Foghat: 'Slow Ride' to the top, Part 1

Leaving Savoy Brown behind to start something new
By Peter Lindblad

The one and only Roger Earl has
served as Foghat's drummer
since the beginning of the band.
There was no work for Foghat. Harry Simmonds, it seemed, was making good on his promise.

When Roger Earl, “Lonsome Dave” Peverett and Tony Stevens left British blues bashers Savoy Brown in 1970 to form their own harder rocking, blues-infused, boogie-rock outfit, dubbed Foghat, Simmonds – the brother of Savoy Brown guitarist and leader Kim Simmonds – was dead set on blackballing them from ever setting foot on any stage anywhere in the world.

Money issues helped drive them away, and, according to Earl, Kim wasn't about to stand in their way.

“Kim was kind of okay about it,” said Earl. “Everybody was getting about 60 pounds a week, and the band was earning like $10,000 a show or more. It might be a different number. I’d never been paid for any of the records we did. I got paid on the last one.”

Savoy Brown - A Step Further
It was Earl who replaced Bill Bruford in Savoy Brown, ending the future Yes drummer’s two-week tenure in the band. Earl and Peverett played on a pair of Savoy Brown albums recorded in 1968, Getting to the Point and Blue Matter, and drummed on the classic single “Train to Nowhere” in 1969, the year Savoy Brown put out A Step Further. Stevens had come aboard to replace Rivers Jobe.

After the release of 1970’s Looking In, Earl and company were looking to go off on their own. Harry wasn’t having any of that.

“It was going well, and Kim had just signed a new record deal, and probably for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and we weren’t getting any (laughs),” said Earl. “Anyway, we thought about it and said, ‘Look, we’ll stay in the band as long as you need us, and then we’re going to start looking to do something else.’ That’s when the manager told us that we’d never play again. Kim didn’t say that. In fact, Kim and I have remained friends over the years, and I have a great deal of respect for him as a player, and, as I’ve said, he gave me my shot.”

Nobody gave Foghat a chance in 1970, and Earl was started to get worried, although in December of that year, they did recruit a valuable new member in guitarist Rod Price, from the band Black Cat Bones.

“It was a little weird being told that you’re never going to work again,” said Earl, “and it was kind of scary for a while, but things turned out all right in the end.”

That it did, thanks to the formidable Albert Grossman, who set Foghat on a path paved with gold and platinum records that allowed them to become one of the hardest-working, and most successful, touring acts of the 1970s. Despite lineup changes and the deaths of original members like Peverett, they haven’t lost their ability to wow audiences with their musical prowess, as Foghat’s latest concert DVD, “Live in St. Pete,” makes abundantly clear.

Foghat 2014: Craig MacGregor (bass);
Charlie Huhn (lead vocals/guitar); Roger
Earl (drums); and Bryan Bassett (guitar).
"Yeah, we were rather pleased with it,” said Earl. “We’d been trying to put out a DVD. The last one we had was about 10 years ago, and it was taken from a whole bunch of shows. Over the last 10 years or so, we’d record regularly, or if there was decent filming equipment there (we’d film it), and we’d been going through all the DVDs and stuff that we had, and I’m trying to compile a bunch of tunes that we could put on a DVD. The problem I was having was that some films and shows sounded really good, but the video left something to be desired. Other shows looked really good, and like the bass drum or the bass guitar weren’t on there or we had no lead guitar, or (lead singer) Charlie’s (Huhn) voice was distorted. So, I’d gotten through all this stuff, and it was um … definitely a labor of love, but it really wasn’t (laughs).”

One more for the road
Even now, in his late 60s, Earl still loves the road. And so does Huhn, and so does Bryan Bassett, the former Wild Cherry and Molly Hatchet guitarist selected by Peverett himself to replace him in the band. And so does longtime bassist Craig MacGregor, although he did leave the band for a spell in the early '80s.

In 2011, the foursome had just fulfilled all their tour commitments for the year. They got an offer to do one more.

“So what happened was, we finished actually touring for the year, and our agent called us up and said, ‘Look, somebody’s canceled at this club down in Florida in St. Pete. ‘Would you guys like to play there?’” recalls Earl. “Myself, I was already down in Florida, staying at a house down there. Bryan lives down there, as does Charlie. And two of our crew were already down there. So we called everybody up and said, ‘Do you want to go out and do one more?’ And they all said, ‘Please (laughs).’”

