Richie Hayward, founding drummer of the funky Los Angeles rock band Little Feat, died Aug. 12 in Comox, British Columbia, Canada, after a year-long bout with liver cancer. He was 64.
Hayward was newly arrived in L.A. from his hometown of Ames, Iowa, in 1966 when he answered a Los Angeles Free Press ad that read, “Drummer wanted. Must be freaky.” He passed an audition for the Factory, a band fronted by Lowell George, a guitarist for the group’s producer, Mothers of Invention leader Frank Zappa.
The Factory splintered, and Hayward joined another local act, the Fraternity of Man, whose marijuana anthem “Don’t Bogart Me” was used by director Dennis Hopper in his 1969 counterculture hit “Easy Rider.”
Meanwhile, George was expelled from the Mothers by the notoriously drug-intolerant Zappa for writing “Willin’,” soon a country-rock standard, and he founded a new group with Hayward, keyboardist Bill Payne and ex-Mothers bassist Roy Estrada.
Dubbed Little Feat, the band issued its first single for Warner Bros. in 1970, and a self-titled debut album in 1971. For nearly 40 years, the group would ride Hayward’s precise, groove-oriented skin work. While only one of the act’s album’s 1978’s “Waiting For Columbus,” made it into the top 20, they enjoyed a reverent cult following through the years.
The drummer and Payne would remain constants in Little Feat’s ever-shifting lineup; the group survived George’s drug-related death in 1979. Hayward appeared on nearly 30 Little Feat releases. The band’s drum tech Gabe Ford replaced him in the lineup after the onset of his illness in 1979.
Recognized by his peers as a top-tier player, Hayward was also a busy session man. Over the years he appeared on albums by Eric Clapton, Robert Palmer, the Doobie Brothers, Ry Cooder, Bob Seger, Buddy Guy, John Hiatt, Taj Mahal, Van Dyke Parks, Barbra Streisand and bandmates George and Paul Barrere, among many others.
Survivors include his wife Shauna.