Foghat was responsible for some of the greatest anthems of the classic rock period. Despite lineup changes, the band has always hit the road and brought a high-energy show to their fans. Founding member Roger Earl recently joined me to talk about the new live Foghat record, 8 Days on the Road, and the 50th anniversary of this seminal classic rock band.
Please press the PLAY icon for the MisplacedStraws.com Conversation with Foghat drummer Roger Earl –
On why the band chose this particular show for their live record – It’s a really cool room. We normally get a chance to play in small rooms. We usually do festivals or theaters, stuff like that but this came up. We were doing a four-day run on a drive-thru, within 300 miles of each other. We had a sprinter van, it’s kind of nice. So by the time we got there, we were ready and we were also kind of tied because you don’t get too much sleep in the van, but it was a really cool-sounding room. It’s all wood, which is great for guitars and drums particularly and the people there are really, really cool. If anybody it’s somebody hasn’t been there, the food is great too. It was a really good night. Everybody had a good time. I was really pleased with it. Sometimes we’re a little over-enthusiastic, but that is no such thing, right?
On keeping a stable Foghat lineup – As long as somebody doesn’t go ahead and die we’ll be together, but sometimes you can’t help that. Actually, (guitarist) Brian Bassett’s been in the band 24 years now, played with Dave (Peverett) and Rod (Price), Charlie (Huhn) has been with the band 21 years, I believe, and Rodney O’Quinn has been with us for 4 years. In fact, Rodney was hand-picked by Craig McGregor, our previous longtime bass player, and probably my best friend. He was playing with Pat Travers and Craig went to see him. Craig was off the road. We had three or four bass players for a while because I said to Craig, he had lung cancer, I said, “Let me know when you don’t want them in the band anymore, or can’t be in the band I should say, otherwise you’re the bass player in this band”. He did come out occasionally and play some shows. Shows that he wanted to or if he felt really good. But Rodney is fantastic and studied just about everything the band has done. He told me that when he was younger, the Foghat Live album was his favorite, and wore a couple of them out. Rodney’s also, apart from being a great bass player, is a really, super human being, he’s funny, he has a ton of energy, he brings a lot to the band. It’s important to keep the band together. We all work very hard at it and everybody can play, they’re all great players. In fact, I think I’ve been fortunate throughout my musical journey that I’ve always favored great musicians, right from the beginning with Savoy Brown with Kim Simmons, obviously Lonesome Dave, and the very first band, I was in when I was seventeen years old. They were school friends, we went to school together, they’d been playing since they were like 10 or 11 years old.
On leaving Savoy Brown to start Foghat – (It’s) complicated. Savoy Brown in the 1970s was doing fantastic. We were earning a lot of money, between $10,000 and $15,000 a night. Back in 1970 that was a lot of money, still is actually, but we hadn’t been paid for doing any albums. We were getting twelve pounds fifty a week. What is that? A hundred bucks, I think. It wasn’t just the finances because I mean, we all really enjoyed playing together. In fact, I’m still really good friends with Kim. In fact, he played on our last studio album Under the Influence…I’ll probably going to ask him if he’ll play some stuff on our next album. He did mention one time that he’d like to write a song for Foghat, maybe we’ll do that.
On replacing Bill Bruford in Savoy Brown – Bill’s obviously an excellent drummer. I think it just wasn’t a good fit. I think Kim had some issues about if you play in a blues band, you’ve got to be able to play a shuffle. If it don’t swing it don’t mean a thing. I think that was probably the issue. Maybe Bill wasn’t entirely happy where he was. He obviously went on to be extremely successful. So, I know sometimes there’s some magic. When I did my audition with Savoy Brown, I did it once and I didn’t get the first call. obviously, Bill got it. But they called me up about a month or so later and said, “Would you come and try again?” So I borrowed my father’s car and drove probably to South West London and took my drums upstairs. I was working as a commercial artist at the time in Central London and I set up and we played for a couple of hours. I started packing my drums up and nobody said anything. I came down the stairs with the drums and they said, “Where are you going?” I said, “I’m going back to work in the studio”, and they said, “We’ve got a gig in Birmingham tonight”. That’s the best I recall. Anyway, it was a long time ago and it was a fantastic time for me and Dave as well. I loved being in the band and I really enjoy everything that we did. Like I said, Kim and I stayed friends anyway over the years.
On relocating Foghat to the USA – I always wanted to come here and I remember when I was seven or eight years old, I told my older brother that I was going to stow away in a ship to come to the U.S. He went along with it for a little while until one day I packed my bag. He said, “Where are you going?” I said, “I’m going to stow away to America”. He said, “Don’t be so stupid”. But eventually, I got it done. This is the land of music all my musical Heroes came from this country. Rock and roll, jazz blues, gospel country & western, this is the land of music and it influences everybody even to this day. Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin Wolf. These are all people that I guess I cut my musical teeth on.
On whether Foghat Live was actually live – It was a live record. Obviously, we mixed it in the studio. We had to replace a couple of vocals, the mic went out. Back then we were doing about an hour and 40-minute set and it was just a single record with the five or six songs on there, forty-five minutes worth But it was taken from two shows in Upstate New York, Syracuse and Rochester, but it came from those two shows. We had the RCA mobile unit so we recorded it. It was a live record. I think we replaced a couple of bass parts. Other than that it was a live record.
