Charlie Huhn Of Foghat: No Crooning Allowed

By Jeb Wright

Charlie Huhn has spent the last 13 years filling in for original Foghat guitarist and lead vocalist Lonesome Dave Peverett, who passed away in February of 2000.

Lonesome Dave was a huge part of the Foghat family and it seemed he would be irreplaceable. Huhn, however, surprisingly stepped in and the band survived, and was able to retain Foghat’s reputation as a fierce live band. With Huhn handling the lead vocals Foghat has not only survived, they have continued to write and record new music, reestablishing themselves in the eyes of the fan base. The band, today, is as good live as when they released the classic Foghat Live album back in 1977.

Huhn, who also toured and recorded with Ted Nugent, Humble Pie, Gary Moore and Victory, is a natural boogie hard rock vocalist with strong guitar chops. He has good stage presence, a super voice and always seems to have a smile on his face when cranking it out on stage.

In the interview that follows, Huhn talks about his life with Foghat and the future plans of the band. We also go back in time and discuss why Victory was not a winner, what it was like to play with the late Gary Moore and, of course, replacing Derek St. Holmes in Ted Nugent’s band.


 

Jeb: Foghat is always on tour. How long have you been with Foghat now? Since 2000?

Charlie: It is an extended tour that is always coming to a town near you. That is how long it has been.

Jeb: The four of you, Roger Earl, Bryan Bassett and Craig Macgregor, are all playing amazing. The original two guys, Lonesome Dave [Peverett] and Rod Price are gone, and they were amazing live, as well, but you four have kept the live spirit of the band strong and it is always a great show.

Charlie: Thank you. It is an honor for me and I love every minute of every show. It is great to be in a band where everyone thinks the same way and loves to play live.

Some whine a little more than others, but when you get old and crotchety, it is difficult to put a smile on [laughter]. We have got better and better, and tighter and tighter, over the years and it really is an honor to get up there every night and slam out some great hard rock.

Jeb: Over the years, I have seen the band many, many times. The last five years or so, the way you and Bryan are playing together, is really amazing. It is like you have mental telepathy.

Charlie: Bryan is a perfectionist on his playing and he hardly ever makes a mistake, and when he does, he covers it so well no one could ever notice.

The way that we play together is that I like to be the instigator and change things up on the fly, as it keeps our attention level up. Bryan remembers everything, he has a steel trap for a memory and he can bring it back at anytime. If we do something on the fly that works, then he remembers it for the next show and it really blows my mind. What happens when you’re working with someone for a long time, then you know where they are going to go and what they are going to do, and we really work well together.

Jeb: Craig, as a bass player, is like having a third lead guitarist in the band.

Charlie: That is true. We do this solo thing before we do “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” and sometimes Craig will break off into a bass solo. When he does that, the crowd just goes nuts. He does not always do it so we have to watch for him and see if he is going to do it. It really makes it a lot of fun. He likes to show off his talent and I have to say that boy is just blessed with the way he can play the bass.

Jeb: I would think that sort of thing would keep things very fresh and interesting for the band.

Charlie: It is a blessing that we do that. Bryan really remembers all of that stuff and we will come up with a riff, or a harmony, or we will throw in 8 bars of a song like “Spoonful” and he retains it. We make it better as we go. You really just would not expect old men like us to be able to do that.

Jeb: Last Train Home is a blues album by Foghat. The rest of the band is more into that form of music than you. Was that because of your age? You had to be very young when you joined Ted Nugent’s band.

Charlie: No, I was 27 when I joined Ted; I was already over the hill.

Jeb: Really? Damn, you looked young.

Charlie: I found out about it when I was 26. I was just out of college a couple of years and I was playing in a bar band in Grand Rapids with an old high school buddy. It was paying the bills and after a couple of years and we were getting ready good. This friend of Ted’s told him about me because he knew Ted was unhappy with Derek [St. Holmes]. There was an audition and I got that audition and won it over four or five notable recoding artists. It was a very fun time for me.

Jeb: Before we talk about your time with Ted, I wanted to ask about Last Train Home. Roger and Bryan are more blues and you’re more hard rock. Did you learn a lot singing blues songs?

