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Foghat's Bryan
Bassett Interview;
Playing Kent Stage, Robins
Theatre And Lorain Palace

August 9th, 2022

Classic rockers, Foghat and Pat Travers will be playing three different shows in northeastern Ohio starting with The Kent Stage on August 11, Robins Theatre on August 12  and Lorain Palace Theatre on August 13.

Foghat first hit the scene in 1972 with the release of their self-titled debut album.

The band went on to achieve eight gold records, one platinum record and one double-platinum record.  Their singles include: "I Just Want To Make Love To You," "Fool For The City," and "Slow Ride" just to name a few.

We had the chance to chat with guitarist Bryan Bassett to talk about their upcoming shows, his career in Wild Cherry and Molly Hatchett and his future plans.

Greg Drugan:  Hey Bryan, thanks for taking some time with me today.  First, I wanted to wish you a happy early birthday!

 

Bryan Bassett:  Thanks!  Yeah, it’s coming up in a couple of days.

 

GD:  It looks like you guys are gearing up to come to Ohio.  You will be playing three shows in northeastern Ohio so your fans have many opportunities to check you guys out.  Have you ever done something like this before?

 

BB:  It’s a little unusual for us to do three dates in a row in a small geographical area.  It’s pretty cool.  I love playing those old, historic theaters.  Ohio has done a nice job of preserving those old theaters that have been around forever.  I’m from Pittsburgh so I’m familiar with the area.  I actually lived in Northfield for a year in the ‘70s.  I’m going to have some family come up to see us, so it’s going to be great! 

 

GD:  Yeah, The Robins Theatre is absolutely beautiful.  They just refurbished that one a few years ago so you will really enjoy that one.

 

BB:  I love those things.  There’s really not too many of them left in the country.  I love to see cities preserve those old facilities.  

 

GD:  You mentioned it, but I didn’t realize that you actually lived here for a bit. The Cleveland area is known for being a rock and roll city.  Do you have any memories of playing in Cleveland?

 

BB:  Oh, sure!  I have plenty of memories.  I grew up in Pittsburgh so the football rivalry was outstanding.  I never went to Cleveland with a Steelers shirt on.  I played all of the Agora’s, the Cleveland one in particular.  We actually had a house gig back in the ‘70s at The Agora.  When I was in Wild Cherry, back in the ‘70s, we were managed by the Belkin brothers.  That’s what made me move up into that area.  We played Blossom and a lot of the different venues up there. At that time, there were three Agora’s.  One in Columbus, one in Cincinnati and one in Cleveland. We played at Kent (State) University.  I spent a lot of time there. 

 

GD:  Did you ever stay at the legendary Swingos?

 

BB: Yes, I did. (laughs) We did our first record at Cleveland Recording Studio, which was right across the street from Swingos.  They had a legendary little bar there and all the musicians would play there. I was staying in one of the rooms and they had pianos in some of the hotel rooms.  I heard someone playing a scale late at night.  So I went over and knocked on the door and Chick Corea opened the door. (laughs) I was going to complain, but then I was like, “Hey Chick! Carry on!”  

 

GD:  You never knew who you were going to see there. It was the place to be I guess.

 

BB:  Everyone that came through town stayed there.  So you had a really good chance of running into some famous musicians.

 

GD:  That was a little bit before my time.  I was born in 1970, so I was just a kid.  So Foghat just got a new lead singer in Scott Holt.  How has he fit into the band and what does he contribute?

 

BB:  I love Scott.  We were friends for many years before he joined the band.  He was a writing partner.  He helped us write some songs on a couple of our past albums.  We wrote so many songs that one year, we came up with the band we called Earle and the Agitators. It was a fifteen track album that was basically the band we have right now.  He’s a great friend and a great guitar player.  He’s played with Buddy Guy as the second guitarist.  What he means to me is that he brings us back to early Foghat where we were a little bit more blues oriented rock.  He’s a blues guitar player and I love playing the blues. He’s a great front man and talks to the crowd a lot and we get to rip the guitar back and forth. 

 

GD:   Charlie Huhn was in the band for a twenty plus years, why did he decide to call it a career?  Have you spoken to him recently?

