Paul Barrere, Longtime Member of the Band Little Feat, Dies at 71


Paul Barrere, a guitarist, singer and songwriter best known for his long tenure with the rock band Little Feat, formed in 1969 and known for its distinctive blend of musical influences, died on Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 71.

The band announced his death, at U.C.L.A. Medical Center, on its website. No cause was given, but Mr. Barrere had learned a few years ago that he had liver cancer.

Little Feat never reached the upper echelons of rock stardom and never had a hit single. But it became a staple on album-oriented FM rock radio with infectious songs like “Dixie Chicken” and “Sailin’ Shoes,” and it attracted both critical acclaim and a fiercely loyal following.

The band’s sound was distinctive, if hard to categorize — it mixed, Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote in 1991, “New Orleans rhythm and blues, country, hard rock, and touches of funk and jazz.”

Mr. Barrere was not an original member; he had auditioned as a bassist when the band was being formed but was passed over for Roy Estrada — who, like the band’s lead singer, lead guitarist and chief songwriter, Lowell George, had worked with Frank Zappa. (The other original members were the keyboardist Bill Payne and the drummer Richie Hayward, who died in 2010.) “As a bassist,” Mr. Barrere later said, “I make an excellent guitarist.”

After Mr. Estrada left the band in 1972, it grew from a quartet to a sextet with the addition of Mr. Barrere on rhythm guitar and vocals as well as Kenny Gradney on bass and Sam Clayton on percussion. The reconstituted Little Feat incorporated a strong dose of New Orleans funk into what had been essentially a country-rock approach. The resulting sound, as captured on the new lineup’s first album, “Dixie Chicken” (1973), won the band a legion of new fans, although chart success remained elusive.

Mr. Barrere wrote or co-wrote some of Little Feat’s best-known songs, including “All That You Dream,” “Time Loves a Hero” and “Old Folks Boogie.” He occasionally sang lead, although Mr. George remained the band’s focal point. Mr. George died in 1979, and Little Feat broke up that year.

Mr. Barrere went on to work with the group the Bluesbusters and recorded two albums as a leader, but he was largely inactive until Little Feat reunited in 1987. To fill the gap left by Mr. George’s death, the band added two members, and Mr. Barrere began doing more of the lead singing and songwriting, as well as taking more of the guitar solos.

Little Feat has remained together ever since, with relatively few changes in personnel, and recently toured in celebration of its 50th anniversary. Mr. Barrere did not take part in the tour but had said that he hoped to rejoin the band next year.

Paul Barrere was born in Burbank, Calif., on July 3, 1948. His parents, Paul and Claudia Barrere, were actors who both worked under the professional name Bryar.

His survivors include his wife, Pam, and three children, Gabriel, Genevieve and Gillian.

“I think that the main thing about Little Feat,” Mr. Barrere told the website Best Classic Bands this year, “is that it’s been described as a musicians’ band. And the most important part of it is the music itself.”

Elaborating on the band’s freewheeling approach to improvisation, he added: “The opportunities are endless as far as soloing. The arrangements pretty much stay the same, but not exactly the same. I think it’s a testament to the fact that all the cats can play.”

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