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Willin' by Little Feat

Album: Little FeatReleased: 1970
  • This originally appeared on Little Feat's debut album, but the version that has become famous was recorded for the follow-up, Sailin' Shoes, in 1972. The original version has a faster tempo.
  • Guitarist/singer Lowell George wrote this before the group was even formed. The song is about a truck driver in the American southwest who makes some extra cash smuggling cigarettes and transporting illegals across the border from Mexico.
  • The opening line, in which the narrator describes himself as being "warped by the rain," originated in a conversation between George and drummer Richie Hayward. Hayward had used it to describe a rocking chair.
  • Before forming LIttle Feat, George was a member of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. It is probable that this song was a reason for his departure, due to its drug references in the chorus. It is known that his leaving had something to do with his drug use, which Zappa heavily frowned upon.
  • Although the band never had a charting single, this is arguably their best known song. They still play it at concerts, even though George passed away over 20 years ago. Guitarist Paul Barrere now sings it.
  • Linda Ronstadt recorded this on her 1975 album Heart Like A Wheel. While Ronstadt is certainly versatile, it's hard to imagine her at the wheel of a rig hauling freight (or contraband) across state lines.
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Comments: 21

I always appreciated Commander Cody and the lost Planet Airmen's version of this song. They liked to sing truck driven songs. Their 2nd album "Hot Licks, Cold Steel and Truckers favorites" had several truck driving songs. Willin' was on their 3rd or 4th album?Mike - Ca.
Am I the only one who thinks that Wagon Wheel seems a lot like this song, musically and thematically? I think it's just a coincidence -- but when I first heard Wagon Wheel I felt I had heard it before, then i realized it was because it reminds me of Willin.Jim - Usa
Paul UK, that's "weed, whites and wine". Wheat? Really? That's what you heard? Wheat is a crop, but not the kind he wants. Also...I suppose the lyric COULD mean a reference to a relatively unknown (White produced long haul trucks called Freightliners, I believe, so you didn't "drive a White") company...;-) but considering Lowell always claimed that Zappa kicked him out of the band when he showed it to him because of the drug reference, it's probably uppers.Jorma - Usa
With reference to the line from Willin' "Wheat, whites and wine". Lowell George was the absolute master of getting extra meaning out of his lyrics. I am sure that the "whites" referred to here COULD be some kind of uppers to keep the long haul driver going. But there used to be an American truck called a "White" so it could actually name the make of the vehicle in the song. After all - like it says in the chorus " I've driven every kinda rig (truck) that's ever been made......." Or could "Wheat" have been misheard for "Weed"? So that phrase gives you three "stimulants" (ahem!) in a row! And Lowell was the King of Alliteration where he would link similar sounding words like "Dallas Alice", "Wheat/Weed, whites and wine". Just genius!!!Paul - Uk
check out Steve Earle's version...it got me through a lot of Loooooooong haulsMichael - Buffalo, Ny
I once read an interview with Lowell that He woke up after a night in friends house, and someone mentioned,
"Isn't it funny how the chairs were warped by the rain" and that sorta started it all.
