BORN in Middlesbrough in 1949 singer/songwriter Paul Rodgers – who launches his short UK tour tonight at Blackpool Opera House tonight – was exposed to music at an early age, taking up bass guitar and vocals in his early teens and forming The Roadrunners, who played the local club and pub circuit, writes Richard Bennett.
His love of music was such that when it came to finding his first job, the music governed the choice.
“I didn’t want to work in the local foundries, like most of my mates,” he said. “Getting up early and working late would interfere with me playing in my band, so I took a job in a paint warehouse which was 9 till 5, and right opposite the local live venue The Purple Onion,” he says.
Moving to London in the late 60s, the band changed its name to The Wildflowers, but it was when he was singing with Brown Sugar that Rodgers would find the guitarist who would help him form Free: “This young guy called Paul Kossoff walked into the club we were playing and joined us on stage to jam.
“We soon found out that we had mutual interests, and we then set about recruiting bass player Andy Fraser and drummer Simon Kirke to form Free.”
A number of hit albums and singles followed, including the iconic All Right Now, which came about as to follow the strong stage presence of The Hunter.
But after a while, the young band started to become a victim of its own success, and the cracks started to appear: Taking drummer Kirke with him, Rodgers joined forces with ex-Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs and King Crimsons’ bass player Boz Burrell to create Bad Company, signing to Led Zeppelin’s newly formed Swan Song label, and taking Zep’s larger than life manager Peter Grant on as their own, Bad Company scored instant success.
With the death of his good friend, Zeppelin’s drummer John Bonham in 1980, Rodgers took some time out to reconnect with his own family and to record his first solo album at his home studio. Cut Loose was released in 1983.
“It was around that time that Jimmy Page would turn up at my house on a regular basis, we started to play and write together, the next thing we knew we were recording an album and going out on tour as The Firm,” says Rodgers.
After releasing two albums, Rodgers moved on to form The Law, with ex Faces drummer Kenny Jones, releasing one album in 1991.
“We had recorded some tracks for a second but the record company didn’t like them, and wanted us to go in a different direction, which we refused. That period was a bad one for me, personally”
Devoting himself to his solo career, Rodgers produced a number of acclaimed albums, including his tribute album to the blues he grew up with, in particular Muddy Water, with 1993’s Muddy Water Blues.
It was while he was performing at a tribute event that Queen’s Brian May approached Rodgers, asking if they could be his backing band on a TV show that both bands were due to appear on, as long as Rodgers would sing a couple of Queen numbers for them.
A live album, studio album and world tours soon followed under the banner of Queen + Paul Rodgers.
He is concentrating on his solo stuff again, although he has not ruled out working with Queen in the future, but right now he’s happy being solo.
“I will be playing a lot of the old stuff on this tour, mainly from the Free days, the UK audiences seem to like that music more than anything else, I really love it too, it’s where I started, so for me it’s just a pleasure to play it.”