Foghat drummer Roger Earl on Long Island living, new music & more
A mainstay on rock radio for decades, Foghat classics like "Slow Ride," "What A Shame," "I Just Want To Make Love To You" and "Fool For The City" remain popular as ever. While Foghat formed in England in the early 1970s, most people do not realize that Foghat has been run out of Long Island for decades. Drummer Roger Earl has been a proud resident of Suffolk County for over 40 years, having first visited our Island years earlier while a member of Savoy Brown.
While Foghat is known to play between 50 and 100 gigs per year on average, touring is just one part of the business for Roger and crew. June 2016 brought the release of Under The Influence, the band's first new album in six years and its 17th studio album overall. Under The Influence was released through Foghat Records, which also oversees the band's merchandising. Roger and wife/manager Linda Earl also stay active as co-founders of Foghat Cellars, which has been producing wines in California for nearly a decade; its wines were spotlighted by Fred Armisen on the Late Show With Stephen Colbert earlier this year.
No Place Like Long Island had the pleasure of catching up with Roger for some Q&A, who was as funny, honest and pleasant as an interviewer could hope for. While the next New York area concert of Foghat -- which also includes bassist Craig MacGregor, guitarist/engineer Bryan Bassett and vocalist/guitarist Charlie Huhn -- has not yet been announced, fans can keep checking www.foghat.net for the latest news. Roger and band can also be followed on Twitter via @Foghat.
When did you move to Long Island? What is it that brought you here?
RE: I moved to Long Island in 1973 and applied for my green card. I received that in 1976 whilst I was on tour with The Faces. It was actually sent to me while I was in Vancouver. I remember the first time I visited Long Island, 1969. I was in Savoy Brown touring with a couple of other English acts: Family and The Nice. The tour was being sponsored by Schaefer Beer…not my favorite, but I tried it more than once -- Guinness and Boston Lager!
I met a Long Island native who was working with Schaefer and helping promote the shows, Tony Outeda. We became friends and the end of our conversations would naturally turn to fishing. Tony explained that Long Island was the fishing Mecca of New York! We had a break in touring and he invited me to his parents house in Rocky Point. They were lovely people, the “Chief," his dad, and Alice, his mum. That is when I was introduced to bluefish in Mount Sinai Harbor. I had caught a number of fish up until that moment but it was nothing quite like catching blues. I liked this place.
When you first moved to Long Island, were there any other British people in your town?
RE: There was one ex-pat that I met, a fellow Londoner, Pete Nesbitt, who ran a car repair shop in Port Jefferson Station called Garage Europa. He specialized in Jags, Lotus’, Aston Martins, etc. I was a car nut and we became good friends. He helped maintain my cars: 1974 Jensen Interceptor convertible, 1971 Lamborghini Muira SV, which I found while I was on tour in Columbus, Ohio. Mario Zaparzori was the owner's name at the time. I asked Pete to fly out there and he drove it back to Long Island for me. He also looked after my 1965 Jensen 541, which I later sold to Rod Price. My 1967 Corvette 427 tri-power convertible never needed his attention. That was the first car I bought with my first royalty check in 1973 -- $3,000 -- which I found as it was advertised at the local Rocky Point Deli.
What is the biggest difference between where you grew up and where you live now?
RE: I grew up in Hounslow, a suburb in South West London. I went to Whitten Secondary Modern School. That’s where I learned to play drums with school friends Dave, Dick and Ray. I’m not really sure how to answer this question, but I’ll try...You have some really nice extra holidays here that we didn’t: Thanksgiving! July 4th, Independence Day! I especially like this one -- got rid of the English (laughs) but all is forgiven, right?
Is Long Island the first place you had ever lived in the United States? Or at least spent more than a month?
RE: Yes. I spent a couple of years upstate in Bearsville, New York -- Woodstock area -- where our record company was. I lived in L.A. for a few months; she was a very a nice girl. I lived in Manhattan for a few months; she was ALSO a very nice girl. I lived in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, too; very nice place, but the girl was just horrible -- I don’t know what I was thinking…
Long Island is my home and I have great affection for this Island and New York State. My girlfriend -- now my wife and manager -- is very nice. (laughs)
What do you like to do in your free time when not busy with Foghat?
RE: I fish, therefore I am! I also grow vegetables in my garden. I’m learning a lot about vegetables -- never stop learning about veggies! I love to cook for friends and I have a very healthy appetite. My wife Linda and I also have Foghat Cellars, a wine business. The grapes and wine come from Central Coast California. Linda and I are very busy with our current crop of wines: 2012 Cab from Paso Robles, 2013 Pinot Noir and a 2014 Chardonnay. Our wine maker is Steve Rasmussen, who has worked with Robert Mondavi, and was the chief winemaker or Talley Vineyards for many years. He also consults for a number of other wine companies.
Do you have a favorite restaurant or two on Long Island?
RE: Yes, The Curry Club in Stony Brook -- fantastic food. The fabulous folks who run it, Kulwant, they also carry our Foghat Cellars wine. Savino's Hideaway -- REAL Italian food. They also carry our wine! The Pita House -- great food, but they do not carry our wine. Most of the time when I’m home I cook.
What's coming up for Foghat in the coming months?
RE: We slow down a little in the winter months. We are busy in November and then have a few shows per month in January, February and March. We have a studio and band house in Deland, FL -- Boogie Motel South -- where we have recorded our last number of albums. We rehearse down there for our next touring season. Charlie Huhn, "The Warbler," our lead singer and guitarist lives in Orlando. Bryan Bassett, our lead slide guitar player, lives in New Smyrna Beach. Bryan does triple duty as chief engineer. He records, mixes and masters all of our recordings and is one of the BEST people I know. I’m gonna roll till I’m old and ROCK till I drop!
Is there a Foghat accomplishment that you're most proud of?
RE: Yeah, still playing sold-out shows across the land and having a great time doing it! Also, meeting and playing with my musical heroes in 1977. Foghat’s Tribute to the Blues! We were the backup band for Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Paul Butterfield, Johnny Winter, Eddie Kirkland, Pinetop Perkins, and Willie Smith. This was at the New York Palladium where we raised over $10,000 for the New York Public Library. Dave also bought hundreds of Blues albums for them -- I don’t think he trusted them to invest this money wisely.
Also, meeting Willie Dixon in 1977 in Chicago and going to his home for dinner with his lovely wife and family! He came to a show and Dave introduced him to the crowd and said, “Without people like Willie Dixon, there would be no Rock N’ Roll!” Willie penned Foghat’s first hit "I Just Want To Make Love To You.”
Finally, Roger, what do you wish more people knew about Long Island?
RE: We’re all full up. Come back another day. (laughs) But seriously, Long Island is just one island of a greater archipelago that is New York City! It’s a beautiful place to live. I live about an hour and half from the greatest city in the world. A vacation land with endless opportunity. There is some great trout fishing on a number of rivers. Nissequogue River, Connetquot River, let alone the Sound, South Shore, and of course Montauk Point. History abounds here. I’m proud to be an Islander. This is my home.