SUNBURY - Since 1971, Foghat has been playing rock 'n' roll and despite some recent hardship, the group will bring its tight boogie and blues sound to the Spyglass Ridge Winery, 105 Carroll Road, as part of the winery's backyard music series. The Sun-Gazette recently had the opportunity to connect with Roger Earl, Foghat's longtime drummer, over the phone. Despite his rock 'n' roll notoriety, Earl is a down-to-earth guy with a lot to say.
APRIL LINE: From '71 to now is a huge span of rock history in which to be engaged. I wondered if you'd want to talk a little about Foghat's relationship to the rock revolution.
ROGER EARL: It started back in the early '50s, mid-'50s. And I love that music as much now as I did then. In fact, just recently, my wife got it for me as a present. There was an album released back in 1955 called "Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio" - I used to have the album. The music sounded as great to me as it did back then. Rock 'n' roll music has changed, but it's more of an attitude. You can't have just one thing that claims to be rock 'n' roll. It's about teenage angst, it's about drinking too much or not drinking enough; I wanna do it, I haven't done it enough; I want to do it again. If somebody listens to the music, it's for them to decide. As far as we're concerned, we're a rock 'n' roll and blues band and we turn it up a bit.
Roger Earl of Foghat recently spoke with the Sun-Gazette about the history of the band and its upcoming performance in Sunbury.
AL: How do you think the decision to continue after Lonesome Dave's passing has affected the band?
RE: The fans have been absolutely fantastic. There were literally one or two folks who weren't too keen on coming to hear the band, and who figured it wasn't really Foghat without Dave, and I understand that, and I appreciate it. Of course, at first it was difficult.
Dave was only 56 when he died. It was kind of a shock. I wasn't really prepared for him to go. They took one of his kidneys out, and after two years of dealing with that, we went back on the road. And apart from the fact that he was skinny again, he seemed to get better and better. Then his wife got sick, and he came off the road, and about three months later he died.
It's really all about the music. For it to continue, we had to find a new singer. Someone who could perform the songs, but also somebody who can bring something to the band, and I think we got that in Charlie Huhn.
We lost a huge part of this band, but we have to carry on. It's about the music. Myself and the rest of the guys in the band are respectful of Dave and his legacy.
AL: I'm guessing that you have been touring your entire adult life. Has that made your relationships outside of the band difficult?
RE: Yeah. Early days, I always had a passion for music and I probably put that first and foremost. There have been a couple of marriages that didn't work out. We're friends now. They've forgiven me. I have three beautiful daughters, a granddaughter, and a bunch of stepgrandchildren who call me Granddad. The first show I did with Foghat was in 1972 or 1973, then I was on the road for thirteen months. You're not going to get very far in a marriage when you're away for 13 months. There are just things I've always wanted to do. I'm good friends with both my ex wives and they all love my current wife. We're all just one big extended happy family.
AL: Do you have any advice for musicians who are starting out now?
RE: Don't do it! (chuckles) In some ways, I think it must be harder now than it was when I first started. Even when I first started playing at 12 to 13 years old, till the time I was 16 and was reasonably competent on a drum kit. There were dates you could go play in bars, clubs, you could rent rooms. Now, it's very difficult for young people to find places to play. It's also difficult for them to learn to play. Back when I started, you learned your craft by practicing and playing shows. Young artists now don't get that opportunity.
But, there's always going to be somebody who wants to rock 'n' roll, no matter what. I think that is what makes the difference: you're prepared to do anything and everything to make it work. You lose something, but hopefully gain something else. I think if you're passionate about something, you give it everything you've got. Otherwise maybe, uh, you don't deserve anything, any degree of success, anyway. I mean, I have some friends who have regular jobs, who are terrific players, and they're happy with what they do. I, on the other hand, am ecstatic about what I do!
AL: Do you record in a studio? How do you write the songs?
RE: With Foghat, it was always very much a group thing. Originally Dave would probably do most of the work, when it came to arranging and writing and putting songs together, it was always very much a group effort. We've all been playing for a long time, so there's quite a lot of talent there, and we utilize it. We have our own studio down in Florida, stuck in the middle of 10 acres of horse country. We go down in January and record until April. It works well - Florida is nice at that time of year, whereas New York can be a little chilly.
AL: I dig the boogie undercurrent in "Last Train Home." Was it a conscious choice, or did it evolve?
RE: Yeah, that was a conscious effort. What we did was something we wanted to do for a long time, basically do a blues album. What we decided was everybody would pick a couple songs, we'll play them, put the hat on them so to speak. Making this record was really a lot of fun. We were laughing and really enjoying ourselves with it. We got to play with one of my musical heroes, Eddie Kirkland, and he came down to the house in Florida, and we did 7 to 8 songs with him. Unfortunately, he was in a car accident a few months after that and he died. It was exciting to work with Eddie. And we got rave reviews, so I guess we got it right. And we sold some.