Neither the recording nor the actual video was perfect. Still, it did manage the capture the essence of a band capable of performing with enthusiasm and dynamic chops, not to mention a youthful vigor that belies their age.

“We did it, and our families were there, so we had a big party afterwards, and our sound engineer came in with a CD from the night, and he said, ‘I think you sounded really good,’” said Earl. “And he really didn’t have much to do with it. He cleaned up most of the stuff he could, and then he handed us something. There was also video from it, and we went ‘all right.’ We were drinking some wine and (had some) cheese and vodkas, and having a party at the hotel, and we were listening to it, and going, ‘Wow! This is really good.’”

The alcohol did not impair their judgment. Although it sounded good, Bassett, who not only serves up masterful slide guitar licks for Foghat, but also works as the band’s studio engineer, had a little trouble cleaning up the mix, according to Earl. Some of the microphones weren’t working during the performance, but Bassett made it work.

“We were limited with the shots they gave us, and so sometimes Bryan will be playing and the camera will be on Craig or me,” said Earl. “Or, I’ll be doing something, and the camera will be on Bryan’s feet. Other than a few minor foibles like that, what we liked about it was the fact that everybody was playing well. I think Bryan even said he needed to get rid of a couple of feedback squeaks from the vocal mics. Other than that, it was just a question of getting everything in order. It took them a while, obviously, but it’s something I wanted to do for a long time.”

None of it would have been possible, however, without Grossman. 

Guardian angel
But before he became, in essence, their guardian angel, Savoy Brown had been an important proving ground for Earl, Peverett and Stevens, as they honed their chops to a fine edge.

“I had a great time with Savoy Brown, touring and the band itself,” said Earl. “Chris Youlden was a fantastic singer and songwriter, and Dave (Peverett) turned out to be that as well. Kim continued to get better and better every time he came out, and yeah, I loved touring with Savoy. We weren’t making any money, but that didn’t really matter to us at the time. It was always about the music, and it was a training ground for us.”

Until Grossman came along and signed Foghat to his Bearsville Records label in 1971, Foghat was going nowhere, although they didn’t sit idle.

“When we left, it wasn’t like we wanted to take a break or anything,” said Earl. “We jumped right back into it, writing and rehearsing and stuff like that.”

Peverett, in particular, got right to work.

“The night that we actually sat down with Kim and his brother, Harry, the manager, and we decided we would leave – well, Tony Stevens got fired, and Dave and I … well, it’s a long story, but anyway, we weren’t fired – we decided it time to move on," said Earl. "We went to my room, and Dave started writing and started playing ‘Fool’s Hall of Fame.’”

Foghat's 1972 self-titled debut LP
That song appeared on Foghat’s self-titled 1972 debut. It was Grossman who greased the wheels and allowed Foghat to make the record. Grossman was Bob Dylan’s manager. His named carried a lot of weight in the business.

“He did everything for us,” said Earl. “He was the only one who wanted the band. We’d already recorded seven or eight songs. All of them actually made it on to the first album. They were our demos and pretty close to what was on the album, with Albert coming over to us in 1971.”

There was a showcase was Grossman that clinched the deal.

“Albert was coming over to England, where we all were, to meet the band and Todd Rundgren was with him,” said Earl. “And our manager at the time knew Albert and called up, and he was coming down to see us at a club in north London one afternoon. Albert came down, and we played seven songs for him, and we were down at Albert’s place right away for tea and biscuits.”

Grossman made an immediate impression on Earl in their initial meetings.

“Albert was a very striking gentleman,” said Earl. “He had big, long, silver hair and small, brown glasses. We all knew who he was. He was the manager of Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Janis Joplin, The Band … he was like this giant of giants. He was really beautiful. He was very tall, and so we’re sitting there with tea and biscuits, and he had his hands together, not quite like a prayer. And sometimes he played with his cuticles, and he was sort of like looking around at us, and he said, with this grin on his face (Earl’s voice deepening), ‘All right. Let’s do it (laughs).’”

