Peter Frampton: Music Legend Reflects On An Amazing Career/Returns With All Blues By Todd Beebe

Peter Frampton has carved out a musical legacy few can match. His early years saw him making music in bands such as The Preachers and The Herd. Alongside Steve Marriott, Frampton brought a huge dose of blues based rock to the world with Humble Pie. Perhaps no other artist kept the guitar in the public’s eye during the 1970’s better than Peter Frampton. With his multi platinum album Frampton Comes Alive, Peter solidified himself as a household name and set sales records worldwide with one of the all-time biggest selling albums. Proving he is no one trick pony, Frampton has seen and done it all. From studio work to producing to backing up other artists on stage, the man has stayed true to himself and his guitar as the decades and the trends have come and gone. Peter was recently diagnosed with the autoimmune disease inclusion body myositis (IBM). Unaware of when the disease may effect his playing, Frampton embarked on his 2019 farewell tour, which saw him at the top of his game. He also has become very prolific in the studio, stockpiling recordings for future releases. His most recent album, All Blues, is a masterpiece and shows Frampton taking the wheel on 10 blues classics. From a beautiful instrumental version of Georgia On My Mind to B.B. King’s The Thrill Is Gone, this album is a must have! All Blues was recorded with Frampton’s longtime touring band, made up of Adam Lester (guitar/vocals), Rob Arthur (keyboards/guitar/vocals) and Dan Wojciechowski (drums). The album was recorded at Frampton’s studio in Nashville, and was co-produced by Frampton and Chuck Ainlay. It features collaborations with Kim Wilson, Larry Carlton, Sonny Landreth and Steve Morse. It was an honor to speak with Peter recently. We talked all about his early years, the great, new All Blues album, playing with B.B. King and the great recordings that Peter has for upcoming releases. It was so great to speak with Peter. Despite his diagnosis with IBM, he keeps an amazing, positive attitude which is very inspirational. His sense of humor is amazing too, making this one of my most memorable interviews for sure. Thank you so much for a great interview Peter! And thanks for all the great music through the years. Wishing you nothing but the best.

Todd Beebe: Thank you so much for talking to me today Peter! It’s a real honor for sure.

Peter Frampton: Thank you Todd!

TB: Let’s go way back and talk about the earliest music you remember hearing?

PF: I listened to the radio from a very young age, so I think it probably was an early Cliff Richard single or The Shadows. Something like that.

TB: Do you remember the first time you heard real blues?

PF: Yes! I saw John Lee Hooker on TV when I was about 11, I guess. He came over to England. So I was about 11 or 12 and he had the hit with Dimples. And that was the first, and then I went to see Sonny Boy Williamson at a local club in South London. I went to see him a couple of times, ’cause I thought he was great! So yeah, I loved all that! So that was when I first started listening to the blues.

TB: Now how old were you when you first started playing guitar?

PF: I was eight!

TB: Any memories of your first guitar at all?

PF: Oh yeah! I had been playing a banjolele, which is a banjo shaped uke that my dad had given me from my grandmother. So that just had the four strings and my hands were very small at that point, when I was seven or eight, so it was perfect! But then I needed those extra two strings. I wanted a guitar! So for that Christmas, probably 1958.. oh my god, (laughs) he went and got himself a gut string classical acoustic and he got me a steel string, just regular, run of the mill, no name acoustic.

TB: So what was the first official song you learned how to play on it?

PF: Well, I’d already learned on the banjolele, my dad had taught me Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley. (laughs), and Michael Row The Boat, I think. Those were the two. So those were probably the first two that I tried on the guitar.

TB: Your father was an art teacher, correct?

PF: Right!

TB: So were guys like Scotty Moore and Link Wray an influence on you as well in those early years?

PF: Yes! I didn’t know who Scotty Moore was at the time. I ended up meeting him and being a friend of his, before we lost him, which I still can’t believe! But I wasn’t a big Elvis fan, but I was a big Scotty Moore fan. Not knowing who he was, I just loved the guitar playing on Elvis’s records, like we all did, you know? ‘Cause it was kind of rockabilly, but it was a mixture of rock and jazz, you know, put together. So I loved it! He was the first American guitar player that I listened to that I really loved.

TB: So now moving ahead a bit, you were on the scene too in the late ’60’s, but were guys like Peter Green and Mick Taylor an influence on you? Did you ever get to catch them live?

