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NJBS Interviews Foghat’s Roger Earl


Roger Earl

The whipcrack heartbeat of Foghat—the England-born, U.S.-homed band that earned blues-rock immortality for their “Slow Ride” into the pantheon of decade-defining grooves—has forever been drummer Roger Earl. Not only is he the sole continuous member across five decades of boogying. The effervescent powerhouse is also the lone original/founding member still thundering beneath that massive, onstage Foghat banner.

Foghat

And true to the band’s longstanding, ever-energized tradition, Earl and his Foghat mates still haven’t shaken their “road fever,” best treated by bringing packed, cheering venues to their feet night after night. And now Foghat has even more to roar about: Their new (and 17th) studio album—the rightfully titled Sonic Mojo—just dropped on November 10, 2023 (Foghat Records).

Foghat Sonic Boom

The short story dryly goes like this: Like Foghat, Earl was born in London (Hampton Court). Raised there, too (in Hounslow, a region with something in its water, having also fostered The Who’s Pete Townshend and John Entwistle, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan).

Roger Earl

In 1968, the young drummer officially entered into British blues-rock lore upon enlisting in Savoy Brown, founding-frontman Kim Simmonds’ roaring answer to John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.

Foghat

In December 1970—after five load-bearing LPs with Savoy Brown—Earl packed up his drumsticks and exited. So did singing guitarist “Lonesome Dave” Peverett. Bassist Tony Stevens, too. Shortly thereafter, guitarist/slide guitarist Rod Price, having departed Black Cat Bones, joined the three former Savoy Brown employees. By 1971, Foghat, v1.0, was famously born.

Foghat


And the world was never again the same.




Fifty-two years later, Foghat’s current iteration still finds Earl pounding the daylights out of the drums—now in the company of lead vocalist/guitarist Scott Holt (Buddy Guy), lead/slide guitarist Bryan Bassett (Molly Hatchet, Wild Cherry) and bassist Rodney O’Quinn (Pat Travers Band).

Foghat

However, the electrifyingly stone-blue story colorfully goes like this: On a sunny, cold November 8th morning in north New Jersey, Earl spoke with North Jersey Blues Society’s Dennis Rozanski from “sunny, warm” Florida, where he and the band were at their Boogie Motel South studio, preparing for then-upcoming record release parties. The conversation roamed from the brand-new Foghat album, Sonic Mojo, to Foghat history (including genesis of that indelible name), to how blues embedded into their DNA, to the band’s primordial 1960s roots in Savoy Brown—to even a whopper of a fishing tale about dropping a hook and line down a New York City manhole.


NJBS: Foghat’s 1972 self-titled debut album famously boasted “I Just Want to Make Love to You.” The new album—Sonic Mojo—finds the band back with another of Willie Dixon’s songs about carnal craving, “Let Me Love You Baby.”


Roger Earl: Somebody also pointed that out after the fact. That wasn’t deliberate on our part. But, in some ways, it was, because our tastes in music haven’t really changed that much. We still love playing classic blues songs, but altering them enough to put the ’Hat on it, as it were.


NJBS: Absolutely, because the Howlin’ Wolf song, “How Many More Years,” is retooled on Sonic Mojo. A totally different, smoldering take on what Wolf did back in 1951.


Roger Earl: It’s Scott Holt’s fault for that [laughs]. It’s all his fault. In fact, it’s his fault we’re having such a good time! I blame him all the time for everything [laughs].


NJBS: Similar to the band’s first album, you also circle back, intentionally or not, with another Chuck Berry tune, “Promised Land,” whereas 1972’s Foghat employed “Maybelline.”


Roger Earl: I’ll give you a brief synopsis of that story. Scott went to see Elvis Presley, who had that song [“Promised Land”] out as a single at the time [circa 1974]. Just recently, I came across Dave Edmunds—who I love, and without [producer] Dave Edmunds working on our first album with us, it would not be anywhere near as successful as it was—doing a version of that Chuck Berry song, too. Scott and I were playing the song and having fun because it has a real swing kind of thing. Then Bryan said, “I want some of that!” And Rodney came in and said, “I want to play bass on that!” That’s how it came about. It was a fun song to play.


