If they made a movie of guitarist Peter Frampton's musical life, they'd have to have at least three actors play him.
There's the teenaged guitar prodigy who rocked hard in groups like the Herd and Humble Pie, the pop idol years after the album Frampton Comes Alive exploded in 1976, and Frampton today, playing the lyrical, jazz (and R&B)-inflected style guitar fans expect.
The British-born Frampton lives in Cincinnati and is a lifelong Motown fan. He attended the funeral of Funk Brothers drummer Uriel Jones last winter.
Frampton performs in Louisville tonight at the Kentucky State Fair tonight in Cardinal Stadium.
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Q: You just recorded with the surviving Funk Brothers.
A: I did a session in Nashville with Bob (Babbitt), Spyder (Webb) and Eddie (Willis) and Rob Jones. My writing partner Gordon Kennedy worked just about every Motown title into a song, The Invisible Man, about where would we be without the Funk Brothers. It's going to be on my next CD. We set up just like they would have done in the Snakepit in Detroit, all facing each other, playing live. It was amazing to see how creative they were. Eddie was playing on a Les Paul (guitar) just like mine, but if I had played it, it would have sounded different. When Eddie played it, it just had that sound.
Q: Les Paul died last week at 94. As a famous player of Les Paul guitars yourself, how do you describe his impact?
A: He was an amazing guitar player. He could play it all, with great dexterity. That's enough, but then he designed the Les Paul guitar. If that wasn't enough, he messed around with a couple of tape recorders and came up with multi-track recording. He invented the echo chamber, he was the first person to do close-miking of things. He was still playing gigs up until a couple months ago. His passion was as big as his legacy.
Q: You famously lost a stunning black Les Paul guitar in a plane crash years ago.
A: I had two guitars, a '54 (Fender) Strat that I played on Show Me the Way and my Les Paul. Between the two, I did everything. When they went, I found it very difficult to find something I felt comfortable with. It wasn't until the '90s when I moved to Nashville that Gibson gave me a Les Paul that I liked the look of. Within a year, they said, 'We should have a Peter Frampton model. What do you think?' That was an honor.
Q: You have several careers' worth of material to choose from, from Humble Pie to your last album, Fingerprints.
A: We go through all the albums and pick out the songs that sound best live. If we do something from Humble Pie, it's usually I Don't Need No Doctor as a tribute to (singer) Steve Marriott. We even do some stuff from the new CD. One of the new songs we're doing, I'm testing the guitar solo out live.
Q: Are you doing the Motown cover versions you had hits with in the '70s?
A: Yes, we open with Shotgun and Signed, Sealed, Delivered. Sometimes I feel a little strange, playing those in Detroit. But when Uriel (Jones) came back after the show when we played DTE last year, he said he was blown away. I said, "OK, that gives me a little bit more credibility."