PF: Oh yes! I saw Peter Green play with the Blues Breakers. I saw them all play with Blues Breakers: Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor!

TB: Oh wow!!

PF: Yeah, at The Flamingo or one of those Waldorf Street clubs. I saw Clapton too with Blues Breakers! In fact, I just told him that, when we did Crossroads! So those ones you mentioned: Mick Taylor, Peter Green, Eric Clapton and Scotty Moore, I loved all of their playing at that point, and so did everybody else! That was when you’d drive around London and on the overpasses and train bridges, you’d see graffiti and it would say “Clapton Is God!” (laughs)

TB: I know Django Reinhardt had a huge impact on you and then you took classical guitar lessons too right?

PF: Yes!

TB: I love Django Reinhardt’s stuff! But that kind of came out of left field for you at that time right? How did you initially get into Django’s music?

PF: Well, by default. My parents danced to the Hot Club de France, which is Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli and the other guys in the band. That was their music that they would go up to London and dance to before, during and probably right after the war. So when we got our first record player, I think I got for Christmas, The Shadows first album and my dad bought himself and mom The Best of Hot Club de France with Django. It was in the living room, so we were all there. So I would play my Shadows album and play along with it, with the guitar, and then I’d leave the room and go upstairs to practice in my bedroom, and they would put Django Reinhardt on and I couldn’t get out of the room quick enough! You know it was like, what is this? First of all, it’s not electric and secondly, I don’t understand what’s going on! I did it to my kids too! My kids said “oh God, dad’s listening to that silent movie music again!” (laughs) So anyway, this would happen over and over and over again, and in the end I didn’t leave the room! I stayed in the room while he played Django Reinhardt and I suddenly started to smile and go “holy crap this guy’s good!” And from a very early age I realized “I’ll never be able to do this, but I’m gonna give it a good try!” (laughs) The person that was my mentor, to start me off, was Hank Marvin from The Shadows. But at the same time I was listening to the extreme talent and dexterity of Django Reinhardt flying up and down the fingerboard with only two fingers working, you know!? So I was caught by the jazz bug at the same time as I was caught by the rock bug. Rock, blues and jazz. They all sort of happened at the same time for me. So they were always… I wasn’t one or the other until, during The Herd. I was listening to a lot more jazz because everyone was starting to sound like Eric Clapton and I thought “well, there’s already a couple of those guys that are really good: Peter Green, Eric Clapton.” And so I thought “I think I’ll go the other way.” So that’s when I changed my listening to everything to specifically just listening to jazz for a while. That was during The Herd period. So when I got to Humble Pie, that was when I formulated what I call my style. Because I had obviously been listening to rock and I’d obviously been listening to blues, and listening to jazz. And Humble Pie was an area where I could combine all three and it would work, because Steve Marriott’s guitar style was very much a hard edge blues style and mine was heavy rock, but also a more lyrical, solo style, because of the jazz influence. So that’s when I brought it all together, and one day I woke up during the formulation of the first year of Humble Pie and said “I think I sound like me now!” And it’s a wonderful feeling! So now, I’m still listening to all these players, but realizing that I can pull licks from other people, but I’ll never play it quite like they do, and what do you do? You play it like you, and then you change it a little bit, and then it morphs into another part of your library of licks that you keep up with, you know? So yeah, it was a very interesting period, the Humble Pie period!

TB: Let’s talk about your latest All Blues album. It’s fantastic! You and your band have such a great command of the music on here. How did the idea for this album come about? You’ve always had hints of blues in your music and your playing, so it’s great to hear you on an all blues album! Is this something you’ve wanted to do for awhile?