 

BB:  The last conversation I had with him he said ‘I love having no schedule.”  He likes to play golf, he loves to travel and he was seventy plus years old, even though he looks younger, he just wanted to take some time for himself.  He’s had his fifty plus years in the music business.  

 

GD:  You guys are still carrying on and I think that’s great.   Looking back on your career, when did you know that you wanted to be a musician and pick up the guitar?

 

BB:  I think it really started in high school.  A lot of musicians in my generation, it started with The Ed Sullivan Show and The Beatles and the British Invasion really inspired a lot of us.  I think everyone in the mid sixties that Christmas got a guitar.  I think there were five garage bands in my neighborhood.  I was into sports in high school, played football and ran track.  Then Hendrix hit and I ended up getting a guitar for Christmas.  My mother got me some lessons then by the time I was a junior or senior in high school, I was pretty serious about it. I just took off.  Pittsburgh was a great music town with lots of little clubs and coffee houses where you could get gigs.  

 

GD:  Do you remember the first record that you bought with your own money?

 

BB:  Let me see.  Yeah, it was the Rolling Stones live album, then I remember getting a Kinks album with “You Really Got Me.”  Those were the first two.  I also remember getting “I Can See For Miles” by The Who as a single.  I remember playing that over and over again.

 

GD:  Who was the first artist you saw in concert and how did that impact you?

 

BB:  My very first show was the Pittsburgh Civic Arena and I saw Vanilla Fudge and a band called Illusion.  That was my very first concert at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.

 

GD:  So you start playing the guitar, how did you end up joining Wild Cherry?

 

BB:  It was through networking.  I was in two or three local bands  Rob Parissi had a version of Wild Cherry that was pretty popular in our area in the early ‘70s but they had disbanded and he was managing a restaurant in Ohio.  I had told him if he wanted to put a band together to give me a call.  He called me and we went out and found a rhythm section and we ended up playing four to five times a week in the tri-state area.  We became very successful as a club band.  We were lucky enough to record a song that became a pretty big hit. 

 

GD:  How did you come up with the opening riff on “Play That Funky Music?” That’s all you, correct?

 

BB:  Yes.  We were a big fan of The Commodores.  When we wrote the song, it was really autobiographical.  The musical style started to change, KC (and the Sunshine Band) started to come out and Bowie with “Fame” and The Commodores and Earth Wind and Fire.  All of that style of music seemed to have a single guitar with a funky line with a rhythm guitar playing against it. 

 

Someone came up to our drummer when we were in a club and were playing Led Zeppelin instead of disco.  He came up and said to him, “you better start playing some funky music white boy.”  So Ronnie Beitle, our drummer told that to Rob (Parissi) in between sets and Rob started writing the song right then. 

 

GD:  That’s very cool.  Being from Pittsburgh, were you ever on the same bill as The Jaggerz?

 

BB:  I never played with them, but I saw them many times.  They were a year or two older than me but I know all of those guys.  Donnie Iris took my place in Wild Cherry after the third album.  They were a real big success which was exciting to see as a young person.  To see some of your friends with a hit record.

 

GD:  What about Michael Stanley?  Have you ever played with MSB or open a show?

 

BB:  I think we did a show with him.  He was so popular in the Cleveland area, he would sell out local arenas three days in a row.  I’m sure we did a show with him when I was in Wild Cherry.  He was like Bruce Springsteen in the tri-state area.  It was kinda surprising that he didn’t break out across the country but he was huge in Cleveland. 

GD:  Like you said, you left Wild Cherry after the third album.  What made you want to be a producer in the 1980’s?

 

BB:  I got tired of the R&B scene.  We toured with so many great bands: The Commodores, Earth Wind and Fire, The Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder.  We got to meet so many great musicians.  But I was a rock guitar player.  I love rock and the blues.  I was a big John Mayall fan.  I loved all the British players: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Peter Green.  I formed a band called Airborne that was kinda based on Night Ranger after I left Wild Cherry.  We relocated to Florida and that’s where I got involved in recording and got really involved with the independent blues market. That was my second career, I was an engineer and producer for an independent blues record label.  I had a lot of fun doing that.

