Aspects of legendary timekeeper Roger Earl’s life may evoke the somewhat cartoonish archetype of the “British drummer who emerged in the 1960s,” but having an outsized personality, massive musical chops and stretches of hard living on his résumé are only part of his story. A brief look at the arc of his journey from London to Long Island reveals an individual with an ever-expanding appreciation of balance and a hardwired predisposition to continually evolve. Maintaining a keen sense of humor and a fiercely positive attitude appears to have served Mr. Earl and those in his magnetic orbit very well.
During his formative years, Roger was called a “noisy little sod” by his mum. This moniker, which was really a term of endearment, appears to have been prescient as well. In his early teens, Roger was transformed by the music of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Muddy Waters. It was during this same period that his passion for drums first achieved critical mass.
This passion, or “just pushing the envelope” as Roger called it, propelled him to an audition for Jimi Hendrix when he was barely twenty years old. Even though the spirited young drummer did not get this prestigious gig, his perpetual forward momentum ushered him to the drum chairs of Savoy Brown and Foghat as well as to fantasy-filled live engagements backing such immortals as Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. Foghat’s platinum success with a live cover of “I Just Want to Make Love to You” led to a band invitation to Willie Dixon’s home and as Roger described it “a night of great food and music in which Willie held court.”
At the height of Foghat’s fame in the 1970s, Roger’s rather unconventional lifestyle consisted of non-stop tours of the arena circuit, driving very fancy sports cars, out-running groupies and “generally having too much fun.” Roger was also constantly engaged in the organic process of jamming which yielded such monstrous hits as “Slowride.”
Forty years can pass with little change. Foghat has recently released a blistering new blues CD Last Train Home. When asked if the track “495 Boogie” is an homage to the LIE, Roger replied slyly, “of course it is.” As this writer can attest, Foghat’s live shows remain an intoxicating mix of bare bone blues power, virtuosic musicianship and communal rapture.
Roger’s personal life has undergone a more profound evolution. While he still rocks hard, his life now revolves around his three grown daughters, six grandchildren, and his wife of six years, Linda Earl, who is not only his spouse, but also Foghat’s manager and Roger’s “best friend.”
While discussing the sense of tranquil domesticity he derives from living on a houseboat on the island’s north fork, Roger said, “I consider myself a proud Long Islander before anything else.” Here he indulges in such passions as fishing, gardening and cooking. Roger transforms his organic haul into a meal for his best friend, assorted grandchildren and himself on a regular basis.
In 2005, the Earls, in conjunction with California wine maker and über Foghat fan Steve Rasmussen, formed Foghat Cellars. Inspired by a recent Foghat show he had seen, Mr. Rasmussen approached the Earls and soon afterwards, velvety cabernets and chardonnays bearing the Foghat name were being produced. While discussing the immensely satisfying California-based enterprise, Roger said, “I would love to expand to Long Island as well.”
When asked how he handles the inevitable challenges that life offers up, Roger laughed and paraphrased a randy quote of Rudyard Kipling’s from The Man Who Would Be King: “You shove a ramrod up your jacksie and bluff it out.” He added more seriously, “you learn from life and you try to put it in order.” Roger’s personal and professional lives have certainly achieved order and balance. When the shirt a DJ in The Simpsons is wearing and the bottle of wine in the living room rack are both emblazoned with the Foghat logo, it is clear evidence that Roger’s unique brand of balance continues to permeate the culture as well.
Go to foghat.net for CDs, wine and tour schedule. Rock Legends Cruise December 1st- 5th departs from Fort Lauderdale. This interview took place in Mario’s of East Setauket.