Charlie: You’re right on with that, I had to put on the blues hat and try to sing that way. I’ve been a fan of the blues, and blues rock, for a long time, but when I heard the British Invasion stuff in the ‘60’s, that’s when I started my love of music.

I had heard American blues guys before but it didn’t really attach to me. They were playing their guitars out of tune and there was a lot of random singing that really didn’t make sense. I did develop a respect for it by watching the British Invasion guys and how they played those songs. I wasn’t blessed with a voice like Billy Gibbons, so I really have to work at singing the blues.

Jeb: Last Train has been out a couple of years now so I want to know when the next Foghat record will be recorded.

Charlie: I have already told the guys that we are going into the studio this coming winter. We are going to do four new rock songs. Roger wants to do a cover of “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” I sang that with Gary Moore on Dirty Fingers. We’re going to discuss doing some covers, but I would rather do more originals.

Jeb: The industry is tough for bands that have been around like Foghat but I think you have to stay creative no matter what.

Charlie: That’s been our motive and direction ever since we reinvented the band. We knew we needed to always put out new products to show the fans that we are not just a novelty band.

We’ve got about two hundred years of experience between us and we have a facility in Florida where we can record. Bryan is the engineer and we record everything with ProTools, but we record everything live. It is really nice to have that opportunity. We’ve made the initial investment, so we are going to just keep plugging away at it.

Jeb: It is time for a well shot Foghat DVD.

Charlie: We are putting out a DVD of a live show we did last fall in St. Petersburg, Florida. We are working on that. We have it in the works right now.

Jeb: Foghat is not hard music to sing, but it is loud music to sing and it requires a lot of energy.

Charlie: Dave really belted it out. When he worked with Todd Rundgren and Dave Edmunds in the studio with Foghat, they really brought his voice out and made him sound amazing. He didn’t sound like that when he took over lead vocals in Savoy Brown. In Foghat, he had a lot of power and expression and he really came into his own.

It is really right down my alley. I am very blessed to have this opportunity to have this fall in my lap. I was doing the Steve Marriot stuff for twelve years and that was one of my major, all time goals. I always wanted to sing his stuff and it fell in my lap.

The Foghat thing just came up. I was working at Ford for a while to make ends meet and this friend of mine came up to me and said, “Did you hear Lonesome Dave died?” I said, “Oh no.” He, then, pointed at me. Sure enough, the next day, Roger called me.

Roger had seen me play with Humble Pie in a parking lot in Toledo opening up for them. I went and introduced myself after their set and I got their autographs and I met everybody. It was the first time I had ever seen Foghat live. I didn’t bother them. I had a buddy in the motorcycle club The Outlaws and they signed a shirt for him. Roger remembered me and called me.

Jeb: Humble Pie ended up being a rather sad band by the end of your time in it do to Jerry Shirley’s drug addiction.

Charlie: To me, playing with Jerry Shirley was an honor, even though Jerry was really messed up. I had to babysit him every day, at every show. I had to keep him from killing himself from overdosing. He was really bad.

When he was sober, he was a beautiful person. I loved the music so much that it was worth it for me to babysit him. I would do whatever it took because I loved that music so much. Just to have the opportunity to play that great music was an honor, even though we were just playing clubs and weren’t making great money. It was a labor of love and it got me to the next place in the journey.

Jeb: You fit in well with Foghat’s music. I never read a review that was negative from you joining Foghat or Humble Pie.

Charlie: I have been fortunate to not get bad reviews, for whatever reason. There were some camp calls and stuff early on with Humble Pie, but that is when Steve was still alive. I played with them the last three years Steve was still alive. I played with Jerry since 1988 and Steve died in 1991. Early on, some of the mainstay, hotbed places for Humble Pie, like in Boston, people would yell out, “Where’s Steve?” You’ve just got to put up with it.

I practiced for weeks learning that stuff. I learned Steve’s articulation, vocal acrobatics, and enunciations and his signature Ray Charles rip-off riffs. It took a while to get the stuff down but I did it. There is a video from the 20th anniversary of Woodstock of a new Humble Pie song. The sound was just great that day. To be part of that legacy is really great.

I actually knew Steve. We would party after the shows when he would open for Nugent. We were both managed by Leber-Krebs and they always tried to tour their own acts. I got to meet one of my heroes.

Jeb: Tell me about why you think Victory didn’t make it?

