Canned Heat lights up three nights in Park City
Canned Heat 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 11 and Saturday, Jan. 12; 6 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 13 The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Friday tickets range from $29 to $45. Saturday and Sunday tickets range from $35 to $55 parkcityshows.com
Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra has spent 52 years of his life playing drums for Canned Heat.
He looks back at his career, which included playing the original Woodstock festival 50 years ago, with gratitude.
“I’m amazed,” the 73-year-old said. “I’m thankful I still have the physical capability to play and perform.”
Canned Heat — featuring de la Parra, bassist Larry “The Mole” Taylor, singer and guitarist Dale Spaulding and guitarist John Paulis — will bring its trademark blues to Park City for three nights starting Friday, Jan. 11, at the Egyptian Theatre.
De la Parra promised that audiences will hear the hit “Going Up the Country,” which landed a prominent scene in Michael Wadleigh’s “Woodstock” documentary.
“‘Going Up the Country’ felt like it was made for Woodstock, because people needed to go up to the country to Max Yasgur’s farm in the Catskills Mountains from New York City,” he said. “It was great we were part of it. I have to say I’m very grateful.”
Other familiar songs on the setlist will include “On the Road Again” and “Let’s Work Together.”
“It’s been interesting because the past year, ‘Going Up the Country’ was on the Geico insurance commercial, and Amazon is using our song, ‘Let’s Work Together’ for their commercial,” de la Parra said. “That’s great. It keeps the band’s presence in people’s minds. Of course, some people don’t know the band, but they know that song from Woodstock.”
While de la Parra has enjoyed playing Canned Heat’s music throughout the years, he has also experienced some dark times in that span.
“Canned Heat has been a very unlucky band, and we’ve had sort of a black cloud over us,” he said. “That has to do with a lack of recognition and tragedy. We probably have experienced more band member deaths than other bands. That’s nothing to be proud of, but it is just part of our history.”
Original guitarists Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson and Henry “The Sunflower” Vestine died in 1970 and 1997, respectively.
Original singer Bob “The Bear” Hite, meanwhile, died in 1981. And original harmonicist James Thornbury died in 2017.
“We’re a band that had, and has, so much talent,” he said. “All of our members are brilliant, but many of them had restless souls. They abused their bodies, and many of them died before they were supposed to.”
Most of the deaths and other parts of the band’s history are recorded in de la Parra’s book, “Living the Blues: Canned Heat’s Story of Music, Drugs, Death, Sex and Survival,” which was first published in 2000. Now on its fourth print, the self-published book, written by de la Parra with T.W. and Marlene McGarry, has been translated into Spanish, French and German.
“My co-writers are both professional journalists, and they got me into it,” de la Parra said. “We would ride motorcycles together and when we took breaks for lunch, they asked for Canned Heat stories. One time I got them on the floor laughing, and they said, ‘We need to make a book with you.’ So with their help, the book came out great.”
Working on the book was therapeutic for the drummer.
“Marlene recorded six hours of interviews with me, so it was like I was going to therapy,” he said with a laugh. “I sat down with her and talked about my life. Some of it was painful to relive the deaths of my friends. But sometimes it was fun. It was all very intense to relive the 45 years of the band.”
The book also caught the eye of filmmaker Mike Judge, de la Parra said. Judge is known for, among other things, comedic works like the animated “King of the Hill,” the 1999 film “Office Space” and, currently, the HBO comedy “Silicon Valley.”
“Last year, I signed an agreement with Mike to make a movie from the book,” he said. “I like Mike a lot. He’s very talented and he is also a musician. Hopefully, we can get something started because I don’t have a lot of time left.”
The road to de la Parra’s nearly 60-year music career started in Mexico City, where his father introduced him to jazz and swing.
“He liked American music and American culture and would take me to movies about American musicians,” de la Parra said. “I saw movies about Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa — all of these famous jazz musicians.”
De la Parra’s father also brought him an array of musical instruments.
“I had guitars, an accordion and a trumpet, and I actually made myself a drum set out of cardboard boxes and cookie tins,” he said.
When he was 13, de la Parra formed a garage band with his friends.
“We were kids who didn’t have an education in music, and we had only one amplifier and plugged all the instruments into it,” he said. “We had a piano and put a couple of microphones in the piano, and plugged that into the amplifier as well.”
De la Parra’s drum set included a military snare drum and a cymbal made from a the top of a standing tube ashtray.
“When my dad realized I was going to be a musician, he used to make fun of me, because he never expected me to do that,” de la Parra said. “He would say, ‘Are you going to play when you have gray hair,’ and things like that. Too bad he’s gone. It would be fun to think of him seeing me now, at 73, still playing drums.”
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