Arena will rock Saturday when Foghat hits bandstand
The music of Foghat is a rock-blues-boogie hybrid but a better description is arena rock.
Late arrivals from the British Invasion, Foghat ascended to its pinnacle in the mid- and late 1970s along with bands like REO Speedwagon, Styx and Foreigner. “Foghat Live,” released in 1977, was the arena rock album of the decade, a vinyl window-rattler too powerful to be beaten down by the insidious era of disco. However, music’s dark ages, also known as the ’80s, proved too much for Foghat to overcome, at least for a while.
Thirty years later Foghat released the double CD “Foghat Live II.” It’s just as rockin’ as the first one, only twice as long. And Foghat is still packing the arenas.
“They’re not about to put us out to pasture just yet,” said drummer Roger Earl, who has shaved his famed mustache but retained his free-spirited outlook on life. “We play about eight months a year, two or three times a week. We get to go home and see the kids and grandchildren and go fishing and play golf and the wife knows what I look like.”
Earl is Foghat’s only remaining original member, although bass player Craig MacGregor joined the band in 1976.
“Lonesome” Dave Preverett died of cancer in 2000 and Rod Price died of a heart attack in 2005.
Before he passed, Preverett approved the two final additions to the group, lead and slide guitarist Bryan Bassett and singer and rhythm guitarist Charlie Huhn.
Foghat, which in 2003 released a studio album, “Family Joules” will record another this winter.
“We have a studio down in Florida,” Earl said. “We’ve got 10 acres where we shouldn’t really disturb anybody except maybe the birds and the fish.”
The band has rejuvenated itself and has moved on since the devastating loss of Preverett.
“There’s a lot of talent in this band,” Earl said. “They are all great players, and it’s fun writing new stuff and recording. It’s not a race like it used to be. We’re not under pressure from anybody to get a record out each year. We’re going to be working on some blues tunes.”
Like so many bands from the U.K., Foghat’s style was its own interpretation of the blues from the United States, with an emphasis on John Lee Hooker boogie-woogie.
Earl and Preverett left the band Savoy Brown to come to America where they teamed with Price and Tony Stevens to form Foghat.
“Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson – that’s who we were listening to, along with rockers like Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard,” Earl said. “What did we have in England? ‘Hey Noney, Noney’ and ‘Green Sleeves,’ although Jeff Beck did a pretty good version of ‘Green Sleeves,’ didn’t he?”
One of Foghat’s most successful tunes, “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” was written by Willie Dixon.
“Willie Dixon is getting all of these royalties off this band called Foghat, and he doesn’t know who the hell we are,” Earl recalled. “He sent a couple of kids out to check us out for a couple of days. They came down to see what we had under our fingernails.”
Dixon loved what he’d heard.
“We got invited to his house on the south side of Chicago, and we stayed until 3 or 4 in the morning singing and listening to music,” Earl said. “It was a real thrill.”
The Dixon tune was on Foghat’s 1972 self-titled debut album. The group followed up with “Energized” in 1974, “Rock and Roll Outlaws” and “Fool For The City” in 1975, “Nightshift” in 1976, “Foghat Live” in 1977 and “Stone Blue” in 1978. Some of Foghat’s big hits were “My Babe,” “Slow Ride,” “Fool for the City,” “Drivin’ Wheel,” “I’ll Be Standing By,” “Stone Blue,” “Third Time Lucky” and “Somebody’s Been Sleeping In My Bed.”
When new wave and Madonna hit the scene, Preverett decided to move back to England and Foghat was finished.
Seven months later, Earl brought it back to life, and he hasn’t had an extended break since.
Earl and MacGregor kept Foghat going until the early 1990s. Preverett returned and teamed with Bassett who had been in the groups Wild Cherry and Molly Hatchet. The band was called Lonesome Dave’s Foghat.
All of the original members reunited in 1993 and played until Price quit in 1999.
“I said, ‘Do you want me to audition (Bassett) with some other guitarists?’ And he said ‘No, that’s all right. Brian will do it,’ ” Earl said. “I thank Dave on a regular basis. Brian is a true gem as a human being and a great talent.”
When Preverett became to ill to perform, he encouraged the band to stay together.
“Lonesome Dave wasn’t somebody you can replace,” Earl said. “He had a huge influence on this band. It was a real horror show, him dying and he was only 56.”
Huhn, who sang for Victory and Ted Nugent, was a natural to be the new Foghat singer.
“Dave and I met Charlie (Huhn) around ’96, and I remember his voice from that day,” Earl said. “Charlie was the only consideration for a singer in the band to carry on. It worked out well, and we had Dave’s blessing. I talked to Dave about four days before he died.”
In 2004, another change occurred.
“As was the case in ’74, it didn’t work out (with Stevens),” Earl said. “We wanted Craig McGregor or Nick Jameson, our old producer who played on the “Fool for the City” album.
“Craig took some time off to raise a family but it was time for him to come back on the road,” Earl said. “I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. He really lights up the stage and he’s a tremendous player. In fact, that was part of the reason we wanted to do a live album, because Craig had joined us.”
The album was recorded in 2005 over three shows at the Sycuan Theatre in El Cajon.
“Sonically, we got it right and everybody was really happy with the performance,” Earl said.
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