Charlie: Victory got the short end of the stick everywhere we turned. If anything could go wrong it did. That band had five offers from major labels in March of 1984 and David Krebs turned them all down. I still have the calendar for when the offers came in and I have almost framed it.

What happened was that Krebs wanted to ride a couple of bad acts with Victory and sign all three acts on the strength of Victory and all of the labels passed. Getting signed was just our first problem. The first album was really strong. It was timely and there was a slot where an AC/DC style band could fit in and we were it. We ended up getting a deal with CBS but they didn’t push the band. We did a barebones tour and the label dropped us. The first album died a miserable death.

We borrowed money and recorded the next album called Don’t Get Mad Get Even in Germany. That album had a popular song on it called “Checks in the Mail.” We were building in Europe but we couldn’t get much going in the States.

We missed a Scorpions tour that year. They were friends of ours and they were actually investors. If we could have had that tour then we would have got put on the map. We were scheduled to do it but the timing of getting the albums out didn’t work. It was another snafu.

We put out the third album and we were really gaining momentum in Europe. We recorded a 24-track live album using the Scorpions sound engineer and we put out a live album, but we still couldn’t get a slot in the USA. I had given it a good four years and I was away from home a lot and I was starting a family, so I hung it up. I, then, got the chance to play with Jerry Shirley, so that’s what I did.

Victory, after I left, a couple of albums later, had a couple of hits in Europe and they did pretty well, after all. I went back in 2003 and did a reunion album and it was a strong album and a lot of fun to do, but its tough to get any support. Labels are dying and record stores are going out of business. I am like, “What happened to my business?”

Jeb: You worked with one of my all time guitar heroes Gary Moore.

Charlie: That was a real honor. I had left Nugent and I got a call from this management company in Europe. They were doing a project with Tommy Aldridge on drums and Pat Thrall on guitar, as they had just left the Pat Travers Band. They had been hooked up with this singer who was not very good, in fact, they called him The Canary.

Tommy suggested that I join. I was thrilled but I didn’t really even know who Gary Moore was. Later, I found out that I had seen him when he was with his band Skid Row. He could flat play. We just missed each other in ’78 when I was with Nugent. Thin Lizzy was going to open up but Gary quit the night before our show.

Gary got into the project when Pat Thrall quit. We started writing together. I was totally flabbergasted to be playing with him. We hit it off really well. He introduced me to Chas Chandler, from the Animals, who managed Jimi Hendrix. Gary showed me all of his Jimi Hendrix guitars and he had Peter Green’s Les Paul.

We wrote a lot and we created an album. I got taken advantage of by Gary’s publisher but I didn’t protect myself. The project actually didn’t come out immediately after it was mastered because Don Arden, the manager, decided to sit on it for a year and then put it out in Japan. I was already off in Victory by that time. Gary wanted me to stay but I couldn’t do it. I had an offer from Geffen Records to write songs with Trevor Rabin and to put a band together with Mark Andes on bass and Frankie Banali on drums. We did a bunch of demos but nothing came of it.

I was trying to make ends meet again and the album came out. I did a two week tour with Gary in 1983. We toured around London and played the Reading Festival and we had Ian Paice on drums. Boy, can that guy play. All of the players were super. Neil Murray was on bass and the keyboard player was from King Crimson. We did around eight gigs. David Coverdale showed up to a gig and it was really fun.

I learned right then that I couldn’t really sing in the key of A. I had to tune down a half step and that is what I’ve been doing ever since. Once it starts going during a show then you’re sunk.

When we were recording the album we had a song called “Hiroshima.” I said, “In the middle put that Japanese thing, ‘duh duh duh-duh duh duh duh-duh-duh.’” He did it and there is a big gong crash in it.

Gary was nice and he was so accommodating. I put a couple of rhythm tracks down on some of Gary’s guitars. I got to play the Sex Pistols guitar players guitar and I got to play Peter Green’s Les Paul. It was so much fun.

Jeb: Why didn’t you stick it out?

Charlie: Arden delayed the release and Gary and had a conversation and he wanted me to stay and play with him. I said, “But we can’t make any money.” Lo and behold, I should have stayed because we could have tried to make it on live dates like Foghat does today. I got that offer to write an album with Trevor and it was steady money. Trevor didn’t want hard rock; he wanted to do progressive stuff, so it was short lived.

