November 9, 2018 Interview – Roger Earl of Foghat
The 1970s were the dawn of a new era in Rock-n-Roll. Built on a foundation cemented by artists that came before, the decade saw the birth of heavier guitars, larger than life sounds, and the emergence of Hard Rock as one of the most prominent sub-genres. There a part of it all was a band from England called Foghat, best known for their use of electric slide guitar and blend of Rock and Blues. Striking a major hit in 1975 with their now legendary rocker “Slow Ride,” Foghat has attained eight gold, one platinum, and another double platinum record in their impressive career.
Sustaining changes along the road, keeping the band going strong for over 40 years, Mr. Roger Earl has been leading the way from behind the drum kit. Now preparing for more live performances, Earl took the time to talk about the history of Foghat, the key to their longevity, his latest work with The Agitators, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – Foghat has a legacy that dates back nearly five decades now. Attaining a list of top-selling records and touring heavily through the years, briefly tell us, how would you describe the story of Foghat to this point?
Roger Earl – Great! That’s the brief answer now, isn’t it? It’s been a great, wonderful, strange trip to coin some phrases. Most of our touring has been done in The States, Canada, and Mexico. We played the Sweden Rock festival a couple of times. We actually only played in England 2-3 times in the first year of our career, and that was it. Most of our playing time has been here in The States. In fact, we moved to The States in 1973. It’s been terrific.
Obviously, 20 years ago we lost our lead singer, Lonesome Dave Peverett. Ten years ago we also lost our lead guitarist, Rod Price, who actually left the band in 1980. Then, this past February, we lost Craig MacGregor, our long-time bassist and probably one of my best friends. That’s been hard, but it’s kind of too late for me to change horses in the middle of this stream. Playing drums in a Rock-n-Roll band is always what I wanted to do, so be careful what you wish for.
CrypticRock.com – Sustaining lose can be very tough, especially when you are close with your bandmates, but Foghat has continued on. How has it been working with the current lineup of the band?
Roger Earl – Our lead guitar player, Bryan Bassett – he actually played with Lonesome Dave Peverett for a number of years and Rod Price, our original lead guitarist. He has been in the band for 25 years and he’s also our producer, engineer, a brilliant musician, and a great friend as well. Charlie Huhn is now our lead vocalist and also plays lead guitar. He did a bunch of stuff with Ted Nugent back in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Charlie joined us 20 years ago. Rodney O’Quinn is our bass player now, he was with at Travers Band for about 10 years. He has been with us for the past 3 years, so that is the lineup at the moment!
CrypticRock.com – It is a very tight lineup at that. Foghat’s sound has always been a mix of Blues and harder Rock-n-Roll. Starting out, did you and the band know what direction you wanted to go?
Roger Earl – The music I grew up listening to and learning to play to was Jerry Lewis, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry. Then, after that, I started getting into Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, among other American Blues musicians. That was the music I grew up listening to and I also got to play with a number of those musicians. I got to play with Muddy Waters, and back in 1977 Foghat did a tribute to The Blues at what used to be called The Palladium in Manhattan. We were basically the house band backing Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Johnny Winter, Paul Butterfield, to name but a few.
That was kind of a highlight of my life to meet those musicians and get to play with them. That was the music I always wanted to play. I am actually a big Johnny Cash fan. When I was around 11-12 years old, my older brother used to buy Johnny Cash’s records and I was probably the only kid growing up in southwest London riding his bike to school singing Johnny Cash songs. That’s the music I loved and still do!
CrypticRock.com – That is awesome that you were able to share stages with those great musicians. Like many, Foghat has faced challenges through the years, including the aforementioned passing of Dave, Rod, and most recently Rodney. Leading the band from behind the kit, what has your inspiration to keep Foghat going strong?
Roger Earl – One, musicians have to earn a living, or they have to get a real job. (Laughs) When I first started playing, 15-21 years old, I had to have a real job to support my habit of buying drums and cymbals. When we first formed Foghat, it was me, Dave, and our original bass player, Tony Stevens, who had left Savory Brown at the end of 1970. At first we sort of sat around wondering what to do.
Back then, I booked the rehearsal rooms, auditions for when Rod Price came in to play, and I was the one who found our original manager Tony Outeda. I was also the one who had setup the auditions with Albert Grossman who eventually gave us our recording contract with Bearsville Records. Right from the beginning, I helped run everything and made everything function. To be honest, once we got a manager, I left it to him, so I could just enjoyed playing and all the other fun stuff that went along with playing in a Rock-n-Roll band during the ’70s and ’80s. In enough words, I love my job.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly shows. The best part is, you are not just touring, but recording new music. The band released Under the Influence in 2016 and Live at the Belly Up in 2017. Now you most recently release a spin-off album, Shaken & Stirred. What was it like writing and recording this new collection of songs with The Agitators?
