Canned Heat’s legendary front man Bob “The Bear” Hite passed away on April 5, 19…

Written by on April 5, 2018

Canned Heat’s legendary front man Bob “The Bear” Hite passed away on April 5, 1981. Bob was the lead singer of the blues-rock band, Canned Heat, from 1965 to his death in 1981.

Canned Heat came together when Bob was introduced to Alan Wilson by Henry Vestine and the two of them helped convince blues pianist Sunnyland Slim (1906-1995) to get back into the recording studio to record. In 1965, aged 22, Hite formed a band with Wilson. Vestine joined soon after and this trio formed the core of Canned Heat. The trio were eventually joined by Larry Taylor (bass) and Frank Cook (drums).

We don’t know how many of you will remember, or are old enough too, when Canned Heat appeared on a November 1969 episode of Playboy After Dark. Bob was invited to talk with Hugh Hefner after the performance, along with other guests Sonny and Cher, Vic Damone, Dick Shawn and Larry Storch. A 20-year-old Lindsay Wagner, playing the part of one of Hefner’s party guests, sat on Hite’s lap and played a party game. When asked by Hefner what kind of animal Hite would be if he were an animal, Wagner claimed he’d be a bear. Hite told her she got it right, that people called him “The Bear.” It was also on this episode that Hite informed Hugh Hefner that he had over 15,000 78s.

Hite performed with Canned Heat at Woodstock in August 1969. The performances were not included in the original (1970) film Woodstock, but are in the 1994 “Director’s Cut” version.

Bob produced the John Lee Hooker/Canned Heat album, Hooker ‘N Heat in 1971..

On April 5, 1981, during a break between sets at The Palomino Club in North Hollywood, CA, Hite was handed a drug vial by a fan. Thinking it contained cocaine, Hite stuck a straw into the vial and snorted it. The drug turned out to be heroin and Hite turned blue and collapsed. Some roadies put Hite in the band’s van and drove him to a nearby home where he died.

We lost one of the greats, 37 years ago today. We do wonder if the person who gave him the heroin got in any trouble for that. We would think you would want someone to know. It is possible that the person who handed Bob the vile didn’t know, but not likely.

RIP Bob. Thanks for the music. One day we’ll all see you again up in the country.

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