The memory of that moment still gives Earl a great deal of pleasure.

“Every time I say that, I just get a thrill, because I remember how I felt when he said it, because I knew that meant we were on our way,” said Earl.

Getting to work
Wasting little time, in two weeks, Grossman sent the band $10,000. He also set them up to record in Rockfield, Wales, and he did something else – namely, getting them a producer in Dave Edmunds.

“We had most of the songs put together before we went there,” said Earl. “It was just that we didn’t have anybody to produce it. We were sort of self-producing it, and we were using the engineers at Rockfield. We were musicians. None of us were producers. The engineers were engineers, not producers.”

As Earl remembers, Edmunds was working the night shift at Rockfield. When he had time, Edmunds would lend a hand, or an ear.

“He would come in at like 10, 11, 12 o’clock at night and work through until the next morning or mid-day,” said Earl. “And we were playing at the farm there; it’s a farm in Wales. And he sometimes would crossover to where we would still be playing, and Dave would come into the studio, and we got friendly. We’d sit down and listen to his stuff, and vice versa. And then sometime during the proceeding – I don’t remember when, but it was probably with our manager – we talked and said, ‘Let’s get Dave to give us a helping hand.’”

Edmunds was a godsend, and everybody who heard the results was impressed.

“Dave, he sprinkled some magic on it,” said Earl. “I didn’t know if everybody else liked it (laughs). But everybody liked it, and it went down great, and ‘I Just Want to Make Love to You’ was a Top 40 single over here. So we were on our way.”

The old Willie Dixon song was an old favorite of the threesome.

“We actually started playing it when we were in Savoy Brown,” recalled Earl. “Actually, Dave, myself and Tony Stevens would jam it at sound checks, or if Kim wasn’t there. I don’t know that Kim ever came in on that, but we would just jam that kind of riff and play in that kind of riff, and Dave would just sing that song. So that’s where it came from, but Rod Price came in and put his magic on it, and then Dave came in and he looked at Rod and said, ‘This is what you want to do, boyo, in this part (laughs).’ Yeah, that was well done, I think.”

Indeed it was, as the single shot to No. 83 on the Billboard 100. Foghat had their first hit on their hands, and they were eager to keep the momentum going.

"Having a year and a half off, it was a little tough," said Earl. "I think once we got a chance to play again, especially over here in the States, it was great and you sort of grab it with both hands. And we did. We toured incessantly. A couple of members fell by the wayside, but not many (laughs). And actually, Dave loved touring as well. Dave was always up for it no matter what, when or how. Dave never moaned about that. I mean, sometimes he'd get a little pissed off about the money. Other than that, Dave was great."

Piecemeal approach

Not everybody was as keen about Foghat's seemingly endless touring cycle as Earl and Peverett. That was the reason Stevens left the band in 1975.

Rock and Roll, due to the cover, which featured a bakery roll and a rock – as well as 1974's Energized and a pair of 1975 efforts, Rock and Roll Outlaws and the seminal Fool for the City LP. All were recorded during Foghat tours, with the band recording in whatever studios they could when they found a little free time.
The self-titled Foghat album that's
also referred to as Rock and Roll.
Despite the weeks, months and years Foghat spent on the road in those days, they did manage to record a second self-titled record – often referred to as

"It was pretty weird, actually," said Earl. " Anytime you think that [if you spend] weeks or whatever in the studio, everything's getting improved. But we were going to studios for maybe a couple of days to try to lay down the stuff, and then we'd go somewhere else. It wasn't our idea. I think our second album and Rock and Roll Outlaws ... they were a little difficult and were made in a number of different studios and mixed in different places. It was okay, but whereas the first album, we did it all in one place, with the same producer and we had time, I thought that album worked really well."

Fool for the City was a different experience. Foghat had time, and Nick Jameson, on their side.

* Look for Part 2 of our Foghat story in the coming days


  1. Interesting knowing the history of Foghat. You guys rock, keep it up.
    Publish more of current day events. I have met all the current members in Montgomery, Al. at a great performance there. We know Charlie......he knows us.

    1. We'll keep on doing it. Glad you enjoyed the article. Keep an eye out for Part 2. They seem like great guys.