Goldmine spoke with Peter Frampton’s bassist Stanley Sheldon on his contributions to the classic ’70s Peter Frampton albums “Frampton Comes Alive” and “I’m In You,” his work with Tommy Bolin and on the first solo album for Foreigner’s Lou Gramm.
By Warren Kurtz
Forty years ago, A&M records wanted to prove that Peter Frampton wasn’t a one album wonder with the prior year’s “Frampton Comes Alive.” On August 13, 1977, just a few days before the death of Elvis Presley, Peter Frampton enjoyed his third and final consecutive week in the number two spot with the title tune from his album “I’m in You.” The quartet from the multi-million selling double-live album was back with Bob Mayo on keyboards and guitar and John Siomos on drums, both who have since passed away, and Stanley Sheldon on bass.
GOLDMINE: A&M certainly knew how important “I’m in You” had to be for Peter Frampton 40 years ago. They seemed to divert all marketing from the Captain & Tennille’s “Come in From the Rain” single, which could have been a huge summertime single, to focus on promoting the “I’m in You” album and single in 1977.
STANLEY SHELDON: The “I’m in You” album shipped platinum, but many fans were disappointed as they wanted a harder edged sound like “Do You Feel Like We Do.”
GM: Let’s go back to the prior year. In January of 1976, after four albums on A&M, and a building audience, yet no radio hits, the label took a chance on a double-live album which drew from the prior albums. FM rock and college radio stations jumped on it. My wife, Donna, saw you perform early the following month at Bowling Green State University, a few weeks before the live version of “Show Me the Way” became Peter’s first Top 100 single. It seemed like thousands of students at BGSU, and elsewhere, quickly bought “Frampton Comes Alive.”
SS: That live album still holds up. I wish I would have written a song for it. We first listened to the tapes in 1975 from a remote recording of San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom. We heard “Something’s Happening” and said, “Wow!”
GM: Is that one of the songs you auditioned with?
SS: Yes, it is. I made my way to L.A. with my best friend Tommy Bolin. We tried putting a band together but, ultimately, he was with Deep Purple and I was fortunate to be with Peter Frampton, simultaneously. When Peter was looking for a fretless bass player, Kenny Passarelli was considered, but he was committed to Elton John, so Kenny recommended me. Peter gave me copies of his albums to learn songs, with a two-week deadline. In addition to “Something’s Happening,” the audition also included “Shine On,” “Lines on My Face,” and “Do You Feel Like We Do.” I passed the audition in May of 1975 and we hit the road.
GM: The album brought three live singles to the Top 40 in 1976, “Show Me the Way,” which reached number 6, “Baby, I Love Your Way,” which reached number 12, and “Do You Feel Like We Do” which reached number 10.” Three consecutive live Top 20 hits! The following summer brought two more singles to the Top 20. In addition to “I’m in You” reaching number 2, I really liked your version of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” which reached number 18.
SS: I loved it too. You know, the Brits just love Motown so we ended the “I’m In You” album with a back to back Motown pair of “(I’m a) Road Runner” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours).” Peter wanted a funky sound. I was inspired by James Jamerson’s bass style for Motown. It is not easy with Afro-Cuban rhythms.
Flip side: You Don’t Have to Worry
A side: Tried to Love
Top 100 debut: December 10, 1977
Peak position: 41
A & M 1988
GM: One of my favorites is the flip side of the album’s third single, “Tried to Love,” the tender song “You Don’t Have to Worry.”
SS: That is one of my favorites too. I took home a version of it, before the vocals were added. What a beautiful musical track.
GM: You mentioned Tommy Bolin earlier. You co-wrote the opening song from his album “Teaser,” the one with Mountain-like guitar playing called “The Grind,” and played bass on my favorite, “Dreamer.”
SS: On the 2012 Tommy Bolin tribute album, “Great Gypsy Soul,” Peter is the guest guitarist on “The Grind,” which kicks off the collection. “Dreamer,” on the “Teaser” album, is a big favorite. There was no way that Tommy could hit those high vocals at the end, so he brought in Glenn Hughes from Deep Purple for that part.
GM: This year is the 20th anniversary of Lou Gramm’s first solo album, “Ready or Not.” The first single “Midnight Blue” reached number 5.
SS: Lou and I were close friends and neighbors, living in Westchester County, New York. He felt he could do a solo album away from Foreigner and “Midnight Blue” was another great song and a hit we felt that was bound to happen.
GM: In addition to playing on that one, you also played on another of my favorites, that moody mid-tempo song which closes out the first side, “If I Don’t Have You.”
SS: Yes, that’s a great song too. I first heard it in the studio above his garage when he was writing it. It is simple but beautiful.
Stanley Sheldon with Peter Frampton, courtesy of Stanley Sheldon
GM: Now you are back home in Kansas, still making music, and teaching bass guitar.
SS: I spent five years back on the road with Peter, with the two of us being the only survivors of the original band. He won his only Grammy for the pop instrumental 2010 album “Fingerprints.” I wrote the song “Ida y Vuelta (round trip)” which means “out and back” in Spanish. Now I have a jazz trio here in Lawrence, Kansas playing Cuban music live.
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, known for “Fabulous Flip Sides” along with interviews, CD, DVD and book reviews. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, on WVCR radio as part of “Moments to Remember.”