Little Feat, “Rock And Roll Doctor”

Written by December 6th, 2010 at 11:19 am

A 1973 Warner Brothers publicity photo of the band.

By 1974, when Little Feat’s Feats Don’t Fail Me Now was released, tensions within the band were starting to surface. The band’s leader Lowell George had begun collaborating with non-band member Martin Kibbee (credited as Fred Martin) and the pair penned the album’s lead cut, “Rock And Roll Doctor.” George and Kibbee, who had attended Hollywood High School in Los Angeles together, had also co-written “Dixie Chicken” for Little Feat’s 1973 album of the same name. After high school, they formed a garage-punk outfit called The Factory, penning goofy songs like “Lightning Rod Man,” equal parts zany-Zappa and fast-and-loose Stones. On “Rock And Roll Doctor,” George and Kibbee employ a similar technique as the trucker anthem “Willin’,” name-dropping cities like Mobile, Moline, Nagodoches and New Orleans in the song’s verse.

As to the musical side of the song, in an interview last year with American Songwriter at MerleFest, Little Feat member Paul Barrere discussed how George often used tape splicing in the studio as a compositional tool, a trick he learned from Frank Zappa. “Lowell used to do this thing with cassette tapes where he would take the tape and cut and splice it together, not knowing what was going to happen,” recalled Barrere. “[On ‘Rock And Roll Doctor’] there was like a couple of measures that were 3 1/2 beats instead of 4 beats and he would hand the tape to [keyboardist] Billy [Payne] and say, ‘Normalize this.’ I think within the framework of the verse there’s a 6/4 measure, which is probably why we didn’t get a whole lot of airplay on jukeboxes. If people try to dance to it, it’s like they’re on the wrong foot!” Sadly, arguments over the direction of Little Feat eventually led to the band’s demise in 1978, and George died in 1979. “He was fantastic, an incredible songwriter. A wonderful singer, great player. And, just an enigma of a man,” recalled Barrere. “It was always this sort of love-hate relationship going on, mood swings that I attribute to the times, and what we were doing in those times.”-DAVIS INMAN

“Rock And Roll Doctor”

There was a woman in Georgia didn’t feel just right
She had fever all day and chills at night
Now things got worse, yes a serious bind
At times like this it takes a man with such style I cannot often find
A doctor of the heart and a doctor of mind

If you like country with a boogie beat, he’s the man to meet
If you like the sound of shufflin’ feet, he can’t be beat
If you wanna feel real nice, just ask the rock and roll doctor’s advice

It’s just a country town but patients come
From Mobile to Moline from miles around
Nagodoches to New Orleans
In beat-up old cars or in limousines
To meet the doctor of soul, he’s got his very own thing

Two degrees in be-bop, a PHD in swing
He’s the master of rhythm, he’s a rock and roll king

If you like country with a boogie beat, he’s the man to meet
(He’s the man to meet)
If you like the sound of shufflin’ feet, he can’t be beat
(I say he can’t be beat)
If you wanna feel real nice, just ask the Rock And Roll doctor’s advice

Written by Lowell George and Fred Martin

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