NJBS: And, of course, you have a great boogie on the album, too: “Drivin’ On.”


Roger Earl: Thanks, Kim Simmonds [the late founder/guitarist of Savoy Brown, who cowrote “Drivin’ On” plus two other tracks on Sonic Mojo with the current Foghat].


NJBS: Speaking of “Drivin’ On,” what is the longstanding allure of the blacktop and the proverbial road to Foghat’s songwriting over all these years: “Highway (Killing Me),” “Road Fever,” “8 Days on the Road,” etc. Because, once again, you’re back on that road again with “Drivin’ On.”


Roger Earl: That’s what we do. Foghat—certainly as far as I’m concerned, and Lonesome Dave was of the same ilk as me—loved playing.

Lonesome Dave

We just loved going out and playing. When we were not playing, Dave, who was pretty quiet, immersed himself in writing songs and listening to music. Whereas I tended to just hang out and party too much [laughs]. But when it came to playing on the road, we were both locked into it. We would rehearse and get everything right. Dave was the best on the stage—even when he was ill. He would always give 110%. When it came to playing onstage, we were brothers. But very different people offstage.


Lonesome Dave Roger Earl

Another example: We were playing in Chicago and had a few days off. It may have been during the Stone Blue Tour [1978-1979]. So, Dave and I went out to a local blues club: Mother Blues. We walk in the door, we pay our $3, I make a right turn, go to the bar, buy myself a Cognac and, for Dave, a white wine. When I come back, Dave is still standing in the doorway. Just staring at the stage.


He turns to me and says, “Do you know who that is playing drums?” I look and say, “No. Who is that, Dave?” “That’s Freddie Below!” he answers.

Freddie Below

[Below was Chicago’s everywhere-drummer: Muddy Waters (“I’m Ready,” “Manish Boy”); Little Walter (“Mellow Down Easy,” “My Babe”); Howlin’ Wolf (“Spoonful,” “Wang Dang Doodle”), Chuck Berry (“Johnny B. Goode,” “Sweet Little Sixteen”), Buddy Guy (“First Time I Met the Blues,” “Stone Crazy”), Elmore James, Otis Rush, and on and on.]



I certainly knew who Below was, but I didn’t recognize him. He was one of my influences, one of my heroes. In fact, I learned how to play drums by listening to him play on the Chess stuff and anything else he played on. Because I had all those songs on a grundy tape when I was 15 or 16 years old, when I first got my drums. And I would sit down and play along.


So, the band was taking a break. Dave and I walked over to talk with him. Below, being quite a tall man, looked down on Dave and me, and asked “Do you guys want to play?” “YEAH! YEAH, we want to play!” He goes off to the bar and we played for the next hour or so. It was interesting.


That’s the other thing: Dave and I would often go out and jam at clubs. Rod usually didn’t usually go out with us. And it was afterwards that I realized Dave was a closet drummer. He knew every single drummer who played on every blues or jazz or R&B record.

Foghat

I’ll give you another example: We were working on the Energized album [released in 1974]. Our producer was Tom Dawes. We had three songs, had worked out the arrangements, had rehearsed them and were ready to record. But we had a day off in the City and were sitting in Tom’s apartment in Manhattan.


That’s the first time I had frozen Russian vodka—but that’s another story [laughs].


We were sitting there, talking about music, and Tom Dawes—who did a lot of jingles, brilliant advertising stuff, including a Coca-Cola commercial—said he uses [drummer] Bernard Purdie on most of his sessions. Dave and I literally eyeballed each other and said, “You know Bernard Purdie? Bernard ‘Pretty’ Purdie!”

Bernard Purdue

Then, almost in unison again, Dave and I say, “Can we get him to play on our record?” [laughs].