He is a monster of a player, though. He went on and did that stuff un-credited with Def Leppard and then he joined Yes and had all of those hit songs and he has done all of those great soundtracks. “Changes” came from back before I was working for him because I was playing that song with him.

Jeb: Talk about recording Weekend Warriors.

Charlie: We recorded that in Criteria down in Miami. It was the first album I had ever recorded. Cliff Davies helped me out a lot. I was still developing my vocal style at the time. I had some limits that Ted put on me like no crooning. Ted even let me play a little guitar, which was really amazing because life ain’t long enough for Ted to get in enough riffs!

Jeb: “Weekend Warriors,” vocally was awesome. First time I heard it I thought it was Derek St. Holmes.

Charlie: That is interesting; we do have similar voices, at times. He and I have a lot of fun. He showed up at our gig in Detroit and we were talking about what’s going on with the Nuge and their tour and we took some pictures together.

Recording Weekend Warriors was really fun. I got to hang out at a beachfront hotel and work, maybe, four hours a day and party the rest of the time. I am from Michigan, are you kidding me? I was in Miami in the late ‘70’s. Life was pretty wild there. Hellfire missiles were going off everywhere and it was just awesome.

I was recording at Criteria and the Bee Gees walked by and said ‘hello’ and then Crosby, Stills & Nash came by and said ‘hi’ and they wanted to show me their guitars. It was like, “Welcome to the big time, buddy.”

Remember, I came from a cover band in Detroit right before this. Lew Flutterman, the executive producer, was there. He was overseeing everything but he really didn’t do much. He was the guy who had signed Ted and got him the record deal, though. He got Derek. Lew knew how to make money. It was cool meeting him.

He lived at the Dakota in New York and we got to go there and play tennis on clay courts. John Lennon lived there. Tom Werman, his producer was there and was he produced that album. Tom was really cool. He would say, “Just sing it.” I would sing it and he would go, “Okay, great.” Everyone was looking at each other confused because it was supposed to take four hours to get it done right. Tom loved it. He would get stuff and get it down and move on.

Jeb: You sang, “Need You Bad” and “One Woman.”

Charlie: I told Ted in one song that I couldn’t sing the line “bust my balls.” Ted goes, “You’re kidding me?” I said, “I don’t think it’s necessary.” I was acting all prim and proper. Lew said, “Just say ‘chops.’”

Jeb: Nuge was coming off a record setting world tour. You hit the world stage overnight.

Charlie: In 1978, my third show was at the Budokan in Japan. On the way back, we went and stayed a week in Hawaii and we played the arena at the university. We, then, went to Europe and, then, we started the American tour. We were playing major festivals and arenas and stadiums. There were 88,000 paid tickets to come see Ted Nugent and I am in his band. I was like, “Holy shit.”

Jeb: What were the albums you were on with Nugent?

Charlie: Weekend Warriors, State of Shock, Scream Dream and Intensities in 10 Cities.

Jeb: Nugent kept doing more and more vocals with each album. Is that why you eventually left, so you could sing more?

Charlie: He started taking over everything – it was really like a takeover plot. His ego was running away with him. He was trying to get out from under the reins of Lew, who had a contract that said he had to have a lead singer.

He actually had me record vocals for all of the tracks on Scream Dream and he then sent me home. Once I was gone, he recorded over eight of my lead vocal tracks. That is what really tore me away from him, as I felt really insulted and belittled. It was really just a stab in the back. He let me have two throwaway songs on the album.

By the next album, his songwriting had deteriorated pretty far. On Intensities in 10 Cities, I don’t know if you ever noticed, but every song is in the key of A.

I still have to thank Ted for the opportunity because he got me in the door and he got me to where I wanted to be. We are still really good friends.

Jeb: Weekend Warriors is a great album. There are places for Nugent to sing. He sounds great on “Name Your Poison” but you sound great on “Need You Bad.”

Charlie: That is more of a singer song. It was that kind of fine line decision making that goes into stuff. Ted will stand with his hands on his tombstone swearing that he is the guy that overruled everybody else when they told him that he should not sing “Cat Scratch Fever.” He sang it and it became a huge hit. That is the proof in the pudding that Nuge can do it.

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