Roger Earl was all of 12 years old when he went through an experience that his tsk-tsking mother said affected his mental condition. That may have been true, but it also set him on a life and career path that, at age 75, he wouldn’t have traded for anything.
“There was always music in the house. Dad was a piano player and pub singer. One day, he brought home ‘Great Balls of Fire’ by Jerry Lee Lewis. My dad thought it was really good. And the B-side was ‘Mean Woman Blues.’” Earl recalls. “Then he took me and some friends to see Jerry Lee in concert at the Mitcham Majestic Theater in Croydon, Southwest London. And I was never the same after that. My mother said it addled my brain!”
Today, Earl is celebrating not only the 50th anniversary of co-founding and playing drums for boogie rockers Foghat, there’s a new live record, 8 Days on the Road (Foghat Records).
The band’s lineup today also includes Charlie Huhn (vocals/guitar), Bryan Bassett (guitar) and Rodney O’Quinn (bass).
Roger Earl is the only member still left in the lineup who can be heard on Foghat classics from the ‘70s like “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” “Drivin’ Wheel,” “Stone Blue,” “Fool For the City,” “Ride, Ride, Ride,” and of course the anthemic “Slow Ride.” And as such, he says he doesn’t feel pressure about carrying the legacy of the band, while definitely practicing an attitude of gratitude.
“The only pressure I put on myself is the playing. We tall take it seriously and don’t get drunk or stoned beforehand. I’m very fortunate in that I get to do something I love to do and make a decent living at it,” he says. “People pay good money to come and see us, and they deserve to hear us at our best. If you don’t want to get up and don’t enjoy playing and aren’t giving it everything you’ve got, then you’re in the wrong business.”
Foghat, he says, is more than happy to be back on the road, though he’s grateful for at least some of the pandemic-forced stillness.
“It was pretty weird with all that time off. I practiced on my drum pads, but that got kind of boring. It’s no fun making noise on your own. But I live in Long Island on a house boat and I got to go fishing, grow vegetables in the garden, fix some stuff around the house, and mow my lawn,” he says. Mow his lawn? With a house boat?
“We have about half an acre with a garden and some fruit trees. It’s the first time in years I’ve gotten to actually [eat] what I grow! I usually plant things then I’m off on the road, and by the time I get back, it’s all weeds!” he laughs. “I also got to spend some time with my girlfriend and my wife.”
Rest assured, readers, Earl says they are both the same woman. He’s also happy to see his daughters again, who would only wave to him and their mother from across the lawn for the past year and a half, despite dear old dad’s entreaties to get a little closer.
Earl adds that when the four members of Foghat first got together in the same room at the same time at their Florida studio recently, it got emotional. “We had some wine and something to eat and just hung out. But that first rehearsal was…interesting!” he laughs. “There were a few, um, jazz moments taking liberties with the melodies. It was just really good to be back in the saddle.”
The 14-track 8 Days on the Road was recorded live in 2019 before a live audience at Daryl’s House Club (owned by singer Daryl Hall). Earl remembers they were “a little tired” upon arrival after a six-hour drive from their previous gig, but after a 2-3 hour soundcheck in a room with “amazing acoustics,” they were ready.
“It’s pretty good! It sounds like we know what we’re doing!” he says, before adding a non-musical memory. “And the food was great! I mean, you gotta keep your strength up. I burn that stuff off!” The record is stocked with Foghat’s hits, deeper cuts, and blues covers. It ends with their signature song, “Slow Ride.”
A familiar favorite on TV and movie soundtracks, as well as one of the first songs digital Van Halens got to try on the Guitar Hero video game, Earl says he actually had to fight a bit to get the original single released from 1975’s Fool for the City record.
Written by vocalist/rhythm guitarist Lonesome Dave Peverett and recorded by the lineup of Peverett, Earl, bassist Nick Jameson, and lead guitarist Rod “The Bottle” Price, and would hit #20 on Billboard, their highest charting hit.
“Right from the very beginning I knew it was something special. Nick and I finished mixing it and brought it to [Bearsville Records President] Paul Fishkin,” Earl says. “We had never picked the singles, the record company did. And we said this was the single. He you couldn’t have one that was nearly eight minutes long. And I said yes we can!”
Earl says he had further proof that the song based on a “John Lee Hooker riff that liberties had been taken with” was going to be big when the band and a local record company promotion man stopped in a “fish and chips” place—possibly in Louisiana—and he heard the song on the radio. It’s been played at every Foghat show since then, often as the encore.
“That’s when I knew we’d made it! And I still enjoy playing it,” Earl says. “I never get bored with playing our [hit] songs. ‘Slow Ride’ has been very good to us!”
The Fool for the City record has another place in Earl’s heart and rock history. To illustrate the title, the cover features the drummer (and no other band member) sitting on a soap box, foolishly fishing through a manhole in the middle of a New York City street.
As he told writer Chris MacDermott of The Aquarian Weekly in 2014: “Almost immediately a couple of New York’s Finest come by in their patrol car. They’re looking at us and they wind the window down. We’re like, ‘Oh shit.’ They yell out, ‘Hey! You got a fishing license?’ and then start laughing.”
But it turns out the pose was not acting. Earl is an active and enthusiastic fisherman, having started with his father at the age of 6 or 7. “I fly fish, and fish for trout and salmon. Also, some bass out here in Long Island,” he says. “Sometimes on the boat I’ll put a chunk of herring on the line and just sit there with a glass of wine and a sandwich. Fishing is a way to just chill and relax.”
Earl says that Foghat will be working on a new studio album, which will likely feature a guest appearance and/or song from Kim Simmonds. He’s the founder and guitarist of English blues rockers Savoy Brown, the band Earl was in before joining Foghat.
Asked why so many young English teens of the ’60s became enthralled with the blues music and adult Black performers like Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, and Muddy Waters that their American counterparts ignored, he says it speaks to why he’s chosen to live in the U.S.A.
“I love this country. I’m an import, but this is the land of music. All contemporary music came from this land and it still does: Rock and roll, blues, jazz, country and western gospel,” he sums up. “This is the wonderful melting pot that the world has come to. We are a land of immigrants. And that’s given the world music.”
This article originally appeared at HoustonPress.com
For more on Foghat, visit Foghat.com