Something Else! Interview: Co-founding Foghat drummer Roger Earl

Formed in 1971 in London, England, Foghat ultimately became one of the hottest acts of the 1970s, and their phenomenal success spilled directly into the 1980s, as well.

Throughout their livelihood, Foghat recorded more than a dozen albums for the Bearsville/Warner Bros. banner and produced a string of memorable Top 40 hits — including “Slow Ride,” “Drivin’ Wheel,” “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” “Stone Blue” and “Third Time Lucky (First Time I Was a Fool).”

“Not that I have anything against Carole King, because I really do think she is a great songwriter, but when we first started playing people like her and James Taylor were real popular, so a group like Foghat couldn’t get arrested,” says founding Foghat drummer Roger Earl. “We were sort of like four maniacs coming alive right there in your living room, and nobody wanted to bother with us! But then Albert Grossman from Bearsville Records was looking for an English rock and roll band, so he came out to hear us play at a club one night. We played five or six songs for him, ate some crumpets and drank some tea, drove him back to his hotel room — and that was that. He signed us to his record label!”

By late in 1982, however, Foghat had endured a disappointing demise.

“We had problems with management,” Earl says, “but we all decided that it was time to take a break, anyway. I didn’t even play my drums for about two and half years after that. But then, a promoter friend of mine was getting a jam band together, and he asked us to play. The only qualification needed to join the group was that you were famous once! So, for about nine months, I played in this jam band that had a lot of different people in it at different times, like Jon Butcher (Johanna Wild, Jon Butcher Axis, Barefoot Servants) and the sessions guitarist Elliott Randall (Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers, Carl Wilson, Peter Wolf). But then everybody had other projects to do and albums to make, so we just stopped playing. I thought it was a lot of fun playing in a group again though, so I went and put together the Knee Tremblers — which was actually three-fourths of Foghat. And since almost everybody in the band was Foghat, we just decided to go ahead and call ourselves Foghat again.”

Fast forward to today, and the band now includes Craig MacGregor, who followed Nick Jameson after founding bassist Tony Stevens left; Bryan Bassett, the former Molly Hatchet sideman who replaced original lead/slide guitarist Rod Price; and vocalist Charlie Huhn (Humble Pie, Ted Nugent, Victory), who succeeded the late Lonesome Dave Peverett. Foghat released a double CD called Foghat Live II in 2007, to mark the 30th anniversary of their seminal concert recording Foghat Live, and have seen their songs included in a series of recent major motion pictures, including “Dazed and Confused,” “Wild Hogs” and “Halloween II,” among others.

They are currently running a contest where fans are invited to compose lyrics for Foghat’s only instrumental, “495 Boogie” from 2010’s studio effort Last Train Home. Foghat will then select the winning entry, and re-record the song with these new lyrics for release as a single.

And, as has been the case more often than not since the early 1970s, Foghat is touring incessantly. They’ve appeared this fall with the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Canned Heat on a tour dubbed “Blues Balls of Fire,” and already have dates set in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona through March of 2013. Foghat will appear, too, with an impressive list of guest artists on the 2013 Rock Legends Cruise II, which departs January 10, 2013 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Also slated to perform on board: Foreigner, Paul Rodgers, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Kansas, Bachman and Turner, 38 Special, the Blue Oyster Cult, Molly Hatchet and the Marshall Tucker Band, among others.

Earl says he’s noticed a growing number youthful fans in those audiences who weren’t even alive at the time of Foghat’s debut.

“Yeah, we do have a lot of young kids coming to the shows,” Earl says, “and they tell us that their parents have all of our old records!”

No matter the year, no matter the venue, you can be assured however that Foghat will return to the core blues sounds that first drove their career, as confirmed by the foursome’s regular utilization of a chilling slide guitar tastefully meshed with dirty, pulsating rhythms. Earl, who before co-founding Foghat was a member of another boogie-fried outfit called Savoy Brown, says the blues intrigued him from the first.

“I belonged to a record club when I was about 12 years old, and every month they would send you a sheet of paper advertising records,” he remembers. “To order, you would just check off the records you wanted with a pencil and send the sheet of paper back to them with the money. So, I’d see people like Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker advertised and think: ‘Wow! Those guys must be pretty good with great names like that!’ I ordered all of their records, and I was rarely disappointed.”

Earl says he learned something back then that’s stuck with him, too, through Foghat’s many twists and turns.

“My older brother, who played piano, always told me that anything played with more than three chords has to be viewed with a certain amount of suspicion,” Earl says. “Foghat is a rock and roll band and we play typical record and roll songs. Our inspirations derive from doing it, having had just done it, thinking about doing it, thinking about doing it again, doing it again and driving in cars and doing it. We just refuse to grow up — and all of us still wear short trousers!”

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 on the national charts with "Stand By Me" - which is ironically one of her favorite songs, especially the version by John Lennon. She has also contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as associate editor of Rock Beat International. Paterson's own publications have included Inside Out, and Twist And Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.