Sunday, February 26, 2012

The #75 Guitarist of the Rock Era: Peter Frampton

One of the great masters of the guitar who exploded into the public consciousness in 1976 is next:
#75:  Peter Frampton
Humble Pie, Solo
active guitarist for 47 years

Peter Kenneth Frampton was born April 22, 1950 in Beckenham, England.  A member of Humble Pie, Frampton exploded onto the international music scene with the spectacular live album Frampton Comes Alive!  Since that time, Frampton has continued to be recognized as one of the top guitar players in the world.

Peter became interested in music at the age of seven after discovering his grandmother's banjolele (a banjo-shaped ukulele) in the attic.  He taught himself how to play, and later taught himself to play guitar and piano.  Frampton began taking classical music lessons when he was eight years old.   His father introduced him to the music og gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and Peter was also influenced by guitarist Hank Marvin of the Shadows, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, the Ventures, Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles.  

Peter attended Bromley Technical High School at the same time as David Bowie.  Frampton joined the Little Ravens at the age of 10 then joined a group called the Trubeats the following year.  After that, Peter hooked up with the group the Preachers, which were managed and produced by Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones.  By 1966, Frampton was the lead vocalist and lead guitarist of the Herd, who had several British hits.  Frampton was named "The Face of 1968" by the teen magazine Rave.

In early 1969, Frampton joined with Steve Marriott of Small Faces to form Humble Pie.  Frampton was still only 18, yet in demand as a session guitarist.  He played for George Harrison (on the album All Things Must Pass), Jerry Lee Lewis and Harry Nilsson.  It was during his association with Harrison that Frampton was introduced to the 'talk box" that became one of his trademark guitar effects.

After five Humble Pie albums, Frampton left the group to pursue a solo career.  Wind of Change, with help from Ringo Starr and Billy Preston, was his debut album in 1972.  He followed with Frampton's Camel, Somethin's Happening and Frampton.  Frampton was familiar to many from his days in Humble Pie, and he began to attract a following at his concerts.  One venue, the Winterland Arena in San Francisco, California, was a place where Humble Pie had done well previously.  So when Frampton performed there as a solo artist, the tape was running.  What it captured live was the amazing audience response on this magical night in 1975 for an artist that still the masses had not heard of.  They soon would.

Most of the tracks from the double live album Frampton Comes Alive were recorded at Winterland and the album was released in January, 1976.  It turned out to be one of the biggest breakthrough albums of all-time, going to #1 on the album chart for 10 weeks, remaining in the Top 40 for 55 weeks and on the album chart for 97 weeks.  The album beat out the self-titled album from Fleetwood Mac to become the top-selling album of the year, sold over six million copies and featured three huge hits.  But start to finish, there's few albums in the Rock Era that can top it and no other live album so captures the very material that helped launch an artist's career. 

Frampton's follow album, I'm in You,went platinum, but in the crazy world that is perception, it didn't measure up to Frampton Comes Alive and thus fell short of expectations.  Frampton went on to star in the well-bashed movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1978 but his career was on the downswing as fast as he had taken off.  Peter was in a near-fatal car accident in the Bahamas in 1978 that marked a time in which Frampton was not the artist he once was.  He recorded Where I Should Be and Rise Up and set out to tour in Brazil.  But Peter received another blow when all his guitars were destroyed in a cargo plane crash that killed three people.  Among the guitars were his prized Les Paul Custom that is pictured on the cover of Frampton Comes Alive.  Frampton had played the guitar throughout his solo career.

Frampton's albums did not give him commerical success, he did achieve a moderate comeback with the Premonition album in 1986, which featured the single "Lying".  Frampton united with childhood friend Bowie and also worked on projects with members of Pearl Jam.  In 1991, Frampton rejoined Humble Pie mate Steve Marriott for some concerts at the Half Moon in Putney, London.  The two recorded some songs and prepared to tour together.  However, Marriott died in a house fire prior to the tour.  

Frampton was broken up by Marriott's death and did not tour for a while.  In 1994, Frampton released a self-titled album and the following year, the album Frampton Comes Alive!  II, which featured live versions of many of his solo songs since 1980.  Peter then toured with Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings and Ringo Starr's All-Star Band.  

In 2003, Frampton released Now and toured with Styx to support the album.  In 2006, Peter released an instrumental album called Fingerprints.  His band consisted of drummer Shawn Fichter, Audley Freed on guitar, bassist John Regan, keyboardist/guitarist Rob Arthur and guests including members of Pearl Jam and Stanley Sheldon, the bassist on Frampton Comes Alive and the only member of the backing band on that album still alive.  Frampton won the Grammy Award in 2007 for Best Pop Instrumental Album and also that month appeared on the PBS television show Soundstage.

Frampton's fourteenth studio album, Thank You Mr. Churchill, was released in April of 2010.  Frampton hit the road along with the group Yes; the two had played on a tour together in 1976.  In 2011, Peter embarked on the Frampton Comes Alive 35th Anniversary Tour, in which he played the exact lineup of songs recorded on that famous night in San Francisco when Frampton Comes Alive! was recorded.  Each concert began with a prerecorded thump of the microphone that was familiar to fans of the album, followed by the recorded voise saying, "If there ever was a musician that was an honorary member of San Francisco society, Mr. Peter Frampton"...and the crowds went wild.  Frampton faithfully played the album song for song at 69 locations between June and October.

Frampton has been a natural performer since his teenage years.  He checks in at #75 for the Rock Era*...

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