PF: Yeah well, people don’t think of me as a blues player, but then we did two summers with my dear friend Steve Miller and the Steve Miller Band. I’ve known him since I was 20, when I was in Humble Pie and met him in London. We played together many times over the years in the 70’s. Then 3 years ago, we decided to do a summer tour together and it turned into two summers! It was so successful and so enjoyable that we kept doing it! Each night he would get me up to play some guitar on two, three, four blues numbers and I started to feel like I was almost back in Humble Pie, because it was challenging for me. I was enjoying playing it so much that at the end of the tour, we did 71 shows, and we got back off the road and I said to the band “let’s take a week off”, ten days it was in the end, “and go in my studio in Nashville. Let’s make a blues record!” Also, having realized that I had my problem at that point, IBM, I wanted to play as much as possible, straight away, not knowing how long I was going to have, to be able to play. So the way to do that would be to get two birds with one stone. I could actually go in with a list of blues songs. We all know them! They’re things we could pick up on very quickly. So each member of the band had their favorite blues list and we compiled it into what we all wanted and then went in. Within a 10-day period, we had maybe two albums worth of material, because we recorded everything live. Live vocal, live guitar, just like you should record, (laughs) and how we did in the old days, you know?! I enjoyed it so much, doing it that way, because when you’ve got the take, you know when you come in the control room to listen and everyone goes “yeah I thought that one was good”, it’s finished! All you’ve got to do is mix it! Maybe touch up a lick or one vocal line here or something and that was it and it was done! It was very eye-opening to me to see how when you’re recording music in the studio, live, it breathes. It’s live! (laughs) It’s because when I’m playing my solo or I’m singing my chorus or whatever, the band, every one of us is listening, including me obviously, to everybody and we’re playing off everybody like we do live! And it made it a living, breathing thing. It was so great to come in the control room and go “done”! (laughs) “What’s next?” I think we were almost up to about 40 tracks that we recorded. We did another week or so, it was about 10 or 15 days. We tried a lot of tracks in a very short space of time and there’s still some in the can that we haven’t finished, you know?

TB: That’s great! You can definitely hear the live feel in the music. I love this blues album! It’s all I’ve been listening to lately!

PF: Oh thank you so much! Yeah I can’t believe it went back to number one this week again!

TB: Did it really?!

PF: Yeah!, We’re 15 weeks at number one!

TB: Well it’s well deserved! Congratulations! The album is so great!

PF: Well thank you Todd!

TB: Me And My Guitar and Same Old Blues are two of my favorites on the new album! These are nods to Freddy King, who played both of these too. I love Freddy! Did you ever get to play with Freddy at all?

PF: No, I did not. But I have a picture, it was probably after I left Humble Pie. I have a picture of me and Freddy King in the dressing room, and he’s tall! He was very tall! (laughs)

TB: (laughs) Really?! I would’ve never guessed that!

PF: Yeah! Either that or I’m so short, that’s probably what it is! (laughs) He was a big man and very nice. He was not on the bill. He just came, and I can’t remember who we were opening for. Maybe it was somebody like ZZ Top or someone, but he came to see me and say hello, and I was just speechless! I was just in awe of Freddy King walking in the room, you know?! (laughs)

TB: Now when you went out with the Frampton’s Guitar Circus shows, you would go out every night and play with B.B. King. Let’s talk about B a bit.

PF: Well yes! It was so incredible! When we announced that we were going to do the Guitar Circus and we put out some invites, B.B. was the first one that answered, literally, and said “count me in!” I couldn’t believe it, I was just blown away! So, the first time that I met B.B., I’d never met him before see, and so I got on his bus and they told me he’s in the back. So I go to the back of the bus and I’m nervous as anything you know, and I said “Mr. King”, and he said “call me B! call me B!” And I said “okay B, would it be okay if we, uh….” and he said “Peter, sit down.” (laughs) I said “okay!” He looked at me and smiled and said “this is your show. You tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it for you!” And I was just on the floor like, oh my God, this is my kind of guy! He’s so humble, for being such a innovator, and we became instant friends, you know?

TB: Yeah he was such an amazing, generous man. I was around him all the time as a kid. That’s great to hear you got the “call me B” speech! (both laugh) I did the same thing, calling him Mr. King when I first met him, and he stopped me right away with “call me B!” B’s Manager, Sid Seidenberg, told me that if he really liked you, he told you to “call him B!” So that’s great to hear! You were in the inner circle of friends!! (laughs)

PF: It was unbelievable! Then he said “well, you know you’ve got to come and play with me every night!” And I said “what?!” He said “yeah! I want you to come out!” So wherever I was, backstage, if I wasn’t watching, I’d hear “The King wants you!” (laughs) So out I’d go! And of course he was sitting down at that point, so I sat with him, on a chair, and got all these wonderful pictures of me and him playing together. So that was something very, very special!

TB: That’s great! Your version of Georgia On My Mind on the new album is beautiful! I love it. What made you decide to do an instrumental version of Georgia versus singing it?