Aimo - Loimaa, Finland
Love this song- my interpretation is that this song is a metaphor for life- Life is weathering storms- they warp us and drive us. At some point or another we all find our Alice, the one who we see in the headlights, when we're missing that Alice. Life is often referred to as a journey- we all have our personal Tucsons, Tucumcaris, Tahachapis, and Tonapas. We go through life via different vehicles- like driving every type of rig that's ever been made. And sometimes we take shortcuts- the backroads, to not get weighed. And most of us need something to sustain us through that journey- weed, whites, and wine. And most importantly, through life's peaks and valleys, we're all willing to pick ourselves up and put one foot in front of the other....Mike - Columbus, Oh
I saw Feat three times, the last in Charlotte in '78. Few bands were as versatile or as good (or better!) live. Lowell was the greatest white blues singer ever. I mentioned this under "Dixie Chicken" and I'll do it again here. Go to youtube and type in "F Troop" the old tv series. There was an episode in which a traveling band comes to the Fort (forget the name) called "The Bedbugs." Lowell George and Richie Hayward are in the band. Lowell even has a few speaking lines. Check it out. HoyHoy!Rich - Hickory, Nc
I was blessed to be in College Park, UMD area in the '70's and be exposed to all the up and coming talent. Little Feat was our group's boogie band and when they played the Warner Theatre in '75, we had front aisle seats, so when Paul Barrierre (sp?)came out into the audience, me and my girl got to boogie with him while they sang Willin' and then went into ColdColdCold etc...It didn't get any better than that type of contact and comraderie. Damn right Linda and the ladies would back them up. You'd be surprised at the artists who sat in concert with this talent. God Bless Lowell George. Some fall before their time and we are the less for it. But I have the memories and the music makes'em clear. Rock and Roll 4ever! Gram Lowell, Janis etc....leading the Parade. Hooorah. Peace Out....The College Park KidFloyd Lamore - Collge Park Maryland, Fl
The song is sung well in "The Abyss - Special Edition":DBudoshi - Sandnessj√łen, Norway
Italian bicycle manufacturer Cinelli named one of their bikes after this song.
Another model of theirs is called Estrada (probably named after Little Feats bassplayer Roy Estrada.
Jacco - Amsterdam, Netherlands
It's also about prisons. Tucso, Tucumcari, Tehacapi and Tonopah, these names are all related to so-called "correctional facilities" albeit it also could be argued, "Well, they all start with a T!"...
But it's my favorite song, and the piano solo on "Waitin' For Columbus" is one of my favorite pieces of piano music...
Lars - Copenhagen,
None of you have a clue as to what this song is about. You have to understand intent, immersion, and toughness. And know how to party.Mike - New York, Ny
Willin' recently came up in a discussion about "definitive" versions of songs. Covers can sometimes be those versions (just ask Bob Dylan about Jimi Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower") and I think that Johnny Darrell's version of Willin' supremely captures Lowell George's intent when he wrote the song. It also, pre-dates Little Feat's version (as does The Byrd's). Darrell's take on it is pure country, a truck driving song, which would sound perfect coming out of a jukebox at your local VFW. Johnny Darrell is a relative unknown and he died in 1997 but he had a troubled heart and his versions of some great country songs will thrill those who seek him out. "SING IT LONESOME" on the Raven label is a great place to start (for Clarence White fans this is a must too).Vaughn - Boston, Ma
The band Seatrain does a great version of this song.Robin - Aurora, Mn
The Byrds recorded this song and it can be heard on the CD "Untitled/Unissued". It's a beautiful version of the song, with a typically late Byrds approach.Haaward - Bodoe, Norway
The Black Crows had did Willin' on their reunion tour of 2006.
I still feel the best version is the Waiting For Columbus double lp/cd one.
If young adults/ folks in there 20's knew about this song it would be played all the time. But that's the great thing about Little Feat they were a diamond in the rough - just flying under the radar (like one of their later album titles. Every major rock/country act loved them in the 70's. The Stones & Led Zep members really loved them and would go see them when ever they had the chance.For god sakes Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstat & EmmyLous Harris sang back up for the band!!!
Michael - Queens, Ny
This song was named one of CMT's 40 Greatest Country Road Songs.Julian - Oakland, Ar
I'm a singer/songwriter, have performed this song sporadically over the yrs, but was singing "Out on the road late last night I seen my pretty Alice, and every man likes Alice, Dallas Alice." So now I guess I'll try to adjust to singing "in every headlight Alice, Dallas Alice." Albeit, my version has a nice context to the song.Elizabeth - Shreveport, La
One of the great truck drivin' songs: "And I've been from Tuscon to Tucumcari / Tehachapi to Tonapah / Driven every kind of rig that's ever been made /
Driven the back roads so I wouldn't get weighed"
Andy - Chattanooga, Tn
Also Linda Ronstadt did an awesome job on it on Heart Like a Wheel.Dave - Pomeroy, Oh
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