Foghat's Journey From Pubs to Platinum
● By Phil Reser
Drummer BoyMay 2016
Story by Phil Reser
Photo by Mike Ricciardi
Rock ‘n' roller Roger Earl has been pounding the drums for more than four decades – first with the English blues-rock band, Savoy Brown, and then with the American boogie rock group, Foghat.
“The very first big concert that I ever went to see was Jerry Lee Lewis when I was 12 or 13 years old,” he says. “And I said to myself, ‘I want to be up there on that stage.’
“Then, I got some Little Richard records and shortly after that, discovered Chuck Berry. He was never off my turntable. Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker were next. That's how I got started with the blues. It was my first musical love.”
In the late 1960s, Earl, guitarist Lonesome Dave Peverett and bassist Tony Stevens were members of Savoy Brown.
“I was about 20 years old when I joined the band,” he says. “It was a great time to be around music in Britain. We were all playing the pubs and clubs just learning our craft. There was a lot of speculation as to what a bunch of white kids from London had to do with people from Detroit playing the blues. But it was something we loved. As Muddy once said, it moved me.”
He was earning about $25 a week, usually working three or four nights. “I was a commercial artist at the time and quite bored with sitting and drawing black and white lines all day. All I wanted to do is play in a band.”
In 1971, the three of them left Savoy Brown and formed Foghat with guitarist Rod Price.
They wanted to take the sound of Savoy Brown a step further, and add more of a rock edge to their basic boogie blues.
Says Earl, “We had been borrowing and listening to the blues masters long enough and it was time for us to go out and do something with our own signature on it.”
The three moved to the United States, signing a record contract with Bearsville Records, a label run by Albert Grossman.
They recorded their first self-titled LP and began touring relentlessly for the next 14 years, being rewarded with eight gold, a platinum and a double-platinum record.
Their “Fool for the City” album contained the trademark Top 40 hit “Slow Ride,” and cemented their place as one of the world’s top rock acts.
“Our band was always a great band playing live. I remember promoter Bill Graham, who helped us out, saying one time, ‘I think these guys like to play more than they like to breathe.’
“It was so great to be playing at that time,” he says. “The venues were so varied back then. We would play shows with acts like the Buddy Rich Big Band, Albert King and Santana.”
One of Earl’s greatest memories is when he got a chance to play with Muddy Waters, Otis Blackwell, Honey Boy Edwards, John Lee Hooker, Paul Butterfield and Johnny Winter, when Foghat did a blues tribute show in New York at the Palladium in 1977.
“We were working on our Stone Blues album and we found out that the New York Public Library didn’t have a good archive of the blues, so the idea came up that maybe we should do a benefit to build up a history collection on the American blues. We were doing very well and it was a small gesture on our part to give something back.”
By the mid 1980s, punk was forcing rock music into a transition period, Peverett went back to England while Earl carried on as Foghat with the other members, after a year playing as the Knee Tremblers.
In 1998, Peverett was diagnosed with kidney cancer, but kept touring with the band into the next year. Rod Price left the band and slide guitarist Bryan Bassett took his place.
After Peverett passed away in 2000, guitarist and vocalist Charlie Huhn came on board. And In 2005, they brought back previous Foghat member, bassist Craig MacGregor.
Since 2003, the band has produced three CD’s, Family Joules, Live II, Last Train Home and a new DVD, Live in St. Pete.
Saturday, May 28 • Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico