Foghat's Roger Earl Interview,
Roger Earl is the founding member and drummer of classic rock band Foghat. The band hit it big in 1971 with their debut album which had their cover of Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want To Make Love To You.” They had continued success throughout the ‘70s with hits “Fool For The City” and “Slow Ride.” Earl and the band, which now consists of Bryan Bassett (Wild Cherry) on lead guitar and Charlie Huhn (Ted Nugent) lead vocals and rhythm guitar will be playing the Tangier restaurant in Akron on April 26th. .
We got the chance to speak with Roger Earl to discuss his career and his upcoming appearance in Akron.
Greg Drugan: Hey Roger, how are you doing today? Where are you calling me from?
Roger Earl: I’m doing fine, thank you. I’m at home now on Long Island.
GD: You are hitting the road soon, how many dates do you guys average a year?
RE: For the last three or four years, we play sixty to seventy shows a year. But we usually get in the day before, play the show, then head out the next day so we are actually on the road for two-hundred and ten days!
GD: Wow, that’s a lot of traveling!
RE: Be careful what you wish for! (laughs)
GD: We are excited to have you guys in Akron next week. Do you have any memories of playing in the Akron or Cleveland area in the past?
RE: Yeah I do! I have a lot of fond memories of the area. I remember I was in Savoy Brown in the late sixties and we had a number of really good friends in Akron. Most of them were girls if I remember correctly. I remember going there and staying at a hotel in the early seventies called Swingo’s.
GD: I was going to ask if you ever stayed at the legendary Swingo’s?
RE: Yeah I did, a number of times. It was our favorite place! Some of the stories we can’t talk about. But I always enjoyed playing in that area and made lots of friends.
GD: Looking back in your career, what made you decide to play the drums?
RE: Actually, I started playing the piano when I was nine or ten. My father played the piano and my older brother, Colin played the piano. He was in a band called Mungo Jerry and they had a hit called “In The Summertime.” One day my father brought home Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls Of Fire” and played it for me. Then a month later, Jerry Lee Lewis toured England for the second time and we went to see him and I was never the same after that.
Initially I wanted to play piano, but since my father and my brother played the piano, I decided to pick up the drums. I got a drum teacher and practiced three nights after school. On Saturday mornings, I worked at a bakery. We weren’t rich, so I had to save up half of the money to buy a drum kit. My father said if I saved up half of the money, he would sign on the dotted line. Drums are somewhat like a piano. A piano is like a percussive instrument. The core thing about a piano is that all of the notes are right there in front of you. You don’t have to find them like you do on a guitar. You just have to put them in the right order.
GD: That’s an interesting way of looking at it.
RE: Yeah, but it started with Jerry Lee Lewis. I went to see him about two years ago. He played at BB King’s in New York City and he was fantastic.
GD: I know he just suffered a mild heart attack and he had to cancel a couple of shows. It’s amazing he’s still out doing it at 83.
RE: Yeah, he’s gonna roll ‘til he’s old and rock ‘til he drops! Jerry Lee Lewis is a great performer and totally unique amongst rock and roll royalty. He is special.
GD: How did you get hooked up with Savoy Brown in the ‘60s?
RE: I applied for an add in one of the papers, Melody Maker I believe. I went to one audition and didn’t get that. They called me about three or four weeks later because apparently the first drummer didn’t last that long. I got the job the second time. I was working my day job, I was a commercial artist at about twenty years old, and I borrowed my father’s car and brought my drums down there. After about two-and-a-half to three hours of playing, I started packing up my drums. They said, “Where are you going?” and I told them I was going back to work. They said, “We’ve got a gig in Birmingham tonight.” and that was it.
I’m still very good friends with Kim Simmonds, the lead guitar player in Savoy Brown. In fact, we do a number of shows together. We are with the same agency now out in California.
GD: That’s great. After a few successful years in that band, what made you Dave (Peverett), Tony (Stevens) want to form Foghat in 1970?
RE: I think it probably just time for a change. There was never a problem with Kim, I always got on well with him, as I did Dave. Tony got fired and then Dave and I decided to leave. I remained friends with Kim and in fact, I inducted Kim into the New York Blues Hall Of Fame.
GD: You guys had success right from the start earning a couple of gold and platinum records. Do you remember your first extravagant purchase?
RE: Our first record was released at the end of 1971. In 1973, I got my first royalty check for $3,000 which was a lot of money back then. I was living out here on Long Island and I remember I was in a local deli and there was a 1967, 427 Corvette convertible for sale. It had 33,000 miles on it, silver with a black stinger, black interior and a white hood. Four-speed of course and no air conditioning. I grew up with cars and grew up with them. Unfortunately they wanted $3,300 for it and I had a check for $3000 in my hand. I told them I could give them $3,000 right now for it, but they wanted $3,300.
My manager's wife at the time was an assistant manager at the bank. She said, “Roger you have to put the check in the bank. Once you’ve done that, you need to take out a loan for $300 so you can get the car.” So I did that, went back and took the car for a ride and gave the man $3,300. So that was my first purchase. It was a fantastic car. I kept that car up until the last divorce I think. (laughs) I think I sold it for $27,000 and I think they’re worth $300,000 now.
GD: Well, you got your money out of it that’s for sure. You have toured all over since the 1970’s, what are some of the big changes that you have seen.
RE: I’m a lot older and wiser. (laughs) I’ve had half a dozen operations on my hands over the years. I love playing as much, if not more than I ever did. I really enjoy it. We’ve got Charlie Huhn on vocals. He played with Ted Nugent in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. We actually saved him from that! Bryan Bassett is our lead guitar player and producer. He was in a band called Wild Cherry. We have Rodney O’Quinn on bass now. He has been with Pat Travers for the past ten years, but we stole him from Pat.
GD: It’s like an all-star band! After several lineup changes in the 1980s, what has made you want to carry on the Foghat name?
RE: It was a bit too late to change horses in the middle of the stream. I’ve been in Foghat since the beginning and I just decided to carry on. I do have another band called Earl and the Agitators.
GD: So you mentioned that Bryan and Charlie are in the band now; do you ever put in any Wild Cherry or Ted Nugent songs in your set list?
RE: Actually the last time Earl and the Agitators played out, we did play “Play That Funky Music White Boy.” I think it gets played at every wedding out there, doesn’t it?
GD: So, you will be playing in Akron next week. What can fans expect from your show?
RE: We’ll be playing all the hits, “Slow Ride,” “Fool For The City,” “Stone Blue.” Actually, we will be playing Foghat’s one and only ballad, “Third Time Lucky.” So we’ll be playing one ballad, a couple of blues songs and the rest rock and roll. The last two or three years in this band have been the best since forty years ago. We get a lot of young people seeing the show as well as people from my era. Our fans have really stuck by us and it’s really about the music.
GD: Sounds like a great rock and roll show! Roger, it’s been a pleasure talking to you and I’m looking forward to seeing you guys on the 26th.
RE: Thank you, Greg!
Be sure to catch Foghat at The Tangier in Akron on April 26th. Tickets can be purchased here.