So, Tom arranged for Bernard to come down. We were going to record in a place in New York. We set up with myself on a platform, only about a foot high; Bernard was to my left; the band was in a semicircle in front of us; and Dave was singing in the middle. That way, everybody can hear. It was a very organic thing. Bernard came in with his own hi-hat and he set things up. We hadn’t talked yet because he was busy. Then, Tom Dawes comes out with the sheet music for the arrangements, as Bernard was going to read for the songs. While Bernard was tuning the drums, Tom puts his wallet on Bernard’s snare drum.


Bernard looks at him and says, “What are you doing?”

Tom replies, “The drum is ringing.”

“Drums are supposed to ring,” Bernard answers.


Bernard—who was a beautiful man with a beautiful smile and had a way to make everybody relax—turns to me and says, “OK. We’re gonna play each song three times. First time—to get the arrangement right. Second time—to get the song right. And the third time—for fun.” And that has stayed with me forever. Because when you are in the studio and have to do a song more than three times, it’s time to move onto something else. You need to rehearse or figure out what you are doing. That was like a mantra for me from there on out.


NJBS: Yeah, because he’s such a huge figure in drumming! I know he has his own defined style [the Purdie Shuffle] and he’s on a million sessions. So, that must have been a highlight for you!


Roger Earl: It was! It was fantastic! A fantastic human being. An incredible drummer. The really cool thing about how he plays is that he’s really relaxed on the drums, whether shuffles or grooves. There is always a kind of swing to it. The way he plays, it moves.


NJBS: Now how did you come to play with bluesman Eddie Kirkland, who was playing with John Lee Hooker back in 1950s Detroit? [Before the singing guitarist eventually launched his solo career.]


Roger Earl: We were finishing our Stone Blue album [released in 1978].

Foghat

Since Dave and I were huge blues fans, our publicist suggested doing a show where Foghat was the house band, and we’d invite all our favorite blues artists, and play on it. Everybody got paid except us, which was fine because we had more money than sense back then. My wife and band manager, Linda [Arcello-Earl], says that if I had a dime, I’d have more money than sense—but that’s another story! [laughs].


Muddy Waters John Lee Hooker

So, Muddy is booked on there with his band. John Lee Hooker is coming. Paul Butterfield, too. Also, Eddie “Bluesman” Kirkland. Dave knew exactly who he was, and that he played with Hooker, and that Eddie kind of missed out on a number of things.


Dave and I went to this rehearsal room in Manhattan—Star Studios, I believe—and Eddie was there rehearsing with a local New York band. Not his own band. I’m looking at Dave, saying, “These guys don’t know how to play.” They didn’t have a clue of what to play. Because Eddie changes on a whim, like the wind.


NJBS: Yeah, just like Hooker was notorious for doing.


Roger Earl: Yes, so, you have to be awake. I think we said to our manager—but not in front of that band, since they, too, are people who want to earn a living—“We’ll back Eddie Kirkland.” So, we rehearsed with Eddie—and it was a blast! He was a great singer, a great guitar player, an incredible personality. In fact, in some ways, he kind of stole the show. And we were fans. We did a couple of shows sitting in with him. Dave helped him one time by paying his hospital bill. And then Linda actually managed Eddie for a couple of years. He remembered Foghat was always there for him and that we took care of him.

Foghat

We were doing Last Train Home [released in 2010], a blues-based album that Dave and I had talked about for a long time but never got around to doing until then. And Eddie’s name came up.


We invited him to come down and play on the record. So, he got in his car and drove from home in Macon [Georgia]. When he arrived, he said to Linda that he had to put new brake shoes on his car. Linda said, “We’ve got four guys here, two or three of whom are mechanically inclined. Do you need a hand?” Eddie says, “No, I’ve got this.” He gets up early the next morning, goes to the local parts place, and gets his brakes fixed. He calls us about 11:00. We go pick him up and we just started playing. We have about seven or eight songs we recorded with him, but only two or three made it onto the record [“In My Dreams” and “Good Good Day”]. Jeff Howell was playing bass, and he just hung on every word that Eddie had.


