Foghat began their career in 1971 as a bunch of rather unpretentious young Brits with an affection for American blues and ’50s rock ‘n’ roll. By the middle of the decade, they had evolved into a major touring and recording act, playing a pumped-up brand of boogie-rock to arena-size audiences. Their looks grew flashier, their sound fattened and filled out, yet the roots-rock core of the band remained ever-present under the surface.
From the viewpoint of certain critics, Foghat unduly compromised their early blues-based approach in order to reap commercial rewards. Certainly, their mid-’70s hits (“Slow Ride,” “Drivin’ Wheel,” “Stone Blue”) were not aimed at the rock purists of the world. But it’s also true that they continued to record traditional blues and R&B material throughout their years with Bearsville Records. In fact, Foghat’s final albums on Bearsville reaffirmed their love for unadulterated, primal American music.
Lonesome Dave Peverett (lead vocals, guitar), Rod Price (lead guitar), Tony Stevens (bass), and Roger Earl (drums) all came out of the vital, close-knit London blues scene of the ’60s. Peverett (born in 1943) first gained attention as leader of The Cross Ties Blues Band, then served a stint with Swiss rock group Les Questions. From there, he returned to Britain and joined Savoy Brown, who had already established themselves with their “Shake Down” album. As Savoy Brown’s rhythm guitarist and, later, lead vocalist, Peverett appeared on the band’s “Getting To The Point,” “Blue Matter,” “A Step Further,” “Raw Sienna,” and “Looking In” albums.
There was an LP, released in ’79 by London Records Collectors Series, called “Before Foghat Days.” This was an unknown album to most people. According to the liner notes, during a break in the studio while recording Savoy Brown’s “A Step Further” album, Dave, Tony and Roger started jamming, picking old rockabilly tunes off the top of their heads. Unknown to them, the engineer had the tapes rolling. After hearing the tapes they decided to record a few more songs and release it as an album. It was originally released in ’69 as “Warren Phillips and the Rockets.” It is done in the old Sun Records style, and the original idea was to write phony liner notes about the lost recordings of the “legendary” Warren Phillps. It says 95% was recorded in one take, a few songs being “Shake, Rattle, and Roll,” “Money Honey,” and “Matchbox.” One song even features a kazoo solo by Dave.
In early ’71, Peverett decided to strike out on his own, taking Savoy Brown bassist Tony Stevens and drummer Roger Earl with him. With the recruitment of Rod Price (another London blues player) on lead guitar, the new group began to stir interest. Bearsville founder Albert Grossman put the still-unnamed band into a London studio for initial recordings with Todd Rundgren. Ultimately, Rundgren didn’t seem the right choice for producer, though some tracks he recorded with the group were included on their debut album.
The “Foghat” LP (1972) was produced by Dave Edmunds, whose idiosyncratic style in the studio can be heard throughout the album. “Dave was very much into early Elvis and the Sun Records thing,” Peverett recalls. “I loved the phasing effects he got on the vocals. He wasn’t scared to try off-the-wall sound ideas.” “Ubangi Stomp” was among several recordings from these sessions that didn’t make the album. The track displays Foghat’s often-underplayed rockabilly side, and features Colin Earl of Mungo Jerry on Piano.
On the eve of the album’s completion, the band was still grappling with the choice of a name. Brandywine Track and Hootch had been considered and rejected. Finally, Foghat was selected. Peverett had made up this nonsense word in a childhood game with his brother, and once tried to convince Savoy Brown band mate Chris Youlden to change his name to Luther Foghat. (Youlden failed to see the wisdom in such a move.)
Foghat’s eponymously titled first LP reached #127 on the U.S. album charts, with the single “I Just Want To Make Love To You” gaining them a bit of radio attention. The band quickly followed this up by recording and releasing “What A Shame,” which crept up to #82. Produced by Edmunds, “What A Shame” would later be included in remixed form on their second album, “Foghat” (aka “Rock & Roll”).
