30 years ago today: the Kneetremblers make like Foghat at the Commodore

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      Thirty years ago today--on April 14, 1986--I celebrated my 29th birthday boogieing to the strains of Foghat hits like "Slow Ride" and "Fool For the City". 

      Okay, so maybe it wasn't the official Foghat--even though that name showed up in the ads. Lonesome Dave was nowhere to be seen, for one thing. It was actually the Kneetremblers, featuring original Foghat drummer Roger Earl and a couple of other non-original Foghat members. 

      So close enough.

      A week or two before the gig I did a phone interview with Earl, reprinted below.

      Hey, by the way, did you know they're releasing a 13-disc Foghat box set tomorrow?

      Hope Rog sends me a copy!

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      Have you ever heard of the Kneetremblers? Didn’t think so.

      How about Foghat? Now that name should ring a bell, because Foghat were one of the top boogie bands of the seventies. They released 14 hard-driving albums, although only one of their songs, “Slow Ride”, saw much radio airplay in these parts. Three years ago they left the road, their lead singer (Lonesome Dave Peverett) moved to England, and it looked like their energized brand of party rock was history.

      But last summer original drummer Roger Earl found a new vocalist/keyboardist in Jon Roberge, and together with Foghat bassist Craig McGregor and guitarist Eric Cartwright formed the Kneetremblers. They’ll play the Commodore Ballroom this Monday (April 14), along with another great name from the seventies, Wishbone Ash.

      Roger Earl called the Georgia Straight from Phoenix, Arizona last week, and explained the band’s current position.

      “About a year ago we started playing local clubs and bars on Long Island, where we live. Then a promoter who we’d done some shows with as Foghat came down to see us. He said, ‘You guys are great. I can get you some shows.’ So he put us on an Aerosmith show up in Boston, and we started working some more, and recording, and then we said, ‘We’ve got a band!’ So we took it on the road.”

      This time around, Earl and his mates are playing large clubs and small halls–a far cry from the hockey rinks and stadiums they were booked for during the height of their popularity. But they will also be playing a few large venues, such as when they open for “old friends” Blue Oyster Cult in Texas next month.

      “We’re doing 52 dates in 60 days,” says Earl, “and the only reason that those other eight days are off are for travelling and to get your laundry done. I mean you can’t go on the road with dirty underwear now can you?”

      The last time Earl was in Vancouver was in 1976, when Foghat were opening for Rod Stewart and the Faces. “I remember that,” he says. “Amazing.” That was at the time of “Slow Ride”, and although it was their only major hit single, the band did sell a fair number of albums. Foghat LiveFool For the CityStone Blue, and Nightshift all went platinum, and Roger Earl managed to make a few bucks.

      “I had a good accountant, let’s put it that way.”

      But now he claims that the band’s main ambition is to have fun, not earn money. The slogan for the Kneetremblers tour is “One More Time for the People in the Cheap Seats.” The live show includes five or six tunes from the old Foghat days, including “Fool for the City”, “Stone Blue”, and their wild version of Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You”.

      “And we do ‘Slow Ride’,” says Earl. “We have to. I mean part of the job is entertaining the troops really, isn’t it? The rest of the set is all new tunes we’ve written, and a couple of old tunes that we’ve redone, like ‘Riot in Cellblock No. 9′ and Ray Charles’ ‘Outskirts of Town’.”

      The Kneetremblers have recorded four songs so far, and when the tour ends in the middle of May they’ll be going back in to finish their debut alubm, which they hope to have out in August.

      But for now it’s life on the road, something that Roger Earl came to enjoy during a decade and a half with Foghat. “We do know how to throw a party, I can assure you of that. We’ve had years and years of experience.”

      And what about the discrepancy between the sound of Foghat and the music that is now being made by the Kneetremblers? Roger says that the main difference is that they have a new vocalist, and have added keyboards. What most old Foghat fans are probably concerned about is whether the Kneetremblers do indeed boogie like the band of old.

      “Sure!” affirms Earl. “Constantly.”

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