And Linda actually recorded him as we were taking a break out on the front porch, sitting there talking. Eddie didn’t drink. Linda has the camera in her hand. He spots the camera. Looks up at Linda. And goes, “Well, the first man I killed” [laughs]. He was a storyteller. He was a beautiful man and, unfortunately, we lost him a few years after that [2011].


NJBS: Yes, it was great that he was on that record because he never really got his due at the critical time, after he had broken free from Hooker. He had solo albums but never achieved the fame he should have.


Roger Earl: That’s exactly how Dave said it. “This guy is great,” before we met him. But he didn’t get the due that was due him. We attempted to do our bit. It was kind of like giving something back. Because without the blues, there would be no music. Blues gave us jazz. Blues and jazz gave us bebop. Bebop gave us rock-and-roll. Country & western and gospel music. They’re all intertwined. America gave music to the world and it started with the blues. A wonderful amalgamation of music, and all those wonderful sounds and ideas came together. And that is what this band is about. I certainly absorbed all those kinds of music growing up.


I’ll give you an example: My older brother Colin—he’s four years older than me [that’s Colin pumping the keys with Mungo Jerry on 1970’s “In the Summertime”]. He was a Jerry Lee Lewis fan. I saw Jerry Lee Lewis when I was 12 years old; my dad took me to see him in southwest London. Colin bought the early Elvis songs on Sun Records, which were great. That music was fantastic! He also bought all of Johnny Cash’s singles. They spoke to me as this 12-year-old kid. I loved Johnny Cash. Even though he did not have a drummer, there was this fantastic rhythm running through the songs. Plus, there was always a story. I didn’t always understand what the songs or the stories were about. But I knew it was the real deal, for want of a better word. There was magic in the stories. And I would sing Johnny Cash songs while riding my bike to school [laughs].

Savoy Brown

NJBS: And that answers one of my questions. Because when you were with Savoy Brown, you were retooling Muddy, Hooker, Elmore, Jimmy Rogers, and other bluesmen on albums like 1968’s Getting to the Point and 1969’s Blue Matter. Obviously, that was not your introduction to the blues. You had been bitten by the bug far before that at an early age.

Savoy Brown


Roger Earl: Yeah, yeah! One of the reasons that I got the job in Savoy Brown is that I actually applied for the job. I was about 19, maybe pushing 20. The advertisement was in Melody Maker, an English rag [a British weekly music magazine]. It read: Blues band looking for a drummer and bass player. So, myself and my friend Dave Hutchins, who is a bass player, applied for the job. We didn’t get it the first time. Another drummer and bass player got it. But then, they called me up about a month or two later. Apparently, the drummer they had, couldn’t play a shuffle.


NJBS: Was that Bill Bruford [Yes, King Crimson]?


Roger Earl: Yes. So, I’m sitting there after having had played for about 2.5 hours at the Nags Head pub in Battersea [for the audition]. I borrowed my dad’s car to bring my drums up that day. I had my day job: I was a commercial artist. I was doing really well there, as drums and cymbals are really expensive. I had been playing there [at the pub] for at least 2.5 hours, I know that: I was pretty tired. And I’m sitting there; nobody is saying anything. So, I’m packing my drums up and taking them downstairs.


They say, “Where are you going?”

I reply, “I’m going back to work. Why?”

“Well, you’ve got a gig in Birmingham tonight,” they say.

And that was the start [with Savoy Brown].


NJBS: What was that like to have been born in London; you are there at the height of rock-and-roll in the Swinging London scene; and going from a paying patron at, say, the Marquee Club to being a paid performer, up on the stage at the Marquee? That must have been phenomenal!

Roger Earl: Well, to be fair, I didn’t get paid for the first six weeks [laughs]. After about two weeks, we had done three to four dates each week. Now, I’m getting into the [commercial art] studio where I worked, sometimes midday, looking like something the cat dragged in [laughs]. I’d make excuses like “I’m sorry I was late, but the bus was late.” They’d say, “Where’d you play last night, Rog?” “Oh, … Newcastle.” They were very tolerant; they knew how much this meant to me. They didn’t fire me. Actually, I handed in my notice after six weeks.