PF: I think there are certain songs that are so classic, and have been done by such incredible artists, like Ray Charles! I saw Steve Winwood when he was in Spencer Davis Group, when he was probably 17, sing and kill Georgia! Like, unbelievable! And Gregg Allman. I’ve seen so many people sing that song. I’ve never really regarded myself as first and foremost a singer. I enjoy singing, but my guitar playing is my passion of the two. And so the same thing happened with Black Hole Sun, from my instrumental record. I love that song so much, I thought well, I could never sing it. ‘Cause I would never do it justice, or I would never attempt to sing it. But I can play it! And I think I can do a tribute to the original better, that way, than me singing. And I believe I pulled it off on both occasions. I think Black Hole Sun is one of my favorite pieces we do and Georgia is too. Georgia is like… oh, I can’t wait to play that every night! It’s just such a melody and such a vibe about that song! We filmed it, because we had all the cameras and everything for the screen. We would film just about every night. So we did a film of us playing Georgia live. That’s on YouTube and on this tour and it came off great! Check it out below:

b

 

TB: I think it’s great that you record live in the studio! Especially on the blues album. I know everyone’s sharing files and emailing the tracks to each other now. I don’t really understand that way of recording and I can’t say I’m a fan. It’s a convenient way, but I think it loses so much of that human touch. You can’t ever replace playing off other people, together, in the same room!

PF: Well the tracks lose feeling. There’s no camaraderie between you and anybody else, because if you’re playing on top of a bass and drums and a piano, they’ve already played their part, separately too! (laughs) And then you come in and there’s no conversation! With a band, music is a conversation, and it’s a conversation between everybody in the band. It’s not one person, it’s not just the guy who’s playing the lead at that particular time. We all get behind and listen to everyone’s playing, and that changes the way you play to accommodate what they’re playing, and then you play something that you didn’t think you were going to play because of what they play! It’s a living, breathing thing, it’s a live band, you know? And it might be a number you’ve played many, many, hundreds of times, but every time you play it, it’s slightly different. And that’s what we do, we try to make things a little different every night, because otherwise it would be boring.

TB: You used your touring band too on this blues album. That’s great! I think you can hear that in the music! It just sounds like you guys know exactly where each other’s going. You can hear that in the music!

PF: I know! And Dan Wojciechowski, our drummer is a phenomenal drummer! He used the Frampton Comes Alive drum kit, John Siomos’ drum kit that I bought back off eBay believe it or not!

TB: That’s amazing!

PF: Yeah, ’cause I bought the kit for him when he first joined the band in ’73. I bought him a green kit. He wanted a big green kit like John Bonham. So I got him a Ludwig kit and I got me the same, but in white and Bob Mayo, I got him a yellow kit. So we had three of them. And John used that on Somethin’s Happening, Frampton Comes Alive and I’m In You. It’s that kit. So then when he left the band, years after that, a tech came to me and said “I’ve just been looking on eBay, I think I found John’s green kit.” I said “you’re kidding me!” So I looked and there it was! So, the unfortunate thing was I had to buy it for the second time! (laughs) As I say on stage, “I’ve never understood why it was more expensive the second time!” (laughs) So anyway, I got it back and it’s been in my studio. I got it repainted and it needed some work, but other than that it’s exactly the same. Dan used it for the entire album and he brought it on the tour with us. I told the story on stage and I said “and what’s more, the green drum kit is right over there!” (laughs) And we both go over and stroke it, you know! (laughs)

TB: Wow!! What a story! That’s crazy! Your last show was October 12th right?

PF: Yes!

TB: I know you said you’ve got quite a bit of material you’ve recently recorded for upcoming releases. So, what do we have to look forward to?

PF: Well I did a second instrumental record which, I think we’re one little lick away from finishing that album. That will probably be the next one that I will release. Then I have a solo record. That’s the fourth project that we started. That’s not finished yet, but it’s halfway done. Then there’s the other 11 or 12 tracks of blues that we didn’t release. Originally we thought it might be a double album, but we decided on a single album for the first release. So yeah, there’s another blues album there as well!

TB: That’s great! So you were reunited with your black Les Paul a few years back! Is that the guitar you’ve been primarily playing? I could see why you would! You had to have missed it after 30 years! (Author’s note: Peter’s famous black Les Paul guitar, featured on the cover of Frampton Comes Alive, went down in a tragic plane crash in 1980. It was thought to have been destroyed, but was miraculously returned to Peter 30 years later!)

