Richie Hayward was an incredible drummer who quickly became admired for his deep groove and inventive drumming with the stylistically versatile and funky band Little Feat. He came to wider acclaim through his work as a session drummer for dozens of artists who sought the powerful yet creative approach he brought to every song. He was a master at choosing the perfect feel for a song, often playing with that subtle hint of swing that lay in that vast space between a triplet feel and a straight one. This New Orleans feel permeates much of his work, though he could play straight rock grooves as well as anyone. His recent death was an enormous blow to those who knew him, but also to the music community at large. In homage to him, let’s take a look at just of few of Hayward’s many great grooves.
“Cold, Cold, Cold”
This cool tune could turn practically anyone into a Little Feat fan. It was way ahead of its time in both the production and Hayward’s clever approach to the groove. There’s a gradual fade up of the drum groove that the engineer made sound cheesy via the EQ (like a drum machine), which leads into Hayward’s powerful drum fill. The groove itself is an interesting linear-sounding pattern that may remind some of us vaguely of Ringo Starr’s groove on “Ticket To Ride” or Tre Cool’s groove in Green Day’s “Wake Me When September Ends” due to the unusual snare accent played on the & of 3. The groove isn’t actually linear (one note at a time in sequence), but the way he ghosts the unaccented hi-hat notes certainly gives that impression. Also, some of the sixteenth bass drum notes have that light touch of swing applied to them.
Hayward’s mastery of the shuffle is well known to Little Feat fans, but the swinging intro to this tune and the way he sets up the hits proves he could have been a very capable big band drummer as well.
This track has one of those percolating second-line grooves that show Hayward’s great use of swing and dynamics and his ability to tailor his part to perfectly fit the accents in the song. The intro and verse have upbeat accents on all the &’s on his hi-hat, and snare accents on the ah’s of beats 1 and 3, which give the groove a leaning feel. He plays a lot of ghosted notes in this track on the snare and hi-hat but moves his snare accents to carefully emphasize the changing rhythms around him. The chorus, seen in line five, has a slightly straighter groove with the snare on 2, and again on the ah of 3. He continues to vary his snare part to fit the needs of the song.