 

GD:  Awesome.  After doing that for a few years, how did you end up meeting Lonesome Dave (Peverett) and end up joining his version of Foghat?

 

BB: I had a blues quartet that played in central Florida while I was working in the studio.  We played what you call “swamp music.”  Music that was mostly assigned to southern Florida, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.  My friend, Pat Travers brought Lonesome Dave, who had just returned from England to see our band.  Dave knew every song on our setlist, he was like a blues historian.  He said, “I know these songs.” So he sat in with us for the next two sets and we just hit it off as friends.  We are both lovers of blues music.  When he wanted to start touring again, he asked me to join him.

 

GD:  You ended up doing that until Foghat reformed with the original lineup, then you joined up with Molly Hatchet.  What was it like playing with those guys.

 

BB:  It was great because I needed a job.  We had just finished a European tour with Molly Hatchet.  When we got back to the States, Danny Joe Brown’s tour manager called me and said “I know what’s going on with Foghat.  They’re reforming, do you want to join my band?”  I said, “Yes! Thank you, I need a job.”  So when we got back to Florida, I got off of Dave’s bus and a couple days later, I got on the Hatchet bus. My first show with Molly Hatchet was with the newly reformed Foghat.  When I walked into the arena in Maine, I walked into the Foghat dressing room and Roger (Earle) was in there and he said “wrong dressing room, mate!”  (laughs) So I walked across the hall.  The Molly Hatchet experience was great.  Southern rock is not too far from the blues.  There’s a lot of guitar harmonies and it’s very musically challenging.  We got to play in Europe because we were signed to a German record company.  So we got to go over there a couple times a year.  It was like a paid vacation and I ended up playing on three Molly Hatchet records. 

 

GD:  Very good.  Then in 1999 you came back to Foghat with Roger Earle and you’ve been here ever since.

 

BB:  Dave went through a period of illness and we kept in touch.  I was familiar with the American health care system.  I had a daughter who had cystic fibrosis.  Dave, being from England, they have a whole different health care system.  We would talk a lot about what to do and how to pay for stuff.  When he had went into remission, Dave called me up and said “Bryan, I feel like doing some playing, do you want to do it?”  I said “Sure, when I get home I’ll come over to the house and we’ll play.”  He said, “No, I want to do some touring.”  So I gave my notice to Molly Hatchet so I could play with my dear friend again.  We were besties.  We had almost a year together before he passed on.  I was so glad that we had that time together.  

 

GD:  That’s fantastic.  So what do you have planned for the future, is there any new music on the horizon?

 

BB:  Yeah, in fact we were in the studio working on it when Charlie decided to retire and Scott joined us.  So we kinda put that on hold.  Instead of learning new songs, we decided to learn forty old songs to get ready for live performances with Scott.  So at the end of the year, we will have a writing session in the studio near Orlando and we will work on a new studio album.  That’s the plan. We will work on it this winter and release it sometime next year.  That’s what’s going on. 

 

GD:  That’s great!  I always love hearing new music. What can fans expect from your shows when you will be in Ohio with Pat Travers?

 

BB:  A lot of guitar fireworks for sure, particularly with Pat on the bill.  As far as Foghat, were going to play some of the old, some of the new and some of the stuff that Scott has written and of course the Foghat hits that everyone loves to hear.  Who knows, we might get a little funky and throw in a Wild Cherry song in there.  Especially in Ohio where the song was created.

 

GD:  We look forward to hearing it! Bryan, I wish you all the success with the new music and your tour and we look forward to seeing you in a couple of days.

 

BB:  Great, we can’t wait to get there!  We’re going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Wednesday and then we can’t wait to tour and rock Ohio! 

 

GD:  Fantastic! I will get this posted and we will pack all three places for you guys!

 

BB:  Great!  We love it!


 

You have three chances to check out Foghat and Pat Travers this week.  Thursday at the Kent Stage, Friday at Robins Theatre in Warren and Saturday at the Lorain Palace Theatre.  It will be a rockin’ good time!