From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The band that formed in Los Angeles in 1965. The group has been noted for its own interpretations of blues material as well as for efforts to promote the interest in this type of music and its original artists. It was launched by two blues enthusiasts, Alan Wilson and Bob Hite, who took the name from Tommy Johnson's 1928 "Canned Heat Blues", a song about an alcoholic who has desperately turned to drinking Sterno, generically called "canned heat". After appearances at Monterey and Woodstock, at the end of the '60s the band acquired worldwide fame with a lineup consisting of Bob Hite, vocals, Alan Wilson guitar, harmonica and vocals, Henry Vestine (or Harvey Mandel) on lead guitar, Larry Taylor on bass, and Adolfo ('Fito') de la Parra on drums.
The music and attitude of Canned Heat afforded them a large following and established the band as one of the popular acts of the hippie era. Canned Heat appeared at most major musical events at the end of the '60s and they were able to deliver on stage electrifying performances of blues standards and their own material and occasionally to indulge into lengthier 'psychedelic' solos. Two of their songs - "Going up the Country" and "On the Road Again" - became international hits; both were re-workings of obscure blues. At the time all their albums were released for worldwide distribution.
Since the early '70s numerous personnel changes have occurred and today, in the fifth decade of the band's existence, Fito de la Parra is the only member from the "classic" 1960s lineup. He has written a book about the band's career. Larry Taylor, whose presence in the band has not been steady, is the other surviving member from the earliest lineups. Harvey Mandel, Walter Trout and Junior Watson are among the guitarists who gained notoriety for playing in later editions of the band. British blues pioneer John Mayall has frequently found musicians for his band among former Canned Heat members.