But I didn’t get paid for six weeks with Savoy Brown. After about two weeks, I went into the office and I talked to Harry Simmonds, the manager. I said, “I haven’t been paid yet.” He said, “You haven’t got paid yet! We’ll see about that.” And this went on for about six weeks—but I fitted into the band, loved playing the songs, and was having the time of my life. And that’s why I stayed there for so long. Eventually I got paid: 12 pounds, 50 pence a week. But, as a commercial artist, I was earning 100 pounds or more. So, I’m giving up money each week. I was good at commercial art—but it was work. Whereas playing in a band—that’s not work.


NJBS: And you had real chops back at that early age. Listening to 1969’s A Step Further, there is that whole album side where the band is playing “Savoy Brown Boogie” live, and you are pounding the life out of that song for 20some minutes.

Savoy Brown

Roger Earl: Yeah, yeah. That was great. Chris Youlden [Savoy Brown vocalist from 1967-1970] remembers that when signaling for the end of the song, I didn’t see or hear him, and that’s one of the reasons it went on for so long [laughs]. I remember answering the question of “Why did it go on for so long?” by saying, “Why stop when you’re having fun!”


Chris Youlden was a fantastic singer with an incredible voice. And Kim [Simmonds] and I always got on well. There was never a harsh word between us. It was a really good time for me when playing in that band. Not financially, mind you. We never got paid for any records. Never got paid any publishing money for the songs we cowrote. I actually didn’t get credit for most of it. But playing in that band was a real treat. A great time to be in music.


NJBS: And as I say, Savoy Brown—and, in turn, Foghat—was proof that not all British-born blues-rock bands were sired by the Bluesbreakers.


Roger Earl: [Laughing]. And the other cool thing about Chris Youlden, Dave and Kim: Although all our influences were seated in American blues, the songs created by them were their own interpretation of the music. We didn’t just copy Elmore James. Nothing wrong with that. But we didn’t. And I think that gave us something other than just being another English blues band. It was a great time to be creative.

Foghat

NJBS: And that certainly came out on Foghat’s 1972 self-titled debut record. So, when you, Dave and Tony split off, soon to be joined by Rod, and formed Foghat, was there a plan, a vision, a signature in terms of what you wanted to sound like collectively to separate from the competition?


Roger Earl: [Laughing] I don’t think we were that clever at the time. The truth is that Dave and I did an album one time, when we were in Savoy Brown, because we were only getting 12 pounds, 50 a week—not getting anything other than that. Chris and Kim would go out to lunch with our producer [Mike Vernon], while we stayed behind and jammed. Dave would bring his cheese-and-pickle sandwiches, and we would just play. Roy Baker was the engineer on those sessions. We did a whole bunch of tunes when Chris and Kim were out at lunch for about two hours. About seven or eight tunes, like rockabilly or early blues. Mike Vernon would come back, and Roy Baker would put on what we had just played. It was like “Wow!” We kept that session.

The following day, the same thing happened. Chris and Kim went out to lunch—except Mike Vernon stayed behind this time.

The Rockets

We finished the record, calling ourselves Warren Phillips and the Rockets [1969’s The World of Rock and Roll]. My brother Colin played piano on the first session. Bob Hall played piano on the second session. It was put out as pre-Foghat days. That was an example of how Dave and I were: We just played for hours on end!


NJBS: In terms of the band’s sound, how did the slide guitar become such a signature for Foghat? Was it that Rod was playing bottleneck and it just evolved, or was it a tie-in to the blues? Throughout the whole history of Foghat and its personnel changes, the presence of slide guitar has been consistent.

