Photo by Elijah Shark
It’s 1983 when my family moves to Port Jefferson, Long Island just before I start junior high. I’m new to the school and don’t make a ton of friends early on as I’m trying to adjust and feel my way around. There’s a tall redhead kid with a British accent, I can’t remember if he rode the same school bus as me but I recognize him from the park that is next door to our house. I don’t think we were all that close but I definitely knew him and I’m sure we talked at school or at the park. His name was Jason and on the way home from school, some kid on my bus says, “You know, Jason’s dad is the singer in a band.” Now, I don’t have older siblings and my parent’s record collection wasn’t that big so, at that point in time, my music knowledge was confined to what I heard on the radio and saw on NBC’s Friday Night Videos (we wouldn’t get cable until the following year when we moved to Ohio, so no MTV for me in Port Jefferson). What I hear is, “Jason’s dad is in a band called Firecat” and, because that name doesn’t ring a bell, I think it’s probably just a local band that plays gigs at the pub in town on Friday nights.
Fast forward a year, my parents divorced and my mom moves us to a suburb of Cleveland. I frequent Westgate Mall in Rocky River and my favorite store is Camelot Music. One day I’m flipping through albums when I see this cherry red cover that catches my eye.
It’s 1984, the hair metal era that defined my teenage years wouldn’t pick up speed for a few years but I was just starting to get into bands like Iron Maiden, the Scorpions, Motley Crue, Ratt, etc and, while the name Foghat doesn’t ring a bell, I flip the album cover over thinking that if there is a band photo of guys with big hair, it might be worth purchasing.
This Foghat band doesn’t exactly look like bands I was listening to but the album was cheap so I buy it, bring it home, open it up and in the liner notes, I discover that the guy on the far left of the back cover, Lonesome Dave, shares the same last name (Peverett) as the kid, Jason, who I was a classmate of in Port Jefferson.
Hold up! Firecat? Foghat? It’s only then that I realize that I had misheard what the kid on the bus told me and that Jason’s dad was the lead singer of Foghat, whose album Girls to Chat and Boys to Bounce I now owned!
I share this story with current Foghat guitarist Bryan Bassett when we spoke last week.
“That’s a good story. I met Jason in 1989 when I first started playing with his dad. So, I’ve known Jason since when he was quite young and we’re still good friends,” Bryan tells me. “I was interviewed for his blog a few times, he’s been doing it for years and he’s interviewed quite a few famous people. We’ve stayed in touch, we see him a couple times a year. I live near Daytona Beach so we take the family over to Disney and we always run into him.”
When Bryan says Jason’s interviewed quite a few famous people, he’s not kidding. After you’ve finished reading this interview, hop on over to Jason’s blog, The Peverett Phile and read Jason’s interviews with everybody from Paul McCartney (!!!!) to Roger Daltry to Elvis Costello to Steve Martin.
I’m not going to get deep into the history of Foghat other than to say the original lineup formed in 1971 and featured Lonesome Dave on vocals and guitar, Rod Price on guitar, Tony Stevens on bass and Roger Earl on drums. Lonesome Dave and Rod Price have both passed away and Tony Stevens last played with Foghat in 2005. Roger Earl is the sole remaining member of the band though current lineup members Charlie Huhn (vocals/guitar) and Bryan Bassett have been in the band since 1999/2000 and are featured on Foghat’s three most recent studio albums (2003’s Family Joules, 2010’s Last Train Home and 2016’s Under the Influence) as well as some live recordings.
Foghat is opening for Bad Company at the Ohio State Fair on Friday, August 2. Tickets range from $45 – $60 and Foghat should kick things off around 7:30pm.
Here’s my interview with guitarist Bryan Bassett. As you’re learn early on, Bryan’s first claim to fame was playing guitar with Wild Cherry, the ’70s band best known for the mega-hit “Play That Funky Music”.
As the Ohio State Fair tends to attract at least one Classic Rock bill every summer, Foghat has had a few chances to perform over your time with the band, playing with Bachman & Turner and Blue Oyster Cult in 2014 and opening for John Kay’s Steppenwolf in 2016. I know you do a lot of state fairs, festivals, theaters, etc, is there anything about the Ohio State Fair that is memorable?
What I like about it is it’s sort of close to my hometown, I have relatives there. I grew up in Pittsburgh, so it’s one of the places that’s within driving distance for my family to come out and see us so I always look forward to that. I haven’t lived in Pittsburgh for a while but I have a very large Irish clan of relatives there.
If we can go way back in time, when you were living in Pittsburgh, you joined Wild Cherry.