PF: Yes!! Well it’s funny because when I got it back a lot of the numbers we were doing, apart from the live album, that guitar was not used because it wasn’t around! I call it “The Phoenix” now because it rose from the ashes! So “The Phoenix” was used for Do You Feel and things like that. Very few numbers when it first came back. And now I’m playing it on nearly everything! (laughs) It just takes over, it can’t help itself! It’s like an old pair of shoes, you know? They say “never wear a new pair of shoes on stage” and it’s so true! It just won’t feel right! It’s like an old pair of shoes! I just put that guitar back on and gradually it just took over! The only other guitar that I’m using apart from that is a 335. A 1964 335. Freddy King year! (laughs)

TB: (laughs) Oh wow!! Yeah, there you go!!

PF: (laughs) Yeah! Yeah it is! The Freddy King year! Same color and everything! So I use that and I have a newer Les Paul that I play for anything in E flat. We do a couple of numbers in E flat, like Black Hole Sun and the Humble Pie stuff we do is a half step down.

TB: You chose to close your shows, including the final one on October 12th, with The Beatle’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps. What an amazing song to end with! What does that song mean to you? Obviously we all love the song, but does it have an extra special meaning to you? Was there a particular reason you chose that song?

PF: Well I originally chose it because, obviously my friendship with George Harrison. When we lost him, it was November of that year. I was living in Cincinnati at the time. Then in January I was on a charity show with all local talents plus myself as the headliner, and decided that I wanted to pay tribute to George. So I called the band, like the day before the show and said “I’d like to try While My Guitar Gently Weeps at the sound check. It would be great to do that as the last number, as a tribute to George, for the charity shows.” So anyway, we did it that night and the place went berserk! And I got this… there was a very special feeling in the room when we did that number, and we’ve done it, not every show, but a lot of shows since then. We’ve closed with it, because it’s kind of… it’s something that you can’t really put into words. There’s a feeling that everyone gets in the room, including obviously us from the stage, that everyone just… if you’re going to say goodbye at that point, with that last number, it’s a hell of a way! It’s such a powerful song. It just draws everybody in and it’s just been one of my favorite live numbers to do. I think it just says “goodbye” in a nice way.

TB: It sure does! You’re exactly right- the power and feeling coming off that stage, whenever you played it, was unbelievable! Just awesome! OK, I’d like to close with a statement to you, Peter. I just want to say thank you so much for the music. I know you’re dealing with health issues and I wish you all the best with that. Your positive attitude is such a great thing! It’s just great to say thank you and to let you know how much we’re all praying for the best for you. I wish you nothing but the best man. I hope everything goes great and I hope you keep on giving us music for years and years and years.

PF: Thank you so much. Well I plan on it! I’m going to be playing as long as I can play. That’s why we’re recording so much, you know?

TB: Thanks so much for your time today Peter. I really appreciate it. Best of luck with everything. Thank you so much!

PF: No problem! This was wonderful! Bye!

Make sure to pick up Peter’s latest release, All Blues, and keep up with Peter on his website and Facebook:

Peter Frampton Home

Peter Frampton Facebook

Check out Todd’s article on Link Wray

Check out Todd’s article on Peter Green

Check out Todd’s article on Scotty Moore

Todd Beebe

Todd Beebe

Todd Beebe is a full time musician/teacher in the Chicago area and a staff writer at BG: Blues And Music News. His first exposure to music was hearing his Grandfather's bands playing Traditional Country music by the likes of Hank Williams Sr., The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. Tracing the roots of that music lead him to his love of the Blues. Todd is available for private guitar instruction at All About Music, Inc. in Mokena, IL. 708-479-0440 www.AllAboutMusicMokena.com For more info contact him @ 708-214-6459 or visit www.ToddBeebeMusic.com.

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Todd Beebe

Todd Beebe

Todd Beebe is a full time musician/teacher in the Chicago area and a staff writer at BG: Blues And Music News. His first exposure to music was hearing his Grandfather's bands playing Traditional Country music by the likes of Hank Williams Sr., The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. Tracing the roots of that music lead him to his love of the Blues. Todd is available for private guitar instruction at All About Music, Inc. in Mokena, IL. 708-479-0440 www.AllAboutMusicMokena.com For more info contact him @ 708-214-6459 or visit www.ToddBeebeMusic.com.