Roger Earl: When we left Savoy Brown—Dave and I left; Tony Stevens was fired—I put an ad in the Melody Maker: Blues band looking for a guitar player. And a bunch of guitar players showed up. They were very good. Eric Clapton- or Peter Green-like, which is a good thing. Then, Rod turned up and played slide. It was immediate to me and Dave. We jammed for about 30 minutes. And after we finished playing—Rod was probably the last person on the second day—I said, “Do you want to go have a drink?” We went next door to the pub and asked Rod if he wanted to be in the band. He did. At the time, he was in a band called Black Cat Bones.


It was his slide playing: He was great, steeped in the blues. We all became Allman Brothers fans, of course. But Rod’s slide playing was very different from anybody else. He was a very intense player with super-quick vibrato. His emotion came through his playing. And that’s why slide was such an important part of Foghat. Rod’s playing was a huge part of Foghat.


NJBS: And that’s a tribute to him on the new album, Sonic Mojo, in the form of the song “Black Days & Blue Nights”?


Roger Earl: Initially, I wrote the song about Rod because the man had the blues. Our manager, Linda, managed him for a while after he left Foghat. Rod didn’t want to tour anymore. He had enough of touring. Whereas for Dave and I, we lived to play on the road. He was this beautiful character. But towards the end, it got really hard for Rod to deal with the pressures of making records every year and going on the road to tour. Recording, touring, recording: It was never-ending. I was fine with that. So was Dave. But Rod found it difficult. He just didn’t want to do it anymore.


NJBS: It’s a good tribute to him without necessarily citing his name. But if you parse the lyrics—with mention of the slide and the strings—it jumps out that this is likely about Rod.


Roger Earl: Yes. There is a line in there—we used to call him Priceless—about “you are a priceless jewel.” Scott [Holt] actually wrote most of the lyrics. I really like some of the lyrics he came up with. Then we had to figure out the tempo. I think I start off the song. And that’s how we did it. Myself and Scott would mess around with the tempos and see how the lyrics would fit. It was just one take. Yeah, a lot of the times, we’re pretty organic down here in Florida.


NJBS: I’ve heard different stories about how the name of the band, Foghat, came to be: Scrabble play, and this and that. Was there ever an alternate name, because I couldn’t imagine anything better than Foghat. Was anything else in the running at the time?


Roger Earl: There are two stories to that. Well, Dave did come up with the name from a Scrabble game when he was 13 or 14, playing the game with his brother John. Dave made up the word Foghat. Sibling rivalries, as they will be.

There was also a time when Dave decided everybody in the band [Savoy Brown] should have an alternate name or moniker. For some reason, I was Skins Willie. I have no idea why. Kim was the Incredible Gnome. And Chris Youlden was Luther Foghat. “The Incredible Gnome Meets Jaxman” was an instrumental that Kim and Dave wrote together [on Getting to the Point].


And Dave was, of course, an artist as well. He drew Foghat on the back of the first Foghat album cover. His name was Luther. That illustration on the back: That’s Luther. Luther Foghat. That might be a first for you [laughs].


NJBS: As a fisherman, the album cover of 1975’s Fool for the City [which houses the almighty “Slow Ride”] really catches the eye. That’s you sitting and fishing in a city manhole. How did you come up with that?

Foghat

Roger Earl: That was Nick Jameson [bass guitar, keyboards, guitar, vocals, producer and engineer for Fool for the City]. When we were doing the Fool for the City album, we were up in Sharon, Vermont. Up on the tip of a mountain. Literally. You would have to drive half an hour down the mountain to get to the house we were all staying in. That’s the first time we actually took time off the road to make a record. Prior to Fool for the City, it was a week here, a week there, at various studios across the country.


I had this thing about, as soon as we were done, I would go fishing on the local rivers. It was really good trout fishing there. Atlantic salmon were also coming up the river. The salmon were my quarry. I love to fish.


And Nick Jameson came up with the idea. We went into Manhattan. I think it was St. Mark’s Place. It was early one Sunday morning. I hadn’t slept much. And you had to get in early so there would not be too much traffic. We pull up the manhole cover and we start taking pictures. Then along come two of New York’s Finest in their cruiser. Oh dear!