Our version of Wild Cherry sort of came about in ’75 and prior to that, (singer/guitarist) Rob Parissi had another version of the band. It was a very successful club band in the tri-state area and he was disbanding it when we first met. He was getting out of the music business to become a restaurateur down in Mingo Junction. I mentioned to him – because I was a fan of theirs – “If you ever decide to put a band back together, give me a call”. I was playing in another local band. He did eventually call me. In fact, I think I ran into him – he had advertised some of his equipment for sale and I recognized his name. I think I drove down to look at his equipment, I didn’t have much money, my pretense was to meet him and try to get him to play again, which he did. He eventually called me and we set about auditioning for the rhythm section and ended up with Allen Wentz and Ron Beitle. We became a good, tri-state area club band again. We recorded “Play That Funky Music” pretty much on our own dime to put it into local jukeboxes and to increase our salary, hopefully, and it got picked up by a record label and went pretty fast up the charts. We were quite surprised and pleasantly shocked.
Given your previous playing experience, did it feel like you had put in a lot of time to make this happen or, with the success of “Play That Funky Music”, was it more of an overnight sensation type thing?
We’d been playing professionally for several years, I graduated high school in ’72 and pretty much went right into being a professional club musician as my living. I was going to college a little bit, playing as much as I could which, in those days, we could play 4 or 5 nights a week between Pittsburgh, Wheeling, Cleveland and Columbus. There was a lot of live work and it paid pretty well. We were very happy being an A-list club band. I would consider us a professional act at that point. Of course, we were trying to get out and get bigger and record and whatnot. Rob had some prior experience in the recording industry, Terry Knight was a famous producer back then, I think he had something to do with Grand Funk Railroad. So, yeah, we had aspirations to do something big but we didn’t expect it to go that big that fast. Really, the song is quite autobiographical. We were really playing rock music but the scene was changing and the music style was moving into dance-oriented funk music and we made a concerted effort to change our style and our setlist. We were a four-set-a-night club band so we had to play a lot of the hits of the day and mesh some of our original music in with it. But, the song took off pretty fast and before you know it we were on tour with some major acts doing arenas.
Do you think Wild Cherry could have made it in today’s music world if you were a new band putting out your first record this summer?
It’s difficult to say. A hit song is a hit song and it’s still pretty popular right now, to be specific about “Play That Funky Music”. The whole music business is so entirely different now, it’s hard to say if you’d even breakthrough. In another interview I did recently, we had a long discussion about the difference between the ’70s music industry and what’s going on now with the digital and distribution. It’s hard to say. Back in the day, it was very difficult to make a record and get it distributed. There was no internet so there was no way you could do it yourself. Recording studios themselves were very expensive so the whole concept of self-recording, self-promoting was almost non-existent. So, you needed the support of a company to do anything. It sort of put a pyramid scheme on the whole music industry and also let the creme rise to the top. The only way to advertise was radio stations and that was it, record company promotions and concert touring. Now, with computers and Pro Tools and the internet, YouTube, distribution, it’s totally different. Whether a band can breakthrough – they do all the time – I think bands have to be entrepreneurial way more than we did when we were kids. The record companies took care of all the business and took all the money. Right now, you can put up a website, get your stuff recorded fairly inexpensively if you have engineering chops, you can get a laptop and Pro Tools and go to town and have a record recorded in your house and on the internet in a couple of weeks.
… Having never played a live gig.
Yeah, but that being said, there’s not a lot of money in recording anymore so you really have to, at some point, be a live performer if you want to have a career. There’s a certain part of the music business where people have hit records and are all over the internet before they’ve even performed live. That’s not a kind of genre I pay attention to but it’s vastly popular. I’m of the mind that music is a craft and an art form and you have to learn your instrument and learn to perform in front of people. At some point, your income will depend on it, you have to go on tour. There’s all sorts of ways to do it now, so many of the pop acts are almost like Broadway musicals. There’s computer-run lighting systems and backing tracks and dancers. I’m more of the old school, guys on stage playing their instruments, guys like Kansas, Yes, all the bands I grew up with. I was a Prog Rock fan. That’s the kind of music I like. And I admire those players. Most of us are still on tour, the ’70s era musicians are still out there a lot.
I feel like there are more ’70s bands out there still playing live shows than there are the bands that I grew up with in the late ’80s. There are still active ’80s hair metal bands but it doesn’t seem like as many as the classic rock bands from the ’70s who are still active.
I think the difference is, in our day, technically performances were all about a good PA system and a light show and a band. There was very little else that contributed to a show other than the talent and the performers. By that token, everybody needed to learn to play really well and they did. And they still do. That being said, I don’t know what’s up with the ’80s groups. There’s still a lot of fantastic musicians from that era, so maybe it just hasn’t cycled around yet. Rock radio still hits mostly on the ’70s so maybe in another 5 years it’ll move on to the ’80s stuff. But we run into bands all the time, we run into Tesla. Slaughter is still out there playing. We’re glad to be one of them.
When Wild Cherry and Foghat were around in the mid-70s, how familiar were you with Foghat?
