Richie Hayward dies at 64; Little Feat drummer, founding member
Richie Hayward, the drummer and a founding member of Little Feat, a celebrated rock band that arrived on the music scene in Los Angeles with its distinctively eclectic sound in the early 1970s, has died. He was 64.
For the record: The obituary of Little Feat drummer Richie Hayward in Saturday’s LATExtra section did not include a complete list of surviving family members. They are Hayward’s wife, Shauna Drayson-Hayward; his children, Scott, Kalin, Briony, Sydney, Rachell, Daniel, Natalie and Severn; his mother, Beatrice; his stepfather, Bob Johnson; his sister, Linda; his brother, Gary; and a granddaughter.
Hayward, who had liver cancer, died Thursday of complications from pneumonia in a hospital near Vancouver, Canada, said Bridget Nolan, a publicist for the band.
“He was a great drummer, and he was very much integral to Little Feat’s sound,” singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, who first met Hayward about 40 years ago, told The Times on Friday. “It’s hard to imagine another drummer making that music because it’s very inventive.”
Formed in 1969 — its original members including singer-songwriter and guitarist Lowell George, keyboardist Bill Payne, bassist Roy Estrada and Hayward — Little Feat became known for its mix of rock, country, blues, folk, jazz and funk.
The band’s self-titled 1971 debut album featured songs such as “Strawberry Flats,” “Willin’,” and “Hamburger Midnight.”
“Through its first five albums, Little Feat has been thought of as a cult band, as influential musicians’ musicians and as one of Warner Bros. Records’ ‘prestige acts,’ ” Richard Cromelin, former Times pop music writer, wrote in 1977.
“Critical praise has been lavish, particularly in England where the L.A.-based band is regularly hailed as the premier American group of the decade and major rock stars like Elton John proclaim its brilliance.”
And yet, Cromelin wrote, “the cash registers have been excruciatingly silent.”
The band, whose “Dixie Chicken” was one of their best-known songs, broke up after George died of a heart attack at age 34 while on a solo tour in 1979. But the band reformed in 1988.
“I never thought we’d get back together,” Hayward told the Intelligence Journal, a Lancaster, Pa., newspaper in 2004. “Everyone had gone their separate ways. It seemed like everybody was going to continue doing that. We were all doing OK, but we weren’t doing our own thing like we are now, which is much better. It’s what we all kind of secretly wanted.”
Hayward’s “deep, funky groove and vibrant rock ‘n’ roll energy” — as an online obituary in Modern Drummer put it — led to his playing drums on numerous recording sessions and live performances with artists such as Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Robert Palmer, Robert Plant and Bob Seger.
Born Feb. 6, 1946, in Clear Lake, Iowa, Hayward began playing drums as a child and moved to California at 19 in 1964. Two years later, he read an ad in the L.A. Free Press that said, “Drummer Wanted — Must Be Freaky” and joined Lowell George’s band called the Factory.
Hayward also played briefly with the Fraternity of Man before joining Little Feat.
“My style has grown with the band,” he said in a 1995 interview with Modern Drummer. “It started out heavily influenced by blues, rock ‘n’ roll, and jazz. Then it got more specific as I got into other kinds of American folk music and other roots music.
“I discovered New Orleans along the way, and that made a big difference — it loosened me up.”
A year ago, Hayward announced that he had been diagnosed with liver disease. His last public performance was on July 11, when he sat in with Little Feat at the Vancouver Island Music Fest.
“He’s really been a beacon to a whole generation of younger drummers,” said Browne, who performed with other musicians at one of the benefit concerts held to help pay for Hayward’s medical bills. “He was really loved; he will be missed.”
Hayward’s survivors include his wife, Shauna, and a son, Severin.