They wind the window down and say, “Hey, you got a fishing license?”

We go, “Oh, ****!” [laughs]

They get out of their cruiser, come over to us, and say, “What the **** are you guys doing?”


We explained we were taking pictures for an album cover. They were really cool. They got the traffic going around us and stopped it when we were filming. New York cops are great. They’re more worried about murder and mayhem [laughs].


NJBS: In addition to being a part of the 1960s with Savoy, what was it like to be on top of the world in this decade-defining band, Foghat? You’re at the sweet spot of rock history, namely in the 1970s. You have gold and platinum albums. And, more importantly, you’ve got some of the greatest moustaches of the era. What was that like?

Foghat

Roger Earl: [Laughing] [after a long pause] Let’s see … How can I put it? … Dennis, IT WAS ****ING GREAT!! Also, in the ’70s, we had the best drugs. I don’t touch the stuff now. The girls were absolutely wonderful. And we were playing all the time. We had a great band. The music was a lot of fun. It was GREAT. I was having the time of my life. Dennis, it was ****ing great, Dennis! [laughs]


And we’re still having a really great time! These guys [Bryan, Rodney, Scott] are the best to play with. We function as a real band. I’ll give you another example: Apart from when we are recording or making music, we are having fun. Everybody hangs out. I’m generally the chef, unless we’re real busy, then we’ll get food delivered. They’re great players. And we’re a band. We fly into most of the dates, and then rent a van. So, we drive. But no one moans. Everybody says, “I’ll drive. No, no, let me drive.”


I’m real fortunate to play with these guys. Scott Holt is like a real revelation to play with. I’ve known him since 2014. We made a couple of records together: We did Earl & the Agitators. We hit it off. Same with Bryan Bassett. He and Scott are like two peas in a pod. Very different players, but steeped in the blues. Rodney O’Quinn is a fantastic bass player. He was a big fan of Craig MacGregor [a former Foghat bassist], so that works. We’re a band. We play like a band. Everybody has a good time.

Foghat

Let me give you an example: The other day we played in El Dorado, Arkansas. They were a fantastic audience. It was really a great show. We played three of the new songs that night. Afterwards, we were backstage, Scott and I were having a glass of red wine, and Scott says to me, “Isn’t this great, Rog? What other jobs do you have that, when you finish working, people stand up and cheer and clap for you?” [laughs]. That sums it up. The thrill hasn’t gone from this band.


NJBS: In all honesty, having seen current live clips of the Foghat tour as well as live clips in the official videos for “Drivin’ On,” “I Don’t Appreciate You,” or “She’s A Little Bit of Everything,” you guys really look and sound like you’re having the time of your lives. It truly does show.


Roger Earl: We’re basically a rock-and-roll blues band. When you put those two things together, it’s difficult not to have fun. Like I said earlier, the combination of all the players—especially since Scott joined us two years ago—it’s a real revelation for me. I’m having a great time. My wife sometimes says that I act like a 16-year-old. I say, “Nooooo, more like 21” [laughs].


NJBS: Building off of that, what was it that made the band say, “You know what, it’s time to record a studio album now”?


Roger Earl: Our [last] singer, Charlie Huhn, gave us three-days’ notice before we were to start rehearsing for the upcoming tour. He sent our manager an email and said that he wouldn’t be there for rehearsals. Scott was down here at the studio. We were working on some songs—just because we can. I think it is hard for anyone to say that they are retiring. And I think Charlie found it difficult to sing three nights in a row—and some of these Foghat songs put a strain on your voice. I don’t know how I would feel if I said that I was retiring. I’ve had both shoulders repaired throughout the years. I try to take care of myself. I exercise and work out. Life is good. The only way I’ll retire is if my hands and feet don’t work anymore.


NJBS: Agreed, Foghat is not a ballad band.


Roger Earl: [Laughing] You know what? We do one ballad.


