July 25, 2019
It has been nearly 20 years since Foghat lost its front man and guitarist “Lonesome” Dave Peverett to cancer, but the current lineup has been going strong ever since.
Having released an album as recently as 2016, the band still tours regularly. But Roger Earl, the drummer and last original member in the band, said the decision to continue as a band took some time.
‘It was a rough time’
“When Dave passed away, the original band had been back together since the early ’90s,” Earl said. “Dave had left the band in ’84 or ’85 because he wanted to go back to England. Then he came back to the band, which was what I had wanted all along anyway. He found out he had kidney cancer which was hard for him. We were off the road for two years while he was going through that, and he had a kidney come out, and we went back on the road. But then Dave died and his wife got ill with cancer, and she died about six months after him.
“It was a rough time,” Earl continued. “Dave’s daughter called me the morning he died, and it was tough. Our road manager at the time thought we should go right back out on the road, but I needed to take some time off. I needed to decide what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. But taking that time off I knew I was keeping eight people out of work, so I had to make a decision.”
The choice to replace Peverett and continue without him required Foghat to find a new singer and guitarist.
That replacement came through a series of musical friendships that began when Peverett was still alive.
Finding the right friend
“Dave and I met Steve Marriott from Humble Pie, and we used to get together with him a lot. We’d get drunk and stoned and listen to music together. He was an incredible singer and guitarist. At a Foghat show where Humble Pie was playing, Dave and I got together with Charlie Huhn who had taken Steve’s place in Humble Pie, and if he can fill in for Steve, he’s good because Steve Marriott had a great set of pipes.
“So when I decided to continue with Foghat, I called my road manager and asked if he knew how to get in touch with this guy. About a month later Charlie came to my house in Long Island, and we started working on stuff and getting arrangements right.”
Foghat has been remarkably prolific since. The current lineup — minus bassist Craig MacGregor who died last year — has now been together for almost two decades.
One of their more recent albums was their 2010 release Last Train Home, an album of blues covers and a couple of originals which reflects the longstanding devotion to the blues that so defined Foghat’s music from the beginning.
As one of many British bands which found inspiration in Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, and other American blues icons, Foghat — and particularly Earl — found a way to pay homage to Peverett a decade after his death.
“Dave and I always talked about doing a blues album, but we never got around to it,” Earl said. “Whenever we were in Chicago, we’d go to a blues club after our show or on a day off, and we’d just jam. Dave was the heart and soul of the band, and when we were on the road he was our DJ. He’d play CDs or cassettes, depending on what year it was, and he’d ask what we were in the mood for, be it the blues or rock n’ roll. He was something else. Great to get up on a stage with even when he was ill.”
Crowdsourcing new music
Foghat’s newest release, Under the Influence, was fan-funded thanks to a crowdsourcing outlet. Happy to put out new music, Earl concedes that the changes in the music industry make the concept of releasing an album difficult, but it’s still something he values. What made them decided to use a funding forum to finance the album?
“I’m not entirely sure,” Earl admitted. “It’s nice because you know how many CDs you need, and we did vinyl, too. Recording CDs isn’t a money-making venture anymore, but that’s what we do. I’m not going to stop making music just because things have changed.”
When Foghat was almost ready to record Under the Influence, they felt they needed two or three more songs to round out the collection. So Earl gathered with some friends to write.
Those sessions yielded about 15 more songs which led to Earl’s side project, Earl & the Agitators, which released an album, Shaken & Stirred, in 2018.
Now 73, Earl has no plans to slow down, and in fact will be happily playing “Slow Ride” for the rest of his life.
“We do anywhere from 50 to 75 shows a year, and I can pretty much pick and choose what I want to do,” he said. “The last three years have been the best because we’re seeing a lot of young people coming to our shows. I still love playing, and we have a lot of fun together and get on well. And we’re happy drunks when the show is over. Life is good.”
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