The “Rock & Roll” LP was produced by Tom Dawes, following several disappointing sessions with Edmunds at the helm. Formerly with The Cyrkle (“Red Rubber Ball”), Dawes brought a more mainstream touch to Foghat’s studio approach. (The album’s cover, dreamed up by filmmaker Robert Downey, featured a photo of a rock and a roll in place of a title. A visual pun not everyone understood.)
Dawes was called back to produce Foghat’s “Energized” album (1974), which included an R&B-flavored remake of Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day” among its highlights. Though “Energized” went on to reach gold status in the U.S., the band wasn’t exactly happy with its production. “Tom Dawes was really talented, but his musical tastes differed from ours,” Peverett says. “We wanted someone who understood the feeling of our music a little more.”
The band found such a studio partner in Nick Jameson. Hailing from Philadelphia, Jameson had become part of the Bearsville family when Todd Rundgren worked with Nick’s band “American Dream.” From there, Jameson became an engineer, remixing some tracks on the “Foghat” album. He returned to produce and engineer the group’s “Rock And Roll Outlaws” LP (1974), from which comes the melancholy midtempo track “Dreamer.”
At this stage in their career, Foghat had a fairly uneven track record. The success of “Energized” was not matched by “Rock And Roll Outlaws,” leaving the band with doubts about their future. Foghat continued to relentlessly tour the U.S., mostly as an opening act. With four albums under their belts, they found themselves a middle-level band purveying blues/rock to a market that had moved away from such earthy sounds.
The band’s fortunes turned around with “Fool For the City” (1975), which was their first album to go platinum, and introduced Foghat to the Top 40 radio with the hit “Slow Ride” (Best Of Foghat, Vol. 1). That same year, Stevens was replaced on bass by Jameson, who adapted his guitar skills to the instrument after several weeks of intensive practice. The revamped and revitalized Foghat had reached the big leagues at last, though not without some artistic sacrifices. “I think we started painting ourselves into a corner with “Fool For The City,” Peverett says today. “There was pressure to come up with another ‘Slow Ride.”
Jameson bowed out of Foghat to pursue a solo career, which later evolved into acting, and did not tour with the band again. He was replaced in 1976 by a veteran bassist from California, Craig MacGregor. His solid, driving approach to bass playing reflected Foghat’s increased emphasis on simple, aggressive boogie-rock numbers. “Slow Ride’ became a trademark song for us, and that was where the music headed,” Peverett says. “The band’s sound got bigger. We were playing larger venues, and that sort of influenced our stuff. We wanted songs that would work in front of big audiences.”
Night Shift (1976) continued the certified-gold success of “Fool For The City,” yielding the hit “Drivin’ Wheel.” “I’ll Be Standing By” (which reached #67) and a rocking remake of the R&B classic “Take Me To The River” were also released as singles. “Night Shift” was produced by ex-Edgar Winter Group member Dan Hartman, who helped to nudge Foghat even further in a commercial, airplay-oriented direction.
Foghat Live (1977), produced by Nick Jameson, captured the band at the height of their Boogie Monster phase. From the bombastic intro to “Fool For The City” to the drawn-out treatment of “Slow Ride,” the album found them playing the roll to the hilt. The album’s version of “I Just Want To Make Love To You” was released as a single and reached #33 in the U.S. “Foghat Live” went on to earn double platinum status. “I thought a live album would do well,” says Peverett. “It pushed us even further. That was as big as we ever got.”
The band’s next studio album, “Stone Blue” (1978) paired them with producer Eddie Cramer, who had previously engineered recordings for Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Cramer and Foghat didn’t collaborate smoothly, but the tension in the studio may have helped to give the album an added edge. Besides the title track (a Top 40 hit), “Stone Blue” contained a ferocious cover of Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago,” reasserting the band’s blues credentials.
Stone Blue went gold, as did the band’s 1979 LP “Boogie Motel,” which included their version of General Johnson’s “Somebody’s Been Sleepin’ In My Bed.” Still, Foghat was getting restless with the formula perfected on “Fool For The City.”