On the 80’s video boom pushing out 70’s bands – Maybe we should have done more videos. We did one, “Tripped and Fell in Love” off of the In the Mood for Something Rude album. I’m not really sure why (we didn’t do more), maybe something to do with the management. What I really enjoyed as far as live recordings are the earlier stuff that we did with Don Kirshner’s concerts back in ’73, ’74, somewhere around there. They were fun and they were all live recordings well. Usually, most people don’t know that it was done in the morning. I had to be there like 8:00 9:00 in the morning, we do a run-through, a sound engineer would be up in the monitor room. They were fun. In fact, I’m surprised they haven’t tried to put that out. Occasionally. I’ve seen them I guess somewhere on Facebook or somewhere but I don’t know. Live recordings are a lot of fun.
On the original band reuniting in 1993 – Well, in 1984 Dave moved back to England. In fact, we just came off tour and my wife at the time said, “You know, Dave and Linda are moving back to England?” I said, “No, he didn’t say anything”, which was kind of strange. He left the band, I guess he wanted to try something new. I carried on playing. Craig McGregor was still with it, Erik Cartwright on guitar who had been with us already for two or three years back then, he replaced Rod Price. So, I carried on playing. I also did a stint with a band called the New England Jam Band that was a lot of fun Jon Butcher, Charlie Farren. That sort of got me back into it. Then Dave came back six years later, 1989 or 1990 he came back. I went to see him said, Why don’t we put the band back together?” and he didn’t want to do it. So, it took a while but it all worked out in the end.
On whether the loss of band members ever made him think of stopping – The hard one for me was when Dave passed. At the time. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. In fact, I took three or four months off and just figured it out. I was getting a lot of CDs, actually, cassettes at the time sent to me by various singers. Then I remembered doing a show with Humble Pie, and Charlie Huhn had taken over by Stevie Marriott’s place. Dave and I said to each other, “Yeah, let’s go and see what this guy’s got under his fingernails”. Dave and I were really good friends with Stevie Marriott and did tons of shows with Humble Pie. I loved the man, he was an absolute giant even though it was only five foot tall. He was an incredible singer, guitar player and he was a lot of fun to hang with. So we went out there the band started playing and it was kind of mediocre I thought, and then Charlie started singing and I went, “Whoa, this guy’s got some chops”. So I said to my manager, the time, “If you can find the guy that was singing for Humble Pie and see if he’s interested otherwise I’m not really bothered at the moment”. Anyway, he got Charlie’s phone number for me, I called Charlie, he said he was interested in playing with the band, he loved the band and he was also a big fan of Savoy Brown. So I sent him thirty songs and my wife at the time, Linda, said, “That’s a lot of songs for someone to learn”, I said, “If you want the gig you’ll learn them”. So he called me up, about two months later, he came to my house in Long Island and it sounded like Humble Pie joined Foghat. So I thought that was pretty cool. Charlie is a great singer, great guitar player. One thing I really love about him is his professionalism. He’s always ready to play just the same as Lonesome Dave. Even if he was not feeling good when he was Ill, he gets on stage and gives you 110%, Charlie’s the same. So I love the man, in fact, we’re down in Florida at the moment rehearsing, we have our first date this month.
On what fans can expect on the 50th Anniversary tour – Actually, we’re doing the same set that was on 8 Days on the Road. This was recorded, I think, in November 2019, and then, of course, Covid hit, and everything stopped for a year-and-a-half. So we figured it would be a good idea to do the same stuff and also it still feels familiar. It’s strange having a year-and-a-half off, I don’t think I’ve ever had a year-and-a-half off maybe since I was about twelve years old, even then I didn’t have a year-and-a-half off, I had a summer off. In some ways for me, I really enjoyed it. The rough part was not being able to see any of my band, not being able to play. In fact, two of my daughters couldn’t see us, my other daughter lives in England, my granddaughter couldn’t come here. So it was just me and my wife, my girlfriend (laughs), that’s it, just me and my wife and my girlfriend. Oh, and my manager as well, she was there.
On his thoughts about Foghat in the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame – I know some of our fans have said something about it and wanted us to be in there. Our job, for want of a better word, is to go out and play and entertain people. It’s always been about the music for myself and for Dave as well, and the rest of the guys in the band. I’m one of the fortunate few in this world that gets to earn a decent living at something I love doing. The same as everybody else in the band. Roll ’til I’m old and Rock ’til I drop, that’s what I do. In fact, I missed it. It was fun, we rehearsed wage night here for about two hours, actually, maybe three and we’re having today off because we got a bunch of interviews to do and then we’re going to rehearse again tomorrow. It’s like clearing out the cobwebs and going, “Oh, that’s what I used to do”. I try to record a number of live shows, just to make sure we’re all on the same page as far as tempos and the way the songs go because this band tends to (extend songs). “I Just Want to Make Love to You” is like a five-minute song, a four-and-a-half-minute song originally, now it’s up to ten. “Slow Ride” was an eight-minute song, it’s up to eleven. ” Chateau Lafitte ’59 Boogie” was a five-minute song now it’s 8. We tend to suck jam. You’re up there, you’re having fun, and especially when you get to some rooms that sound really good and you can all hear each other really well. We give ourselves permission to jam.