Roger Earl – In 2007, I bought a place down in Florida – 10 acres in the middle of nowhere so we could rehearse and write. Originally we were going to build a studio on the property, but that did not seem to be a good financial idea. We built a studio in house instead and it works. I enjoy recording, I enjoy making music, I enjoy being in the studio, I enjoy the challenge. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it rolls.
What happened with The Agitators was, I became good friends with a guitar player named Scott Holt. He played guitar with Buddy Guy for about 10 years. We became friends, I invited him to come down to Florida one time, he hung out in the studio for a week and we recorded about 7 or 8 songs. We would actually get up in the morning, which is kind of unusual for musicians. (Laughs) We would start writing and recording, it was really exciting and a lot of fun.
That is where The Agitators came from and we ended up with around 7 or 8 songs. We then said, what do we do with this now? A while later, Scott came back down and we did a bunch more tunes. Then we started playing a couple of dates around the country. Actually, some of them were opening up for Foghat and I did double duty. It has been about a 5 year effort to get this record actually done. We got it finished and we have some dates lined up.
I really enjoy playing with Scott, he is a fantastic singer, writer, and a fabulous human being. One of the reason you should play, or do play, is because playing music should give you chills. I still get chills when we go out on stage – whether there is 500 or 50,000 people in the crowd. As soon as you start the songs it’s alright, but there is always this nervous energy before you go out on stage, it’s in the blood.
CrypticRock.com – It is really wonderful to hear how passionate you are about the music after all these years. Foghat are set to tour some dates around this month, including a stop out in Riverhead, New York. What can fans expect from these performances?
Roger Earl – We will be playing all our hits such as “Slow Ride,” “Fool for the City,” “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” “Stone Blue.” A good time will be had by one and all.
CrypticRock.com – These should be some great shows. Your stop in Riverhead will be at The Suffolk Theater, a venue right in your backyard. It should be fun for yourself and fellow Long Islanders.
Roger Earl – Yea, I’m really looking forward to it. I have a lot of friends on Long Island, it’s basically where I have lived since 1974, with maybe a few months in LA, a few months in Florida. This is home and it has been since about 1974. Two of my daughters live here on the Island, my ex-wife lives here.
We are also going to be serving Foghat wine at the bar there. We will probably go out after the show to meet everyone. We don’t drink before we play, everyone is sober before we play. After the show, you can do whatever you want, but before the show, everyone should be on the same page. Maybe some musicians get away with it, but not for us. You have to be on the same page so you can get it right.
Being in a band, the rest of the time it’s hurry up and wait. That’s the work. Playing is not work, playing is what we do. It’s for an hour and a half a day, but it makes the rest of the day okay. I’m one of the most fortunate people out there because I get to still earn a decent living doing something I really love and enjoy. Life is good, life is real good!
CrypticRock.com – It is a blessing for sure! Seeing Foghat has new material in hand, plus The Agitators, can we expect some newer tunes mixed into your upcoming sets?
Roger Earl – Yea, we are probably going to play a couple of songs from our previous albums from the last couple of years. It will be a mixture. One of the reasons the band still does so well is because I think we got it in the first place with the type of music we are playing. The fact that it is 40 odd years this band has been playing, and we are doing as well as we are, says something about the music.
There was a song “Rock ‘n’ Roll Will Never Die,” maybe it changes over the years, but it’s still here. Music should change. There is a lot of contemporary music that is not up my alley so to say, but music should change. I think every generation should have music or songs that can remind them of where they were at that time or how they felt at that time. Music defines what you were doing – you will recall where you were, how you were feeling, who you were feeling with. (Laughs) Music is the food of life.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely. Where would be without music? Last question for you. CrypticRock covers movies as well, particular Horror and Sci-Fi. If you are a fan of either genre, do you have any favorites?
Roger Earl – I’m not into Horror movies really. Actually, when I was younger and lived in England my father would take me to Horror and Science Fiction movies like Invaders from Mars (1953). I’ve always been a big fan of reading Science Fiction and Fantasy novels because my father had a whole library of that stuff. I wouldn’t say Horror movies are my cup of tea though.
Sat, Nov 10 Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center Ada, OK
Fri, Nov 16 Historic Suffolk Theater Riverhead, NY
Sat, Nov 17 Twin River Casino w/ Grand Funk Railroad Lincoln, RI
Mon, Dec 31 Emerald Queen Casino Tacoma, WA
For more on Foghat: foghat.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
For more on Earl & The Agitators: earlandtheagitators.com | Facebook | Twitter
Purchase Live at the Belly Up:
Purchase Shaken & Stirred: