Little Rock native Fred Tackett, who will be performing Friday, Oct. 7, at the Ozark Folk Festival in Eureka Springs, gained fame in the late 1980s as a member of reformed rockers Little Feat, but he has been recording for decades with countless acts. In fact, Tackett played on Feat albums going back to 1973’s “Dixie Chicken,” and also wrote songs.
Tackett started out on trumpet and drums before learning the guitar. Along Ninth Street, the business/entertainment district for the capital city’s black community, he listened and subbed in bands. “The law in Little Rock,” he said, “was white people couldn’t play in the same bands as black people, and vice versa. Of course, I was in a band with two black guys and two white guys. We just were constantly getting in trouble.”
Tackett gave fellow Hall High alum Robert Palmer, who went on to write for the New York Times and Rolling Stone, his first nightclub gig. At the beginning of Palmer’s 1995 book “Rock & Roll: An Unruly History” — a companion to a PBS series to which Palmer was chief adviser — he wrote of Tackett and another musician, “They were vastly more experienced than I was, and seldom let me forget it.” Tackett describes playing a “funky little place” on Little Rock’s outskirts with Palmer: “You had to play all the different styles. [Palmer] was pointing out how that sort of became rock ’n’ roll. Trying to make people in the bar happy. ... You went through different kinds of music and amalgamated them.”
After getting “saved from probably getting arrested in Little Rock by going away to college in Texas,” Tackett gigged his way to Hawaii and met successful songwriter Jimmy Webb in a club. Webb, then 21, asked him to come to Los Angeles and join his band.
By the 1970s, Tackett was sessioning with Arkansan Glen Campbell, who made Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” a hit. Tellingly, Tackett appeared on three albums with future Little Feat bandmates — besides recording with Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, Rod Stewart, Boz Scaggs and others. “Ninety percent of the time, I was playing acoustic guitar,” Tackett says of his sessions.
Tackett toured with, and appeared on, a pair of Bob Dylan’s Christian-oriented albums — 1980’s “Saved” and 1981’s “Shot of Love.” Tackett could also be heard through the decade with artists as diverse as Dolly Parton, the Carpenters, Ringo Starr, Neil Diamond and Lionel Richie. In the 1990s, he continued his Feat duties and sessioned with such heavy-hitters as Fleetwood Mac and Willie Nelson.
About a year ago, he returned to live in Arkansas part-time in Eureka Springs: “I live in the country in Los Angeles, because I live in Topanga Canyon ... and I moved to Arkansas to live in the city. I can walk down to the galleries and the coffee shops. Where I live in California doesn’t have anything.”
In 2003, Tackett released his first solo disc, “In a Town Like This,” on Little Feat’s Hot Tomato Records. “There’s just a soulful feeling about late at night out there in the woods in Arkansas, by the river and stuff. It’s hard to pinpoint; I think we captured some of that in the music.”
“You’re in My Heart,” Rod Stewart
“What Was It You Wanted?” Willie Nelson
“In a Town Like This,” Fred Tackett