April 06, 2022

Outsider Radio Episode #85

AIR DATE: March 2022

SHOW THEME: Little Feat

ERIC: Hey everybody, it’s Eric Church back for the eighty-fifth episode of “Outsiders Radio.”  We continue to “gather again” all over the country. This leg of the tour is taking us through the southwest, with shows in Arkansas, Texas, and New Orleans. 

In addition to the Gather Again tour, I’ve been doing a few special events that come up from time to time.  We recently played the White House and the Hall of Fame Medallion ceremony, which we documented in this show.  A couple weeks ago, I was invited to be part of a show in Nashville headlined by the legendary band Little Feat.  In this edition of Outsiders Radio, we’ll hear from the band’s co-founder and keyboard player Bill Payne, who explains the Waiting For Columbus 45th anniversary tour.

Bill - The concept for the Waiting For Columbus tour is relatively simple. It’s not replicating the Waiting for Columbus album, which was a live album, for those who don’t know, and it was rated as one of the top live albums of all time. By that designation it was a pretty heavy thing to have a new incarnation of Little Feat and bring that into the competitive sphere. When you march out something like that, the audience has an expectation, because of the notoriety of that record, will it translate, are they gonna love it, and they do. With Eric, we brought him in with other artists to help celebrate that record in Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium, and we had PBS document that as a special. So it’s a pretty good way to start a tour I think.

The original “Waiting For Columbus” album was recorded by Little Feat at a series of shows in London and Washington DC back in the summer of 1977.  The show NOW begins exactly as it did 45 years ago, with a recording of the original band singing the traditional song “Join The Band.”

Bill - That intro is perfect for setting the tone of the evening. It starts out with Lowell, and us as younger guys, and singin’ that tune. When I heard that the first time, going back 45 years, the hair on my arms stood up.  I just think there’s electricity in that intro that sets the mood for the evening, they’re in for a good ride, and I felt like if it’s givin’ me some chills it’s givin’ them some chills as well.


That is Little Feat from their live album Waiting For Columbus.  The band is celebrating the 45th anniversary of that album with a special tour, and I was part of the Nashville show a few weeks ago.  There were a few other special guests there that night, including Jeff Hanna, a founder of the legendary Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  Little Feat co-founder Bill Payne has known Jeff for over 50 years.

Bill - Jeff was one of the first people I met in Los Angeles, even before I met Lowell George.  It would have been 68 or 67. I’m trying to think of the club, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was there. Jeff was really nice, and we just had him & his band join us in Jamaica, we’ve always hit it off, he’s such a great guy, I love his band and his sensibility, so that was cool.

A couple songs from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  Their co-founder, Jeff Hanna, was part of Little Feat’s recent Waiting For Columbus 45th anniversary show in Nashville.  We’re hearing from Little Feat co-founder Bill Payne.  That night, Jeff Hanna joined the band for one of their big hits Sailin’ Shoes. 

Bill - There’s a few different arrangements of that tune, it’s a blues song essentially.  Most bands have one iconic image that they’ll throw out. Little Feat has two.  One of them is the sailin’ shoe itself, from the album, which takes the notion of put on your sailin’ shoes, let’s have a party.  The other one is the album we were celebrating, which is Waiting For Columbus.  The thing that was waiting for Columbus in a hammock is a tomato, which Columbus apparently discovered. So we have the tomato lady and the sailin’ shoe, and these images can really stand on their own, they can be combined, but it also is Little Feat.

Little Feat with one of their signature songs from their Waiting For Columbus album.  The band’s co-founder Bill Payne is our guest on Outsiders Radio.  Their first hit song, from 50 years ago, was a song called “Willin.’”

Bill - It’s one of those tunes, it is an anthem. When Lowell wrote it, it was a year before I joined the band, it was more of a country almost a parody, is what it sounded like to me. It’s on the first album, if folks want to listen to it. I would direct people to listen to what we did on “Sailin’ Shoee.” We turned it into more of a traditional country song. But it’s that lure of it, that romantic notion of truckers, and I gotta be someplace, I’m willin’ to be there, count me in, and it’s a wonderful tune.

