Free was a learning experience for the young Rodgers. Now in his mid-20s, he was already a veteran in the music business.
Rodgers put a band together called Peace and toured the U.K. with Mott The Hoople. He struck up a friendship with Mick Ralphs, and they began writing together.
In order to take it to the next level, Rodgers knew talent was not enough; he had to have solid management. Rodgers recalls how he met Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant.
“Mick and I were putting Bad Company together, and I said to him, ‘We have to have the greatest manager in the world. Who manages Led Zeppelin?’ Coincidently, Zeppelin had formed the record label Swan Song and was scouting for talent. I called Peter and told him who I was and what I was looking for. Peter said, ‘I am interested in managing you.’ I told him that I came with a band.”
Rodgers invited Grant to come to the band’s rehearsal, and Grant accepted. The band waited for hours for Grant to arrive but finally gave up and began jamming. Much to Rodgers’ surprise, Grant presented himself at the end of Bad Company’s rehearsal.
He had been outside listening to the group play without letting them know he was there. He claimed he wanted to see what the band was really about without the pressure of his presence. At the end of the day, he liked what he heard and agreed to take them on.
Grant was a man of huge stature who was very intimidating. He was schooled on the streets, equal parts manager and gangster. By the time he signed Bad Company, Led Zeppelin was the biggest band in the world and had all of the machinery in place to launch a band.
“It was a little bit daunting to be signed by the great Led Zeppelin, at the time,” Rodgers admits.
Soon enough, however, the members of each band would become great friends.
“They would come to see us play and come on for a jam,” recalls Rodgers. “We had a lot in common musically, a lot of the same influences.”
The last piece in the Bad Company puzzle was placed when the band found ex-King Crimson bass player Boz Burrell. Now, all they needed was a place to record. As fate would have it, Led Zeppelin was to begin recording a new album and had a mobile unit set up at the Headley Grange manor in England. Zeppelin got delayed 10 days, and instead of having the mobile unit sit idle, Grant instructed the boys to go in and lay down a couple of tracks.
The band enthusiastically went in and recorded the entire first album.
“It was very much a communal spirit. We’d get up, and someone would light fires, someone would cook.” Rodgers remembers. “We had the equipment set up in different parts of the house. The vocals were in one room, and we had a room for the echo. Another room was for drums and another for guitar. It was very organic.”
The song “Bad Company” was a centerpiece for the record, and it came straight from Rodgers’ vast imagination.
“I sat at the piano one day, and I started thinking of a Wild West scene,” explains Rodgers. “In England, you are shoulder-to-shoulder with everybody because it is such a small country. I would imagine these vast plains. In the early days of the Wild West, people were coming from all over the world. People were fleeing from Europe like rats out of a sewer. America was a huge vast canvas that was yet to be painted. All of the above came into my mind, and I had a picture of these guys who were thrown in amongst that. They didn’t really want to be bad company, but they lived in a lawless world, and they had to live with frontier justice. All of that triggered the mood to th