Peverett, for one, was drawn to the sounds of New Wave rock. “Punk and New Wave reminded me of early rockabilly,” he says. “It appealed to me, even though I felt Foghat was part of what New Wave was trying to replace. So I was kind of knocking myself in a way.”Tight Shoes from 1980 (featuring “Stranger In My Home Town”) was a tentative foray into New Wave. It was also the last album Rod Price participated in until 1994’s Return of the Boogie Men. He was replaced on lead guitar by Erik Cartwright, a versatile player who had previously recorded with Dan Hartman.
Cartwright joined Foghat in time to appear on “Girls To Chat & Boys To Bounce” (1981), which was produced by Nick Jameson, also serving as bass player. A surprisingly credible effort in a Dave Edmunds/Elvis Costello vein, yet tracks like “Live Now – Pay Later” failed to win Foghat many new converts.
In The Mood For Something Rude (1982) was largely an album of R&B covers, rendered in a spirit of good fun (as evidenced by “Slipped, Tripped, Fell In Love”).
A similarly playful approach can be heard on “Zig-Zag Walk” (1983), Foghat’s final Bearsville album. “That’s What Love Can Do” was among the stripped-down rockers in this set. Following Craig MacGregor’s departure, old mate Nick Jameson served both as producer (under the nom du disque “Franz Leipkin”) and bassist/keyboardist (credited as “Eli Jenkins”).
After Zig-Zag Walk’s release in 1983, Craig Macgregor departed Foghat and was replaced by Kenny Aaronson, who had to leave the group for medical reasons. Aaronson was replaced by Rob Alter (former Guitarist for the Ian Hunter Group), who also had to leave for medical reasons the following year. Alter was replaced by returning alumni Craig Macgregor.
Foghat continued to tour until early 1985 when Lonesome Dave retired to England after some 16 years on the road.
The remaining members (Roger Earl, Erik Cartwright and Craig MacGregor) took a brief break and along with Jim Robarge on Hammond B-3 & piano, reunited as The Kneetremblers. Billed as “formerly Foghat,” The Kneetremblers played R&B until 1986 when Robarge left the group and was replaced by Eric “EJ” Burgeson on guitars. A few months later, The Kneetremblers, citing both fan pressure and Burgeson’s knowledge of the material (Burgeson had auditioned for Rod Price’s position), began touring as Foghat. This band later became commonly known as “Roger Earl’s” Foghat.
Roger Earl’s Foghat went through a number of players over the next few years. Craig MacGregor continued until the end of ’86, when he departed to record his own music. MacGregor was replaced on Bass by Erik’s brother Brett Cartwright (Joan Jett), who stayed until 1989 and was subsequently replaced by Jeff Howell (Savoy Brown). Also departing in 1989 was Eric “EJ” Burgeson, who left to join Craig MacGregor’s band. Burgeson was replaced by Phil Nudelman who in turn left in 1990 and was replaced by Billy Davis. The final replacement being Dave Crigger, who replaced Jeff Howell on Bass in 1992.
In 1990, Lonesome Dave Peverett reactivated Foghat as “Lonesome Dave’s Foghat” with new players; including guitarist Brian Bassett (original Wild cherry guitarist and later Molly Hatchet), drummer Eddie Zyne (Hall and Oates), bassist Stephen Dees (from Hall and Oates) and later, bassist Riff West (10 year Molly Hatchet bassist), hitting the U.S. club circuit once more. Lonesome Dave’s Foghat also included performances by Rod Price.
The two versions of Foghat toured separately from 1990 until 1993. The original Foghat was reformed in 1993 when Tony Stevens and Rod Price rejoined, and things were patched up between Dave & Roger.
Lonesome Dave Peverett, Rod Price, Tony Stevens, and Roger Earl, the original founding band members, toured with their studio CD, “Return Of The Boogie Men” and the follow-up live CD “Road Cases” (with Bryan Basset replacing Rod Price in 1999) until Lonesome Dave’s untimely death in 2000. They had returned to the basic blues/rock sound of 29 years ago. Even at their peak as hit makers, that was the essence of the band’s sound. They remained true believers at heart.