That song has been covered by a lot of people including Linda Ronstadt and Miranda Lambert, but that’s the band that first made it famous: Little Feat.  I’m Eric Church and I had a chance to sit in with Little Feat a few weeks ago.  The band was celebrating the 45th anniversary of their album Waiting For Columbus at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. Here’s Little Feat co-founder Bill Payne.

Bill - I was not familiar with Eric Church. Scott Sherrard, who’s one of our lead singers and plays guitar, had worked with Eric on some projects. So I gave a brief listen and he was fabulous. We knew he was doing Dixie Chicken, so that’s how that came about. Great musician, he’s got that connection with the people on stage, and the audience, and especially the song. But huge thanks to him from Little Feat, especially from me, I want to thank him from the bottom of my heart, for joining us in this celebration. He’s welcome on stage with us anytime. Much love to him, so thank you Eric, we appreciate it.

Little Feat’s Waiting For Columbus 45th anniversary tour continues through the fall.  Our guest has been Little Feat co-founder and piano player Bill Payne. You may not know this, but in addition to Little Feat, Bill has a few “side gigs.” Among them: Playing piano for The Doobie Brothers.

Bill - Last few years I was intersecting with the two bands.  Last October, I told them I’m not gonna be able to tour with you guys, because we got this big tour with Little Feat coming up.  We’re still dear friends with each other in that band. Pat Simmons just called me last night. The bonds of affection are still there with the Doobie Brothers & me, also between the Doobie Brothers & Little Feat. Hopefully we can combine the two bands into some sort of extravaganza, we’ll see if that happens.

The Doobie Brothers with one of their hits: Black Water.  Our guest is Little Feat co-founder Bill Payne, who occasionally plays piano with the Doobie Brothers.  He has also played on a lot of records by other stars including Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, and Bob Seger.

Bill - I love Seger myself, he’s incredible. The one Seger tune I bet Eric likes that I played on is a Rodney Crowell song is Shame On The Moon, and that I remember quite well.

The piano solo in that song is by our guest on Outsiders Radio this week: Bill Payne of Little Feat.  I played with them a couple weeks ago for a special show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.  At 9:30 that night I played Dixie Chicken at the Ryman, and about a half hour later, I was a few blocks away at Bridgestone Arena, joining Morgan Wallen for a couple songs.  Back at the Ryman, Bill Payne was aware of our busy night.

Bill - I was, I thought that was pretty interesting.  I’ve been in that boat myself. I could be playing with the Doobie Brothers in front of thousands of people, then play with Little Feat in a club, so it was a similar thing. That’s what I liked about Eric. He loves to play. That shows me somebody who loves music, not afraid to put it out there, I think that’s the right attitude for him to sit in with Little Feat, and he more than claimed ownership of that place on stage, I’ll put it that way, it was great.

My thanks to Little Feat co-founder Bill Payne for being our guest on Outsiders Radio.  We played Dixie Chicken with those guys at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, and a half hour later, we were on the stage of the Bridgestone Arena.  That’s where Morgan Wallen was playing the second of three sold out nights.  We played two songs that night: Smoke a Little Smoke, as well as a song I wrote called Quittin’ Time that Morgan recorded on his album Dangerous.

Morgan - Yeah I’m truly honored, I’m obviously a huge fan of Eric Church, I’ve spoken about it from the time I’ve been in this industry how much of a hero he is to me. So having him allow me to sing a song he’s a writer on is truly one of my favorite accomplishments I’ve had so far.

As we wrap up this edition of Outsiders Radio, I want to mention that Morgan Wallen will be joining us for our second stadium show this summer.  We’re calling it “One Hell of a Night in Minneapolis.”  It’s at the US Bank Stadium on June 11.  In addition to Morgan, we’ll also have Ernest on the show.  As it turns out, Ernest & Morgan have a song out right now.  I’m Eric Church, see you next time on Outsiders Radio.