Foghat drummer Roger Earl preaches ‘The Word of Rock ‘n’ Roll’

By Mike Greenblatt

Perhaps best known for a searing cover of “I Just Want To Make Love To You” and original hits including “Slow Ride,” “Fool For The City” and “Third Time Lucky,” Foghat is still going strong more than 40 years after it formed. Drummer Roger Earl is the sole original member still with the band, which he co-founded with fellow Savoy Brown alumni Tony Stevens (bass) and Lonesome Dave Peverett (guitar and vocals), as well as the late Rod Price (guitar).

The group’s stays busy on the road, but it does find time for a little fun in the studio. A contest asking fans to create lyrics for Foghat’s only all-instrumental tune, “495 Boogie” (from the 2010 studio album “Last Train Home”) resulted in the new single “The Word of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” The band added the lyrics crafted by contest-winner Phil Dessinger to the song and released on July 9. It’s been on the RadioInfo Rock Songs Chart ever since, and, as of the time of this blog’s posting, it was at No. 16.

Recently, I was lucky enough to get to talk with Foghat co-founder and drummer Roger Earl — more than 40 years after I started listening to that band.

Fog Had The Word of Rock 'n' RollGoldmine: You keep on keepin’ on, don’t you? I dig the new single, “The Word Of Rock ’n’ Roll.” It’s like the DNA of rock ’n ’roll itself. Primal, basic and primitive:  everything rock ’n’ roll should be with no affectations, auto-tune or embellishments. Congratulations.
Roger Earl:
Thank you. Originally, it was done in two takes. To give credit where credit is due, it was my brother Colin who came up with it. Occasionally, when I would go over to England, I would sit in with his all-boogie band. I always remembered there was a couple of instrumentals  they used to play and I asked him to play this particular one. At first I thought it was a shuffle. We had recorded it to get the changes down. It was pretty straightforward. Then we just played. It was one of those rock’n’roll moments. I love working with my brother. He’s been very kind to me over the years. And making this last album was a lot of hard work with my brother.

Goldmine: There’s a lot of brothers-in-bands who wind up hating each other!
RE: Not us!

Goldmine: The Kinks, Black Crowes, Oasis …
RE: Those guys in Oasis are idiots! I always enjoyed the performances of The Kinks. I had the same drum teacher as Mick Avery.

Goldmine: You’ve been drumming since about 1934, right?
RE: [laughs] Only my taste in music goes back that far.

Foghat 2013 photo by Steve Sirois

Foghat’s current lineup consists of Charlie Huhn, bassist Craig MacGregor, drummer Roger Earl and guitarist Bryan Bassett. Publicity photo/Steve Sirois.


Goldmine: Are you not the only original Foghat member left?

RE: Yeah. Craig MacGregor, our bassist, joined in ’75 after Nick Jameson left. Then Craig left a few more times but came back. I refuse to depart. [Guitarist] “Lonesome” Dave [Peverett], [bassist] Tony [Stevens] and I formed Foghat in ’71 when we all left Savoy Brown together.

Goldmine: So you obviously not only have a natural affinity for rock ’n’ roll but for the blues as well.
RE: Yeah, my father who played piano took me to see Jerry Lee Lewis when I was about 13. I was never the same since.

Goldmine: So what began as the instrumental “495 Boogie” first became a song with words when the late Alabama DJ Charlie Ocean put lyrics to and renamed it “Big American Blonde.”
RE: Yeah, then he got the idea to have a contest for another set of lyrics but died and the idea was put on hold for awhile. When we finally did it, the winner was “The Word Of Rock ’n’ Roll,” which we did a single and video for. The only thing was it was so difficult to pick a winner since we had so many good responses. We picked three and the winner was voted on. The results were so close that I think “The Word Of Rock ’n’ Roll” won by only two votes.

Goldmine: Ken Dashow of WAXQ-FM Classic Rock Radio in New York and Jeb Wright of www.classicRockRevisited.com and Goldmine magazine helped picked the three, right?
RE: That’s right. Phil Dessinger, who won the contest, is the son of an original member of The CBS Orchestra who played in the pit during The Ed Sullivan Show. I think the guy who came in second place was an American soldier stationed in Afghanistan. We actually recorded the runner-up version as well.

Goldmine: I saw the video, loved it. It really encapsulates the entire history of Foghat in both lyric and image with wonderful still photography of the band since inception. It’s a real monument to someone like yourself, who has spent his whole career behind that drum set for one band! Think about that! You’ve done what all us guys who used to be in cover bands could only dream about doing! You’ve lived it. To me, that’s impressive as hell.
RE: [laughs] Be careful what you wish for, Mike.

Goldmine: You not only lived it, you survived it!
RE: So far. Occasionally, I’ve been accused of having too much fun but, hey, I’m a drummer. If I’m no good, the band sucks, right?

Foghat drummer Roger Earl photo by Jack Benas

Back in the day, drummer Roger Earl was known to challenge Foghat’s musicians with ridiculously fast tempos that had his bandmates yelling at him to slow down. These days, he prefers to keep the beat slower, but always rock steady. Publicity photo/Jack Benas.

Goldmine: Depending upon what drug you take, you’ll either speed up or slow down the song!
RE: They used to yell back at me on the drum riser, “Rog, you’re playing too quick!” I used to yell back down at them, “but it feels so good!” I had the bright idea to do our first live album in 1977 (“Foghat Live”). I would then sit and listen to the tapes of each show at night. That’s when I realized was playing so f**king fast! Obviously, I didn’t know how to put the brakes on a little bit. I was just talking about that to [bassist] Craig [MacGregor] who asked me, “Do you remember how fast you used to play?” I told him I did but certainly couldn’t do it anymore. And I wouldn’t want to anyway. Youth and enthusiasm, man. We’ve always been an enthusiastic band.

Goldmine: Your particular instrument is a little more physically demanding than the others.
RE: That’s what I used to tell them in trying to get more money but I quickly learned it doesn’t work that way. GM

 

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