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Book Review: "Living the Blues-
Canned Heat's Story of Music, Drugs, Death, Sex and Survival"

by Mark Guerrero

     "Living the Blues- Canned Heat's Story of Music, Drugs, Death, Sex and Survival," like Canned Heat itself, doesn't hold back or pull any punches.  Canned Heat drummer Fito de la Palma, with co-writers T.W. and Marlane McGarry, tells the whole story of his over three decades with the band.  The books subtitle aptly describes the story, which goes from the depths of rock & roll debauchery to the heights of success and the making of transcendental blues music.  At their peak they headlined over artists such as Santana, Three Dog Night, the Allman Brothers, B.B. King and Fats Domino.  They hit the Billboard charts between 1968 and '70 with major hits including "On the Road Again," "Going Up the Country," and " Let's Work Together."  This book is extremely well written and hard to put down.

     What makes this book of relevance to this website is that Fito de la Parra was born and raised in Mexico.  The book tells of his upbringing and his musical history in the early rock & roll history of Mexico.  He was a member of of popular bands such as Sparks, Los Holligans, Los Sinners, and Javier Batiz and The Finks.  Fito has also made a great documentary, not yet issued, on the history of rock & roll in Mexico called "Rock 'n' Roll Made in Mexico- From Evolution to Revolution."  Fito followed his dream by bringing his band to the United States in the early 60s pulling right up to the Sunset Strip at the beginning of its heyday.  They wound up playing major venues such as P.J.s and were making their mark in "the land of the gods."  That is until the band was deported when caught at a Greyhound bus station in Indio, California in 1965.  This didn't stop Fito and his dream.  He was soon back in the U.S. and by 1968 was a member of the pre-eminent white blues band in the world.  By 1970, Fito's former Mexican band mate, Tony de la Barreda became bassist for Canned Heat.  So for a few years you had two Mexicans in one of the biggest American bands in the world.  Who knew?

     Three founding members died along the way, Alan "Blind Own" Wilson in an apparent suicide in 1970 (age 27), Bob "Bear" Hite of a heart attack brought on by a drug overdose in 1981 (age 36), and Henry Vestine due to heart failure due to a lifetime of substance abuse in 1997 (age 52).  Fito, who is a survivor and very bright, now is owner of the name Canned Heat and is custodian of their present and future blues.  "Living the Blues" is available at book stores and at amazon.com at the link below.
 

 

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Mark Guerrero
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