I knew them quite well because even, before Wild Cherry recorded, we were a rock cover band in Pittsburgh so I played Foghat songs in our set. We were playing “Fool For the City”, “Slow Ride”, we were playing several Foghat songs plus we were playing Zeppelin, Robin Trower, Deep Purple. We were quite a good rock band before we went to “Play That Funky Music” funk style. I was pretty familiar with them. There was quite a wide gap between then, I left Wild Cherry in the late ’70s, and then I went back to Pittsburgh and had a successful band there called Airborne and then we changed our name to T-Dice and became another A-list club band in the area. We played at the Agoras and places like that. Then I moved to Florida, so I never met Lonesome Dave until ’88. That was over a ten year period before I met Dave and we became friends and I got involved with the Foghat family. But, it was mostly our shared love of blues music. I was working for a Blues record label called Kingsnake Records as an engineer/producer and session guitarist and Dave was almost a Blues historian, he was quite the student of American blues history. We played very obscure music in the quartet that I had. When we met, he sat in with us and knew pretty much every song we played. We hit it off as friends. And then out of that he asked me to join him in his solo band which was called Lonesome Dave’s Foghat because Roger Earl still had a touring Foghat going at that point. But we became friends and started playing around Florida and we eventually started nationally again in 1989.
Once I got my first CD player, I got rid of my record player and all my records. A few years ago, once the vinyl resurgence started, I bought a used turntable. I love going to one of the many record stores we have in Columbus and dig through the cheap vinyl crates. I’ve been able to pick up a ton of ’70s classic rock albums for $1, $3, $5 each. I’ve bought just about every Foghat album and it’s cost me probably less than $20 total. It’s given me a chance to go back and discover all these bands that I might have known from their one or two hits. I’m struck by how many great songs Foghat recorded over the years. Some of the deep album cuts are phenomenal but never got played on the radio.
Thanks. It’s funny, just visualizing you doing that, that’s how I spent my weekends, going to the record stores and flipping through records and picking things up. So, it’s fun you can still do that now and actually relive what we did in the ’70s to find new music. The amount of releases between ’68 and ’72 and the quality of them is outstanding. The original Foghat records, I think they stand up. Of course, I was not on those recordings, that was the great Rod Price playing guitar. We listened to them all the time. We were always trying to add the deep album cuts to our set as we try to change it every year. We’re at a period now where we’re on the 40 year anniversary cycles of the major releases, last year was Fool for the City, the year before that was the live album and this year was the anniversary of Boogie Hotel so we’re playing songs from that album in our set. That being said, we get to throw on the old Foghat records and go, “Oh man, I forgot about that cut”. The body of work is really pretty deep.
Album artwork was always unique and interesting. When we were kids and bought a record, while you’d listen to the record you’d pour over every word and picture on the album cover. That was as much a part of the experience as listening so when you’re flipping through vinyl records, it’s a lot more satisfying than flipping through CDs where the fine print is pretty hard to read and everything is packaged up. We’ve released our last two Foghat records on vinyl. A lot of the new bands, younger bands, are doing vinyl as well so it’s actually having a resurgence.
Do you think people who are coming to see know that you weren’t on the early Foghat albums?
I’d say a majority of our fans have been following us for years. This is my 20th year in this band and I had four years with Lonesome Dave early on so 24 altogether. So anybody who has been following Foghat knows our history and knows that Lonesome Dave and Rod have passed away and, unfortunately, Craig MacGregor, just a couple of years ago. Anybody that follows us realizes that Roger is the last remaining original member but we all have 20 years of experience playing the catalog of music and I think most of the Foghat fans have seen us several times over the years. We all sort of came into the band organically. I was friends with Dave and he brought me in. I played with Rod and then took his place. Charlie came in at the recommendation of Dave when he was retiring and ill. Myself, Charlie and Roger have been playing together for 20 years and have a lot of original releases of our own and we’re very serious about maintaining the quality and accuracy of the way we perform the original hits. Our fan base has been supporting us for so many years so we’re pleased with that and blessed to have people approve of what we do. We’re getting to the age now where not too many of the original bands have all the original guys any more so the songs are important. Being able to experience the songbook live is a big thing.
With ’80s hair metal bands, I see a lot of comments on social media from fans who say, “No (insert name of an original band member), No (band name)”. What it comes down to for me are the songs. As you said, a lot of times, the non-original members have been in the bands longer than the original members and play the songs as they were written and recorded.
Exactly. And, really, there is no alternative to that other than listening to the records. Unfortunately, our friends and band members have either moved on or passed on so there’s not much of an alternative for fans to see and hear the music performed live. It always comes up in conversations, the replacement player issue, but I always look to bands like the Allman Brothers and how they reinvented themselves with Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, they are fabulous guitar players who replaced fabulous guitar players. Some people take the road that if they aren’t original, they’re not original. Other people enjoy the variety and like to hear the original songs played by quality musicians.
Believe it or not, I’ve never seen Foghat live so I’m really excited to check you out with Bad Company at the Ohio State Fair. I can’t imagine, at this point, there’s too many surprises in a Foghat show, it’s probably a pretty pre-determined setlist.
We’ve been playing a lot so far this summer, so we’re firing on all cylinders so it should be a pretty high energy rock and roll show. Hopefully we’ll have the opportunity after our set to go out and meet the crowd and sign some things. We try to do that every show.