Paul Barrere, a singer-songwriter and guitarist for the eclectic band Little Feat, which mixed California rock with New Orleans funk over a half-century of extended jams and fiery performances, died Oct. 26 at a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 71.

His band confirmed the death in a statement and said he was being treated for liver disease, which forced him to miss a 50th anniversary tour that ended the day after his death. Mr. Barrere, who had battled hepatitis C and was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2015, was planning to rejoin Little Feat next year at its annual festival in Jamaica.

Formed in Los Angeles in 1969, Little Feat cultivated a jazzy, blues-inflected sound that was initially presided over by singer, songwriter and slide guitarist Lowell George, whose small feet inspired the band’s name.

AD
AD

Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page called Little Feat his favorite American band, and while the group never had a chart-topping hit, it maintained a devoted following — especially in Washington, where its records sometimes outsold the Grateful Dead and Rolling Stones. Their sole Top20 album, “Waiting for Columbus” (1978), was partly recorded at Lisner Auditorium in the District and later ranked 49th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 50 greatest live albums.

Mr. Barrere, who sometimes spelled his last name Barrère, was not an original member of the band. He first auditioned as a bassist, while George was searching for someone to play the instrument, and joined as a guitarist in time for the band’s breakthrough third album, “Dixie Chicken” (1973). “As a bassist,” he cracked, “I make an excellent guitarist.”

Although he had initially focused on the blues, picking up the guitar after listening to guitarist and harmonicist Jimmy Reed as a 12-year-old, Mr. Barrere expanded into jazz, country and pop, sometimes playing slide guitar. He also wrote or co-wrote many of the group’s songs, including “Walkin’ All Night,” “All That You Dream,” “Time Loves a Hero,” “Old Folks Boogie” and “Down on the Farm.”

AD
AD

In addition to George, a cannonball of a singer who had previously performed with Frank Zappa in the Mothers of Invention, Little Feat’s original lineup featured keyboardist Bill Payne, drummer Richie Hayward and bassist Roy Estrada, who had also played with Zappa and was succeeded by Kenny Gradney beginning with “Dixie Chicken.”

Notable deaths in 2019: Elijah Cummings, Cokie Roberts, Toni Morrison and others we have lost this year

shareShare
John Witherspoon | Actor-comedian John Witherspoon, who memorably played Ice Cube’s father in the “Friday” films, has died. He was 77. The actor had a prolific career, co-starring in three “Friday” films, appearing on “The Wayans Bros.” television series and voicing the grandfather in “The Boondocks” animated series. His film roles included “Vampire in Brooklyn” and “Boomerang,” and he was a frequent guest on “Late Show with David Letterman.” Read the obituary (Charles Sykes/AP)

That album also marked the band’s first record with percussionist and singer Sam Clayton, and it was followed by “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” (1974), recorded near Baltimore at Blue Seas Recording Studio. The group completed three more records before disbanding in 1979, shortly before George’s death at 34 amid escalating drug and alcohol use.

“In my personal life, I was about this far behind Lowell, and if I didn’t watch it, I was going to the same place he was,” Mr. Barrere told The Washington Post in 1988. “But you couldn’t have told me that at the time, because I was wild and crazy and ready to go.”

AD
AD

Mr. Barrere performed with blues musician Catfish Hodge in the bands Chicken Legs and the Bluesbusters, and cut a pair of solo albums before Little Feat reunited with the 1988 album “Let It Roll.” He took on a more prominent role as a songwriter and singer that lasted through the group’s latest studio album, “Rooster Rag” (2012).

“When we do get together and we play these songs, it always brings the best out in you because you bring into it whatever you’ve been doing in the meantime,” Mr. Barrere told the website Best Classic Bands earlier this year, noting that Little Feat had acquired a reputation as a “musicians’ band.” “The opportunities are endless as far as soloing. . . . I think it’s a testament to the fact that all the cats can play.”

The youngest of three sons, Paul Barrere was born July 3, 1948, in Burbank, Calif., and attended Hollywood High School with George. His parents were film and television actors who performed under the names Paul and Claudia Bryar.

AD
AD

On his first rock-and-roll tour, promoting “Dixie Chicken,” Mr. Barrere was dismayed to find that Little Feat’s album was not being stocked at record stores. “In Atlanta, we all had to put on busboy outfits and Lowell put on a chicken suit, and we went around to radio stations handing out boxes of chicken that said on them, ‘Dixie Chicken — Finger Pickin’ Good,’ ” he recalled in the liner notes to the band’s 1981 compilation album “Hoy-Hoy!”

“It was strange, funny and degrading,” he added.

Mr. Barrere recorded or performed with artists including Carly Simon, Valerie Carter, Chico Hamilton, Phil Lesh and Bonnie Raitt, and in recent years he toured with fellow Little Feat guitarist Fred Tackett as a duo.

AD

An early marriage ended in divorce, and in 1988 he married Pam Ruhl. In addition to his wife, survivors include their three children, Gabriel, Genevieve and Gillian Barrere, and a brother.

AD

“We’ve never been a band that plays the songs the same way twice,” Mr. Barrere told the website JamBase in February. “Every song is a gem, we feel, and we leave ourselves spaces within the songs to improvise. To me, that means space to be a musician. So that’s what we think is important, not play the same songs the same length every night and fire up the wind machine to blow your hair back — although my hair has left me.”

AD
AD