NJBS: “Song For the Life” [off Sonic Mojo]?

Foghat

Roger Earl: “Third Time Lucky (First Time I Was a Fool)” [off 1979’s Boogie Motel]. That was one of our highest-charting singles. We played it for about a year; we might play it again next year.


Yeah, but “Song For the Life”: I love that song! Linda and I were driving down to Nashville a number of years ago, and that song came on. I heard this one line: “I don’t drink as much as I ought to.” What a great song. I couldn’t find out who had written it, and I would Google it, and I would ask people if they knew who wrote it. Eventually, I found it was a Rodney Crowell song.


NJBS: And you did one of his songs before, I think.


Roger Earl: That’s right: “Ain't Livin’ Long Like This,” which we did on In the Mood For Something Rude [released in 1982]. Actually, I think [Lonesome] Dave and/or Erik Cartwright came up with the idea of doing that. In fact, I was talking to Scott about that, and we might include that in the set. Hey, we’re already playing an hour and 45 minutes!

Foghat

Anyway, I found the song, “Song For the Life,” and the lyrics. It’s like a 3/4-time, slow, country-waltz song. I was going, “This isn’t going to work for Foghat.” But I love the lyrics. So, Scott and I went to town on how can we put this song together, changing the melody from the original version. Actually, our manager, Linda, was friends with Rodney’s previous manager, so we got his phone number. I called up Rodney Crowell and left a message for him. Then, he called me back! A really cool guy. And he’s written so many great songs. I am looking forward to meeting him one day.


NJBS: I think “Song For the Life” works quite well on Sonic Mojo, because, to me, this album has a lot of rock and a lot of blues—but the record also breathes and takes time for self-reflection, as with “Song For the Life,” “Time Slips Away” and the Rod tribute in “Black Days & Blue Nights.”


Roger Earl: Thank you. We actually had a number of songs left over from this album. That’s another thing about this band: Everybody agreed on what we liked. When you are making music and being creative, it doesn’t always work. Sometimes, it just doesn’t gel. But I think all the songs on this record made everyone happy. Then we had to discuss what songs go in what order. Actually, there is one extra song on the CD—“She’s Dynamite”—that is not on the vinyl. You only have so much time on 180-gram vinyl, so we had to take the song off because we didn’t want to lose [audio] quality. It’s sort of like: What’s your favorite child? They’re all favorites [laughs].


NJBS: “She’s Dynamite” is a nice addition. B.B. King did it in 1951 or ’52, and it’s this toe-tapper. But you guys turn it into a bulldozer.


Roger Earl: [Laughing] Well, you know, some of the lyrics—“she’s got a pearl-handled pistol and a razor, too”—I mean, come on, now that’s a chick [laughs]! “And she knows what to do.” In fact, that came from Scott and I just jamming. Just guitar and drums. And Scott singing. In fact, that’s the original take that we did. We did it two or three years ago. Bryan found it on his machine, and we went, “Wow, that’s really good!” Actually, I think Bryan played bass on it.


NJBS: Lastly, I think you answered the question, in part, from before. But, in summing up: You’re still the big bang behind the kit, you’re still composing, you’re still recording, you’re still a road warrior. What is your secret to defying age, Roger?


Roger Earl: I don’t want to grow up [laughs]! I’m having too much fun. If it got to the point where I couldn’t play anymore, if my feet and my hands couldn’t work anymore ... But there is a whole bunch of new [medical] stuff out there to help repair muscles and tendons and such. I’m also friends with a number of doctors and surgeons. Actually, a lot of doctors and surgeons play, and I’ve done benefits with them over the years. I hang out with people who can fix me or know somebody who can. I work at keeping healthy. And, as the song says, “I don’t drink as much as I ought to” [laughs].


NJBS: Thank you for your time, Roger. It was a genuine pleasure speaking with you. And I wish you all the best with the new album and your continuing road tour [which is slated to commandeer the Hard Rock & Hotel Casino in nearby Atlantic City on December 9, 2023].

Roger Earl

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