfairly. I think the airline industry is one of the worst industries at the world. They do things that they abuse us, they do things that they didn’t use to do before they got regulated. You see, they weren’t regulated before Ronald Reagan came into power. Last year, I suffered so much over the airlines: We lost a bunch of money, I missed the gig in Spain, in Bilbao; I suffered a lot, it was one of the worst days in my life. When I showed up in Los Angeles to play in Bilbao, we had a connection with three airplanes and all of a sudden our flight was delayed six hours. It was a terrible thing and as I said, it cost us a lot of money and a lot of stress. In general, I just don’t like the airline industry, I think they could do better, they could be a little better for customer service. I mean, there are so many nightmares and so much stress happening on those airplanes and airports. For us, we have to depend on them to make the gigs and that’s a terrible situation when you have to depend on an industry that is not dependable and an industry that is very-very flake and drilly.

You know, there are making millions and millions of dollars but they don’t pay their pilots or stewardesses better and they are always trying to get more money from us no matter what. You want a window seat, you have to pay extra. Soon, they are gonna be charging for water or ice or to breathe air. Whatever they do they always try to get more money from you. The prices are outrageous, expensive and the service is terrible. So, there are many reasons. I will talk bad about the airliners for hours, so don’t get me going (laughs), because I ‘d rather talk about something else. If you are flying for pleasure and you are going as a tourist and the airline messes up your plans, it’s not that big a deal: You are flying for pleasure, it doesn’t matter. If you are late another day or two days later, it’s ok, but if you are flying and you have to play a gig and your life and other people’s lives depend on it, you will hope that you will get some help from the airliners, but you don’t.

This last time we had that terrible delay from American Airlines that I lost the gig in Spain, we tried so much, we went and begged them to “Please put us on another flight, we have a gig to play, we have a concert to play”. They didn’t care. They look at you like you don’t matter, like you are nothing. They are horrible, that’s what I can tell you. We were all day at the airport that horrible day, because this was after the pandemic; the government gave them billions of dollars during the pandemic because they were crying: “Oh, we are losing so much money, the airliners”, so they grabbed all that money and they distributed that money between the CEO’s and the stockholders, but they didn’t hire more stewardesses and pilots.  So, they kept selling tickets -like that ticket that I bought- to airplanes that cannot fly because they don’t have people to fly them. You see, it’s a fraud, it is almost like stealing from you. It was one of the worst days of my life and I just don’t like them. I hate to have to depend of them.


Do you think because of the streaming services listening to an album from start to finish has become a kind of lost art?

That’s why it is important for people to go back to vinyl and buy LP’s and it is happening! A lot of people are buying vinyl records now. I don’t know about streaming only one song and not the others, that is up to the people. If you like a band and the music they make, I would recommend that you hear the whole album, not just one song. But it is what is happening with music now: The social media, the technological stuff have put a lot of problems into it and it has diminished, I guess, our lives. It has not been helpful. It has not been helpful at all to be dealing with the social media and then all of a sudden you find our music for free all over the place or else with people like Spotify, they don’t pay shit, they may give you a few royalties but they just don’t pay. But that is one of the reasons why we didn’t want to record anymore. We figured that it is not worth putting this effort, money, time and all that into a recording because later it disappears into the social media and start getting it for free. However, we are gonna try to control that as good as we can and our record is doing very good, it’s #2 on the charts right now. Have you heard the record?


Yes, of course! Of course!

Ok. I think it’s pretty good.


It was a nice surprise.

Yeah, it is very good and after 16 years of not recording in the studio, I think it was a good idea to make this record.


As a person, how difficult was it for you to overcome the deaths of Alan Wilson and Bob Hite?

…And Henry Vestine and Larry Taylor and many others. It always has been very hard, especially when Alan and Bob died because a lot of people think or wanted to think that without them there was no Canned Heat, but I continued with the band and I kept it going for 55 years, in spite of all the circumstances and the adversity that we have suffered. Canned Heat has been a band that has had a black cloud always above us. We always have people against us, we always have, as I said, adversity. Our journey has been an uphill battle all this time, not only when Alan died, but even before. That is part of the cavalry of Canned Heat, as we call it. It is not a happy band, it’s not a band that has been very lucky; after all, it is a blues band.


I did a face-to-face  interview with Walter Trout in Athens, when he was there for vacation. He has not played in Greece.

Walter was in Canned Heat.


Yes, I know. He was a member of Canned Heat.

In Canned Heat played some of the greatest guitar players in the world. If you think about it, we have Henry Vestine, Harvey Mandel, Walter Trout, Junior Watson, Hollywood Fats and they are all great guitar players. So, that’s one thing that we do have (laughs).


I think on one of your latest albums you had Eric Clapton as a guest. What was it like?

That was a project that they did for charity. Eric Clapton liked our song “Christmas Blues”. This is a song we did (ed: bonus track on “Boogie with Canned Heat” -1968), an original Canned Heat song. He liked our “Christmas Blues” and he wanted to do it with the harmonica player, John Popper. He did the song, that’s not playing with us, he is just playing on the same record (ed: “Christmas Album” -2007). It was a charity record that we did for poor kids and for people, a charity and that’s what it was. It was part of the Christmas charity record with Eric Clapton and Canned Heat.


A huge “THANK YOU” to Mr. Fito de la Parra for his time. I should also thank Mr. Skip Taylor for his valuable help.

Order Fito de la Parra’s book “Living the Blues” from here:

Official Canned Heat website:

Official Canned Heat Facebook page:


More Interviews