Still Got the Mojo: A Conversation with Foghat’s Roger Earl (Part 1 of 4)

Foghat began in 1971 when three of its members – guitarist “Lonesome Dave” Peverett, bassist Tony Stevens and drummer Roger Earl left Kim Simmonds’ band Savoy Brown to start their own project. More than 50 years later, Foghat has changed in many ways: Peverett passed away in 2000, and Stevens left the band a final time in 2005. But Roger Earl carries on the blues-rocking tradition with an able lineup of younger band mates. Foghat released its 17th studio album, Sonic Mojo in 2023, and the band is currently touring in support of the well-regarded album.

The band’s 2024 concert calendar is already filling up, and Foghat has dates across the U.S., with more being added. In between commitments, Roger Earl spoke with me about his life in music, from Savoy Brown to Foghat and even beyond. – bk

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. A much shorter edit of this interview appeared previously in Rock On Magazine.

What were some of the most important lessons that you learned about a life in music during your time in Savoy Brown?

Well, [those were] the first real recordings that I ever did. The first band I was in with three other guys that I went to school with when I was 16. And we did stuff in local studios because we would write original songs and stuff, but nothing happened with that. And it was awful because I’d go in there and they would say, “The drums sound funny.” I said, “No, the drums sound fine. It sounds funny to you because you don’t have a clue how to record a drum kit.” But Mike Vernon, who was the producer of all the Savoy Brown albums I worked on, was brilliant. And Roy Baker was the [engineer]. I’d have my drum kit sound great because they had mics all over the place. Close mics, about a foot away from each drum, because it’s an acoustic instrument. And they’d use room mics; they “used the room.” It’s was a big wooden room, and it sounded great.

We rehearsed the first album I did, which was Getting to the Point. And soon as we started, we’d rehearsed all the songs that were going to do. We’d rehearse. I mean, these were songs we played on stage as well. Everything had to be one take [in the studio]. The first day was to do all the recordings; Chris would sing live and everybody would play live. And the following day was to finalize any vocals, and then to mix two days. Sometimes I think they went to three, but initially it was just two days.

On the first album, there was a song called “You Need Love,” a Willie Dixon song. (But aren’t they all? They should be anyway.) And there’s a drum solo in the middle, and of course I drop a drumstick. This is my first recording with Savoy Brown. And Kim [Simmonds] comes over to me and says, “Roger, if you don’t get it right next time, we can’t do the song.” Pressure, pressure. Wow. I didn’t drop a drum the second time. I was only 19 or 20 years old. I didn’t know what I was doing. But the drum sounded great. That was my take from it. And any of the times we played those first four or five albums, the drum sounded great. Especially if Mike Vernon and Roy Baker had something to do with it.

I knew Mike Vernon produced them, but I had no idea that Roy [Thomas] Baker was the engineer on those…

Yeah, he was fantastic. We also did an album called but it was released as Warren Phillips and the Rockets in England at the time. Well, weren’t getting paid for the records. It was £12.50 a week if we got paid. So Mike Vernon would take Chris Jordan and Kim Simmons; they would go out to lunch. Myself, Dave and Tony Stevens would stay behind. And what do you do when you’re in a studio and you’re in a band? You play! So were playing all sorts of rockabilly tunes and early Elvis, early Gene Vincent, stuff like that. And Roy Baker recorded them, five or six songs, I think.

Mike Vernon comes back from lunch about two hours later and Roy Baker plays it to him. He goes, “Wow, this is great!” And my brother Colin was in the studio as well; he played piano on them as well. And he said, I think they recorded like five or six songs. And Mike said, “This is great. We have to put this out as a record!” And then the following day same thing happened. Mike and Chris Jordan and Kim Simmons went out to lunch because we didn’t have any money. I think I had a sandwich, maybe I brought a sandwich. But we did another session.

And it came out as Warren Phillips and the Rockets in England. And over here it was released as Pre Foghat Days which apparently got banned somehow; I don’t know. But it was a good record. It was like Little Richard, Gene Vincent sort of rockabilly songs. It was a lot of fun. Just sort of a Busman’s holiday.

When you launched Foghat, was there a conscious decision to be different from Savoy Brown?

You know, I get asked a similar question like that from time to time. The thing is, every time you start making a record and recording music or songs, it’s always different. So no, there wasn’t a conscious effort. Myself and Dave were huge blues fans, and of course once Rod Price had joined the band there was always an element of the blues. Without the blues there would be no music: you’ve got jazz, bebop, rock and roll, country, gospel music, folk music, hillbilly tunes. This is what America gave to the world: music. It’s the land of music.

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