Niagara native helps Canned Heat drummer pen his autobiography

Niagara native Marlena Mcgarry posed recently with her friend, Fito de la Parra, the drummer of Canned Heat who will be performing with his band Saturday when they headline at the Niagara Blues Festival. (Contributed)

As a teenager growing up in LaSalle in the '50s I never would have imagined that one day I'd be a co-author of "Living the Blues," the autobiography of Fito de la Parra, the drummer for Canned Heat, appearing this Saturday at the Niagara Falls Blues Festival. 

I first met Fito in the 1960s when I was living in Mexico City. My husband, a foreign correspondent with the news agency United Press International, was sent to cover the '68 Olympics and I was writing a nightclub column for the English language newspaper.

Fast forward to the 1970s: Fito moves to Los Angeles and joins Canned Heat and my husband is transferred from Montreal to LA where we got reacquainted over long motorcycle rides around southern California. Fito would tell us such funny, outrageous stories, we told him we'd help him write his autobiography. 

After the interview tapes were transcribed, we covered the walls of our hallway with long pieces of white paper so we could cut and paste the stories in chronological order, an idea my husband learned when he interviewed the authors of "Is Paris Burning." In addition, Fito also has a wonderful collection of scrapbooks and photo albums, which were very helpful.

Because Canned Heat was one of the original bands at Woodstock and their song "Going Up the Country" was the signature anthem of the event, interest in Fito and the band is constant. In fact, their music is frequently used in TV commercials, including one for GEICO, which airs constantly. I'm sure people at Blues Fest will be surprised at how many Canned Heat songs they recognize. I'm surprised the band has never been honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But Fito can take solace in the fact that "Living the Blues" may be made into a movie. It has been optioned by Mike Judge, the creator of the TV series "Beavis and Butt-Head," "King of the Hill," and the Emmy-winning "Silicon Valley," as well as the movies "Idiocracy" and "Office Space."

Because Canned Heat plays all over the world the book has been translated into French, German and Spanish.

As for me, who knew our move to Mexico so many years ago would result in such a wonderful rock and roll adventure.

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